Conversations with Strange Beauty: Carrie Perreault

Lindsay Fisher was invited to witness Strange Beauty artist Carrie Perreault rehearsing her Impossible Conversations in the basement of the 401 Richmond St building. Afterwards Lindsay was able to ask a few questions about the project.

What are Impossible Conversations?

Impossible Conversations are the conversations that we want to have with people in our lives for various reasons, but most likely never will.

How did these conversations come to be?

There are certain conversations that I play over and over in my head, and sometimes it feels isolating but I know it shouldn’t, so I thought it’d be best if they just came out. At the start this project I did a lot of writing but then I had this terrible fear that I might be the most boring person on earth, and also that maybe my Impossible Conversations might be really out of sync with other people’s. It was at that point I put out a few calls for submissions asking friends and acquaintances what their Impossible Conversations might look like. So friends sent in one or two sentences letting me know a bit about the people who were conversing, a sentence or two about what the conversation is, and one sentence about the outcome. From that point I would write the parts in between. I knew that putting this call out was a pretty big ask, so I gave a very personal example of my own, and when people responded, they dumped their pile of crap right back. It was such an honour though when they replied but it was really hard.

So when you say that you wrote the in between parts of the conversation, are you in a way providing a service?

I know so little about who the people are in this capacity that maybe it is, or maybe it’s not. Tomorrow I’m expecting one of the participant’s whose conversation is included to attend the performance. That’s been nerve-wracking because what if she attends and thinks, “That’s not the conversation!” What if that’s not what it sounds like in her head? It might not matter to anybody else but it matters to me. I feel like I have a duty or responsibility to her that I need to honour, and I need to resolve it for her in a way which is of course something I can never do. So it’s people getting a chance to have these moments but then if I don’t write them properly…

Do you get them to approve the conversations?

No. In the immediate moment these conversations carry so much anxiety and uncertainty about them, but I know that when I can take a step back that’s not at all what the conversations are about. In the end it’s a creative process and its just trust between two people at this point. Participants haven’t asked for a copy of the script because I think them just giving me the information is in some ways enough. It’s enough sharing that it’s no longer completely theirs, which is nice because life is too heavy to carry by yourself. I have emailed people though to let me know that their conversations will be included.

Carrie Perreault sitting in an office with a mic to her mouth.You just demonstrated to me one of the Impossible Conversations and so many things came up for me – one thing that struck me is how natural you appear performing this difficult and “impossible” conversation.

I’m the writer of all the pieces so if the conversations don’t involve me directly, my hand is still in it. The core of them is always about two people who care about each other, talking about things they can’t. And so I feel like if there is ease that’s where it comes from. It comes from a place that we’re all familiar with.

Are all the pieces about the same thing?

No, other than they’re about the struggles we have. Even gratitude I think can be a struggle, so I think they run the gamut. But I would say that the pieces do have a thread that runs between them. I think it’s subtle but I think they do tie together. There are themes of mental illness and those sorts of discussions, and how that can influence and dictate our relationships with each other.

This piece you just did for me, it felt like you were sort of reconciling some things within the performance. I love that part where you ask: “Isn’t that what life is? People asking a lot of each other?”

It’s true though isn’t it? Everything’s part of this complicated web and it’s a lot of work. Just being alive is a lot of work.

Carrie Perreault holds a BA from Brock University, St. Catharines. Her varying social and political environments influence her work. She is an advocate for human witnessing, which translates into research in meditative gestural acts that counter and speak to discrimination and hardship. Her multidisciplinary work includes video, installation, sculpture, performance, and audio works. She thanks and acknowledges the on-going and integral support from the Ontario Arts Council.

Carrie will be giving a performance and artist talk on Saturday, April 18th at 3pm in the Musideum, Suite 133.

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