Editor : Est-Nord-Est
Location : Saint-Jean-Port-Joli
Year : 2023
Language : French / English
Author : Julia Eilers Smith

Artist and author

Jessica Arseneau

Jessica Arseneau’s artworks gently transport us to an in-between state, midway between wakefulness and sleep, physical and virtual, dream and reality. Through video installations and sculptures, Arseneau delves into our perception of time and reality, and into the economics of attention in the era of globalization and digitization, drawing inspiration from the theories of American philosopher Jonathan Crary. Themes arising from science fiction, alternative realities, and dystopian worlds such as those imagined by author J. G. Ballard also play an essential role in her approach. Her works are deployed within a meticulously designed light and sound ambience that is at once enveloping, disorienting, and slightly discomfiting. She plumbs subjects such as invasive artificial light and sleep deprivation, as well as their effects on biorhythms and wellbeing.


During her stay at Est-Nord-Est, Arseneau began to design a kinetic and sonar installation that would simulate a natural environment. Rows of hanging aluminum tubes that could be inclined by a motorized mechanism would emit a calming sound, evoking the soft murmur of a stream, but with a metallic texture. Because of its size, the installation might evoke a structure with an automated adjustable roof, creating a living space that can be adapted to the vagaries of the weather while establishing an artificial sense of calm.


At the same time, Arseneau explored the idea of introducing a notation system into the landscape with flexible fluorescent tubes that, once deployed, have a fluidity resembling that of handwriting. She also incorporated an emoji-like 2D cloud-shaped neon light. On the riverbanks, she documented these objects arranged in different ways on the rocks. The integration of the lights into the landscape is both banal and disturbing: they seem to symbolize an altered reality or a threatening technology. The cloud in particular offers a reminder of advances in electronic devices that aim to influence our dreams, such as the MIT project Dormio, a device capable of interacting with the semi-conscious state of sleep.