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Henry Jacobs Animation Screening!
Ben Pritchard , August 30th, 2012 02:44

Ben Pritchard of London pub film club Cinematograph hails veteran sound artist, broadcaster and humourist Henry Jacobs, whose animated series The Fine Art Of Goofing Off explores the nature of time and how to use it frivolously, as attendees of this Sunday's event will discover...

In 1972 Henry Jacobs headed a team of animators and improvisers to create The Fine Art Of Goofing Off, a three-part series made for San Francisco public television. Utilising a range of animation techniques to accompany improvised and skillfully edited reflections on the nature of time and leisure, the series celebrates pointless activity in a way that straddles the silly and philosophical with free-associative abandon.

Jacobs' prolific and pioneering career centres around recording and sound. From radio work to live presentations, he has remained innovative while retaining a lightness in his creative approach. His early output with Californian radio station KPFA explored his fascination with ethnic music, field recordings and poetry, channelled through the dry wit that defines his style. Employing varied audio collages, Jacobs experimented with reel-to-reel recorders, splicing and manipulating recordings to create rhythmically charged pieces of mmusique concrète. Later, he inspired John Cage with an array of sound works at his weekly events at the Golden Gate Park's Morrison Planetarium, the 'Vortex Experiments'. Using multiple separated speakers Jacobs anticipated developments in surround sound technology that are now standard in big budget film productions.

This deft approach to presenting sound was complemented by his wit and satirical pieces. He improvised and elegantly edited recordings to sculpt the humorous faux interviews and tongue-in-cheek skits that made his name with the San Fran hipsters in the 1950s. In refusing to use scripts or attempt multiple takes the material was liberated, generating an excitement in the unexpected.

By the '70s, Jacobs was making his best work. His shrewdness and technical know-how were combined masterfully in The Fine Art Of Goofing Off, which he described as a "Sesame Street for grown-ups" (see YouTube excerpts below). The series explores the nature of time, how to make the most of it, what it means to goof off, and how best to do it. While being genuinely funny, it also poses some interesting ideas for anyone who feels the strain of the clock. Indeed, the relentless volume of London might urge you to seek out this hour and a half of escapism that could generate a lot more.

The Fine Art Of Goofing Off will be screened at Cinematograph Film Club this Sunday September 2 at The Duke of Wellington on Ball's Pond Road, near Dalston Junction.

Cinematograph takes a different focus each week - from Jan Švankmajer to Free Cinema, Jean Painlevé to Townes Van Zandt - showing films, playing related music, and providing an opportunity to discover more about significant works and those involved in their creation. The events start at 8pm and entry is free; more information can be found here.