Liverpool Biennial [2010]
Liverpool Biennial [2010]

Liverpool Biennial [2010]

Tactful rituals

Quebecor exhibition presented As part of City States, Liverpool Biennial
Galerie Aghafar du Novas Contemporary Urban Center
41-51 Greenland Street, 3rd floor, Liverpool, Angleterre

Opening: Monday – Saturday : 11am – 6pm, Sunday : 11am – 4pm

In the context of City States, the pavilion of international exhibitions of the Liverpool Biennial, Manif d’art – the Québec City Biennial is presenting Tactful Rituals at the gallery Aghafar of the Novas Contemporary Urban Center from September 18 to November 28, 2010. Under the direction of Claude Bélanger and curator Sylvain Campeau, Tactful Rituals brings together nine Québec visual artists who use the body as an object for creation. Their multi-disciplinary proposals encompass an array of practices that testify to an artistic sensibility present in Québec City.

The British presentation of Tacful Rituals is part of a double-edition exchange between the Québec City and Liverpool biennials. The first segment of this year’s collaboration comprised the presentation of the Liverpudlian collective Jump Ship Rat at Manif d’art 5 in May 2010, while in 2008 Manif d’art presented Vue sur Québec as part of the Liverpool Biennial and the Liverpool Biennial presented Milk Float by Jump Ship Rat as part of Manif d’art 4.

Présentation de Tactful rituals

Annie Baillargeon
Martin Dufrasne / Carl Bouchard
Claudie Gagnon
Massimo Guerrera
Adad Hannah
Manon Labrecque
Catherine Sylvain
Julie Andrée T.

When faced with a simultaneously troubling and stimulating work of art, we can’t help but be emotionally struck. Our feelings and bodies are stirred, moved. We’re caught off balance in the here-now, connected with the artwork in a special way. However, something more than mere composure is impacting us in current contemporary art. Increasingly, current art works are operating rooms in which the artist’s body and actions have a meaning that the work both holds and expresses. The work is mobilized within actions, maneuvers and performances that make it be and without which it could not exist.

We have therefore united artists who, for the majority, work on two fronts, “plastic’ art and related actions.

Here, photographs (Bouchard/Dufrasne, Baillargeon), videos (Labrecque, Hannah), body-based sculptures (Sylvain), installations that may or may not be linked to performance (Julie Andrée T., Gagnon) and the traces of maneuver-based contacts (Guerrera) allow echoes of the body and its materiality to resonate. Whether through active prostheses (Labrecque), shaped and activated matter (Sylvain), actions catalysed through what’s left of them (Guerrera) or cloned and organized into icons (Baillargeon), the body, in these ceremonials, is brought to life and put forward, evoked and tried, projected toward other bodies and the signs that represent it.

The exhibition Tactful Rituals shares in the stance of City States, proposing a look at a special aesthetic, different from Montréal’s, which developed in Québec City and has radiated throughout the province. If the artists united here don’t all work in Québec City, they are nonetheless influenced by its slant. Because Québec City has been a forum for the exploration of context-based art that actively seeks viewer reaction, giving rise to more intrusive forms of performance: maneuvers, happenings, situational constructions or, as Guy Debord wrote, concrete constructions of life’s momentary ambiances, and their transformation into a superior positional quality. One cannot help but notice that if practices such as these are run of the mill in contemporary creation, the shared desire of several artists and collectives in Québec City to demonstrate a more intrusive or interactive attitude is motivated by the desire to infiltrate the urban fabric through concrete actions that become works of art.

– Sylvain Campeau, curator

Sylvain Campeau (Montréal, Québec) is an art critic, essayist and exhibition curator. His essay Chantiers de l’image will soon be published by Nota Bene. His reviews have appeared in Parchute, ETC Montréal (now ETC), C Magazine, Vie des arts, CV Photo (now Ciel Variable) and Spirale. His numerous essays have been published in artist monographs, exhibition catalogues and international periodicals (France, Spain). Since 1992, he has been responsible for thirty exhibitions presented in Canada and abroad. Currently, the group exhibition Péripéties is rotating through Montréal’s Maisons de la Culture and he will sign Captatio Oculi at Séquence in 2011.


