© Photo: Roman Koval
To describe the material that she uses, Mona Varichon speaks of a “pool of content” composed of video and audio recordings that she collects through a methodology derived from her sociological studies. She then proceeds to a work of collage and editing from which she transcribes a sensation or situation. Her videos can be watched on a smartphone in the subway, in a cinema screening, or on a flatscreen in an exhibition space.
Mona Varichon, 4 avril 2019 Mallaury chante « Assa » pour la sortie du livre « Le combat Adama », 2020, HD video, color, stereo sound, 3 min 50 sec, © Mona Varichon
Mona Varichon, 23 mars 2019 Gilets Jaunes Acte XIX, 2020, HD video, color, stereo sound, 11 min 23 sec, © Mona Varichon
In her series Insta Stories Archive (2020), M. Varichon focuses on collecting archives of recent news events, stockpiling videos via Instagram thanks to hashtags and location tags. Whether it be the book launch of Le Combat Adama by Assa Traoré, Kanye West’s gospel group’s Easter celebration, or the fire at Notre-Dame in Paris, it is a matter of recontextualising images created for social networks destined to disappear, treating them like filmed news stories and thus placing them in a cinematographic tradition reminiscent of the work of video artist Jonas Mekas. 23 Mars 2019 Gilet Jaunes Acte XIX (2020), for example, chronologically bears witness to a day of demonstrations experienced by several protagonists: activists, tourists and Parisians struggling to get to the gym or simply enjoying a pastry in a café. The editing allows the disparate group to be linked together while parasitising each other, revealing social behaviour in the face of political upheaval and highlighting an at times complacent reception of the capitalist society, and at others, a struggle in the face of an oppressive system.
Mona Varichon, April 21 2019 Kardashian-Jenner-West Easter Sunday Service at Coachella, 2020, HD video, color, stereo sound, 6 min 26 sec, © Mona Varichon
After studying sociology in Montreal, where she also played the French horn with members of the band Arcade Fire, M. Varichon moved to San Francisco where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the San Francisco Art Institute. She later enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts programme at the Art Center of Los Angeles where she studied under Chris Kraus. Having recently returned to Paris, she has integrated important figures from North American culture into her practice – including the Kardashians – while working on the translation of the book Reflections from a Cinematic Cesspool, memoir of artists George and Mike Kuchar who greatly influenced the West Coast experimental scene with their artistic productions and unconventional personalities. After spending six years in the United States, M. Varichon distantly addresses societal phenomena in France and translation’s primordial role in understanding alterity. Similarly, she makes French culture accessible to English speakers by methodically subtitling her videos or by producing A4 posters adapting the system of song lyric sheets that have marked French rap. This mirrored analytical perspective allows her to evoke current issues of racial and social discrimination present in both French and North American contexts, placing her within the lineage of a new generation of French artists taking on these subjects.
Mona Varichon, No, I Was Thinking Of Life (CC), 2018, HD video, color, stereo sound, 12 min, © Mona Varichon
No, I Was Thinking of Life (CC) (2018) is part of a video series stemming from various phone discussions between the artist and her mother. This series presents a more intimate view on the relationship that M. Varichon has with pop culture and art. Using an arrangement that consists of a soundtrack and a black background on which English subtitles appear, she employs a monstration process that deliberately emphasises the absence of images. The void created by the black screen amplifies the voices of the two women. While one finds herself in France and then Cairo, and the other in the United States, they speak about their lives. Fuelled by various tutelary figures – from artist Kader Attia to novelist Carson McCullers – her mother indulges in her own faults and wounds that constitute her perception and experience of the world. In this series of videos, M. Varichon incessantly precedes the coming void particularly through using moments of the intimate exchange. Her films thus function through the anticipation of future disappearance, as if to better stand guard against feelings of nostalgia and sadness that accompany it.
Her works – whose approach can be compared to that of fan art – are certainly tributes to various personalities that she admires, from her mother to Assa Traoré. In this alternation between popular public figures and anonymous individuals, she tries to understand their motivations and desires by revealing their mechanisms of struggle as well as their political opinions. From English to French, from the private to the public sphere, or even social networks, M. Varichon produces video collages that make it possible to “make people speak” and “make them hear” differently. In this way she is reviving a heritage that has partly disappeared: that of beginning with the voices of others rather than her own.
Marion Vasseur Raluy
Mona Varichon (born Paris, 1989) is a Franco-Egyptian video artist, author and translator based in Paris, currently in residency at the Cité internationale des arts. She holds a Master’s of Fine Arts from the Art Center in Pasadena, a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute, and a degree in sociology from the Université Paris Descartes. Her videos have been shown at The Renaissance Society (Chicago, USA), CAPC (Bordeaux, France), u’s (Diamond Valley, Canada), Extramentale (Arles, France), Bel Ami (Los Angeles, USA) and FLAX Foundation (Tin Flats, Los Angeles, USA). In Spring 2021, she will participate in a group exhibition at the gallery BQ (Berlin) and presente a monographic exhibition by her mother, Malak El Zanaty Varichon, at Cocotte, the space of artist Louise Sartor in Treignac, France.
She is currently translating the memoires of American artists George and Mike Kuchar, to be published in 2021 by her publishing house Varichon & Cie.