About these works
Sois sage ô ma Douleur/Be Good Oh My Sorrow
To a remarkable degree these are true stories, fragments of lives lived. In Sois sage ô ma Douleur, a sequence of vignettes is constructed from the dialogue of friends as they look for new topics of conversation. After an on-screen quotation from French historian Jules Michelet, we see a young woman carefully ironing her books, gently smoothing out their covers and interiors. A woman speaks of herself as a drowning soul. Another woman heats up a dish in the microwave while listening to a sad song. Bright red mitts caress the upright leaves of a succulent potted plant. Twelve characters (eleven writers and a painter)-acrid, tender, funny-rebel against the banality of human experience and against words: those words that always fail, finally, to express true feelings or reveal deep meaning.
As writer Daniel Carrière remarks in the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir, "... Murphy/Guilbert lead us through the antechambers of a certain Montreal society, where poetry has a place of prime importance, where the visual is secondary but always meaningful, and where the most extraordinary conversations take place ..." (Carrière 1992)
Awarded the SOGIC Prize for Best Video at Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois (1991), Sois sage ô ma Douleur was included in the ten-part series Video Art Vidéo, which was commissioned for broadcast on TVOntario, and shown on La Chaîne/TV Ontario and on SCN (Saskatchewan's public broadcasting network) in 1993 and 1994.
Au verso du monde/Outside Looking In
Au Verso du monde (Outside Looking In)-a videographic quilt composed of short scenes, sung poems, contradictory truths-shows us a young woman and man fed up with living in a society so rigid and ossified. Uncertain where to turn and unhappy with their situation, they try conversation as a means of escape. Outside Looking In is a plotless narrative of vignettes with dialogue at its centre, the portrait of a moment. He and she argue about ideas, about grammar, speak of hopes and observations, in a conversation sliding through exasperation and delight, petulance and charming imagination, all strung together in search of a solution. Like Sois sage ô ma Douleur (1990), the work was assembled from conversations in "real" life, played out by friends of the artists.
The script for Au Verso du monde (Outside Looking In) was published in By the Skin of Their Tongues, edited by Nelson Henricks and Steve Reinke (Toronto: YYZ Books, 1997), along with "Au verso du monde, with Blaise Pascal, Jeanne Moreau and my friends" a related text by Charles Guilbert. "Outside Looking In" has also appeared in Public 14 (Toronto, 1996).
About Serge Murphy and Charles Guilbert
Serge Murphy and Charles Guilbert are an exuberant and engaging couple. They are collectors of stories as well as objects and ideas and are the focal point for a large and colourful working "family" spanning multiple generations of artists in Montreal. Working together in video since 1987, they continue to produce in other areas as well, Murphy primarily with drawing and collage, sculpture and installations, and Guilbert with sound installation and video incorporating drawing. He also produces songs and literary texts.
Murphy "sees form" and builds towards structure, while Guilbert accumulates stories and ideas, then rearranges them to provide an order. Their shared video projects may begin spontaneously and be assembled quite quickly, elaborating content through the process of making the video. Ideas and images come together, both ridiculous and sublime, with friends often collaborating as actors. Their earlier works featured personages posed almost as sculptures, with spoken words linking a series of visual fragments: an unselfconscious poetry of discontinuous theatrical moments and conversational exchange. Fantasy and surrealist imagery creep into the work, evidenced in the use of humour and unexpected ruptures or breaks in pitch and tone. Infused with affection and with irony, the recording is usually accomplished in single takes. Story materials originate in daily life: concrete and tangible things that are discussed and shared in a constant building of energy and ideas, an intense and stimulating form of conversation. Once the script is well defined, there is room for characters to improvise in some cases within the established context.
Murphy, born in Montreal in 1953, has exhibited widely since 1974, with numerous solo exhibitions throughout Canada as well as at Le Dix.Neuf in Montbéliard (France, 2005), in Paris (1991), and in New York (49th Parallel, 1989). He has shown extensively in group exhibitions throughout Quebec, as well as in Winnipeg, in Oakville, Ontario, and at La Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango in Bogotá, Colombia in 1998.
Murphy studied fine art and was known first as a sculptor. Among the articles discussing these works are "La bête à deux têtes" by Johanne Lamoureux in Parachute 73 (Winter 1994) and reviews by Marie Perrault in Parachute 68 (Autumn 1992), Nicole Gingras in Parachute 46 (March/April/May 1987), and Manon Blanchette in Vanguard (May 1985). He currently teaches at Cégep Montmorency in Laval, Quebec. Murphy's own texts are included in So, to Speak (Éditions Artextes, Montreal, 1999) as well as in publications associated with exhibitions and festivals.
Le Voyage à Thunder Bay (1983) with Michèle Waquant was Murphy's first video; since Le garçon du fleuriste (1987) he has worked in collaboration with Guilbert, with technical support by Michel Grou during the first decade.
Guilbert, born in Montreal in 1964, studied literature L'Université du Québec à Montréal, completing his master's degree in 1991. He has published the collection of short stories Les Inquiets (Montreal, Editions Les Herbes rouges, 1993) and the literary project Le beau voyage éducatif(Montreal, Editions Dazibao, 2004) with collages by Murphy, as well as fiction in several recent collections. Guilbert has exhibited solo on numerous occasions, as well as in projects with Nathalie Caron, Raymonde April, and Guylaine Coderre, all in Quebec, and in group shows in Tokyo (1999), Brussels (2000), Rotterdam (2000), Luxembourg (2001), Liège (2002), and Warsaw (2003). Guilbert's texts and songs have been presented at many Quebec festivals; his most recent recording is Chansons à fredonner tout seul (2002) with Serge Murphy, in a CD published by Cahier Folie/Culture no. 8. Since 1991 he has been involved regularly at the video production, distribution, and exhibition organization Vidéographe (Montreal) in programming and with the administrative council. Currently, he teaches communication (video) at Cégep du Vieux Montréal.
Guilbert's essay "Au verso du monde, with Blaise Pascal, Jeanne Moreau and my friends" was published in By the Skin of Their Tongues, edited by Nelson Henricks and Steve Reinke (Toronto: YYZ Books, 1997), along with Guilbert and Murphy's co-authored script for that video. Their text "Outside Looking In" appeared in Public 14 (Toronto, 1996). They also co-authored "Vérité, authenticité, sincérité," a text on their work published in the first catalogue of Manifestation internationale d'art de Québec (1993). Articles discussing their joint work include "Circonvolutions : écritures vidéographiques, paroles nomadiques," a catalogue essay by Marie-Michèle Cron (English/French/Spanish) (Opéra, Montréal, 1995); "Faire rouler les mots dans sa bouche" by curator Nicole Gingras, in Espaces intérieurs: le corps, la langue, les mots (Musée du Québec/Passage de Retz, Paris, 1999); articles in Identity: Dispersions (Recent Videos from Quebec) by Christine Ross (Art Gallery of Ontario, 1994); and Video and Orality (English and French) by Jean Gagnon (National Gallery of Canada, 1993). Further articles include "Les récits photographiques" by Monique Langlois in Cinébulles, Vol, 17 No. 2 (Summer 1998) and "Voyage dans la vie quotidienne" by André Roy in Fugues 15 (September 2004). In addition there have been an important number of commentaries published on their works as individuals.
Serge Murphy and Charles Guilbert won the SOGIC prize for Best Video at Les Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois, 1991, for Sois sage, ô ma douleur, and the Bell Canada Award in Video Art in 2004.