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I announced at the end of my last article (click here to read last article), that I would explain why I make art or experimental videos – and not fiction film stuck to realism. And the explanation lies in this word: “art”.

Quite simply because I am an artist and for me, art (regardless of the medium) is a way of looking at reality differently in order to expose it from other angles, using symbolic language. I don't want to recreate the world as I live it every day. I don’t find it so appealing with its share of violence, iniquity, problems and routine.

However, this is not an escape attitude. On the contrary, I remain immersed in the social context in which I inhabit. I knead the elements which compose our universe and, like magically manipulated dice, I rearrange them in an unexpected order. My eyelids vibrate in front of the unknown that is taking shape. I aspire to broader horizons.

I'm always hungry for art, I want more than just agreed content. When I watch a film, both fiction and documentary, I am looking for a poetic dimension that transforms and transcends reality. I can enjoy any kind of movies, but what turns me on is sensing an artistic intention. Too often, I have heard or read film reviews that boiled down to: “This is the story of…”. But cinema isn’t just about that. It has its own language that allows for new ways of telling taking advantage of specifically cinematographic processes. What Agnès Varda refers to as “cinécriture” [a term difficult to translate into English, which combines "cinema" and "writing".

I deplore the lack of an aesthetic aspect in many art videos presented recently in the circuit of art galleries and artist-run centers. This recurring observation culminated while visiting a recent contemporary art event about the links between human beings and nature. Many of the art videos that I have watched were more of a documentary type. The meaning of artworks should elude any immediate grasp and not serve as instruments for the accomplishment of a social objective. Artists should trust the strength of their works to provide an emotional experience and allow the public to do its part.

I expect more from artistic productions. If I seek information, I can search for documentaries or articles. But in front of an artwork, I want to be taken off the ground, to overcome my own condition. « Please, destabilize me, bring some airflow in this suffocating universe! I need it, like everyone else these days!» Not to deny reality, but to be able to project ourselves into it, to open to another vision in order to better reinvent it. However, this does not mean creating a dream of a harmonious future, without conflict or paradox!

We cry over the fate of our world. And indeed, it is to cry : glaciers are gradually disappearing, the planet is dying under our waste, there is a threat of world war. Oversaturated with frustrating statistical data, we have to be able to feel these realities viscerally in order to react in a sensitive manner. That’s what art is all about. I understand that there are urgent matters to be dealt with. But do artists experience more nowadays a guilt that pushes them to do utilitarian work? While our work has a more abstract contribution than that of healthcare workers, it must be considered essential because it may indirectly propose solutions.

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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