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Anything and beyond

The AGO is hosting a free digital screening of the powerful short film It Can Be Anything, which features a young artist's inspiring journey.

Marsha and Rachel

Marsha Doucette (left), Rachel Doucette (right). 

“It can be anything” is the open-ended, all-encompassing mantra offered by artist Rachel Doucette as a description of her work. Doucette’s abstract drawings and inspiring journey as a creative person are centred in a brand new short film, It Can Be Anything, named after her powerful mantra. The 28-year-old artist lives with an intellectual disability that can make verbal communication challenging, but allows her artistic voice to resound with much clarity. 

Directed by filmmaker Ryan Bergmann, produced by Doucette’s sister Marsha and featuring animation by Good Form Studio, It Can Be Anything uses Rachel’s unique lens to explore the beauty of her artistic practice and life narrative. On June 11, the AGO will host a screening of the film via Zoom, followed by a discussion with Marsha Doucette, Ryan Bergmann and Dylan Carquez (Good Form).      

We recently connected with Ryan and Marsha to find out more about their important film, how it was created, and the story of its incomparable lead character.  

AGOinsider (for Marsha Doucette): When did your sister Rachel first start creating art? How would you describe her work? 

Marsha Doucette: Rachel first started creating art after high school, eight years ago(when she was 20). Her work is creative, definitely creative. Her designs are modern with a playful abstract side. I often don't know what she is going to come up with, both in colour scheme and in design; however, I am always pleased with what I see. She is careful in her craft; taking her time, focused and happy. She uses bright and bold colours, always mixing different patterns together (lines, dots, all different shapes). 

AGOinsider (for Marsha Doucette): How did the idea for producing this film come about? How long was the process?

Marsha Doucette: Ryan and I have a special bond as both of our siblings have similar intellectual disabilities. As Ryan and I are both fans of Rachel's artwork, the idea to produce the film in the form of animation came from Ryan. During the beginning of the pandemic, when live film sets were shut down, we thought of turning to animation. And what better way to share a great story, then through the lens of Rachel and her artwork. The initial thought came in April 2020 and has been a full year in production with our animation team, scriptwriter, producer and sound designer. A fantastic team came together to build something meaningful and fun! 

Rachel Doucette, Untitled, 2021.

Rachel Doucette, Untitled, 2021.

Anything and beyond slideshow
Rachel Doucette, Untitled, 2021.

Rachel Doucette, Untitled, 2021.

Anything and beyond slideshow
Rachel Doucette, Untitled, 2021.

Rachel Doucette, Untitled, 2021.

Anything and beyond slideshow
Rachel Doucette, Untitled, 2021.

Rachel Doucette, Untitled, 2021.

Anything and beyond slideshow

AGOinsider: Can you share the origin and meaning behind the mantra, “It can be anything”, and maybe tell us how it can be applied to life?

Marsha Doucette: It can be anything” is the response that my sister Rachel often says when you ask her, “What are you drawing Rachel?” or “What is that picture of?”. I've always thought her mindset on her artwork was unique and open - the openness that her pieces really can be anything.  She is leaving it up to the viewer to decide what they want it to be. I think this is her way of living every day with pause, with reflection. With everyone's busy lives, I think her artwork allows us to mirror our feelings with what is happening around us. To pause and appreciate every moment. Life goes by too fast, Rachel's artwork brings joy and curiosity, something I think we all need a little more of every day. 

Bergmann: “It can be anything” is Rachel’s most common response when you ask her about her art. Sometimes it looks like something specific, like a hot air balloon, other times you have to really use your imagination. I think that’s what is so fun about her art and how she expresses herself. She forces you to make your own interpretation. I think this phrase can be used by anyone and everyone looking to create. Don’t worry too much about what it is, the act of creating is beautiful in itself.

AGOinsider (for Bergmann): Can you describe your time working with Rachel, and tell us what you found unique and powerful about her story?

Bergmann: I met Rachel a few times through Marsha and always loved speaking with her. She is shy but was always very friendly towards me. It wasn’t until I discovered her artwork (Marsha created an Instagram account for her) that I really got to know her. I realized her art was her way of communicating. There are two main things that I find unique and powerful about her story. One is that her art is incredible. It makes you think and says a lot about what Rachel was likely thinking at the time. She is an artist and needs a platform to continue to share. And we need other people like Rachel to be able to share. The second thing is what she has taught me about communication in general. As a director, there is so much expectation and pressure to be a good communicator. But communication doesn’t just mean being well-spoken. It means being patient, being yourself, reading the room and not assuming that verbal communication is the only way to get a message across.

Ryan and Chris Bergmann

Ryan Bergmann (left) Chris Bergmann (right)

AGOinsider (for Bergmann): Your older brother Chris also lives with an intellectual disability. How did you draw on your relationship with him in the process of directing this film?

Bergmann: It wasn’t so much that I drew on my relationship with my brother. But I think my brother equipped me for this process. Working with Chris, Rachel, or anyone with an intellectual disability requires patience. In the beginning, Rachel and I would speak every week and I would always record in hopes that something she said could be written into the film. Sometimes our calls would be very quiet. Or maybe Rachel didn’t feel like sharing much that day. I think Marsha would feel a bit bad that the conversation wasn’t going anywhere, but I was never disappointed. Even in silence I learned more about Rachel, and our bond strengthened. Growing up and even more so in adulthood I love spending time with my brother because there is no judgement, and no pressure for me to say anything at all. I think with Rachel, sometimes the quiet moments were the best part of the process.

Don’t miss this special screening of It Can Be Anything, hosted by the AGO. The June 11 event goes live at 4 pm and registration is free.

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