A look back at Julie-Isabelle Laurin’s Tâches inachevées : pièces pour théâtre magique

Julie-Isabelle Laurin just completed her project entitled Tâches inachevées : pièces pour théâtre magique that turned L’imprimerie’s storefront into a solo puppet-show booth. With patience and dexterity, the artist manipulated a puppet version of herself within L’Écrin’s exhibition space. With the project coming to a close, we asked share with us her impressions.

How would you describe your art career?

My background is in sculpture and performance. I’ve worked with large objects and household furniture that I would take apart and transform into something else. This exercise in deconstruction allowed me to understand what was inside a couch, or a mattress, for example.
This very physical practice drove me to incorporate my own body into my artistic process. I gradually started to insert myself into my sculptures, which then gained a performative aspect. My body became an integral part of the built environment and the public space.

When I perform in public, I usually wear beige clothing, therefore that is the uniform I brought with me into L’Écrin. Beige blends in with the city’s concrete, its statues, monuments and other architectural elements. This “disguise” transforms me into a living monument. Also, beige has this very standardizing and plain quality to it. Like a canvas, it can adapt to any context and be transformed at will. It can either be used as camouflage or as a means of standing out.

In short, this is the baggage I was carrying with me when I submitted my project for L’Écrin.

What was your objective going into the project and how did you manage to appropriate this space?

When I submitted my project to L’imprimerie and the curators, I wanted the work to draw from my own life stories, unfinished projects and the records that came out of these—sculptural artefacts, clothes, drawings, notes, etc. I thought I would use them to make these collages. Then, because I wanted to work with print, I thought about integrating a photocopy of myself in L’Écrin, a life-size printed effigy that could embody both a presence and an absence.

But it didn’t exactly work out that way, at least not at that scale. And so my alter ego became a puppet that I nicknamed Clothilde. I started making it two weeks prior to the beginning of the project, first designing it as a life-size prototype. Later I realized I found it more stimulating to make a smaller figurine. I tried to make Clothilde “like me”, and even sewed her a beige coat identical to mine. Her small built allowed me to manipulate her from above, creating a performative relationship. I’ve discovered that the art of puppeteering was not very far off from my regular art practice.

This puppet of yours sparked a lot of joy and fascination here at L’imprimerie. Did the way it was received influence you in any way?

This enthusiasm allowed me to fully embrace the lighter side of this project. We live in a context where we feel art always has to be serious. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s good to seek out things that fill you with wonder. A puppet is an object that doesn’t force itself on people; most were just naturally curious about what was happening in my miniature environment.
Another thing is that it made me feel less inhibited. There were times when Clothilde almost knocked on the glass to draw the attention of passersby.

Aftermath. What about your experience in L’Écrin will stay with you?

L’Écrin for me was the start of a new adventure. Now I want to travel with Clothilde to other artist-run centres to work on new mise-en-scènes…

© L’imprimerie, centre d’artistes, 2020