French artist Xavier de Richemont has created an incredible lighting installation called Feu L’Indien (Indian Fire) that is being projected onto the steeple of UQAM’s Judith-Jasmin Pavillion until March 19. We caught up with him to find out how he went about telling the story of Montreal…
Xavier de Richemont is a multidisciplinary artist from France who creates stunning installations using light and video projected onto buildings and other surfaces around the world (Mexico, Germany, Scotland and more). Much more than simple light shows, de Richemont tells stories. For this latest project, on the spire of UQAM’s Judith-Jasmin Pavillion (1400 Berri), he creates an ode to the building, the city, and its original founders and Native inhabitants…
Montreal Buzz: How do you go about starting a project like this?
Xavier de Richemont: What I do is when I work on different types of monuments, I take pictures, I bring back a lot of material about what the location is about, what the neighbourhood is about. I met with architects and people at the University and I went to museums like the McCord and Point-A-Calliere. So I gather as many documents, pictures and interviews, then go back to my studio. And I already know Montréal a bit, because I some lighting here for Just for Laughs in 2005.
MB: How did the building inspire you?
XR: This piece is for the Clocher du UQAM, the former Saint-Jacques Cathedral, which was the main cathedral of Montreal then and also the highest building in the city at the time. It’s interesting and funny to me that it is near the red light district and sort of at the border of English and French speakers of the city. It’s also been burned down several times.
BM: How do you incorporate all of these things into one installation?
XR: All of this makes the imagination work and all of this makes me design pictures that go with the place. The original people who used to live here were of course Indians and then the French came with Champlain and then the English came later. The narrative tells about all these things- the snow, the storms, the history of Montreal. The Indians, the French and English, the guns, the churches with a wooden city that is burning. I am taking the Indians’ totem and turning it into a cross.
BM: So what can people expect to see?
XR: This is not the movies- it is also a building with a shape in a city filled with lights and traffic. The first part is more abstract, talking about the storm, then you see a snowstorm at the beginning filling the tower with ice and a silhouette of an Indian, who is doing some actions with weapons starting with knives and ending with guns. It’s the beginning of colonization and then there is the fight between English and French- represented by Fleur-de-lis and squares with red. Then the fire brings everybody together. But this is something much clearer for people if they just go see it.