Artist - Jenn E. Norton

Jenn E. Norton is a Canadian artist currently at La Cité internationale des Arts, in Paris, France. Working with interdisciplinary media including video, installation, sound and kinetic sculpture, Norton produces performative, critically engaged, works that play with the elastic qualities of digital technologies. Norton's practice is imaginative, kindled by working intimately with technology in a DIY capacity, marrying intuitive and formal processes.  In this, her practice employs a personal approach to formal explorations.  While her cast may be her cats, household objects or multiple versions of herself, she presents small moments that derive from her immediate experience to point to a larger context.




What part of Canada are you from Jenn?
Currently, I am not living in Canada, but these days I consider Guelph, Ontario, my home base.  I was born in Oshawa and attended the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, where I lived and worked until 2010.


Tesseract: 3D Interactive Video Installation Documentation


Fox Sister



What role do you play in the creation of animation?
I work alone, so I guess I play all the roles I can muster, using 3d animation programs like Cinema 4D and compositing with After Effects and create soundtracks using a bit of everything.



What is one project that you are proud to have been involved in?
My current exhibition at the Art Gallery of Hamilton incorporates a lot of computer generated imagery, kinetic sculpture,  and live action footage to address the shifting archival processes of analogue and digital documents.  In the main space of the exhibition, there are four large projections on each wall of the room.   

Precipice - 2014

The projection is of a large archive, black and glossy, that is submerged in water.  A lone swimmer, presumably an archivist, moves about the archive, as film strips ripple past her, flowing from a 16mm reel of an unmoving projector.  Storage boxes move in the current, floating amongst cassette tapes, CDs, papers and office stationary.  The four projections give a truncated panoramic view of the space, and pans as though shot from a tripod position in the centre of the large room, causing a vertiginous sensation as the submerged archive slowly rotates about the viewer.   In the centre of the room is a cylindrical screen structure illuminated by four additional projectors.  Underwater footage of the floating debris from the archive (the office stationary, cassettes, CDs, files and legal storage boxes) are rear projected on the 8' tall structure.  Viewers enter this space through a 4' entrance, revealing the cylinder is in fact a spiral.  An old office chair, illuminated with a single incandescent light, sits in the centre of the space.   When the viewer sits on the chair it begins to slowly rotate.  This rotation directs the viewer's gaze to follow the projection of another fully dressed swimmer, who has swum into the scene, as he traverses the length of the spiral.  This video is only activated when a viewer sits in the chair.  The floating objects he swims through, eddy in his wake, catch up with him, and obscure the swimmer until he is completely lost in the whirl.  This is one of three installations in the exhibition.  One of the other installations is stereoscopic, and plays stereoscopic imagery of water with reflections and refractions.  
What inspired you to create animation?
I have an insatiable appetite for looking at animation, and draw tremendous inspiration from other artists, but maybe I will focus on how animation crept up on me as a creative impulse.  Recently, I packed up my apartment to move to France for an artist residency and in deciding what to discard or spare, I had a chance to review my old notes, drawings and other musings.  I particularly enjoyed seeing my old school work, and felt at once a sense of sympathy for my young self, and affirmation for my vocation.  I was a horrible student - but such a prolific daydreamer!  The ledgers of my textbooks, exams and homework assignments were illustrated with fantastical cartoonish drawings.  The negative spaces of texts were inhabited with mercurial, morphing creatures and objects, that appeared to pour themselves into one another.  Although I am certain I did not know who these animators were, there was an Oskar Fischinger meets Max Fleischer quality to the drawings, a transformative technique that I am still drawn to.  These imaginings seemed to be about the moment of change, the in between, when something is no longer what it once was, but not yet what it will become.  To me, these graphite moments were not static, but were animated via their liminality.
Sometimes the characters/creatures would address the printed text on the page, a reaction to the content.   Examples that come to mind are the absurdly overbuilt cartoonish architectures I drew, that served as structural supports to the weight of mathematical equations, or charts.  I can only assume this addressed my ability or inability to answer a question, based on what state the integrity of the respective structure was; robust, precarious, or crumbling.  These illustrations were diagrams of discernment, how I rolled an idea over in my head and then manifested it visually on paper.  

Video was something that I had experimented with from a very early age, and used it for a diary, to enact narratives, make goofy instructional videos, to document, and to allow the impossible to occur through pixillation, like every kid with a camera. It seemed inevitable that drawing and video would somehow come together for me. What remains today in my work as an artist, is how liminal states function as a point of conceptual rumination.  Animation occurs with the persistence of vision, the in-between moments in a series of still images - I guess I am inspired by the in between. 


No Place Thistle - 2012


Who is one of your favourite Canadian animators?
I can't just pick one!

Elizabeth Belliveau  : http://www.elisabethbelliveau.com
Duke and Battersby : http://dukeandbattersby.com/wp/

And, of course, the great Norman McLaren.


What is one of your favourite animation books?
The Sharpest Point: Animation at the End of Cinema, by Chris Gehman, Edited by Steve Reinke.

Amazon Link - The Sharpest Point: Animation at the End of Cinema


Who is a relatively unknown Canadian animator that everyone should check out?
I wouldn’t describe these artists, who are all multidisciplinary and enviably prolific, as unknown, but I list them because I can’t wait to see what they will do with their animations as they develop their ever growing body of work.

Steph Yates : http://littleroomlabs.ca


Are you involved with any animation organizations in Canada?
I recently worked with the Toronto Animated Image Society on a recent exhibition at Trinity Square Video and W.A.R.C.   TAIS commissioned myself and 5 other artists who work in various media to create new animated works that revisited Op art.  I have also worked with Christie Digital to make immersive interactive installations, which you can check out here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfvaNWypzoI  & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYSYubl_S0M. Janro Imaging Laboratories in Montréal has sponsored me to work with SANDDE, which is a 3D animation tool that allows you to draw in space, and I have used this for live performances in collaboration with dancers.






To see more work from Jenn E. Norton, check out these sites:
Main website: www.jennenorton.com



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