Sylvain Campeau, Écrans motiles — Daniel Canty

[Fall 2022]

By Daniel Canty

Écrans motiles
Montréal, Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2021, 280 p.

“Motility.” That’s the idea that Sylvain Campeau has chosen to summon for the title of his most recent book, Écrans motiles. If, like me, you’re wondering about the term, it is borrowed from the life sciences, in which it describes the capacity of organisms – from amoebas to humans – to move thanks to an exchange of energy with their environment. By contrast, “mobility” is self-propelled movement through space. So here, there is a distinction between a body’s volition and another volition that is more intimately linked with externalization of the psyche. Motility speaks of an action without real interiority, although it looks autonomous. Campeau metaphorizes the term, expanding its range into the indeterminate spaces of contemporary art, the edges of human emotion, and the inanimate world, where light seems have its own pulsing life.

More prosaically, Écrans motiles weaves together Campeau’s essays on the practices of a panoply of contemporary artists – most of them from Quebec, but also some from Canada and other countries1 – who, in their own ways, manipulate the technical and narrative techniques of an “extended cinema”2 to create other spaces and experiences. What the works here share is an over owing of the traditional borders of lm as a medium and the precepts of a kind of cinematographic narrativity. Drawing their media – camera obscura, photography, film, video, digital – and their forms from the full range of history of the image, these artists challenge the dominance of the screen in the experience of moving images…

1 From Quebec: Mireille Baril, Manon Labrecque, Alexandre Castonguay, Milutin Gubash, Léna Mill-Reuillard, and Jacynthe Carrier; from the rest of Canada: Stan Douglas and Wyn Geleynse; from other countries: Douglas Gordon, Christian Marclay, and a few others.
2 Although Campeau seems reluctant to address this idea, Écrans motiles contains the word “cinéma” and variations on it about 389 times.
Daniel Canty is a writer and director of books, films, installations, and all sorts of intermediary forms. Recently, he attempted to demonstrate, in Sept proses sur la poésie (Estuaire, 2021), how “poetry is sometimes a quality of light.”[ Complete issue, in print and digital version, available here: Ciel variable 121 – WANDERINGS ]
[ Complete article and more images, in digital version, available here: Sylvain Campeau, Écrans motiles — Daniel Canty ]