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Question 5: How has your artistic practice or approach developed over the years?
What’s really funny, when I went to Concordia, Penny Cousineau, my thesis director, the professor who became my thesis director, asked me if I still had the first contact sheet I had ever made. I said yes, I do. Well she said: I want you to look at it for a week and then, next week, you will come to your appointment and we’ll talk about your first contact sheet. I got there and the only thing she told me – the appointment lasted about 45 seconds – she told me: Did you look at your contact sheet? I said yes. So she said: That’s what you’ll be doing for the rest of your life. So, ever since then, I’ve been looking at my first contact sheet and trying to see what she meant. I think she’s right; I think what she said is right. Now my work is to see, either to prove she was wrong or to show that I believe what she said. But the idea is that all of the elements, my vision of the world, the way I understand and make sense of the society I live in is in these 36 photos. It was a 36-exposure/35-millimetre film. It’s all in there, in those 36 photos; all of the information is in it. I thought it was so interesting because all of a sudden my journey was to recreate a very specific moment found in the first 35 photographs I’ve ever taken in my life, and to today it’s still what motivates me. Once again, I think that just through my answer we can somewhat see that my reflection is becoming philosophical. It’s not so much talking about my own ego like I’m the centre of the universe, or everything I express must be known to the culture. It’s more like a matter of seeing that an impulse has happened, like something that happened, my psyche worked for a given period of time and now I’m trying to understand that moment. I hope I won’t ever understand because I think if I ever were to understand I’d stop working. Basically, that’s the most simple way, but I’m still looking into it. So my journey really is a journey that looks ahead and back, at the same time. Really, my work is always obsessed with ideas like measuring, comparing, opposing or putting together or creating metaphors with highly scattered elements which are dispersed but at the same time it’s really my experience of the world. We turn on our television and then we see a soldier get blasted and then we look at our buddy, our girl friend, our dad, our mom who love us tremendously. Those two things co-exist; at the same time, and that’s what… Those are the days of our lives, constantly. We walk in a city as beautiful as Moncton with its trees over, but you look on the ground and there’s paper everywhere, it’s dirty and there are homeless people… We’re always stuck in this type of situation, with these contrasts. When I look at my first contact sheet, it was in there already, I was already aware of these types of contrasts. I think that the older I get, the more I read, I think I’m starting to make these comparisons. They’re not as direct anymore – they’re more subtle. I don’t feel like grabbing people by the balls as much as I used to, but instead I want to caress them slowly on the back of their neck, and let them have an experience. So, the journey… When I talk to students, it’s a maturing process. We mature, we don’t learn. Our feelings become a bit less impulsive and then we can think about stuff for a longer period. We can express ourselves more clearly. Because, really, when we scream nobody listens. But, once in a while, we have to scream, that’s always there. So the journey… I’m getting calmer all the time, that’s not bad, that works. But I keep expressing the same ideas, they’re always reactions against a society I find incredibly hypocritical, myself included. I don’t separate myself from the society I work on. I try to lead a life that is as environmentally responsible as possible; yet I do photography. I work with chemicals with a high environmental cost for their production and also to get rid of when I’m done working. So I can’t say I do environmental work and yet use such toxic materials, without noticing my own hypocrisy and seeing it as perfectly normal, as something that must nevertheless be expressed clearly. You got to be proud to be a hypocrite, sometimes.