By Johanna Sommer
“Alright, so the joke of the new media major is that we never know how to describe our major to other people,” says Emma Jakubik, a senior in the program at Purchase. “Usually, the go-to answer is that it's the intersection of art and technology, but I often go more in depth by describing the courses I take like coding, web-coding classes, programming classes, photography, video art, and design principles. I'm able to experiment with all different types of mediums and incorporate technology and art into everything that I create.”
This freedom and variation shows in Jakubik’s work, who in the past year has created the stop-motion short “10 Rows Done,” which received an honorable mention from the Student World Impact Film Festival, and was an official selection of the Hudson Valley Film Fest. She rotoscoped 24 individual flower videos that appeared in an exhibit at the University at Albany and the Grace Ives music video for “On the Ground,” and made the zine “Sometimes, Other Times.” Currently, she is grinding out her senior thesis: a 10-minute animated stop-motion piece based on the “Heroine’s Journey.”
Q:Have you always been interested in the intersection of traditional art forms with more contemporary technology? When did this interest begin for you?
A: It honestly began when I took a tour of Purchase when I was looking for colleges. I didn't want to go to the school at all actually [laughs] and my dad was like, ‘let's just go on tour, let's just check it out,’ and on the tour where they explained the majors, they talked about new media and I was immediately drawn to it. Beforehand I had always been interested in film and video, and I thought I wanted to be making movies, but I realized that that's not entirely the direction I wanted to go, and I didn't think that there were any other options. So, to be sitting in the general interest meeting for Purchase College and have explained to me exactly what would solve this problem for me, of my interest in traditional art and my interest in video and editing and computer technology, I was like, ‘Oh, cool, this is for me.’ So that's why I came here.
Q: Do you have a singular word or descriptor of how you see yourself as an artist?
A: I would say I'm a multimedia artist. I am interdisciplinary, and I am interested in multiple different areas, primarily in animating, but I also would be happy to do video, editing, set and prop design, storyboarding, script writing, any of those things.
Q: A lot of these things that you're listing, but specifically animation, stop-motion and editing, require so much time and patience. Do you think this stamina comes naturally to you, or is that its own hurdle to get through besides the work itself?
A: I think it comes naturally to me. I have always had a weirdly intense and rigorous work ethic. I started to hone it in high school when I took more AP classes than I needed to take and had to balance the workload, and now it's just how I operate. I love to put my all into the thing that I'm interested and passionate in because I want it to be the best that it can possibly be, which can also often be a detriment, in terms of perfectionism and feeling like I'm not achieving what I want to achieve. When I describe [stop-motion] to people they're like, that sounds exhausting and horrible and just boring, but I think it's like a dance. I'm moving something, I'm taking a photo, I'm moving something, I'm taking a photo, and I just get in that rhythm, and I could do it for like 6 hours.
Q: That's a beautiful comparison. Children's media is something else you have a huge affinity for. Is this something you've returned to more recently, or has it just been a continuous interest in your life?
A: I think it's been a continuous interest, but I only recently came to the realization that people make these things, and I could be involved in making these things, and that's super exciting and super cool because I love to consume that media. As a 21-year-old adult I'm watching a show that's made for an 8-year-old kid, and I find so much joy and pleasure in that. I think what's so lovely and exciting about children's media is that it often incorporates moral lessons and values that are important for everyone of all ages. And it's really refreshing and heartwarming to see that in a show when there's so much media that is all just violence and anger and hatred.
Q: And I think that's clear in “Sometimes, Other Times,” in which there is a gentleness, but there's also a darkness and a poignancy despite the simplicity of the words that you use. Is this a balance that you're striving for in your work?
A: Yes, definitely, because I often think about children growing up and how they cope with things that are really intangible and difficult to comprehend, like mortality, growing old, and having responsibilities. Those are all things that are terrifying to even me as an adult right now, and I think to be able to deal with those heavy themes, that are applicable to everyone, but also have it be presented in a way that is lovely and heartwarming and inspiring is really cool. Specifically, I'm thinking about “Frozen 2” and Olaf’s character development. He starts to contemplate his existence as a snowman that can melt, and I can't believe I'm talking about “Frozen 2” right now, but I really thought that that was such a poignant and beautiful way to show to children that this is something that many people think of, and that part of being human is realizing your mortality and that it can be expressed through a cute little snowman who also sings songs.
Q: New York Times pop critic Lindsay Zoladz just named Grace Ives’ album “Janky Star” album of the year. How did you get involved in working on her video for “On the Ground?”
A: So, I had the absolutely lovely opportunity to be the artist assistant for Sara Magenheimer. She is a professor in new media who approached me at the beginning of last year and asked if I would help her out with a project. The project was a 24-hour flower clock, where each hour consisted of different flowers that bloom at different times of day based off of this 16th-century flower clock experiment. We wanted to make it digital, and I sourced all the videos, did all the research for what flowers bloom at what time, and then I hand rotoscoped every single flower so that they were cut out from the background of their video. Sara then told me that Grace Ives actually approached her to do her music video because Grace is a former student of hers. She surprised me by showing me that she had incorporated the videos that I had rotoscoped into the video itself. It was a really enjoyable and wonderful surprise to see that the work I had made was put into a music video, and it just kind of showed me the potential of motion graphics and video graphics and how it can be applied to music videos.
Q: We have not talked about your senior project at all. Do you want to describe what that is, both in terms of form and narrative?
A: My senior project is really based around this one book that I found by happenstance in a small bookstore in Massachusetts. I still think about that, like I picked up this book and it honestly changed the course of my next two years and is where I'm jumping off from for my senior project, which I think is super cool. It is called the “Heroine's Journey,” and it is about taking Joseph Campbell's “Hero's Journey” model and including women in it, because his model was mainly about men, and to him a woman’s role in a hero's journey was just to be the mother of the hero, or to be the damsel in distress, or the acquisition that the hero is after, so she takes it on a more spiritual side, on a more feminine side, and uses her research as a woman therapist with her clients on how she develops this. So, I'm doing a heroine’s journey, but making it a stop-motion that incorporates all different styles. I'm starting with paper animation, I'm going to do watercolor, acrylic paint, I’ve done models made with polymer clay and socks and stuff, and I want to incorporate each of these with each stage of the heroine's journey.
Q: You think it's going to be around 10 minutes, right?
A: That's what I'm aiming for, but I've never done an animation longer than three minutes, and I really want to push myself and experiment with what I can do with a longer time frame because I do have a year to work on this, and I would really love to have it at 10 minutes.
Q: How has your time in this program impacted how you think about art?
A: I think this program has helped me realize that there is so much potential to art, and there are so many mediums to experiment with, and you don’t have to lock yourself into just one. I used to think I couldn’t be an artist because I couldn’t draw or paint, and I realize now that I can be an artist in so many different ways and in so many different aspects of my life.