Vincent Lafrance, Savoir vivre — Zoë Tousignant, The Artful Life (according to Vincent Lafrance)

[Summer 2021]

Par Zoë Tousignant

Vincent Lafrance and I first met in 1996, when we were both young students in Cégep du Vieux-Montréal’s photography program. I decided early on that I liked his photographs – so much so that I purchased a selection of small prints that he had made for a class assignment: a series of delicate black-and-white landscapes, printed on fibre paper, of his hometown of Saint-Mathias-sur-Richelieu. I now recognize this acquisitive gesture as an early sign of my eventual withdrawal from the practice of photography in favour of a much more heartfelt theoretical engagement with other people’s images. I also see it as evidence of an intuited aesthetic fellowship. Although I am not always aware of the details of Lafrance’s private life, over the past twenty-five years we have collaborated on a number of projects.1 We share an interest in popular forms of expression, a belief that contemporary art can be accessible to a broad public, and a desire to document, in one way or another, the individuals that make up Quebec’s visual arts community. I feel that I have a grasp of the trajectory of his art career so far, and that I understand his particular brand of humour – and the seriousness with which he applies it.

Lafrance’s most recent video work, Savoir vivre (2021), is a web series composed of twelve short clips, ranging from five to eight minutes each. It tells the story of “Vincent Lafrance,” who, after the death of his father, is tasked with the sale of the family cottage located in Fitch Bay, in the Eastern Townships. He arrives at the house in the middle of winter; over the course of what appear to be several months, we see him contend with the difficulties of getting around in the country without a car (due to the recent loss of his driver’s licence), selling a cottage in the dead of winter, and maintaining his work as a professional – albeit rather eccentric – culinary photographer. With only a few exceptions, “Vincent Lafrance” is seen utterly alone, endlessly clearing the snow around the house, reading old issues of Le monde diplomatique, or walking to the nearest town in search of fresh produce to photograph. We are witnesses to his grief and to his awkward attempts at being in the world. The “savoir vivre” of the title refers, in this context, to the art of etiquette and fine dining, but also to the basic skills required to tend to one’s mental and physical wellbeing…


See the magazine for the complete article and more images: Ciel variable 117 – SHIFTED