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Question 4: What formal studies or progression of activities did you pursue?
I studied at Université Sainte-Anne, I did a certificate in social animation that I loved. I came here, I did a year in sociology and general bachelor then I transferred to visual arts. I started in 1981 in visual arts, 1982-83. In 1983 there was a show on Radio-Canada called La Course autour du monde and I loved it. I was a viewer, a fan of the show and I applied in 1981, they just sent me back my stuff: we don’t want you. I applied again the next year, they brought me up for an interview, after the interview they told me that they didn’t want me and I applied again the third year, they called me for the interview, I went through the preliminaries and I won the contest. And then I got mononucleosis so I didn’t go. But in 1983 they asked me to go, so I took a year. I told myself, Ok I won’t go to university. I went to Montréal and learned all kinds of things about Super 8. Because at the time, Super 8 was being used with La Course autour du monde, and I learned about distribution systems. A big organization like Radio-Canada with lots of money, it was a show that was very popular. So it was a good experience and I would consider it a learning experience. I had mono so I spent the rest of the summer with a sore throat and I didn’t do much. I went back to university in September but it wasn’t a good year because I think I was too tired. I had a bit of a hard time. At the time, in 1984, I was also working on another production. I wasn’t taking any sculpture classes but I was putting together a production involving installation, sculpture, and there really wasn’t a spot where I could do it in the visual arts department. When I think of it now it seems strange. I had my production at university, a student production, and on the other hand, I had my production at home. In 1985 I took a break because of conflicts at the university, I told myself I would take a year off, so I went to Montréal, I worked in restaurants. And I applied for an Exploration grant from the Canada Council which was really an extraordinary program. You could apply to do projects and you didn’t have to have experience in the fields. It was really organized so that people could explore because they were called Exploration grants. So I received one and I started to work on a project called Cube Aleph which was really a long-winded project. I worked on it for two years. I started to work on it in Montréal with Denis Richard, a guy from Moncton who was living in Montréal, who still lives in Montréal, and who really had a good head for motors and the organization of electrical systems and carpentry. I really learned a lot with Denis and Denis worked on the cube as much as I did. It was really both our project. And, after that, I left Montréal, I brought back my cube in progress here in Moncton and rented a studio at Aberdeen and went back to university, which was my last year in 1986. So 1986 was a pretty intense year. I was studying at university and I was really into being here again and doing things, and I still had my production on the side. I was working on my Cube Aleph and it was pretty taxing doing both. But even when I look at that today I still do the same thing, I work, do production work, and other things as well. It’s like someone said, being an artist is really like having two full-time jobs. So, in 1986 I graduated from university and I exhibited Cube Aleph which was really my first exhibition in an artist centre. It was at Galerie Sans Nom, in 1986. In 1989, I applied at Banff Centre to do a residency there, I was accepted and went to Banff Centre. There again, it was really an experience that changed my life, like Canada World Youth, like so many things. And I met Valerie LeBlanc who was working at Banff Centre in the media arts department, she was doing video work. Just as acquaintances, we just met there. I was doing my work, I spent a year there, from September to April, and in April I came back to Moncton. Then there was Nuit de Ventôse which was huge, it was so crazy, held in the month of March, the 23rd, and I did a performance in it, it was really an amazing evening. I’m sure people are still talking about it. And then I went back to Calgary and Valerie and I became partners and also partners in terms of artistic projects. We started to work together then, in 1990. She had applied to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to do her master’s. She was accepted and, given that we’d started to work together, she said, Why don’t we apply together, because she knew that I was interested in doing a master’s as well, Why don’t we apply to the school together? So she redid the application, she said well we work together and then we submitted a joint application by presenting our individual work, so we were accepted. They gave me a full tuition scholarship that included the two years of study. That was also an intense experience, the school was renowned, there was an incredible visiting artists program. There were artists coming in every week. So we worked, we did collaborative projects and also individual ones. That was where I learned about a program called Max. And the head of the department where I was studying, the department was called Time Arts, all the arts that are relative to time like performance, video, anything that has a time element, was included in that. The head of the department was Peter Jenna, a musician. He had been working with a program called Max for two years. It’s a program that came out in 1989 and there was a course in the sound department, on Max, so I took the course. I remember that at the time, in 1991, in front of a 17 or 19 inch screen it was huge. We opened the program and it was “Oh my God…” I remember looking at the screen, working in the studio for hours, then I’d go outside to smoke cigarettes, I smoked back then, and I went out and saw the city. It was almost apocalyptic in terms of visions. Because I had a tuition grant that paid for my studies, I couldn’t flunk any courses. I had to pass this course that I took, so I really worked extra hard. And it’s the program that I primarily work with. It’s kind of ironic or interesting, anyhow I did my master’s there. And then before that I did a residency at Sculpture Space. After Banff, I did a project called La nouvelle boîte de Pandore and there was a trip around the world included in it. Anyway, I had a grant from the Arts Council to work on this project and it was a project with two aspects to it, there was a research project, it was Pandora’s Box where, when the box is opened, evil is spread throughout the world, it’s pretty catastrophic. But in the box there is also an element of hope, the last thing inside it was hope. It really involved elements that interested me and I told myself, Ok I’m going to go take a trip around the world and I’ll meet people, and I’ll enter into situations where I’ll come across the seven plagues. There was passion, that was one, poverty, old age, there were seven of them, and there was hope. And when I left I went to England, I left late in July 1990. When I arrived in London, my next stop was in the United Arab Emirates. I went to get my visa but it was the day Iraq invaded Kuwait. All the Arab embassies at the time were in the same area. And there was really an overall sense of uneasiness and nobody really knew what was happening. Now, with the Internet and all that, we know about everything that’s going on all the time, but then, what was going on? I knocked on the door at the embassy and said that I’d like to have a visa: “You can’t now.” And then I watched television to see what was going on and I changed my travel plans because I couldn’t go there. Then I was supposed to go to Pakistan and I couldn’t go there either. So I changed all kind of things. As I was travelling – I was in England, in Scotland, in Turkey, Singapore, Malaysia, Hawaii and Los Angeles and then again in Canada, there were seven stops – but what everybody was watching everywhere on television was the war in Iraq. People in Malaysia were watching, people in Turkey were watching, everywhere people were watching what was going on. I told myself, it’s not complicated: Pandora’s box is about television, with all it shows us. I really saw that the planet was really relatively small, that we are really all connected and that everyone was on CNN, let’s say. When I came back, I spent several weeks watching lots of talk shows and taping talk shows, taking slides, videotaping and the new project La nouvelle boîte de Pandore became a project about television really. And then there was the data to collect, videos, photos, then I was at Sculpture Space to build the exhibit, the installation itself. And then the next two months were pretty crazy. Utica, in upstate New York was really a crazy place. There was a base of B-52s just next to Utica, at a place called Rome. These planes were taking off all the time. At the end of January in the United States… the whole month of January the Senate – it was on the radio all the time – the Senate was saying, Well are we going to war, we’re not going to war, are we going to war? Finally, in late January they went, the B-52s were taking off every two minutes, it was pretty amazing. That was an educational experience.