A Conversation w/ Mariane Bourcheix-Laporte
The following email conversation took place over a few weeks (in the summer of 2014) upon the acquisition of Mariane Bourcheix-Laporte’s works Interstitial Stillness (2011-12), Documents For Vancouver’s Folded Timeline (2012) and In-between (2012) for active Video Out Distribution at VIVO Media Arts Centre. These works will be shown as part of our first promotional Recent Acquisitions Screening this fall.
Still from Interstitial Stillness (2011-12).
Jeremy Todd, Outreach & Distribution, VIVO/Video Out: The works coming into VO, Interstitial Stillness (2011-12), Documents For Vancouver’s Folded Timeline (2012), In-between (2012), suggest an art practice with roots in performance — and perhaps minimalist sculpture and/or a politically conscious engagement with Marxist and Feminist conceptions of space and histories of social practice. What were some of your formative interests as a practicing artist? Have you always worked with video and/or new media?
Mariane Bourcheix-Laporte: My artistic influences come from performance, interventionist practices and site-specific engagements. I’ve been very interested in furtive practices, which I think merge these three ideas. “Furtive practice” is a term that refers to art that infiltrates the public sphere and is directed at the incidental audience. Furtive works are not readily identified as art and, when encountered by passers-by may often be perceived as simply something that is outside the ordinary constructs of a site, or not perceived at all. Discourse around furtive practice, or le furtif, has developed mostly in Québec and not a lot of the theory written about it has been translated into English so it’s not a framework that is used much here to situate practices.
On a more theoretical level, I think that embodiment, performativity, and the politics of space are concepts that ground my practice. Making work in situ in Vancouver has particular implications because of the socio-economic dynamics that the city’s real estate market has created. The work I’ve produced since moving here has been very conscious of these dynamics, urban design, the regulations of public space and what it means to occupy or inhabit space.
I started using video through my performance practice. I used to be much more interested in the performance aspect of my work–in the action itself–and was using video as an indexical documentation process. Because of the furtive nature of my work, I was using video more as a way of referring back to the action that I had accomplished in situ, and to make it accessible to a non-incidental audience. But gradually, I became interested in exploring the possibilities of the medium itself, and in using video not strictly as a way to document my performative actions, but as a way to extend them. I started to consider the mediating effects of video documentation as material to play with and began experimenting with the possibilities it offers for re-configuration, re-contextualization, and re-spatialization. I became interested in how video renders time and movement and started to consider editing as a way of choreographing, particularly when using multiple frames and multiple channels.
VO: Given the socio-economic dynamics you’ve mentioned, there must’ve been numerous locations in Vancouver to consider before forming each of these works. Can you talk a bit about your decision making process with sites and structure?
MBL: In the video Interstitial Stillness, I was interested in interstitial spaces, which are residual spaces in the architecture or physical design of a site. Being somewhat of negative or “non” spaces, I understand interstices as non-defined micro-sites within a larger constructed site. I see them as constituting pockets of potential in the urban fabric, which allow for the forging of new relationships between the body and its environment. This video documents embodied physical explorations of interstitial spaces located throughout public sites in the city of Vancouver. I was interested in investing multiple types of interstitial spaces in multiple public sites. In the video, I attempt to fit my body into interstitial spaces and to remain still for as long as I can–until I am disrupted by inquisitive passers-by or by my lack of physical tolerance. As I remain inconspicuously relatively still in public spaces, the arrangement of my body temporarily disrupts their discursive construction and the manner in which they are encountered by passers-by. By accomplishing “non-actions” in “non-spaces,” I was interested in challenging both the scripted nature of behaviour in the public sphere and the transient character of the urban condition.
The work Documents For Vancouver’s Folded Timeline was commissioned for the exhibition Génération dissemination/Generation Dissemination curated by Maggie Flynn for Le Labo in Toronto. The exhibition looked at how the methods of the documentation and distribution of art affect the recording and framing of history made today. The premise of the exhibition was to present works originating from gestures taking place in sites beyond the gallery during the exhibition timeframe, and documentation of these gestures was added to the gallery as it was produced. In this context, my work documented three sites that, at the time, I thought were emblematic of the manner in which Vancouver situates itself in its own history–that is, in regards to its past, its present, and its future. I was interested in looking at how documentation is characterized by a temporality that fluctuates in and of an actualized past and a potential future through a present that never fully realizes itself as present. I looked at how this idea materializes through the symbolic meanings of certain sites and through the materiality of video as a documentation process. I documented vignettes of three sites that “fold” the city’s representation of its history onto itself: the location of the Nine O’Clock Gun in Stanley Park, a historical landmark that serves as a document of the city’s past and that ‘marks’ the present by being fired daily at 9pm; the BC Stadium, which had just been completed when I shot the video and which I thought symbolized projects that the city of Vancouver was engaged in at the expense of socio-political issues begging attention and funding; and the Olympic Village, which stands as a projected image of how many to-be-developed areas in the city will look like, but was seen as controversial when I shot the work (and arguably still is) because of the lack of social housing and the fact that, at the time, many condo units remained unsold.
