Esther Valiquette

Video maker, Director
January, 1994

Video maker, director. The first major Quebec visual artist to testify to her personal struggle with HIV and AIDS, honorary queer Valiquette’s oeuvre is among the most treasured artist statements on AIDS to have been produced in this country. After a start as camera assistant and lighting technician, Valiquette brought out her first videotape Récit d’A (1990, 19). This remarkable hybrid documentary builds on an audio interview with a gay American PWA Andrew Small and by the time it’s over you have participated in a rich philosophical reflection on mortality and coming out as PWA. Valiquette incorporated autobiographical elements such as the artist’s travel diary through a California desert, as well as graphic traces of MRI’s as a visual motif, theoretical musings by Susan Sontag and Edmond Jabès, together with the Small interview. Incorporating both English and French, Récit is perhaps the quintessential Montreal work (its title is a pun, translating as “Story of A” but sounding like “sida,” the French word for AIDS). Récit d’A had the impact of a thunderbolt in 1990, catching up for almost a decade of Quebec artistic hibernation on HIV.

Valiquette’s next work, Le singe bleu (The Measure of Your Passage, 16mm., 1992), is an award-winning poetic essay on mortality and impermanence disguised as an NFB programmer on Cretan archeology. Valiquette’s final work was the evocative experimental short video Extenderis, released the year before her death. In 2003 Valiquette was honoured posthumously as “Hero” by the Fondation Farha, the first artist to have received this distinction.