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Question 11: Which artists or artistic styles have influenced you? How does this play out, in concrete terms?
I’ve already mentioned Marcel Duchamp, I’m going to mention him again. On the visual side, the stuff that’s enthused me the most since I’ve started doing art is Peter Greenaway’s films. In terms of theory, there’s as much bad stuff to talk about when it comes to Greenaway’s films as there’s good stuff. To me, they’re films that totally enthuse me, I get a total thrill out of them and they inspire me. Inspire is not the right term, they motivate me; I tell myself yes it’s feasible. Naturally, if we look at Peter Greenaway’s work, as a movie director, his work is obsessive; it’s collector’s work. His sets are always full of objects; each object has a specific place, for a specific reason. It’s not important for the viewer to know the relationships. For Greenaway, it’s not important as long as the viewer is aware that there’s a process. So the journey is more important than reaching a destination. In Greenaway, that’s what excites me because he does it so well. He puts images in front of me that I don’t want to understand; I don’t give a hoot if I don’t understand them; they work, and I want to know how they work. So that’s what Greenaway brings me. In terms of music, I don’t know if I’m reliving my youth or what, a bit of a «midlife crisis» coming up, lately I been listening to music I used to listen to when I was a student, the band that fascinated me the most back then was Throbbing Gristle - Psychic TV. That was a band that came out of a performance group. I was too ignorant then to understand what performance was all about. But the performance group COUM Transmissions, they were a very important performance group in England, and in the development of performance art in England. This is research I’m only working on now, 20 years later. So I’m going back to that source, it’s a source in terms of what I was talking about, questioning oneself as to what beauty is all about; what do we find beautiful, sublime or ugly. That music did this very well. I’ve always had the feeling that music was something like 20 years ahead of visual arts in terms of expressing such esoteric concepts. I’ve been talking to people who share somewhat the same opinion. Could be that now, visually speaking, I’m ready to start dealing with what music did for me 20 years ago. We always work with our concepts, and that could explain it. I hope it’s not the midlife crisis, I sure don’t feel like buying a motorcycle right now or wearing chains, so I got to pay attention to that stuff. I’m going back in time because I have to constantly question my concept of beauty. That’s something I always need; music seems to do that stuff. And, third of all, it’s literature. Lately, Amélie Nothomb has been driving me right up the wall; I adore her. Kundera, Eco, people working with language at a physical level. When we read, the experience of reading becomes a physical experience. When I read… Kundera wrote books you can read sitting on the toilet. As soon as you wrap your brain around trying to figure out the words, reading the sentences… But if you start savouring the language, the sentencestructures, the sounds, it can take hours and hours and hours to read through his pages. Then all of a sudden I realize that writing becomes something physical, to me it’s a way to bridge the experience of the viewer showing up at an exhibition, the experience of the artist who’s creating the work and the literary resources that inspire the artist’s work. When I read a real good text, one that gives me goose bumps, intellectual goose bumps, all of a sudden I start seeing all kinds of physical links. I can start conceiving a space, a public coming into a space, an art piece right there in that space, and then, all of the sudden, the link is made. I have a concept for beauty, I have an aesthetic concept, an aesthetic principle that functions; I’ve got some theory stuff or I’ve got some philosophy stuff that works, and I have a direction for information, for collecting information that can be activated by those two things, and notice here I have not mentioned a visual artist yet. Now that’s something that in a way frustrates me; I should like to look at visual art, I’m a visual artist. If people didn’t like looking at visual arts, I’d be out of a job, simple as that. That’s if we have the choice to see visual arts. Especially now that I’m in Newfoundland, my choice in terms of looking at visual arts is in magazines, reproductions in magazines. You see, if I go see a movie I see the work as it is expected to be seen. Music: same thing; literature, same thing: my experience with these works of art is the one you’re supposed to have with those works. Too bad I don’t live in New York City; I can’t go see Tracy Emin and stuff. That’s not available to me. Looking at this stuff in magazines can be cool, I know the names, so if I need to have a discussion with someone who thinks he knows what he’s talking about, about arts, I can name names. But I can’t really see the purpose of it if we can’t have an experience with the art pieces; which makes us question the whole Internet thing, but anyway, that’s something else. The Internet is an experience; so you have to learn to capitalize on it, so that’s something else to work out. But no, my inspirations are not necessarily in the arts. Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, they fascinate me; so does Gary Indiana, so does pop in general, Anselm Kiefer. Here let me quote Gérald Leblanc, in his memory: “Anselm Kiefer gives me a hard-on”. I love that work but it’s got nothing to do with what I do as an artist, nothing at all. I can’t draw lines, and I’m not trying to draw them either. So my contacts in the art world are very limited, very short, very superficial as opposed to my contacts with other forms of expression that are so much more intense, so much more important in terms of what I want to express with my photography. I’m quite scared because my own attitude is somewhat self-destructive, my behaviour as an artist aims at the end of visual arts, as we know it. But I can’t work at all if I work any other way, so I have to be honest with my sources.