The Duty to Remember

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Vidéographe, one of the oldest artist-run centers in North America, opened its doors in Montréal (Québec, Canada) in 1971. The brainchild of producer Robert Forget is set up as an initiative of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) to democratize the production and dissemination of independent video. It is a pivotal and bubbling period in Québec, a society undergoing profound social, political, and religious changes in the wake of the Révolution tranquille (the Quiet Revolution), which kick-started its modernization and cultural affirmation. This moment in history emphasizes the importance of self-expression for all, individuals and groups alike.

In 1973, Vidéographe became an independent organization and a model for video production thanks to its editing labs, its screening rooms, and its active community. Its members are enthusiastic to make videos and connect with people from different disciplines (arts, unions, sociocultural). The organization creates a distribution network for independent video that serves as an example for other Canadian and European distributors. As video becomes more and more established within the fields of cinema and the visual arts, Vidéographe continues to support the production, distribution, and diffusion of video art despite its difficult shifts and transformations. Consequently, many important Canadian artists and filmmakers emerged from Vidéographe in the 80s and 90s.

Today, 50 years later, Vidéographe conserves and distributes a collection of more than 2,300 videos made by more than 800 artists and engaged citizens. This video collection, hosted online since 2010 on Vitheque.com, is one of the most important in Canada, and is, undeniably, a part of the country’s cultural heritage. Vidéographe is also a space for both emerging and established artists’ research and development through its residential and training programs, as well as its access to workspaces and multiple networking opportunities.

Digging into Vidéographe’s collection, artist and filmmaker Luc Bourdon has curated a series of programs covering 50 years of video making. The programs were created according to themes and formal considerations rather than on a chronological basis. This anniversary project bears witness to the evolution of genres, practices, styles, subjects, opinions, and concerns of video makers and experimental artists in Canada.

“The Duty to Remember” is a program composed of four works that explore four tragic and controversial historical events. These events are representations of both remembrance and scars deeply inscribed in the history of the populations of Chile, the United States, the former USSR, and Québec. True to the activist beginnings of independent video, the artists aim to deepen our awareness of political issues, and to offer a personal and powerful alternative to the standardized narrative of mass media.

The program is curated by artist and filmmaker Luc Bourdon, in collaboration with Videographe’s team, as part of a larger project called ‘Les vidéographes” for the 50th anniversary of Vidéographe. Text by Karine Boulanger. All works in this program are distributed by Vidéographe.