Things of Desire
Canada’s Alternative Art Weekly
Symphonie sur un même souffle, Montreal
By Mike Landry


Describing her work as a “no-holds-barred videographic world,” Eugénie Cliche has now set sail like Columbus in her latest piece.

Symphonie sur une même souffle is her biggest project yet. Financed through grants, she hired and costumed a full cast and shot the piece with two cameras. It’s a big jump from the arms-length tilted camera angles from her previous pieces. And she likes it, because at heart she’s a sculptor.

“It’s all the same nature: performance, video, photography, etc. You look at it all the same. It’s all about a relation to the image. I’m very concerned with images and doing something sculptural to the image. Because if I’m going to do something with an image—I’m applying sculpture to it.”

Cliche has been working on the new work since touring around the world with her performance group, Les Fermières Obsédées. It takes her years to create her videos as she layers images and augments the footage digitally.

The central characters in Symphonie sur une même souffle are a couple getting married. Throughout their wedding ceremony a larger cast of characters arrive—a Mario-meets-Mickey Mouse priest figure, and an army of kids.

“It’s about the couple but it’s the couple via society as well. Like Mickey Mouse multinationalism; society, the army and the church. I think it’s a very public issue.”

But within all this action the couple looks bored. Because what Cliche wants to stress is how boring, yet important, these issues are. It’s by “pushing the limits of subversion in the lived space, we witness an analysis of the human condition between awkwardness and shame, thrilling happiness, cynicism and politely acceptable malaise,” she writes.

But Cliche’s work isn’t a diatribe directed to the viewer. For her, the lens is a mirror, and all her questions are directed to herself. Appearing to ask the viewer is a trick. Her work is explosive because she’s trying to unsettle herself—like how when you go underwater you suddenly become conscious of the steady action of breathing.

It’s this self-referential shock that is the key for engaging her audience. As Cliche traverses the real in her video work, she disturbs the viewer’s easy understanding of the world around them.

“At first people look at the image and it could be refer to a pop music video, porn flick or a commercial, etc. People look at it and they know it. They’re used to it. It’s good, sweet, colourful, funny and everything. It’s this thing that refers to that other image. They’re attracted to it.

But in fact the message is engaging. I project a lot of my ideas of the world—politically and socially. I’m speaking with metaphor. My video talks about the other things without talking about it.”

Symphonie sur une meme souffle will be on display from Fri October 9 - Sun November 8 at La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse in Montreal.


construction web: Myriam Bizier