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  • Writer's pictureJohanne Chagnon


In the last article (click here to read last article), I spoke in general terms of my interdisciplinary creative process in art video. This time, I will give some concrete examples that can provide the impetus towards achievements waiting to be discovered.

The conception of the video «A moment of whiteness just before…» began with a large roll of paper. I had enough paper to fill the studio space, to literally dive into it. So I started to wrinkle it, to shape it into a kind of glacial landscape. And it is from the simple manipulation of this material that the idea for this artwork developed. From point A to point B to point C. I followed the poetic logic that this basic element inspired me. While the layout of the paper remains the same, the changes come from the movements I make in an environment that evolves into a progressively darker atmosphere – with the addition of red and then black paint slides, interspersed with visual transitions. The final result (lasting 6 minutes) is a work symbolically evoking the threats facing our world. As it is written in a review by Milan Gold Awards, «The film is very up-to-date with one of the most sensitive subjects of our current time.» This demonstrates that any starting point, even seemingly innocuous, can become conducive to a meaningful creation.

Another way that has been very fruitful has been to challenge myself to make a short video every day. I ended up producing 200 ! It was a much easier challenge than I might have thought at first! This exercise allowed me to show more spontaneity and to explore various creative avenues freely. These experiments have built up a generous bank of sequences. I was later able to generate two videos composed of the best scenes grouped together according to a theme that appeared common, with hindsight. This kind of challenge is a great creative tool that I return to - albeit more briefly! - to unblock when I’m not sure how to move a project forward.

Since creating video art offers the freedom to work outside a predictable classical scenario, the triggers can be varied :

– An installation in the studio : for example, several white wigs hanging in space, which end up symbolizing a forest; or dried flowers on a table covered with black tissue that suggests a funeral ceremony

– A sound or a rhythm as a starting point for a video production

– An improvised dance bringing out an emotion that asks to be expressed

– A question such as "What can I get from this simple idea: a black silhouette moving in front of a white background?"

Working in the field of video, one cannot ignore the technological aspect. It requires almost continuous training. Software evolves rapidly, techniques are becoming more complex. Yet here is another very interesting area of experimentation, since I am not seeking technical perfection but an emotional state to transmit. For example, if it is recommended to follow specific instructions for correct color balance, what happens if I do the opposite instead? In addition, specialized and complex learning bores me and requires precious time that I would rather spend elsewhere.

And sometimes, too, I just tidy up the studio, watch inspiring films, leaf through art books, stroll around, let myself be carried away... go fishing... as director David Lynch puts it so well in his book "Catching the big fish": “Desire for an idea is like bait. When you’re fishing, you have to have patience. You bait your hook, and then you wait. "

Although I resort to these various creative avenues, I have no fear that my whole production will be disjointed. My accomplishments come from the same source, they are different manifestations of a single creative drive. I always remain the same person, with her own sensitivity to express her vision of the world. When I start a new project, I have confidence that it will fit into my overall approach.

Why do I choose to create experimental videos that are not stuck to reality, but rather poetic, imaginary, symbolic - which in return determines my way of proceeding? This will be the subject of the next article.

About the Author:

For more than thirty years, Johanne Chagnon has adopted a diversified artistic practice that calls on several mediums, in addition to exploring various forms of distribution and various types of presentation venues, often unconventional. More recently, she has turned to experimental video in which she brings together writing, installation and performance to illustrate her symbolic universes. She has been involved for over 15 years in the art magazine ESSE as coordinator and editor. From 2000 to 2017, she also developed the LEVIER and ROUAGE programs of the Engrenage Noir organization, which works to support community action art. She has published a monograph, “Naviguer malgré tout” [Navigating despite everything], retracing her practice from 1986 to 2015.

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