Anne-Audrey Remarais and the art of healing

How a Concordia student is using art to help people be kinder to themselves

Anne-Audrey Remarais is a Concordia student, studying Performance Creation. Prior to her current major, she studied theatre at Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, where she got her first taste of performance art. Later, she went on to pursue a Bachelors in Social Work at McGill University.

That kind of academic background is one of the many things that inspires her pursuing a current career in art. Since Nov. 16, two of her visual art installations, Miwa, I … and Seeing and Be-Coming, have been on show at the VAV Gallery as part of the No.03 exhibition. Remarais is part of the many artists showcasing their pieces in the exhibition.

Seeing and Be-Coming is a beautiful interactive installation, a video projection with the words “Will you move with my shadow?” standing out. It shows two figures struggling to find a rhythm, as if they can’t seem to trust enough in each other to come together.

Seeing and Be-Coming.
Photo by Youmna El Halabi

Miwa, Iis not for the faint of heart. The installation is simple, a mirror, with headphones hung right next to it, in an empty room, but the emotional effect on the viewer is intense. Imagine standing in front of your reflection, with the words “I AM ENOUGH” written on the mirror, listening to words stemming from self-doubt, and insecurities, daring you not to sob.

“Performance comes in different ways,” Remarais said. “People in the creative space become the performers. I’m changing the way I view performance and realizing that a story can be told without the need for a script. It can be through lighting, through visuals, and I wanted to explore the different types of storytelling.”

What inspires Remarais the most is her own life and the highs and lows that come with it. 

“The past few years, I’ve been on this healing journey and throughout the year I’ve had a better understanding of what it means to be vulnerable, realizing through therapy that I needed to focus on that,” she said. “Building the foundation and routine of taking care of myself for real and being able to speak kindly to myself — I want to commit to it. Art helps me with that and including people with me like ‘let’s do this together, I don’t wanna do this alone.’ I feel like this is something we can all share, you know?”

Remarais first experienced a sense of unity and security at a visual arts installation in New College, at the University of Toronto, on April 7, 2018.

Song for the Beloved was an interactive performance honouring those who have died from urban violence in Kingston, Jamaica, linking these experiences to other forms of violence in communities around the world.

“It was an intimate healing experience,” Remarais said. “A space where we can come together, quietly. I remember thinking about my uncle even if we didn’t talk very much. I remember crying and being so touched by what I was seeing. To me it really was … it really fed my soul.”

As a person of colour, Remarais has dedicated part of her installation, specifically Miwa, I … , to the black community, and the suffering they have experienced throughout history. When asked if she ever felt a sort of political burden as a black artist, she shook her head.

“I feel like I haven’t done enough to have that identification in art,” she confessed. “But I’ve seen other people go through it. Especially people of colour — it’s like, people always ask them ‘how do you feel about the political state of the world?’ It’s ridiculous to focus on that and to give a person the responsibility to represent a whole community cause we’re all unique individuals. Yes, I’m black but it’s a subjective experience, even if it’s political.”

In Remarais’ words, her art can be summarized in three actions: healing, seeing, and dialogue. She wants people to feel comfortable enough to have a healthy dialogue with themselves, and others, about their suffering.

“[Art] gives me life,” she said. “It allows me to dig deeper into myself. I see it as an outlet.”

Remarais had planned on hosting a workshop called ”A spell for my healing,” dedicated to the black community to find their voices and create personalized loving mantras, prior to the exhibitions finissage. However, due to unforeseen infrastructural issues, VAV Gallery was forced to cancel both events, and close their space on Dec. 9. It will open again early mid-January.

Nevertheless, Remarais plans on making a pop-up workshop in the new year, and both Miwa, I … and Seeing and Be-Coming are up until Dec. 6 at the VAV Gallery.


Feature photo by Britanny Clarke.

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