Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nina Sez: Invent Stuff? Who, me? Nah

You didn’t really think you’d seen the last of my interview with Nina Paley about the Agni Pariksha episode of SSTB, did you? This exerpt is from the very beginning of the interview, before we’d actually begun to talk about the Agni Pariksha. I asked Paley how much she invented in order to do Sita Sings the Blues. And, interestingly enough, she proceeded to down-play her inventiveness.

Why is that interesting? Because inventiveness and originality are supposed to be good. That's what we want from artists and scholars. I mean, second-tier thinkers and artists trip all over themselves with claims to be the first one to cross a T with a double-squiggle, or dot an I 37° right of center and here's Nina Paley being modest about her inventiveness. I suppose she's being consistent with her position that All Creative Work is Derivative, which, of course, is true. But I also wonder, is that all?
[Other excerpts are listed on this page.]
Parent-teacher conference at the local school

BB: Let’s go back a few steps. When you started this, you had already done a whole bunch of stuff of one sort or another. You’d made some short films, so you had all sorts of skills.

NP: Yes.

BB: How much did you invent in the process of doing this over five years?

NP: How could I possibly know how much I invented? How could I possibly know that?

BB: Well, a lot, a whole fuck of a lot, or a super-whole mega lot.

NP: What do you mean by invent? All I did was I took skills that I already have and I used them with ideas that are already out there. So, like, where’s the invention? Is it just like nobody but this thing with this thing, but people have put things together before. People’ve put lots of disparate things together. And in my case I just put things together that, to many people’s minds, have not been put together before. But that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been done though. It just means that I surprised people. But I don’t know if surprising people and inventing is the same thing.

BB: It’ll do.

NP & BB: Chuckle.

NP: I mean a lot of people think it’s far more original than it actually is. A lot of people, like, ‘she did a feminist Ramayana.’ There’s a huge history of feminist Ramayanas. This is not remotely original, the feminist aspect of it. And there’ve been other animated Ramayana’s, and then, OK, so, there haven’t been any Ramayana’s that put Annette Hanshaw with the Ramayana. That’s probably the most unique thing about it.

A lot of this was driven by technology. So I did things, you know, the collagy stuff and the techniques that I used, I did because they were possible.

BB: How many of those techniques did you learn in animation school.

NP: Well, I never went to animation school.

BB: If you had, how many of them would you have learned in animation school, like zero.

NP: I don’t know. Like this specific technique. Everything I did comes from. . . OK, so rotoscope is very old.

BB: Right, is very old.

NP: Flash, there’s all sorts of things that are done in Flash. Masking is a Flash technique. So this uses rotoscope and masking. The technique of combining rotoscope with different fills or different patterns on every frame. That was done in Yellow Submarine, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” It was painstakingly done because they had to actually paint every single one of those things by hand. But that technique is at least as old as that.

BB: Did you see Across the Universe?

NP: Does that have animation in it?

BB: No.

NP: What’s the point?

BB: It has Beatles tunes.

NP: Yeah, but come on. Who cares. It has Beatles tunes that are resung by other people.

Yeah, anyway, you know, grabbing images from all over the place because of the internet that turns people like me and others into criminals. Federal criminals, and soon to be international criminals.

Of course this particular combination of techniques isn’t [unintelligible] but that’s true of any piece of art.