Exclusive Interactive Video Premiere: Ã?milie Simon’s Big Idea

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Published March 9, 2011

 

A STILL FROM ÉMILIE SIMON’S “ROCKET TO THE MOON” INTERACTIVE VIDEO, COURTESY OF SIMON AND VINCENT MORRISSET

A thaumatrope is a Victorian-era toy that you may remember from grade school science classes. The device uses a circular card with partial images on either side, attached to two pieces of string. By spinning the card, the eye uses persistence of vision to merge the pictures—combining two half images to form a whole.

Brooklyn-based singer and composer Émilie Simon has been releasing albums for nearly eight years, and her style is reminiscent of a French, electronic-leaning Tori Amos. Her lyrical content and vocal style are charming and sweet, but the classically trained musician also often covers The Stooges, Nirvana, and David Bowie. For her latest album, The Big Machine, she joined forces with director Vincent Morisset (creator of Arcade Fire’s interactive video for “Neon Bible”), photographer John Londono, and illustrator Caroline Robert to create a series of interactive videos based around the thaumatrope, which Interview has the pleasure of premiering. View all four videos at Simon’s website for the project.

Director Vincent Morriset, customary to his style, casts Émilie Simon in an eerie light, allowing for subtle, user-guided changes through four interactive videos shot in various locations around Brooklyn. In “Rocket To the Moon,” Simon faces the viewer; the twist of the thaumatrope, wind blowing through hair, and even the blink of an eye all appear stilted. Clicking your mouse reverses the song and casts Simon in a dark shadow, and the slight change flips the upbeat song on its head. In “Chinatown,” the viewer’s keyboard becomes an MPC machine, and the video allows the user to play samples from the song while merging animations of an octopus with plums of colored “ink” that erupt with every click of a number key.
 Each video is playful, without appearing one-dimensional. Like the thaumatrope, Simon and director Morriset allow the viewer to form a complete image from incomplete parts. Blithe French electronic pop music becomes ethereal with the click of a mouse. The videos, and Simon herself, deliver a duality of smart, fun music packaged in a way we can’t stop playing with—and we’re sorry, by the way, if we’ve ruined your productivity for the afternoon.

VIEW ALL FOUR OF ÉMILIE SIMON’S INTERACTIVE VIDEOS FOR THE BIG MACHINE HERE.