Marc Paradis Biography
Marc Paradis was born in Montréal on March 24 1995 and passed away in August 2019. His eclectic journey crossed through theatre, video, and interior design. In a biographical curriculum vitae from the 1980s, he details his younger years and a complicated academic journey involving moves, conflicts and expulsions, with brutal self-depreciation. He studied visual arts at the Cégep de Sainte-Foy, set and costume design at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montréal and dramatic arts at UQAM. From 1978 to 1990, he also trained with the likes of Józef Robakowski, Bruno Bigoni, Jerzy Grotowski and Michael Kriegman in numerous workshops.
In 1976, he co-founded the theatre café Le Hobbit in Quebec City with his partner Éric Duchesne, rescuing a heritage house from demolition. Until 1979, he worked front and back of house and was the principal host. This small stage welcomed members of the Quebec theatre scene, including Robert Lepage, until 1981. That year, Paradis staged and performed in John Herbert’s Fortune and Men’s Eyes [Aux yeux des hommes] at the Nelligan theatre café in Montréal.
In Montréal in June 1980, Paradis met French filmmaker Jean-François Garsi, and worked as his assistant on the film La chambre blanche. Fascinated by John Wayne Gacy, an American homosexual serial killer who was arrested in 1978, they developed an idea for a short film on the subject, entitled Polaroid Killer, which Garsi made in France in 1984, followed by a feature-length film, La nuit fluide (unreleased). In 1981, Paradis shot some screen-tests for Polaroid Killer. He would go on to release Le voyage de l’ogre, an intimate reflexion on Gacy and homosexuality. Taking a direct and raw approach, Paradis explored desire, homosexual love and sexuality, and the masculine body – themes he would continue to explore in the majority of his subsequent videos. In the wake of Le voyage de l’ogre, he founded the Groupe du mardi [Tuesday Group], bringing artists and friends together for, in his words, ‘theatrical reflexion on the art of representation and sexuality’. In 1982, he published the Manifeste du Groupe du mardi [Tuesday Group Manifesto] in the magazine Trafic. The group also worked on a play entitled, Sodomi et le gars mort.
Throughout the 1980s, Paradis involved his close friends in his video productions: Éric Duchesne, Simon B. Robert, Gabriel Beauregard, Yves Lalonde, Jean Tourangeau, Daniel Carrière, and Luc Bourdon. For him, art and life were indistinguishable. L'incident « Jones » (1986), Délivre-nous du mal [Deliver us from Evil] (1987) and Lettre à un amant [Letter to a Lover] (1988) form a trilogy about romantic rupture. Paradis also documented the Montréal art scene with Video Portrait of John Mingolla (1985), Performances de Yves Lalonde (1987) and L’instruction (1984), after Peter Weiss. More than simple recordings, these videos attempt to bear witness to the experience of the viewer, and even of the artists.
Paradis was also very involved in the Montréal video scene. He sat on the Board of Directors at PRIM in 1983 and 1984 and at Vidéographe in 1985, 1986 and 1990; he was also Interim General Coordinator at Vidéographe in 1988-89. In 1983-84, Paradis was Programmer-Curator of the Canadian selection of the ‘Présence Vidéo’ of the 13th Festival international du nouveau cinéma et de la vidéo de Montréal with Luc Bourdon. They made Scheme video [Video Scheme] (1984) and Say Cheese for a Trans-Canadian Look (1985), about their work as festival programmers, their research and their encounters.
In 1990, Letter to a Lover was bought by Canal+ (France). In 1991, three of Paradis’ videos featured in the exhibition Un archipel de désir : les artistes québécois et la scène internationale, which marked the reopening of the Musée du Québec. These were L'incident « Jones » (1986), Deliver us from Evil (1987) and Letter to a Lover (1988). At the opening, only L'incident « Jones », the least explicit of the three, was screened. Was this censureship? The museum blamed an administrative delay, an explanation that did not satisfy Paradis. He withdrew his works from the exhibition; the other exhibiting videomakers – Robert Morin, Lorraine Dufour, Luc Bourdon, François Girard, Jeanne Crépeau and Daniel Dion – followed suit. The newspapers followed the conflict with interest.
Although the 1990s looked promising for his career, Paradis abandoned videomaking. Harems, an ambitious work heavy with classical and personal mythology, seemed to mark the end of his production. A member of a collective called Farine orpheline cherche ailleurs meilleur, he took part in the organization of the event Utopia in 1999, a research-creation lab based on industrial heritage. He also worked as an interior designer, notably for Guy Laliberté and the Cirque du soleil, as well as for businesses and individuals in Montréal and abroad. In the early 2000s, he made three videos – Ecce Omo, Marrakech and La vie est ronde – which he shot on his travels. Ecce Omo was shown at the Festival du nouveau cinéma; the other two films would remain unreleased.
Marc Paradis’ video work, widely disseminated, has been screened at numerous festivals and at the Walter Phillips Gallery, LACE/Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (1988), Optica (Montreal, 1987), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo), the MacKenzie Art Gallery (Regina), the Long Beach Museum of Art Video, Medellín’s Museo de Arte Moderno and the San Francisco Cinematheque. His works belong to the collections of The Kitchen (New York), the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and MoMA.