Could illustrators lose their jobs to robots? Geoffroy de Crécy thinks it’s only a matter of time. “If you think about vectors, all the illustrators working with vector shapes are just using the machine’s language, and they are probably already teaching the machines how to draw.”
Until then, the French director and illustrator is putting machines to work in a series of hypnotising, animated loops. Whether featuring a pool cleaner chugging into and out of frame, or a contraption lobbing tennis balls indifferently over the net, Geoffroy’s loops show just how many daily tasks we’ve already willingly given over to machines.
“It's quite clear now that all this ‘help’ makes us weaker and more dependent,” he says. “An escalator is convenient, but then we have to go and run in a gym because we are too fat.”
The mechanisms in Geoffroy’s loops are also all pretty retro. He describes them as, “a prefiguration of the machines that are coming now that intend to ‘help’ us to think, to manage our friends, our social life.”
In his animations, there’s no social life to speak of. There’s nobody in the mall, nobody at the restaurant, or in the office. The only motion is the perpetual rolling of an escalator or the comical vibrations of an electric toothbrush. It’s as if, like in a sci-fi movie, all the people have vanished into thin air. The motors have been left running until the batteries run out.
Geoffroy likes to think of viewers wondering what happened to all the people, as if his loops are captured moments after a catastrophic event. “I’m a bad animator,” he offers humbly as the reason his work doesn’t feature any humans. “So far, I’ve not been able to design characters that match this flat style – I’m still working on that.”
It also allows him to show people's behavior through their absence and to put emphasis on the scenes themselves, from the interior design to the lighting which he renders expertly. He likes the environments to evoke the recent past – the last decades of the 20th Century. For this, he looks to photography for inspiration. “Stephen Shore captured the essence of his time with still pictures, often just details of a place without any people. I also love the organization of space in Gregory Crewdson's work.”
A loop can take anything from a day to more than a week to complete. Geoffroy describes it as an incremental process, spending days refining the animation and adding details, and then more time removing details to make each as simple as possible. “I know an animation is ready when I can watch it for minutes, being hypnotised, without feeling the pain and work that is behind it. If I can see the work, then it's not good.”
This brings to mind one of his animations – robotic arms adding components to an object on an assembly line. When finished product is revealed, it's yet another robotic arm which then continues the infinite task...
Words by Alix-Rose Cowie.