David: Why text and images? What is it about discursive meaning that you find compelling, as a way to investigate the subject of food? What liberties do words give you, and what are the restrictions?
Geneviève: I describe SDV as a work of digital literature. It contains moving images and music that I imagined, devised, or supervised, but words are its first and founding media, its primary material.
In my creative process, I began by writing the texts of the core part of the work, ‘Life Itself’. I wanted to write about foods that were important to me. But the truth is, the content that first presented itself was a disturbing jumble of food, materiality, perceptions, memories. I felt I needed to explore that content with words to discover its meaning and give it some order or shape. In the writing process, I also realized that if some foods had a specific resonance to me, it was because they were inscribed into stories. Food was tied to my personal identity and to life-changing events. By telling those stories, I was reaching to aspects of my own life that had stayed hidden to me, repressed and confined to an unconscious level. The storytelling and the use of words allowed me to reach to these contents. Thus, my creative enterprise is one of self-discovery, a soul-searching process. The use of language, in that context, aims at creating a cohesive meaning out of my personal jumble.
But I am aware that there is a delicate balance at play here. Verbal language has this specific power of creating an abstract reality, a world of ideas. And being an academic, I am familiar with (and even expert in) this disembodied use of language. There is a risk that I would set myself on an intellectual level and limit the evocative power of images, sound, and food itself. By organizing the jumble, I could diminish its complexity and stop the production of meaning.
This is why, even if I have a somewhat constructivist approach to meaning and discursivity, I try to use words in a way that remains multiple and open, and to avoid the rational, schematic, and explanatory use of language. I leave blanks and silence in and between my stories. The fragmentary nature of the texts and the rhizomatic structure of the work as a whole are also attempting to break the linearity often associated with discourse. In addition, I strive for a linguistic multi-modality. Words are written but also spoken. They are sometimes poetic, narrative, or more reflective. I am at once a voice, a narrator, and a character, in a fluid and changing dynamic. This polyphonic use of language is, in a way, a device by which I try to escape the tendency to be overly intellectual. It leaves room for the indefinite, for what can be grasped between the lines or under the verbal reality.
I would also add that the making of the work, which supposed the manipulation of real food and an interaction with bodies and materiality, gave way to different meaning processes that have no translation in the world of language, but that resonate and can be felt in the result. Non-verbal signification arises. For example, in ‘Nourish’, bodies are shown, my hands touch my daughter’s hair and skin, and little gestures become signs—the slow braiding of the hair, a gentle push on the shoulders. Same with the lobsters in ‘Mourning’, which I had to boil and cut open thrice for the camera. This repetitive process took the mysterious quality of a funerary ceremony. These gestures enrich the work by allowing love or grief to become embodied and shown.
So, words are not the whole of the story, and the co-occurrence of images, especially images that go beyond the illustrative and testify to a process and of an emotion, opens the significance and allows space for interpretation. At this point, some meaning relies specifically on some things that are not said in words, but that are shown through thoughtful images of material objects.