The Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la répétition project raises fascinating questions about our relationship to art. According to you, what questions does it ask of literature?
Sylvie Lachance: Our work reflects our very open vision of what a work of art is. For us, no artist and no work are perfect or untouchable. We also want to explore how literature belongs to everyone and not only to specialists. The artists in the project come from different practices including literature, performance, dance and music, and have different relationships to literary writing and publishing.
Jacob Wren: The director Andrei Tarkovsky once said that if a book is read by a million people, it becomes a million different books. For me, the process of rewriting that we’re pursuing in this project evokes, in a manner at once literal and playful, how literature enters our lives, always in a new way, never fixed. It also conveys the engagement prompted by a text: when you love a book, it becomes part of you and changes with you.
Collaborative work and the adjustments it requires are part of PME-ART’s DNA. Tell us about the friction between the group and the individual in your work.
J.W.: One thing that inevitably seems true to me, even if I sometimes have a little difficulty conceptualizing it, is that the group cannot exist without the individuals and the individuals cannot exist without the group. In a sense, all our artistic activities are an attempt to not water down the singularity of the artists for the sake of collaboration. Together, we try to figure out how to create a space where the desires, the idiosyncrasies, the obsessions of each individual can co-exist and even generate a shared meaning.
When there are irreconcilable elements within the group, you have to find the best solutions. There’s a negotiation, maybe even a compromise—although most often, we want to make as few compromises as possible! You could say that our approach consists of inventing a common framework in which each person’s individuality can exist. It’s a way of having your cake and eating it too!
S.L.: That’s all the more true because we work with artists from extremely diverse backgrounds who each have their own artistic vision and approach. That makes the process even more fraught and ultimately more rewarding.
The premise of this performance-installation was created in 2014 at the invitation of Michèle Thériault, director of the Leonard & Bina Ellen art gallery. Almost eight years later, how has this new performance at the FTA enabled you to rethink it?
J.W.: During the piece’s creation, we worked from a different book and the project was called Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la mélancolie instead. When we started working on it again, one of us proposed that we try changing the text. That idea immediately appealed to us, and we realized that the subject of our piece is not the literary work itself but rather the process of rewriting it and performing it. We don’t want to glorify one artist in particular. What really drives us is the artistic engagement toward literature.
All the group’s members then proposed a work to rewrite and we tried out each one. Through this process, we first eliminated one book, then another, and at the end there was only one left, Reborn: Journals and Notebooks 1947-1963 by Susan Sontag.
Why did you decide on the first book in Susan Sontag’s three volumes of diaries? And how will you approach rewriting it?
J.W.: It was a fairly instinctive decision, and I still can’t explain it very well. We found Sontag’s journal very touching, and we were all struck by the fact that it possesses a kind of immediacy and a remarkable openness. I think the process of rewriting this work will be what enables us to really understand why we chose to rewrite it.
The goal is to make the book “a little more collective and a little closer to us.” What that means, of course, is that we will transform the text through the collaborative nature of our rewriting. The fact that the rewriting is happening now is also very important. Sontag wrote her journals over fifty years ago; we’re different from who we might have been in that era. Working to bring something from the past into the present constantly motivates us in our work of rewriting.