by Christine White
Art has been a common thread throughout Louis Felix D’Amours’ life. Starting at home where he grew up around his mom who’s a graphic designer, to attending art camps as a kid. Art became the grounds for his educational path, leading him to studying Intermedia at Concordia University. Currently in the course IMCA 400, Louis’ working on a collaborative project with classmates Heather Bradley Reid, Alex Pruneau and Abi Stushnoff—otherwise known as: HAAL. This project is featured in this springs IMCA Fest, taking the form of collaborative performance and video art. It both reflects the depth Louis has gained in his practice through his education and how he responds to the current conditions of learning online during the COVID-19 pandemic. As he adapts to working from home, HAAL is a place for Louis to explore what he calls “Un- Insperation” and a way for him to apply his top skill learned throughout his degree. HAAL as a collaborative project, explores performative gestures virtually using Zoom.
In understanding the process and concepts behind Louis’ work with HAAL, its worth connecting it too his past experiences in Cégep where his art practice shifted into what it is today. Inspired by friends at that time, he started exploring themes of semiotics. His fascination with language and how things are communicated began taking form through performance and video art. More specifically, Louis began exploring how participants chose to reveal themselves on camera. Not only did this experience shift his practice into video art, but one participant invited him to an art exhibition at Concordia. It happened to feature performance art by Intermedia students, where he was baffled by the work but also fascinated. This inspired him to apply for Intermedia at Concordia to earn his Bachelor in Fine Arts.
Louis began Intermedia in 2018 and will be graduating this year. Having to adapt to learning online has come with many restrictions, like students ability to socialize with one another. This struggle has inherently effected Louis’ creative process. Though HAAL seems to make use of this parameter as motivation behind their work. Louis explains that “un-inspiration drove me to collaborating...My second proposal was nothing. I just wanted to team up with people”. For Louis, HAAL is also a way for him to “[be] there for my people.” and to “[do] things with my people”. He reflects on the advice given to him by professor Monique Moumblow where “she wanted us to be there for each other more than anything this semester. I guess I sort of used that as a premise for my [project]”. So, how does one “be there for each other” in such isolating times? Confined by what means available, HAAL uses Zoom not only to connect and chat with each other, but also as a platform for performative gestures. In this way, Louis uses virtual collaboration to explore his “un-inspiration” in a series of cabarets. Instead of sitting alone with his feelings or having it lead no where, Louis confronts this virtually alongside group members, where the act of sharing “un-inspiration” becomes something else performative.
Recognizing the struggle in finding inspiration these days, Louis expressed feeling overwhelmed this semester. He gives advice to anyone making intermedia art at home, encouraging those to “have fun, go off, go crazy! document it.” Taking his own advice, Louis attempts to challenge the barriers he puts on himself by not taking things to seriously and just having fun. This reflects his own process where Louis uses the words “TEXT, PARTY” and “Whaaat?” to describe his art practice. In the context of HAAL, Louis explores communication and interactivity all while navigating “an anxiety to try and format [the zoom cabarets] in such a way that makes it legible and interesting”. As HAAL continues to generate content, Louis considers what the final presentation of their work will be.
When Louis does manage to be creativity at home, he describes it as “random sporadic inspiration spurs where I [feel] like I [have] to absolutely gather that inspiration and channel it into something. And so to keep this project going was sort of a vehicle to keep also the inspiration alive.” For Louis, one benefit to making artwork at home is a sense of immediacy to acting on inspiration when it does happen to strike. “I don’t have to book the studio, book the camera—I can just grab it and do it” he says. Even if he feels like “oh I’m stuck? But I’m also stuck here” almost as if being confined at home gives him no other choice but to face the creative process. In terms of his work with HAAL, for him it becomes “replicating the studio space. The communal school studio space within [the] online learning situation, zoom and all that stuff.” In a way, HAAL has become an outlet for Louis to to keep his creative process going and an escape from the isolating effects of learning online.
As Louis works in new ways in his project HAAL, he has faced challenges that he describes as both technical and conceptual. The skill he applies to facing these challenges is troubleshooting, which is the top skills he’s learned from the Intermedia department. He will “take a step back from a performance installation, or a jam session...and try and see what works, what doesn’t and how to implement that ‘machine’ to operate fully” he says. He has also learned to adopt a neutral objective view when observing his work with HAAL. Using this method, Louis reflects on how he “was definitely more active” in the first cabarets and so he “[takes] a step back [to] let others take more space” in later cabarets. He was then able to “appreciate being in that space with them and sort of listening”. Whereas the technical troubleshooting was “finicking around with zoom”. He hadn’t thought to prepare for “the noise sensitive of your microphone”where he quickly learned that this can result in one performer’s sound over-shadowing another’s. By using the skill troubleshooting, Louis is able to consciously collaborate while working in new ways over Zoom with HAAL.
Louis is curious to explore the limitations and possibilities of what Zoom can do as an artistic medium. His collaboration with HAAL and his performative gestures through Zoom, are a constructive way to respond to the overwhelming conditions of doing studio arts online during the pandemic.