A first look at the work of Adam Pesapane, aka PES, brings to mind the films of Jan Svankmajer, the 73 year-old Czech surrealist whose food-related stop-motion animations can be seen as an influence in the University of Virginia alum’s playful and unusual uses of chow for all sorts of anarchic configurations and stories.
“I learned a lot by watching [Svankmajer’s] films,” said PES in an exclusive interview with Tilzy.TV. “I liked what he was doing with objects, using them as ideas and textures.”
But PES’ particular brand of stop motion carries his own distinct touch, one that is resolutely American and of late 20th Century/early 21st popular culture.
For instance, his short film Game Over recreates vintage video arcade games like Centipede and Frogger by way of cupcakes, muffins, salt shakers, birthday cake candles, watches, sequins, pretzel logs, and plastic cars. Others, like the recent short Western Spaghetti (above) turns food into objects by substituting puppet eyes, Rubik’s Cube pieces, pin cushions, dollar bills, dice, Post It notes, rubber bands, and yarn for common household ingredients in order to cook up a very unique meal.
In both films, sound effects of the real thing (the games, the cooking preparations) heighten the bizarre result of one set of common objects being used in another but totally different set of common circumstances.
There you can watch the film that got PES started, a clever and strangely erotic stop motion called Roof Sex, where two cushioned easy chairs steal away for some hot furniture coitus (when they return to their owner’s apartment satiated – but the worse for wear – the poor housecat gets the blame).
The widely recognized short put PES on the animation map (it won Best First Film at the Annecy International Film Festival in 2002), but for PES its technique was born of necessity: “I studied English and Printmaking in college, I never did any animation. I taught myself how to animate on Roof Sex so that I could get the film exactly how I wanted it. I bought doll furniture and did animation tests on my dining room table.”
In fact, PES views animation as merely a means to an end: “Animation is the final part of the process for me, just the means to execute the idea. It’s actually just a necessary evil.”
Still, his deft use of the medium has attracted the attention of advertising agency that have employed him to execute eye-catching stop motion shorts to call attention to their products.
Ads like Human Skateboard for shoe manufacturer Sneaux and four thematically linked spots for Bacardi (with Bacardi bottle submarines, powered by lemon slice propellers, swimming through an ocean of martini glass fish) can also be viewed at eatPES.
“Advertising agencies come up with the ideas and then hire me to direct them,” explains PES, “They are not my ideas. As director, my job is to guide the agency (and clients) through the process of turning their storyboards/concept into the best film possible with the money they have to spend.”
PES’ latest innovation is the stop motion loop. One called My Pepper Heart endlessly repeats a pepper in two different positions along with the sound of a beating heart, creating a disorienting visual and auditory experience.
Another, The Fireplace, replaces the classic televised yule log with pretzel logs and candy corn flames. You can even purchase the loop as a DVD to play on your set for the holiday season. PES explains:
“I thought it would be a challenge to make simple things—icons—that people can play over and over, leave on in the background of their lives. With many of my films, you watch them a couple times online and then it’s over. It’s a finite experience. I liked the idea of making something people might play around holidays, or at parties, and just leave on their TV for hours.
The idea of the televised yule log has been around since 1966, when a TV channel in NYC broadcast a simple loop of a real fireplace on Xmas day. I thought it would be interesting to put a new twist on it. So in my fireplace I used candy corn flames atop a pile of pretzel logs. Junk food—what Americans know best.”
What’s next for PES? He gave us the scoop:
“I am shooting a deep sea aquarium at the moment with fish made of old junk—outdated tools, candle snuffers, angel food cake cutters, all sorts of useless things from the past. Many of the objects and their uses are slipping out of memory and won’t be recognized by viewers, making the film very different than Western Spaghetti, which is built on the joy of recycling familiar things. So it’s a new experiment for me.”
We’ll definitely be watching.