«Places and Monuments» and Berlin

A monument appeared for the first time in one of my films in The Statue of giordano Bruno (2005). With Herqueville (2007), I made my fist attempt at minimalist animation, which would characterize everything that followed. Praha-Florenc (2009) was the first in the Places and Monuments series. It was followed by Place Carnot-Lyon (2011) and Thunder River (2011). In 2012, I received a two-year career grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec to continue this project. I began a long series of shoots, which resulted in John Cage-Halberstadt (2013) and the video installation Berlin – The Passage of Time, which concluded that period and enabled me to put up a temporary milestone.

My aim was to shoot everyday scenes of life unfolding around monuments – or anything that can be considered as a marker of time, history, memory or forgetting – all over the world. The concept of monument was therefore very broad, both modest and ambitious. As I wandered around the cities I visited, I found lost, forgotten monuments, and some that had vanished altogether. I spent a long time shooting stills, waiting for something to happen. Because in principle, “something” always happens. Sometimes, while I was viewing the footage, a detail would grab me and allowed me to create allegories of the passage of time from these singular, tiny situations.

First, I take apart the footage and recompose it into a compact entity using digital tools. This is an an “invisible” animation operation that completely alters the length without removing its grain of truth. This opaque unit is then etched with animated, obvious, vibratory engravings, which take it to a state of incadescence, where it burns in flashes of unexpected meanings.

The first time I went to Berlin, a city that seemed to hols great promise for my work, I found nothing to film. It seemed to me that everything involving history was stereotyped. I had to patiently immerse myself in the city’s fabric, with the help of friends who coached me : one at the Tempelhof airport, and the other, in front of the reconstruction of the Stadtschloss, the Royal palace of the Hohenzollern. I made pilgrimages to Bertolt-Brecht-Platz and Walter-Benjamin-Platz, which rank among my personnal favorites. I happened upon the newlyweds at the Brandenburg Gate and the accordionist in Friedrichstrasse by pure chance. The “Wall” was a more difficult matter. To resolve it, it took a carefree pigeon crossing the boundary line at Potsdamerplatz and, on rudolfstraase, a stone-mason working quietly in front of me and my camera, without noticing us. With the many images I had of Berlin, I opted for the kaleidoscopic form of an installation. Four screens and four loops of different lengths, constantly shifting, create a spiralling narrative, with no begginning or end. Viwers can either contemplate the overall interactions or focus on the clips, which are almost like small, separate films. Regardless of how much time they spend, they will be affacted by the experience of as state of history, from which they will take away the whole as perceived through the prism of the briefest instant.