warehouse warehouse

Waiting for Sleep

by Jean Hubert,  interview by Pujan Karambeigi,  available 18.7. – 1.8.17
Jean Hubert, Waiting for Sleep, 2016, film still. Courtesy: the artist

After a zombie invasion Will finds himself incarcerated in his home. Structured like a diary Waiting for Sleep depicts the everyday routines of a character living in almost complete isolation – Will living in a computer-generated animation. It is this strange, almost mad journey into someone’s mind while being sealed off from its surroundings that Jean Hubert’s work addresses. [read on]

Jean Hubert, Waiting for Sleep, 2016, film still. Courtesy: the artist

Pujan Karambeigi: I am interested in how you organized Waiting for Sleep as a kind of diary. While watching it I was asking myself: Who is the person writing the diary? Who or what are we following?

Jean Hubert: We are following the calm and steady survival of a young man who deliberately decided to keep living in his home surrounded by the danger of a zombie invasion. I called Waiting for Sleep a diary because of the strong emphasis that is put on the depiction of the daily routine of Will throughout the day. Moreover, it is the type of intimacy that we find ourselves in by looking at him sending text messages, or having a phone call. Almost until the end of the story we hear nothing else than his own words which seem to melt with his own thoughts.

PK: While we follow Will across his daily routines such as texting his ex-girlfriend, talking to his mum and fixing his bike, there is this strong feeling of suspense – both in the sense of abeyance and in the sense of tension. It is as if the world (its time as much as its imagery) has come to a stand-still. At the same time, the danger is just across the fence – zombies waiting to eat him alive. Could one speak of a twofoldness of suspense?

JH: There is a suspense because of Will’s promiscuous relation to the zombies: From the beginning to the end, it is as if some roaring bull was running at full speed towards him and he was simply twisting his shoulders at the last moment to avoid it. So, I use minimal movement in the scenes. There are lots of frozen moments in the action. And as much as I continue, I realize that it is some kind of extreme minimalism that I am looking for.
This is one of the many unrealistic aspects of the film: I don’t try to make a breathing, walking, sweating creature, like a character behind a camera. Instead, I animate a drawn figure in a drawn environment. I guess here the apocalypse has the flavor of a soft desolation. I was touched by the representation of an intimate isolation created in The Last Man on earth, a zombie apocalypse film by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow from 1964. Strangely, the making of computer generated animation brought me to look at the past – to an old kind of cinematography where everything was shot with a heavy dolly traveling around the cables on the floor of a stable set.
Moreover, this stand-still feeling of duration is also due to my working with sound. The sounds are obviously used as an addition to the image. Like in cartoons from the 60’s the only function of sound is narration. So, the noise of the ambience is quite close to zero. Consequently, the scene may sound dead calm right before something is about to animate.

Jean Hubert, Waiting for Sleep, 2016, film still. Courtesy: the artist

PK: In Anthropology the diary has a specific function. Bronislaw Malinowski, a polish Anthropologist who has been quite important for warehouse’s ethnographic endeavor, started writing a diary just after he arrived in Papua New Guinea in 1914. In the face of extreme isolation – being all by himself in the tropics, not speaking the language of the indigenous, overwhelmed by insomnia – he used the diary as an instrument to tackle his loneliness. The diary appeared to be the very tool for both documenting isolation and writing and alternative script to it.
With Will there seems to be a similar situation of addressing isolation. However, instead of using protocol sentences the diary is largely articulated through Computer-Generated-Imagery. Would you call Waiting for Sleep a non-verbal form of the diary?

JH: How striking it is that Functionalism came through a brain suffering from insomnia!
In Waiting for Sleep I only use few words. However, it is definitely a gesture taken from the diary. I was always attracted by scientific diaries in general, not only for their empirical content but rather for the style of literature that goes along with it. The objectiveness of the protagonist – there is an equal differentiation between the anecdotic and the dramatic – creates this factual language that was in fashion for long. From Camus’ l’Etranger to Kafka, the narrator seems to be feelingless and passive. Something bonds diaries to writing the fantastic. Must be the lack of sleep.

PK: The title of Waiting for Sleep reads part 1. Will there be more parts? And why did you choose to break up the diary into several parts?

JH: There will be a part two and a part three as there are three days in the story. Each part describes one day. There were several reasons but I am quite satisfied with the timing now. Even when the whole film will be finished, hopefully in a year, I would like to keep these caesuras.

Jean Hubert (1987, FR) lives and works in Amsterdam. He graduated in 2010 of the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris (Ensba). He followed a residency program at the Rijksakademie. In 2014 he did the residency program of BilbaoArte Fondation. His practice is centered around video. He participated to several exhibitions in France and abroad, notably, Visio Schermo del Arte (Teatro la Compania/Florence, 2016), The time I spent going nowhere (Billytown/La Haye, 2016), Personal Science Solution Is For Me (Momart/Amsterdam, 2015), The Script Inside Me ep- 01 T(Fondation BilbaoArte/ Bilbao, 2014), The Great Indoors (Motive Galery/Bruxelles, 2013), the Rijksakademie Open (Amsterdam/2012&2013), the Salon de Montrouge (2012). In 2016 he had two solo shows, one in Hector, Mexico DFE – Panorama Jean Hubert and Mouvement suivant, in la Petite Galerie, Paris.