UBC | Digital Visions
Digital Visions
Stefan St-Laurent
Writers: Paul Giesbrecht & Sylvia Borda

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 reasons […] this pushes me to present works outside of an institutional setting." Iutional setting." Interview, March 14th, 2005.
3 Interview March 18th, 2005
4 ibid
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 14th, 2005
7 ibid
8 ibid

next 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7