Please Remember Me

Stefan St-Laurent

2004, 04:30 minutes, colour/B&W, English


Digitally remastered in 1997 by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, Edwin Carewe’s film Évangeline was not screened publicly since its release in 1929. For its time, the film revolutionized Hollywood in many ways, as it was the most expensive studio film in history and one of the first to introduce color in black and white cinema, with tints such as ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Flame Red’ to complement character moods. Some critics branded the film with adjectives such as experimental and transgressive. One of the particularities of the film was the studio’s choice of using Dolores Del Rio, a famous Mexican actress known as the Mexican Paprika Girl, to play the lead role of the Acadian character Évangeline.

With the performative tape Please Remember Me, I wanted to explore identity as it relates to impersonation, false identity and the assimilation of identity. I was especially interested in making apparent how individuals find meaning in the dominant cultures, particularly in pop music. This exploration is a continuation of my video and performance practices, where I create alter egos that speak of the re/deconstruction of self in post-modern times.

The video reveals conflicting portraits: Longfellow’s Évangeline and Gabriel, played by a Mexican and an American respectively, and myself portrayed as a new country star and a contemporary cowboy. By borrowing from popular aesthetics, the issues I bring up in my work are palatable for the public, as they are articulated in an accessible, and very well known, framework. Being part of the Acadian diaspora and queer, I am personally interested in investigating the construction of private and public identities, and drawn to making visible identities that would normally remain invisible.

Please Remember Me should, on a first reading, immediately recall a video promoting a title song from a newly released film. Present in most of my work, this play is important in order to seduce the viewer who may be perplexed seeing ‘television’ in a gallery space that should be showing ‘art’. However, the themes of assimilation, collective memory and identity that emerge from the video allow for a richer reading.

The choice of the song was made to heighten the melodrama of Évangeline and my performance, with generic lyrics telling sweeping tales of loss and desire, like Longfellow’s own romantic narrative. However, lyrics such as ‘When all my tears reach the sea, part of you will live in me’ make a striking contrast to the refined poetry of Henry Longfellow. Although the work may be interpreted as a critique to mass media communications and their conventions, my intent is to present a video that is putting forward emotions that are genuine. Whether these be in relation to the story, the song, or the larger thesis of the video, the emotions I perform in the lip
sync should avoid the trappings of simple irony or cynicism.

In my series of videotapes called Overmelodramas, in which Please Remember Me is part of, I try to push the melodramatic genre over-the-top, revealing hard truths that we rarely unbottle. When the mind can no longer accept the realities of assimilation or exclusion from the masses, is melodrama then a weird coping mechanism?

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