Marc Paradis is a pioneer of queer video in Quebec and Canada, like Paul Wong and John Greyson. Since his first work, Le voyage de l’ogre (1981), he has interrogated notions of sexuality, the body and homosexual identity. His aesthetic, which is deeply corporeal, oscillates between raw and explicit realism (La cage, Lettre à un amant [Letter to a Lover] ) and a certain classicism, particularly in his representations of the body and in his pictural references (Harems, Délivre-nous du mal [Deliver us from Evil]. The texts, their literary qualities and their declamation play a central role (Réminiscences carnivores [Carnivorous Reminiscences], L’incident "Jones") and lend a tragic resonance to these stories of love, sex, rupture and death. L'incident « Jones », Letter to a Lover and Deliver us from Evil form a triptych that condenses these intimate and artistic questionings. Paradis has also made a number of videos about the art scene of the 1980s (Say Cheese for a Trans-Canadian Look, with Luc Bourdon; Video Portrait of John Mingolla; Album: a performance by Denis Lessard).
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Paradis’ work was widely distributed. But while Le voyage de l’ogre (1981), his most well-known work, is still occasionally screened, his other works have faded into obscurity. Why is this? Perhaps it is because his activities as a videomaker stopped after just 10 years. Or because the apolitical darkness of his work puts him in a complicated position in the context of LGBTQ2S+ communities’ efforts to achieve affirmation and recognition. Whatever the reason, we think it is about time to revisit this obsessive and transgressive body of work, in which everything is taken to the extreme, ogre-like: desire, emotions, anger and a thirst for creation.
This publication is marked by tragic happenstance: on the same day, we learned of the death of Marc Paradis at 64 years of age and of the financial support by the Canada Council for the Arts. Paradis knew that Vidéographe wanted to dedicate a publication to him but, sadly, he wasn’t to see any of it. His passing led us to rethink the project to give it a more personal dimension and a more open form. In ‘A Decade of Videomaking’, doctoral researcher Alexis Lemieux considers the typology, aesthetic and reception of Paradis’ work. In ‘Opaque Transparencies’, Denis Vaillancourt, Distribution Coordinator at Vidéographe, considers a fundamental issue in Paradis’ videos: the insoluble relationship between love and sex. In ‘My friend, Paradis’, filmmaker Luc Bourdon tells of his memorable and tumultuous friendship with the artist as a young man and conveys a complex personality. This project has also given us an opportunity to revisit the Vidéographe of the 1980s, in which the friends were very involved.
The publication comprises the 17 videos Paradis made, including two previously unseen works, Ecce Omo and Marrakech1. Based on urbane observation and travel, they reveal a new aspect of his work. Six of the videos have been newly digitalized from master tapes found in Paradis’ home and three have been sub-titled in English2. Two short portraits by French filmmaker Gérard Courant, Marc Paradis (1985) and Nous irons tous avec Paradis (1986), offer a glimpse of Paradis’ humorous and self-depreciating side.
Thanks to the impeccably organized personal archives that Paradis left behind and to his family, who have trusted us and to whom we are very grateful, we have been able to publish a vast selection of previously unseen documents that shed light on his process: notebooks, scripts, cuttings, research files, casting photos, and more. Paradis’ private life – his loves and friendships – seem inseparable from his creations, and some material seems to exist as an intimate journal and creative project at the same time. He said:
‘The reflections that I bring to my work are not meant to move the masses, but the individual. My work is transformative for the people that participate in it first and then for all who are involved with it. In the first place, it is a tool for personal change, in the second, a tool of appropriation from reality. The outcome is that the individual moves towards an increasingly constant reality. This individual becomes more alive, closer to who he is, aware of society, he becomes more convincing, more real.’
A biography and an exhaustive bibliography complete the publication. We wish to thank Catherine Nash and the Paradis family, Luc Bourdon, Simon Morel, Christophe Flambard, and Yves Lalonde for their help and support.
- Another, La vie est ronde, seems lost.
- La cage, Réminiscences carnivores and Harems.
- Carrière, Daniel. « Marc Paradis : entrevue. » ETC 12 (1990) : 24.