The multi-channel video installation In-Between focuses on the development plans of the East False Creek area–a large-scale re-zoning and re-development project–of which the Olympic Village was the first phase. The videos feature myself rolling across the semi-vacant lots around North and South East False Creek, and on the site of the residential neighbourhood that was built as the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Village. The Olympic Village stands as a projected image of what the vacant lots that surround it will become (or have started to become). In my opinion, the Village also epitomizes the concept of commodified lifestyle, homogeneous community and determined spatial use. I became really interested in how controlled the use of space is there; everything seems to have been thought out on paper and actualized as planned, and security guards are often encountered when they patrol the buildings.
The lots that surround or face the Village are destined to be turned into mainly residential, but also commercial and park areas. Their presence in Vancouver from the point of view of city planners and developers is an opportunity; these sites are investments that await proper economic conjectures to become something in lieu of the asphalted nothing that they are/were when I shot the videos. Performing in and documenting these sites was a way to mark a moment in time. Not only does this process visually capture the state of these spaces in the Spring/Summer of 2012, but it also renders tangible, through the mediated gaze of the camera, the tipping point into actualization of their planned future. This process has already started and buildings have or are in the process of popping up. If I were to re-shoot the videos now, some of the shots would look very different.
Rolling through and across these spaces, my body entertains a radically different relationship with the environment. The horizontal travels of my body from one end of the space to the other serve as a mode of measuring that foregrounds embodied experience. This action imposes a different value system onto the space; a radically empirical mode of measuring that supersedes capital value and possibilities of vertical development. By imposing my performance’s timeframe onto the spaces, I reassert the primacy of the body’s experience in the empty lots and Olympic Village. My body claims these spaces as its own by deviating from the programmed framework that urban planning and designed spatial use foster. In editing the videos, I have experimented with visual re-composition and temporal restructuring by splitting video frames and juxtaposing different points of view and opposing angles. The intended effect is to challenge viewers’ perception of the physicality of the spaces portrayed in the videos. As a result, new spaces and temporalities emerge as the architectures of the documented sites become expanded and the linearity of their quotidian folded onto itself.
VO: Thinking now of you, Vancouver and sites, I wonder how you first got involved with VIVO? What have your experiences with the centre been like so far?
MBL: I joined the Board in February, so I’ve only been involved for a few months – although they’ve been very busy months for VIVO so I jumped right in. I’d been involved with the Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres for a few years before joining the Board, but I had never been involved in the governance of an artist-run centre, and I wanted to experience that and be directly involved with an organization. VIVO put a call out for Board members and I thought it would be a good fit for me given the nature of my practice but also because of VIVO’s historical ties to the development of video art in Canada and to Vancouver’s feminist and activist history. The experience has been great so far but it’s also been a lot to take in and a big learning curve! The coming years will be exciting for VIVO as we’re looking to establish a permanent home… which means we’ll have to do a lot of fundraising, which I’ll be working on.
VO: On top of all the stuff you’re involved with at VIVO you must be making art too. Can you talk about some projects now in process?
MBL: Right now, I’m finishing to edit a series of artists’ books (including an artist book I produced) that will be published by Publication Studio Vancouver and UNIT/PITT Projects as the last part of the curatorial project Collective Walks/Spaces of Contestation that was presented through UNIT/PITT in 2013-14. I am also presenting a site-specific performance as part of the Intersite Festival in Calgary in early September and will be travelling to Valdivia, Chile, in November to participate in the Deformes Performance Biennale. I’ll be documenting those two performances from a first-person point-of-view using a GoPro camera and will hopefully be able produce videos from the performances if the documentation turns out.
JT: Thanks so much for your time and generosity here Mariane. It’s been very informative and interesting too! We look forward to your next works at Video Out.