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This article was published 16/7/2011 (2109 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
TWO Parisian artists are the envy of their compatriots this summer, for their unusual summer vacation locale.
"They said, 'We're leaving to Greece to go boating, and you are going to the place to be this summer, Winnipeg,' " Marion Scemama said.
But Winnipeg wasn't always the alluring art destination it has been come to known as by Scemama and her fellow Parisian artists.
Scemama and her partner François Pain were invited by the Plug-In Contemporary Art Institute for their annual summer workshop, but the couple were initially unsure of what the city had to offer them.
"We looked at the map and saw that it was really in the middle of Canada, but it was a city that we had rarely heard about," Scemama said, in French.
An exhibit called Collapsing of Time and Space in an Ever Expanding Universe by Kent Monkman and other works at the My Winnipeg exhibit in Paris changed that.
"It's incredible, this exhibit in Paris, really, it was a revelation, a revelation of a city -- of its inhabitants, of its artists, of the story of the city," Scemama says.
The exhibit that put Winnipeg on the map for the couple and their friends looks, from behind, like a woman with long, straight black hair looking out the window of a richly furnished hotel room.
Walk around the installation, and you see it is actually an aboriginal man in drag, crying, and the view from the window is of mountains above a plain where bison roam, where the man himself is astride a horse.
The exhibit led the two French artists to accept Winnipeg's Plug-In Contemporary Art Institute's invitation to work with them this summer.
Plug-In's Summer Institute gives about 15 artists from Winnipeg and around the world a space to work independently and collaborate. This year, artists are coming from Brazil, Iceland, Germany and France.
The institute has a different theme each year, but they're not always easy to pin down; after some thought, Plug-In gallery director Anthony Kiendl says the best way to describe this year's theme is "the construction of space."
Two of the faculty members hired to lead this year's institute are installation artists, makers of what Kiendl calls "multimedia walk-in environments," rooms bubbling over with activity, covered top to bottom with fabric, paint, wallpaper, furniture, light displays and words.
Scemama and Pain are here to work on a documentary about David Wojnarowicz, the New York artist whose own film depicting ants covering the body of Jesus Christ was pulled from a Smithsonian exhibit last November amid great controversy.
Scemama was a close friend of Wojnarowicz's, and a few years before he died of AIDS in 1992, the two of them collaborated on a film about the disease, love and death but never finished it. After Wojnarowicz's death, she no longer wanted to touch it.
Now, with the 20th anniversary of his death approaching, an art critic has convinced Scemama to complete the film.
She has hours of never-before-seen footage of Wojnarowicz. In some of it, an emaciated Wojnarowicz rages against the U.S. government, wishing his dead body be thrown onto the front steps of the White House. At another point, he talks into the camera and says he feels disgusted to be making a film about his own slow death.
Scemama and Pain, a couple in life and in art, have gentle voices and complete each other's sentences.
Pain raves about the timbre of Wojnarowicz's voice. "There's a musical quality that's extraordinary. He has a voice that is very deep, very composed..."
As for Pain and Scemama's impressions of Winnipeg, now that they're here, they admit that while they're very excited to meet artists, at first glance they saw a very American aesthetic visually, big buildings and "little personality."
But Scemama is charmed by the gardens Winnipeggers keep, especially the plots left to their own devices. "They have a mix of urbanism and laissez-faire," she says.
And Pain says he loves green spaces like The Forks, spaces "that are left for biodiversity to install itself."
Scemama and Pain will host a talk and screening on July 29 at 7 p.m. at the Plug-In Institute at 460 Portage Ave.