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  • Writer's pictureJohanne Chagnon

True to my obsessions...

Updated: Aug 16, 2021

I have been invited to write about art direction or any other consideration related to this topic. Thanks for this unexpected but rewarding invitation! My video achievements fall under the "short experimental" category. By the opportunity this blog offers me, I find it interesting to get out of this sharp niche and address myself to other creators who also use the moving image, hoping to make my modest contribution with my own personal process. Note that my mother tongue is French, that of Quebec where I was born, live and work, the language with which I think and write before translating into English.

For this first article, it seemed important to me to present the journey that led me to the video projects that I am currently making, in order to better inform my way of designing and proceeding. I am not originally a director, of fiction or documentary, but an interdisciplinary artist, coming from the field of visual arts and who uses the video medium. For more than thirty years, I have adopted a diversified artistic practice that has made me stroll between installation, environment, photography, video, writing, performance, community art and artivism (the intersection of art and activism). It is only in the last few years that I have devoted myself more specifically to the practice of video. This shift came about naturally, I couldn't say exactly when, by giving me the creative possibility of integrating my various previous experiences into the same project. But an advantage appeared to me along the way: video makes my work more accessible and allows it to be distributed more widely, while not requiring storage of bulky items – an important consideration nowadays.

Since this article takes me back into my artistic journey, it occurred to me to compare for the first time the images of two of my projects separated in time. This rapprochement helps to better understand my creative process, and at the same time revealed to me how everything we create is connected, even without our knowing it.

Photos from an outdoor project titled " «Il fait un temps de loup rouge [It's a time of red wolf]» (1998)

Video stills from «Promenade en forêt [A Walk in the Forest]» (2020)

Obviously, there is a similarity in the color palette (black, red and white), although more vivid in video than in photography! Over the years, I have designed several installations [this artistic genre of three-dimensional work], like the 1998 project presented here, which took into account all the space available in order to elaborate strange and dark universes. «Il fait un temps de loup rouge» was designed as an outdoor theatrical installation. I paid attention to the spatial construction, the arrangement of the various elements, the disposition of significant objects and accessories. The idea of storytelling, of unfolding in time was also important because this project, like many others that I have done, was developed (sometimes over several days) from a fictional text written specifically for the occasion. It involved the presence of a character whose progress we followed and whom I photographed at every stage. Since the beginning, moreover, my practice has integrated photography and has led me to pay attention to the composition of the image.

All these components are reflected in my current work in video art. We can recognize a continuity on the imaginary level, a similarity of space apprehension, an emphasis on the theatrical aspect of the staging. An analysis of the Best Film Awards (London) rightly noted that «Cinematography of “Promenade en forêt” is mainly made to resemble a theater stage»! The use of evanescent reflection in water remains present in video in the form of superimposition and play of transparency. I am surprised myself to find red branches already creeping into the decor in 1998! True to my obsessions...

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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