Fruit of All is one of three short films produced as part of my joint Master’s degree at York University / Ryerson University. During my graduate studies I was especially interested in experimental animation, including connections or fissures between analog and digital animation. With this film, I explored my computer’s flatbed scanner as a digital “direct animation” device by scanning and rendering the flesh of fruit. The scanned images were paired with hand-drawn animation made using a digital drawing tablet. Making this film really transformed how I understand the concept of “indexicality,” which throughout the 20th century was often misleadingly used to separate photography from drawings, or live-action from animated cinema.
In semiotics (the study of signs), an “indexical” sign is one that has an intimate, direct connection to the original object (or event) that made the sign. For example, a footprint in the mud is an indexical sign made by the shoe (and presumably person) who made that print, whereas a mercury thermometer pointing to 40C is an indexical sign of the hot fever that it registered. An indexical sign has what philosopher C. S. Pierce called a relationship of “necessity” to its original referent.
Throughout the 20th century, a photograph was often seen as the ultimate “indexical” sign, pointing to an original object or event that was photographed. Photography’s status as an indexical sign is a major part of its power (its “truth” value) as an image. This is why digital manipulation has caused such a profound shift in our ability to trust photographs. It’s not that photographs weren’t always open to manipulation, but the widespread awareness that a photograph could easily be manipulated disrupts the belief in the photograph’s indexical value. Drawing (and by extension: drawn animation) has never been seen as an indexical sign. A drawing of a tree can look like a tree (what Pierce would call an “iconic” sign), but it wasn’t the same as a photograph of a tree.
However, what if we think about drawings not as indexes of the objects they try to represent, but as indexes of the hands that made them? How does the drawn and animated line capture something of the living, moving body that made it? These were the questions that I was thinking about as I was making Fruit of All, and these questions would continue to preoccupy me for the next decade.
Unfortunately, both of the high-resolution digital copies of this film that I had stored on separate drives have been lost to a move and to technical damage, respectively — yet another important reminder that digital film is subject to loss and decay at least as much as celluloid film.