The practice of Vancouver artist Raymond Boisjoly has consistently gravitated to photographic means of emphasizing the act of transmission. Through an ongoing strategy that foregrounds the misuse of common imaging technologies, he generates abstractions of source images that subvert photography’s frequently performed role of commemorating the finite. Boisjoly’s accentuation of the unsteady nature of technology resonates against issues of indigeneity and cultural transformation, asserting new possibilities for inhabiting the present.
In this new body of work presented at the Koffler Gallery and in another iteration as a billboard project, Boisjoly offers a mediation of Maya Deren’s Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, a posthumously released film concerning dance and spirit possession in Haitian Vodoun ritual. Playing the film on an iPhone and capturing the stream through a flatbed scanner, he generates a series of interference patterns and crossed signals. These images are printed on vinyl and pinned to the gallery walls, their obscured content demonstrating the futility of this process in understanding the film. Alluding to the artifacts of digital migration, this gesture creates an aesthetic experience rooted in the fleeting nature of images. A ubiquitous marker of media downtime, within Boisjoly’s frame of reference the signal scramble suggests willful resistance—the specific suppression of a source.
Part ethnographic interest, part artistic pursuit, Deren’s attachment to Vodoun cultural practice stood outside the imperatives of both avant-garde filmmaking and anthropological doctrine. In order to represent the rituals of Vodoun practitioners, Deren became one herself. In this transformation, Boisjoly sees a capacity to question how one understands oneself in relation to others and to account for changing circumstances—a possible model for cross-cultural investigation. As an artist of Haida and Quebecois descent, Boisjoly states that his engagement with Indigenous issues goes beyond his own identification as an Indigenous person, being motivated by an urgency to participate in this discussion without claiming a privileged position due to his heritage. He advances a way of seeking understanding through detour rather than immediate access, a process that figures as part of Deren’s complex negotiation of cross-cultural transmission.
Overlaying the images and crossing the white wall expanse, large vinyl-letter phrases articulate a response to the challenges represented within Deren’s project. The scale and colour of these sprawling texts suggest declarations, yet their vernacular is more open-ended. Image and word cohabit a visual terrain but their interaction pressures them against one another. While Boisjoly’s images bear evidence of transit, their migration produces new form and meaning as they are loosened from their source. Reacting to the complications of Deren’s film, his words also emerge out of a process of abstraction into a life not tethered to this moment of reception. The texts float and commingle with the images in noted contrast to the practice of photo captioning, wrestling against the way language has typically been used to encode photography. Through Boisjoly’s highly nuanced approach, an echo is produced over time and distance, allowing entry into the detailed workings of transmission as an artistic and cultural imperative.
Co-presented with Koffler Gallery