As a performative-video artist1
raised in New Brunswick, whose work succeeds in positioning
the viewer in relation to the histories of queer art
and theory and of identity politics, Stefan St-Laurent
has undoubtedly challenged his work's reception in an
often conservative Canadian art market.2
As St-Laurent's work doesn't seek to affirm its connections
to the Canadian art mainstream, its offers of a critical
introduction of concepts draw from personal experience
with social ramifications relevant to outside of the
institution rather than inside.
In "Sasquatch," a recent video projected
work made from Super 8 film, shows the artist walking
nude down a rural New Brunswick logging road in stiletto
heels. The artist presents himself in stark contrast
to his natural surroundings, where he clumsily navigates
an "impossible rural runway."3
The artist as a very pale figure performing for the
camera is interrupted at once by imposing activity not
seen on screen; nonetheless it causes him to break out
into full stride. Upon a greater dialogue with the artist,4
I learn of a truck coming down the road in the distance,
an unexpected collaborator that truly interrupts, imposes
and activates the work of St. Laurent as the Sasquatch.
In the film the tape breaks and ends abruptly, wherein
the narrative of a nude male running in heels must be
deconstructed by viewer. The film cutting is not pristine
and thus transcends and reads beyond what might be achievable
in TV or Hollywood features.
In the video work "Stand By Your Man," the
artist performs under his alter ego, Minnie St-Laurent
and while lip-synchs to Tammy Wynette's song "Stand
By Your Man." A rupture of what is anticipated
in image plane and what actually occurs highlights its
construction. During the course of the video, as well
as a discussion with the cameraman, St-Laurent's tucked
genitals appear, revealing his masculinity and changing
the frame of how to considered this work.
Here and in other works St-Laurent is playing with
the deconstruction of gender identity through media,
thereby challenging what people have considered as stable.
In this way media broadcast and gender are both questioned.
How can the media portray such events as imposed by
St-Laurent and on the other hand how can being either
male or female became multifaceted.
St-Laurent also likes to assume the role of a monster,
"the best metaphor for queers in North America"5
in "Ogopogo" and "Sasquatch." Here
the artist proposes a 'double-entendre;' where one can
either accept the monster literally as St-Laurent plays,
or may see it as metaphor for gay society. St-Laurent
intends to take this 'otherness'6
further in a future performance piece entitled "Monster,"
where he intends to generate real fear in his audience.
For this proposed work the artist intends to use special
effects, costumes, and Hollywood styling to create what
he has defined as "the ultimate other."7
By confronting the public of a whole, rather than a
specific audience, in public space the artist hopes
to create an impassioned and psychological response.
He will present himself as "[a] slimy, birthing
alien or [a] screaming, dying monster"8
from which he hopes the reaction from the viewer will
be intensely visceral and add to the complexities of
how the work is read as a whole.
In St-Laurent's works "Ogopogo," "Sasquatch,"
and "Monster," the concept of otherness provides
the impetus for the viewer to reexamine constructed
notions of alternate communities. St-Laurent's strategies
are attempting to reflect and ultimately parody how
culture through fear-mongering, political correctness,
has created a demonisation of gays which reaches heightened
climaxes under national duress as a result of AIDS.
1 Ideally, St-Laurent
would like his work to be classified by researchers
and curators as performative-video, "This gives
the work a specificity and a differentiation that is
so needed." From an interview conduced by e-mail
between March 12th and 22nd, 2005. Complete interview
follows this text.
2 On the lack of
reception of his work in a Canadian context: "I
would say that there is a general conservatism that
affects the Canadian art world in general. Museums are
family-friendly and are reliant on ticket sales, commercial
galleries are money-hungry and artist-run centres (and
their curators) are emulating public galleries for opportunistic
] this pushes me to present works outside
of an institutional setting." Iutional setting." Interview, March
3 Interview March
5 Edward Said, one
of the founders of post-colonial studies and author
of Orientalism, has discussed "otherness"
as it relates particularly to the construction of the
western world's fiction of "the Orient" as
a way of dominating and subjugating that region.
6 Interview, March