Interview by L. Valena
Can you first describe to me what you responded to?
The piece that was sent is an image of a nondescript person sitting in a chair- they're all yellow. It looks like it's a room, but it's a very strange representation of a room. There is a doorway, and what looks like thoughts coming out of the yellow person's head. It looks like it's been around for awhile- it’s dusty and gritty.
What was your first reaction to this?
It made me think of isolation. Also, sort of a dream state, where nothing is very descript. You can't make sense of anything, but it still fills you with emotions. The blue, the grey and the white- it's very cold, and you feel sort of alone.
What happened next?
I listed some of those thoughts that I just described, just to figure out what I wanted to respond to. Basically I came to the conclusion of it reminded me of right before you go to sleep, there's a state where you start to think really weird thoughts. Personally, sometimes I have really paranoid thoughts at that point. The idea that I came to was to make a piece that kind of represents that paranoid pre-sleep thought-place. From there, I just had to figure out what aspect of the piece would represent that. I decided it would have to have sort of dream-like shapes, which became those blue streaks in the piece that I made. And also there would have to be some sort of person in it, but not necessarily recognizable- something that was more like the shape of a person. To portray the organic side of dreams, that they come from a person. Otherwise, I wanted to make it look kind of cold and isolated. I went with blues and a yellowing hue to the person. I put that together and sat with it for a bit, and thought that I didn't need to add anything, so I sent it in.
You said you added dream-like shapes. I'm looking at this now- is this what your dreams look like?
Not necessarily, but they're very indescribable. Specifically, the daydreaming dreams that you get right before falling asleep.
I always think it's interesting trying to explain what our dreams look like and feel like to other people. It's so strangely impossible, isn't it? It's like this private world that we have.
Yeah. We can explain pieces, but they won't understand the whole dream.
Are you a big dreamer?
I tend to dream about every other day.
I think that qualifies you as being a big dreamer. How does this relate to the rest of your work?
A lot of the digital work that I make is related to me having a physical disability. I've made a bunch of work that's kind of collaged photographs, and that's what I did with this piece. And I mention the disability part because I think this piece kind of relates to that. You feel kind of isolated looking at it, and that is something I experience a lot because of my disability. It's a representation of that.
Isolation is so hard, and it's felt by so many people. It's very exciting to see work where you're trying to work through that- I think it's not something that people talk about very much.
It's sort of like a catharsis- I feel better after getting that thought on the paper.
What else do you have to say about this piece?
I'd like to talk about the process I went through to get the elements for the piece. The blue streaks are actually... we were driving through the town I live, at night, and a friend of mine was taking photos of the lights. Stoplights, green lights, all the lights that cities make, while we were driving by. It made some really cool shapes, which I thought were super dreamy.
You also said you wrote something before you settled on a way to portray this. Can you say more about that?
It wasn't super complicated. I just listed some ideas that were coming into my mind. It was really a word salad- a list of things like "anxiety", "off", "grey", "old", "forgotten", "dusty", "yellow body". That was the first list of things that came into my head, and then writing something more distinct- what it made me think of specifically. It made me think of someone isolated, stuck in a vague, dream-like view. Also other thoughts like the yellow body seemed to be the only warm thing in this cold, blue place. It was a touchstone to come back to when I was making the piece. Then I made a list of things to figure out what I might be able to make. I wrote "something encroaching on the warm subject". There had to be a warm subject, I figured that out in the beginning. But also I wrote down that I wanted to make it different from the piece I responded to- not make it so analog, and show some digital aspect. In the piece I made there's kind of a stretched rectangle of a reflection of a blue light, and I wanted to put that in there just to show that it was digitized.
I think that writing exercise that you did is so cool. Not everyone does that, but many do. I think it's such a smart way to kind of relate whatever you're looking at to your own experience, and reframe it a little bit. Do you have any advice for someone else?
For me, it helped to write something down and to do a little bit of a plan beforehand. If people are up to it, I think it's a really fun way to start working on your piece. If you feel overwhelmed, and don't know what to do in response. I'm going to school for graphic design, and one of the things you learn is you should really sketch out what you're going to do before you do it, and come up with a bunch of ideas that way. Through doing that I've realized that making things that normally would feel really overwhelming, when you don't know where to start, if you sketch out some ideas beforehand, a lot of time you don't feel as stressed out.
Call Number: M17VA | M20VA.chaCo
Zaccharie Charvolin: I am a physically disabled artist, with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. My work tends to focus on describing what that means to me. My medium of choice is photography and digital manipulation / digital illustration.