Interview with Marie-Claude Marquis for ‘Don’t Use Me, I’m Broken’

Thinkspace is pleased to present ‘Don’t Use Me, I’m Broken,’ from multidisciplinary artist Marie-Claude Marquis.

In this new exhibition, Marquis talks about the flaws, failures, and challenges that are unique to each individual. The traits that make us interesting and complex beings. However, since the exhibition was mainly created during the pandemic, it took a darker turn than her previous pieces.

In anticipation of ‘Don’t Use Me, I’m Broken’ our interview with Marie-Claude Marquis discusses towers of flea market finds, the place of trophies in society, and the call back to nature.

SH: For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

MC: My life always revolved around creating so it was an easy choice for me to go study in visual arts and graphic design. After university, I worked for a while in the fashion industry as a textile designer, but the 9-to-5 office life wasn’t for me. So I quit 2011 to focus on my own projects and freelancing contracts in illustration and design.

Also, since childhood, I have always been a fervent lover of vintage, thrift stores and second-hand objects which are the basis of my work. My grandmother who worked in a vintage costumes store and my mother who brought me to a flea market every week clearly influenced me towards this path.

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work for “Don’t Use Me, I’m Broken”?

MC: In Don’t use me, I’m broken, I basically wanted to talk about the flaws, fails and challenges, unique to each individual, that make us interesting and complex beings. But since this exhibition was mainly created during the pandemic, it took a darker turn than my usual work.

Before this period, some of us had the opportunity to avoid facing problems, consciously or not, by loading our lives with work, obligations and activities.

But because the recent confinement had a mirror effect on ourselves, it forced us to confront our darker facets and our relationships issues and I wanted to address that with the show.

It will therefore be a mix of reflections, overflow, fears, hope, humor and once again an attempt to encourage the spectator to express his feelings and to free himself from a weight that a person is often unconscious of carrying.

SH: What was the most challenging piece in the exhibition and why?

MC: Definitely the trophies. I had been thinking about this series for like 2 years and since cumulated materials without really knowing what I was going to do with it, but with a feeling of what I wanted to come out from it. So it was a lot of trial and error: how to design my structures; how to pierce certain parts and how to assemble such fragile elements, etc. I finally achieve to realize what I had in mind, so the stress of breaking everything in the shipping process to the Gallery was even higher than usual (but i’m always super stressed about that part)!

SH: What is your least and most favorite part of the creative process?

Most: I am someone who overthinks a lot, is really proactive and gets bored easily, so I would say that I love almost everything in the creative process as long as I can touch a lot of different things. This is why creating installations and taking over a room is extra fun for me. For this show, I worked on trophies, the creative photoshoot to present them, plates, embroideries, wallpaper, vases, and objects and I had a blast!

Least: Before I would have said always working alone and being very much in my thoughts, but it seems that I appreciate and seek this more and more. So it would be what I call the boring part: the more technical and organizational things like varnish, packaging, transport, post rush cleaning, etc. It has to be done but I would definitely do without it!

SH: Who are some of your creative influences?

MC: I really love the work of Johan Deckmann who mostly creates titles on book covers. He always makes you think with his clever reflections on human behavior, which are often sad but always true.

I also looooove the super raw, honest and great illustrations of Tara Booth.

And I’m a big fan of the magnificent paintings loaded with flowers, pots and patterns of Anna Valdez (I’m a big sucker for pattern mixing).

SH: Do you have a memorable or funny story from when you were hunting for new treasures to transform? Like, have you driven two hours to an estate sale to only find out the sale is the following weekend…

MC: There is a huge flea market in Montreal (the Marché aux puces Saint-Michel) in which I have been shopping for several years. The place is filled with more than a hundred booths all belonging to different owners who are often very old and who have been stockpiling forever. Some stores are stuffed from floor to ceiling, and it’s super chaotic. One time, I saw the most beautiful old thing from afar in the lot, told the dude I wanted to buy it, but it was physically impossible to get to the said item without everything collapsing, so I was never able to make my purchase. It’s funny but a little sad too …

SH: Do you find objects for specific shows or constantly collect? Do you have a phrasebook, or does the object inspire the insignia?

MC: I would say both!

For the objects, I buy pieces for specific shows when I’m looking for a really precise thing when creating an installation, for example, but I also constantly collect. Whenever I see nice plates or needle-points in a thrift store I will definitely buy even if I don’t know when I’ll use them. It saved my ass a lot for the creation of this show because everything was close for 3 months due to the pandemic. Really grateful that I had a more than a hundred things already in my inventory!!

And yes I do have a phrasebook that I started 6 years ago. I think I’m close to 600 wordings now.

But I also get inspired by the images on the vintages stuff I find. Always looking for the quote that gives a total second meaning to the graphic on the piece regardless of the subject.

SH: In this new body of work you’ve expanded into making unique and humorous trophies. What was the inspiration for this evolution?

MC: Like I said earlier, I had that idea in mind for quite a while. I noticed that between close friends we often make fun of the little flaws or peculiar character traits of one another. Those features can sometimes be annoying to people around, but it is also what makes us funny and endearing at the same time. I kind of see them as “useless powers”. I honestly thought about myself and every friend in my circle to bring out our quirks and this list filled up quite quickly. It was far too inspiring and funny, and I thought it was worth pushing it further because it is very relatable.

SH: What are your thoughts on participation trophies vs. a culture of intense competition and trophy hoarding?

MC: Even if I very much love the idea of wanting to congratulate everyone by giving participation trophies, we all prefer to be proclaimed the best at something, that’s for sure.

But it is clear that the need of collecting trophies is as a way of boosting self-esteem and showing people how good we are. Which is kind of similar to our relationship with social media where we constantly compare ourselves with others (or with the fake life that people choose to show) and show off our achievements. It is extremely unhealthy and anxiety inducing.

This is why I wanted to celebrate the real things. The stuff that people are the best at but would never win anything because of it.

SH: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – What is your approach to life during this time? What is your favorite local spot to pick up some take out?

MC: Weird fucking time indeed! I realized during the pandemic that there is no point in living in the city when you don’t have access to the restaurants, bars, festivals, and events. It was quite suffocating and made me think about what and who is important to me. I grew up in nature and my need of going back is more and more present, so I am now looking to buy a small cabin closer to my family and where all my friends would feel welcome.

I’m not a good cook, so I was really glad that I could pick up take outs during lock down. There were thousands of choices in Montreal but the best meal I had is the fried Chicken sandwich from 180g and Mitch Deli. Best place in town! … and I’m a bit addicted to St-Hubert’s chicken fingers. Best hangover food.

SH: If your work inspired a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor, what would be the ingredients and the name of the pint?

MC: Ahaha! It would definitely be a mix of all the goods! Chocolate and vanilla ice cream with dulce de leche swirls + bits of brownies, Rolo, Reese, cookie dough, and waffles.

And I would put less ice cream and more chunks.

For the name: Can I get a scoop scoop? Sounds great :P

Online Schedule of Virtual Events:

Saturday, July 25 at 12:00 noon pacific time we will post the professionally shot video tour of our new exhibitions to our Instagram TV

Saturday, July 25 from 1-2 PM pacific time we will go live on our Instagram to tour our new exhibitions

Sunday, July 26 at 2 pm pacific time we will post a full set of installation photos from both exhibitions to our Facebook and blog

Monday, July 27 at 4 pm pacific time we will share a link to the self-guided virtual tour of our new exhibitions on all of our social networks

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