INCIDENT No.31: Julie Lequin
March 22 - April 19, 2010
In 2003, artist Julie Lequin moved from her native Quebec to smoggy Los Angeles,
where, for the first time in her life, she started to spend significant time in her car.
Around the same time, she began
to listen to NPR’s call-in show, Car Talk. Her casual interest in the radio show and its curmudgeonly hosts quickly
developed into a full-blown obsession. Much like people obsessed with their cars, Lequin began to research the show, collect
episodes, listen to them religiously and earmark passages of interest in a ritual that mirrored the experience of getting
into her car, starting it and driving to her destination.
The resulting video, also entitled Car Talk, explores Lequin’s
unexpectedly visceral reaction—as a young female—to what is ostensibly a radio show about automobile repair. What
is immediately clear in the piece is how much the caller’s particular vehicle and the problem she is asking advice on,
says about the caller herself. In this case, Lequin speaks about her identity as an artist, as someone with a funny accent,
and, perhaps, as a young woman struggling with guilt at her inability to confront the friend who has damaged her car. By acting
out the roles of the hosts, Lequin expresses her own criticism of her identity, in a refreshingly self-reflexive gesture that
is as disarming as it is charming.
Car Talk reflects Lequin’s experience of LA and of having to develop a “car
life,” outside of her normal life. Her “car life” was characterized by hours of solitary time, surrounded
by thousands of others undergoing the same experience: everyone separated in moving boxes, but moving together in an ebb and
flow unique to the physics of traffic.
Lequin manifests this sense of lateral alienation by visually boxing each of the
interlocutors into his/her own square. This simple visual device also reinforces the many levels of miscommunication
and disconnect implicit in Car Talk: between Lequin, the caller, and “Lequin” the call-in show hosts; between
people who love their cars and the vehicles themselves; and between drivers and other drivers. But paradoxically, Lequin’s
Car Talk has literally put a face to these manifestations of alienation, and humanized them. Through humour and pathos Lequin
has crafted a brilliant vignette that is universally relatable. -Anna Phelan
Anna Phelan is a freelance writer based in Montreal. She's a regular contributor
to Hour Magazine, the city's second largest English weekly newspaper, and her work has been featured in Nightlife, Naked Eye
and on Pop Montreal's culture blog.