There are windows in the room, but they are covered in thick black paper. A cave of a studio: A deep and dark wonderland where you could get lost — not by the vastness of the room itself (which is little), but by the images that surround you.
Hundreds of objects adorn the walls, the ceiling, the door and all available table tops. It might take someone a year to comb through every object that calls his tiny studio, home.
Patrick opens a tin of oatmeal cookies and begins to boil hot water for tea.
Patrick Ares-Pilon is a photographer, artist, anarchist and family historian. Images of his grandparents, mother and aunts feature prominently in his studio, which hang from drying lines first used for his film processing and printing.
His family, and his French Canadian heritage has influenced his work as an artist for the past decade.
When he began to unearth the old film footage his grandmother had of her 1940s hometown family videos, and show them as art installation, he was offered his current studio by the former tenant, and fan of his work.
Lately, he is thinking about interior cultures, or the French culte domestique — the cult of the domestic. Recently, Patrick acquired his Grandmother’s house from his Uncle for a few months before it is officially sold.
He is excited to decorate the home the way he remembers it: When his grandmother was alive and filled the home with her decorations, love, care and cooking. Patrick’s decor can be summed up in one word: Memory.
How did you get the opportunity to get this space?
It was through Marlena Wyman. In 2008, I had started the Tivoli Theatre in the basement. My grandparents had originally started the Tivoli Theatre [in Saskatchewan], and originally they had shot a lot of films.
When they had the theater they shot a whole bunch of films. They would shoot films of local happenings, like baseball games, traffic accidents and train derailments and then they would show these films before the feature film at the Tivoli Theatre — to get the people in and see themselves on the screen.
They [my grandparents] kept all these films in their basement for all these years. I thought it would be great to show them again.
In the summer of 2008 I programmed a whole bunch of films from Saskatchewan, and also from their brother and sister-in-law who filmed themselves traveling around the world.
And somehow, Marlena got wind of this. And being a film conservator [Marlena] she was interested to know more. [Marlena] taught me the care, the TLC involved in carrying for the films.
After my Grandmother got ill, Marlena later reached out and offered me her [old studio].
Describe your space
This place is magical for me.
I try to maximize. Some people relate to minimalism; I relate to maximal-ism. So I try to maximize the space that I have. This is about 150 square feet, and I’m always been curious in history and things that are retro and old technology. I’ve had a jukebox in here before . . .
First and foremost I set this place up as a dark-room. I covered up all the windows. Maybe I saw it for two days with natural light. So, it’s a nice dark space.
It’s great to take in for some naps.
Second thing was the music. Music motivates me. [He gestures to the large speakers against the back wall].
I have deep connections with my ancestry, my grandparents, my mother, my dad. I have a lot of pictures of family around.
Somebody once said it’s like walking into my brain. It could be like walking into my brain. It’s a very personal space.
The ideas in my head, projects going on, inspirations and aesthetic reflects my taste. The aesthetic is quite busy. I try to keep busy.
Sometimes I am very motivated and ambitious and try to get a lot of things on the go . . . and sometimes I like to be lazy and watch a movie.
Lots of faces. I like people. I like to be social. I like to have people around me . . . even if it is just a moment in time.
Your work with photography is half-walled exhibit and half-environment creation. As in, you exhibit your visuals with the addition of furniture in the room, lamps and magazines. Why not just the photographs?
[I like] to create warmth and comfort [in] these non-domestic spaces memories of warmth and comfort. Or give memories for new memories to build.
The Works project [a 2017 installation where Patrick filled a tent with 50s style couches, tables, lighting and a projector of old family slides] was able to bring [the audience] back to their grandparents house . . . a general feeling of nostalgia that was attached to an installation piece.
I tried to recreate [my grandparents] living room.
I spent a lot of time with my grandmother . . . and she was a homemaker — she had eight kids. And one of her jobs, one of her occupations, was to create this comfortable, domestic realm . . . she was engaged in the cult of the domestic: Domestic culture.
Another inspiration for my work is my grandfather’s lady-friend. Women are a great inspiration for my work.
Especially older women.
[Laughs] My grandfather had a lady friend . . . this was on my dad’s side, so this is in Montreal. My grandfather got to hang out with a lady across the street.
And she was probably 10 years older than him — she was in her 90s. Jacqueline. They would spend time together on Sunday afternoons and watch the God Father on VHS — holding hands.
[Jacqueline] had an acquisitive house. Gold everything. She had red carpets and her kitchen was frosted white. She had this JVC TV . . . and hand painted it gold. She just loved gold.
She was really inspiring . . . and apologetic. Because she was mixing different styles.
These ladies [put] so much energy and thought . . . into creating comfort in a home. Creating a safe place for people.
Do you adapt to your space or does your space adapt to you?
I think it’s a little bit of both. Sometimes you have to adapt to the current layout. There are fixed semi-permanent [objects], like this couch.
I’ve had a project here where there was a huge box in this space where we were creating our own film. So the space had to adapt to that function.
Two things that come to mind: I think a small space motivates and demands you to be more efficient with the space. You have to think about different kinds of uses.
When I do an art project, I unfold like an accordion. I pull out and make a big mess of the space. I make the space adapt to my needs. Then when I am done, I got to bring in the accordion and put stuff away so I adapt to the space, to do something else.
Future ambitions for the studio?
If you look at the ceiling, it’s empty. There could be so many posters and images. I got the world that is upside down.
The door too, there is some space there.
In January I [like] to clean up the lines.
Have all your former studios/rooms had the same aesthetic?
I had a studio in the woods. It was probably three times [the size]. It was busy as well. Although I didn’t have things hanging from the ceiling. Here I [do].
I tried to [hang objects from the ceiling], but it didn’t quite work. I like using ceiling space. I feel like it is a lost space. In [my former studio] I put up a bunch of maple leaves [on the ceiling]: My homage to the ceiling space.
I didn’t need to be as efficient . . . as I have to be here. Nonetheless, it was a place in flux.
Favourite aspect of the space
The sound system is fun. It goes pretty loud. I’ve had [some] complaints.
I was at a Christmas party over the holidays and someone that I loosely knew came over to me and asked, “Hey, I wanted to get your version of the story: I heard that once [another group of tenants] were having a meeting . . . and you were listening to porn full blast? They asked you to turn it down and you turned it up? What actually happened?”
And I was like, “Oh, I remember that.”
I was watching this old western movie, it was a Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western. And this building is quite porous for sound. I didn’t have my remote beside me, and there was a sexy scene in the [film], and it was loud and I didn’t think much of it.
Some guy came barreling down the hallway — just mad: “TURN OFF YOUR FUCKING PORN!”
I didn’t turn it off, but I did turn it down. There were probably gunshots [from the film] after.
So some “porn” and gunshots.
Yeah, the speakers are fun, and I get some stories out of it.
The speakers also help to shake the chemicals [when processing films]. The chemicals need agitation for better processing.