A Conversation w/ Tess Martin

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Sunday, January 4, 2015
Sunday, January 4, 2015

Jeremy Todd, VIVO Member, Video Out Distributed Artist and Enthusiast:  Is The Lost Mariner your first photo cutout animation piece? Given the unique range of animation processes within your body of work so far, I’m wondering how you end up working with particular techniques from project to project — including this newest one?

Tess Martin: Yes, The Lost Mariner is my first film that uses photo cut-outs, though I have worked with more traditional cut-outs in A Moment’s Reverie (2007) and Plain Face (2011). For me the animation technique chosen for a particular film should very much make sense – there should be a reason for it, because the animation technique helps inform the storytelling.

So in this case, I chose photo cut-outs because I started with the metaphor of photographs. The main character suffers from a memory disorder, and believes he is in a different time. Photographs are normally our link with the past, so I decided to use that theme to an extreme – everything in the film is made from photographs, even the people.

VO: I was recently in conversation with Cindy Mochizuki, another artist-producer distributed by VO, and she spoke of animation allowing for an articulation of things that would otherwise be limited and/or ethically problematic in her work (I’m paraphrasing here of course). Does this make sense to you? What’s your recurring interest in animation about as an artist?

TM: That makes sense to me. One of the best things about animation is that it is not limited. It is the opposite of limited. It’s not restrained by gravity, actors, the real world and has infinite possibilities. You can animate paint, sand, objects, people, drawings, food, furniture. There’s almost too many options. For me, the question becomes – what can animation do that you can’t do in other art forms, and within that, which animation technique is most appropriate for this project? How can you tell the story in a way that really justifies the use of animation, and the chosen technique? I think that is one of the things that keeps me coming back to animation – that challenge is really exciting and creative.

VO: There’s a lot of narrative diversity across your works with us. What attracts you to a story? With The Lost Mariner, were you already familiar Dr. Sack’s case study?

TM: Yes, sometimes I like going for a clear narrative, but sometimes I think a more intuitive approach is required. And actually, what I consider narrative is still unconventional in a lot of other people’s minds. I guess because I like telling stories that don’t necessarily follow a central character, this immediately leads to unconventional narratives. There are a lot of options available to me in terms of structure and narrative. I like stories that make you think and challenge the viewer.

With The Lost Mariner, yes, I was familiar with the book in which it is included – The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. I think I read it a number of years ago. But it wasn’t until I recently re-read it that I thought the Lost Mariner chapter would make a good short film, and one that would be great to tell through animation.

VO: How did you first discover VIVO/Video Out and what has your experience of the centre been like so far?

TM: I first discovered Video Out back in 2010 when I met Sharon Bradley at a festival in Portland, OR. She explained to me what her job was, and I couldn’t believe it! I wanted to work with her so badly. She invited me to submit films, and I’ve been lucky that most of them have been accepted for distribution since. Mainly my experience has been with the organization submitting the films to film festivals on my behalf. I have a lot of shorts and therefore a lot of festivals on my list – it’s been great to have the support that Video Out provides in taking on some of those submissions.

VO: Can you talk about some projects in development?

TM: Right now I am in the early stages of a follow up short to The Lost Mariner, also centering on a patient with a memory disorder, this time more severe. It will also be animated, though I’m still working out the exact technique. I’ve also been spending a lot of time applying for funding and residencies, which I hope will help with this project.

VO: Thanks for this conversation Tess. It’s been a pleasure to learn more about your practice and your latest work with Video Out. We look forward to your next submission.

Venue Accessibility

VIVO is located in the homelands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples in a warehouse space at 2625 Kaslo Street south of East Broadway at the end of E 10th. Transit line 9 stops at Kaslo Street on Broadway. From the bus stop, the path is paved, curbless, and on a slight decline. The closest skytrain station is Renfrew Station, which is three blocks south-east of VIVO and has an elevator. From there, the path is paved, curbless, and on a slight incline. There is parking available at VIVO, including wheelchair access parking. There is a bike rack at the entrance. The front entrance leads indoors to a set of 7 stairs to the lobby.

Wheelchair/Walker Access

A wheelchair ramp is located at the west side of the main entrance. The ramp has two runs: the first run is 20 feet long, and the second run is 26 feet. The ramp is 60 inches wide. The slope is 1:12. The ramp itself is concrete and has handrails on both sides. There is an outward swinging door (34 inch width) at the top of the ramp leading to a vestibule. A second outward swinging door (33 inch width) opens into the exhibition space. Buzzers and intercoms are located at both doors to notify staff during regular office hours or events to unlock the doors. Once unlocked, visitors can use automatic operators to open the doors.


There are two all-gender washrooms. One has a stall and is not wheelchair accessible. The other is a single room with a urinal and is wheelchair accessible: the door is 33 inches wide and inward swinging, without automation. The toilet has 11 inch clearance on the left side and a handrail.

To reach the bathrooms from the studio, exit through the double doors and proceed straight through the lobby and down the hall . Turn left, and the two bathrooms will be on your right side. The closest one has a stall and is not wheelchair accessible. The far bathroom is accessible.

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