Interview with Joyce Joumaa
For your residency at Parc Offsite you are working with portrait documentaries from the NFB archive that focus on Canadian painters. Can you tell us a bit about your project and how your interest in film and curatorial strategies lead you to focus on re-presenting painting through mediating film?
I think that it all started about a year ago. I found myself creatively inclined towards the act of pausing within a moving image work and wanting to focus on a single frame rather than a whole sequence. The reason why I mention the timeframe is because part of me believes that this interest coincided with three main events that shaped my year: a global pandemic, falling in and out of love as well as the Beirut explosion. To me, these three events meet at the intersection of stillness, where time is stripped out of its movement, and it felt as though I was no longer interested in working with the image as something that has to move. I am happy about this residency in ways where I see it as an end to this research and this is where the curatorial strategy came from. I wanted to replicate this act one last time and work with the still frame as an artistic entity in itself, which is where the idea of extracting the frame of a painting from a documentary film came from.
What are some of the distinct differences you have noticed between the film medium for documentary, compared to, say, more literary traditions of an artist's monograph or art historical publication?
JJ: I feel like film, or the moving image representation of a given artistic practice is a full experience. Regardless of the information that is being narrated, we are getting exposed to the space and the ways through which labour is practiced. With the current state of the world, which imposed an ephemeral absence of artistic production, some of us might have found out that the stakes revolved around the contexts which shape this relationship between the creative labour, space and the artist. This raw documentation becomes an interesting way of representing the artist away from the “institutional portrait”, which to me is the condition we sometime overlook. On one wall, we can see stills that show the artists in their space and on another wall, we see the painting projected. This decision goes under the interest of exploring the idea of an open studio that also works as an exhibition space. I’m thinking of labour as the transitional tool which allows the work to travel from a studio space to an exhibition space and I wanted the setting of Parc Offsite to encompass this thought.
Could you talk about your editorial decisions? Departing from more established modes of viewing cinema or painting, how do you hope that your interventions of stilling frames, or your approaches to sound and space affect the experience with this material?
In the past year, I’ve produced three works (Anxious pixels, A study in protection, Touch off) where I looked at video as a starting point and then started stilling the frames. I’m interested in asking: if we were to reshape the context of a single frame, what other experience does it give us outside of its moving aspect? It’s not a revolutionary question but it was a new way for me to explore video, my primary medium, in a different format. In this curatorial exercise that I’m doing at Parc Offsite, the moving aspect of the video can be experienced through sound. The decision of manipulating sound in a way that pauses and plays at random times goes back to the idea of working in between movement and allows to experience the projected frame as both a documentary film and a painting. I wanted people to experience both mediums while creating a desire of wanting to get hold of movement that is only activated through sound. This is where the playful aspect of my work is. It is an attempt to engage with the audience in a way that makes them question the connotations attributed to each format depending on our five senses: while we are “listening” to a documentary, we are also “watching” a painting.