On Saturday Decembre 5 2018, I had the honour to receive an Honorary Doctorate from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. The ceremony was held at the Chan Center in Vancouver in front of 1200 spectators. the three other recipient of the 2018 Convication were Rebecca Belmore, Kim Gordon, and Angela Grauerholz. Here is my little speech of acceptation:
Mister Chancelor, Mister President, Members of the Senate and members of the Board, Dear everybody !
Being an artist bears it’s own intimate rewards and it’s own intimate terrors and somehow the dynamic of this complex set of feelings is enough to keep you going for an entire life. Yet, being offered to accept an honorary doctorate by an institution like the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, represents a level of recognition of extreme impact into how one can view his artistic accomplishments. I am very gratefull to be allowed to experience this intense feeling coming in this case from the outside world.
When I was a young «would be» filmmaker in the early sixties, there was no real possibility of a formal academic education in the field of cinema, let alone getting a doctorate. The only way by then was self training, learning through practice and finding your masters through other means. To become an artist, I had to walk out of the University. The National Film Board of Canada became my school and Norman McLaren my master. Now that it is the common road for young artists to go through a University, this is a lovely irony of fate that, as an older artist, I am invited to accept a Doctorate degree. But should I say that my interrupted studies in Anthropology and Archeology were far from left behind in my life. Actually, with the emergence of the digital and the radical changes in the ecology of the artistic practices, their relevance in my work became more and more important.
This week, visiting the new Emily Carr campus, I found myself deeply interested by the conceptual approach of favoring transparent relationships between the different historical layers of artistic techniques, from analog to digital. I think that it does represent one of the major chalenges of our era. This is an issue that goes far beyond art but I would say it is also the deeper subject matter of art nowaday as it boils down to the relationship between the hand and the mind, the hand and language. Certainly a major concern for me.
During the visit, it made me happy to remember how since almost twenty years and in many different ways, I have been in contact with this University. I was a witness first to the transformation from the Emily Carr Institute to the Emily Carr University, and also a witness to the development of the new campus project, right from its early stages.
I remembered the several meeting with groups of students to share my experience, and also the opportunity to develop enduring collaborations with a number of Vancouver artists, right until last month, and even again this Thursday discussing new art projects with artists that have become friends. One of my major performance project, «Only the hand…» that got presented in many countries, started at Emily Carr as a demonstration for students. Overall, it all makes sense, it connects stongly with my own artistic sensibility, and it gives even more weight and value to this honorary doctorate that I am very proud to accept.
Thank you very much.