Orbite d’échanges optionnels, 2006
Série Anamorphoses systémiques
Ink jet print on paper
© Annie Baillargeon

Québec City resident Annie Baillargeon holds a visual arts degree from Université Laval. She is a member of the collective Les Fermières Obsédées, responsible for undisciplined performances and art manoeuvers since 2001. Her solo work, a hybridization of genres and media, incorporates photography, installation, video and performance. Her photographs of human bodies reduced to a tiny scale are digitally multiplied in interlacing compositions that resemble religious icons.

Défense de cracher, 2007
Digital print
Photo : Paul Cimon © Carl Bouchard / Martin Dufrasne

While Carl Bouchard and Martin Dufrasne (Saguenay/Montréal, Québec) maintain individual practices, their relationship has given rise to a shared production that taps into their common concerns. Their work together addresses themes of identity, alterity, duality, power games, collectivity and commitment. By exploring various forms of coupling (brothers, lovers, twins, duelists, Siamese twins, enemies, etc.) and using themselves as models, they explore the dynamics that condition the relationships of two people linked to one another. Allying the axioms of performance (authenticity, risk and presence) to those of the theatre (poetic shifting), their installactions (gestures and actions in installation) are designed as trials to overcome or exploits to accomplish and are illustrated through concepts of rivalry, honour and the need for the other.

Passe-moi le ciel, 1998
Coulor Videogram, 1/1
4 minutes loop, sond
Collection Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (2009.87)
© Claudie Gagnon

Self-taught artist Claudie Gagnon lives and works in Issoudun (Québec). Since 1985, she has been gathering, matching, piling up, trading, accumulating and fooling around with stuff—common objects of daily life chosen for their kitsch value. Her work takes the form of tableau vivants that require a commitment on the part of the spectator, who might be asked to wander through labyrinth-like installations with unexpected stops, or sit down to a meal (many of her presentations take place in the context of “salons mondains’). Food has always been an important part of her creations; it has been thrown, served, eaten, left to rot, made into carpets and wallpaper. Claudie Gagnon’s work has been shown in Québec, Canada, France, Italy, China and Mexico.

La réunion des pratiques, 2007
© Massimo Guerrera

Massimo Guerrera (Montréal, Québec) is the Québec pioneer of what is now called “relational aesthetics,’ an art in which contact with the other becomes more than just a subject for representation; it becomes the artwork’s very matter. Convinced that we are but the sum of those with whom we enter into relation, he often uses food as a metaphor for continual transformation and the incorporation of others.

Dinner Date, 2007-2010
© Adad Hannah

Adad Hannah (Montréal, Québec) holds a BFA from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and an MFA from Concordia University. In his video series Stills, undoubtedly his most important and revealing corpus, he composed videos in which actors were told to stay still. The result is an uneasy and uneven state of suspension in which the protagonists unexpectedly oscillate and vibrate, revealing the deception of the cinematic pseudo trope.

Cri, 2010
© Manon Labrecque

Manon Labrecque (Montréal, Québec) trained in contemporary dance and visual arts. Recognized today as one of the most important video artists in Québec and Canada, her work relies on electronic apparatus to express a recurring concern: the body and the mechanics of movement. Her practice incorporates looped gestures, actions and sounds along with machines and animated objects, exploring the cyclical aspect of our existence, which is linked to the body and its common gestures.

Femme-Chien, 2003
Performance sculpture
© Catherine Sylvain

Québec City native Catherine Sylvain lives in Montréal, where she earned an MFA from Concordia University. She explores notions of identity and the gap between appearing and being in a practice characterized by performance sculpture, urban interventions and installation. She uses sculpture as a tool to contextualize the human body, questioning how we appropriate space in and around us to inscribe our identity. The result is sculpture that espouses the body’s contours and jutting members, spaces for the immediate tactile experience of matter; extensions of the body that invite interaction, habitation and, occasionally, a pure and simple caress.

Falling from the sky, 2010
Photo : Nelim © Julie Andrée T.

With body and space at the heart of her research, Julie Andrée T. (Sagard, Québec) works in installation and performance. Between the poetic and the mundane, her work proposes abstract but recognizable zones in which to invest various fields of cultural and existential interrogation. Her installations represent either traces of her unrestrained passage through space (displaced objects, maculae, wear or disrepair, various assemblages, etc.) or experimental setups that draw the viewer into various contexts of stimulation. In her performances, she puts her body and the audience’s complacency to the test in outrageous actions bordering excess.