Lourdes: a slight return

So, as you might have read in my previous post, I plan to once again revisit The Pilgrims, a work undertaken in Lourdes and Paris with Canadian Filmmaker Toni-Lynn Frederick in 2004. Excuse me if I’m repeating myself – I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and I know I cover it briefly in my artists statement for The French Connection – but I could never extract a satisfactory ‘outcome’ despite trying several times. With the project already in my mind, hearing Sarah Rodigari speak of her project, Strategies for leaving and arriving home recently was like someone had just cleaned a window, metaphorically speaking. As Sarah talked about the art contained in the walking and the journey itself, it dawned on me that this is precisely what had happened on our own journey in 2004.

In 2004, Toni-Lynn Frederick and I met in Paris, and flew together to Lourdes, in it’s low season.  Throughout our week in Catholic Mecca we looked, we felt, we shot film and video, we held long (recorded) conversations about our experiences growing up Catholic and the details we remembered as well as the details we questioned.  We cast great doubt upon the sanctity of St Bernadette. We ate at the same mixed-asian restaurant, Xuan, every night, with a fruity but charming Vietnamese host who delighted in giving us complementary sake in little pornographic cups while giggling and presented us each with a sweet but wonky watercolour painting to remember him by when we ate our last meal there. Mine is of a water-buffalo. I can’t remember what TLs is.

Then we collected 4 litres of the famous Lourdes water, so often attributed with miracles by the faithful, took it back to Paris and used it to  mix up chemistry in which we developed the film we had shot.  The black and white film developed to blue on blue.  That heavenly ‘Virgin Mary Blue’. I was thrilled.

But until I heard Sarah speak, I hadn’t realised that this journey, from Paris to Lourdes and back was the work and that there was no other outcome I could edit, mix or display that could be any more the artwork than this journey itself.  I also realised that all who know of this project seem to have accepted that unquestioningly over the following years, and that was only me, and perhaps Toni-Lynn, who ever had any thoughts otherwise.

So, my plan now is to create a new, dedicated online archive of what physical and data remains there are of The Pilgrims.  Letters, diaries, photos, video and yes, the resulting delicious blue clips of film. I’ll add reminisces along the way and make sure Toni-Lynn has access so she can too.

I asked her how she felt about my revelation and resulting archive plan and offered her one of the stills I’ve sent to The French Connection and she replied:

Yes, Pilgrim, go forth with my blessing... the 3 nuns look like a rock band. This would be my choice… I’m excited you’re doing this. The project still has life for me; wish we could do this together. It was a great excursion. I loved it.

I loved it too.

So stay tuned, it will be a long process and with no-one in particular waiting on it, it can take as long as it does.

I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. While travelling we plotted our next collaboration. A trip to Mexico where I would attend a wrestling school and TL would document (Yes I have loved the Lucha long time). I know this has now been seen on screen numerous times and perhaps has a flavour of a slightly unsavory exoticism, but we could still do it, right?  And we could take husbands and a toddler yeah? It would be great wouldn’t it?


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