Malgorzata Kazmierczak: I read your essay in Total Art Journal, where you say that your motive to take up performance art was purely personal and that it saved your life. Could you tell the story to our readers?
Paul Couillard: In 1984 I was working as a civil servant in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. Of course I was aware of Orwell’s book, and I felt some discomforting similarities with my own job, which was to answer complaint letters directed to the president of Canada Post Corporation. My success was measured not in whether people’s problems were solved or not, but in how many letters could be answered each day. Then a machine fitted with a mechanical template would sign the president’s name using a pen – either with a formal or more personalized signature, depending on the recipient; the letter would go out, and the file would be closed. This was a quite illuminating if somewhat depressing lesson for me in the workings of bureaucracy. Anyway, I felt like my soul was dying, even though I was making an excellent salary and was being groomed for higher positions. I could not find any meaning in this life, and I was on a very negative emotional and psychological track. If things continued for me in this manner, I am quite certain I would have killed someone, most likely myself, but possibly another human being. I knew this was a very unhealthy way to think, but I did not know how to alleviate my inner desolation.