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b 31
La Chambre Blanche
Bulletin n°31 - 2007
b 31
La Chambre Blanche
Bulletin n°31 - 2007

This 31rst issue of LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE’s Bulletin holds the trace of artists sensitive to their experience throughout various spaces. The development of works produced in 2006-2007 has been enhanced by meetings, discussions and collaborations which gave rise to discussions regarding locations where human lives, as well as the context in which he evolves.

These explorations on spatiality take form in various proposals. At first, the universe of the artist’s studio, its specific temporality and the type of actions taken in this location were explored. A Mexican artist turned his attention to the spaces of daily life and to man’s relation to the residual waste he yields. Sound performances inspired by artworks hailing from the Renting a work of art program (CPOA) of Musée National des Beaux-arts de Québec (MNBAQ) took place within the walls of LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE’ gallery, and then at the MNBAQ.

The great uninhabited outdoors where natural disasters arise were the subject of installations and performances that took a look at the mechanisms society uses to show us these phenomena. In a rather grandiose manner, the exhibition space was remodeled using three-dimensional shapes built in plywood, thus challenging the viewer in his understanding of the space and the object.

To conclude, it was question of urban space and the strategies human use so that its environment responds more effectively possible to his hectic lifestyle.

On the part of LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE’s collective, I wish you good reading.

Camille Bernard-Gravel
1. Manon de Pauw, Michel Forest A Studio of one’s own from August 7 to September 24, 2006
2. Mariana Gullco Jetables from November 10 to December 17, 2006
3. Collection 1 DIY inventors, or Les Patenteux, of Quebec: La Collection sound performance evenings from January 25 to March 1, 2007
4. Julie Andrée T. Study of a phenomenon or the invention of a memory from January 26 to February 25, 2007
5. Alexandre David I’ve felt this before, but… from March 16 to April 27, 2007
6. Eduardo Valderrey Living on the Badlands from May 11 to June 10, 2007
1. Manon de Pauw, Michel Forest. A Studio of one’s own. from August 7 to September 24, 2006

A Studio of one’s own

par Nathalie Côté
Manon de Pauw, Michel Forest from August 7 to September 24, 2006

Whilst in residence during the autumn of 2006, Manon de Pauw and Michel Forest transformed the gallery space into a studio, thereby enabling the public to see both the objects that they used to create their images and the end result. The two artists baptized the studio that they had made fabricated from cardboard and paper, The Little Factory of Time. In it, they produced a series of exploratory video/graphic works that played with the mechanisms of clocks and those of the video image. The residency also offered Manon de Pauw the opportunity to pursue her ludic investigation into video/graphic art in a collaborative setting.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

Together, Manon de Pauw and Michel Forest created a comprehensive setting for the videos in which they appear in a universe of black and white (although filmed in color). The videos evoke both the origins of cinema and early experimental films, as well as the beginning of the television era. The two artists fabricated paper clocks, circles, spirals, dials made from cardboard, and an hourglass; a variety of objects and symbols serving as the pretext for a range of games. The videos, which themselves became markers of time, were presented in a variety of ways: on mini monitors, on television screens, or else projected on the wall.

The artists explain that, The Little Factory of Time considers the “acceleration of the rhythm of our lives”, whilst also acting as a site in which to explore the specific temporality of the moving image. During the residency, the public had the opportunity to invent their own games on a table installed in the ephemeral studio. The situation was both interactive and instructive. Video footage showed the artists in the process of exchanging rectangular pieces of cardboard (hours), seated around the same table (the dial). This method of video making, employing paper cutting, is very close to bricolage and drawing. The range of studio games, with their explicit references, tended towards abstraction, in that they appear to concern formal rather narrative concerns.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

Video art as fine/visual art

Since 2000, Manon De Pauw has been developing video works in the mindset of a fine/visual artist. This approach is heightened by her use of low-tech video production means, often involving bricolage with paper and performances staged by the artist in her studio. In Replis et articulations (2004), we see De Pauw drawing motifs that form images. In the video Au Travail (2003), the artist is stretched out on the floor on a bed consisting of sheets of paper.

The ways in which she produces images and presents her video footage always takes into consideration the range of modalities for disseminating imagery (whether projecting onto the floor, the wall, or on a range of screen structures)

The variety of means that that she employs to present her videos corresponds with, and reflects, her imagery, which serves to distance us from the factual content of the filmed images. Thus, the critical dimension of Manon De Pauw’s videos operates on two levels, in terms of both the shaping and the dissemination of images, shedding light on two fundamental aspects of video art. De Pauw’s video works could be viewed as portraits of the artist in her studio. But there is more to her work than this. In the majority of her works, the artist presents herself both as a symbol and the producer of symbols. She is both a line and a point, the tracer of the line and the tracer of the point, accentuating the significance and relativism of signs. The colors (primarily black and white), symbols, gestures and bodies in her work have a generic character. Given that the artist uses her body as one symbol amongst many, she avoids her work becoming a narcissistic representation of her various states of mind, whilst this aspect is not entirely excluded. The existential exploration in play in her work in fact concerns the question of studio practice, and the relationship between an artist and his/her work. Perhaps one of the strengths of Manon De Pauw’s work is that it considers the means of both producing and presenting video imagery, playing on both depth and surface. The artist is both subject and object. In this sense, one might say that she acts as her own Pygmalion.

Nathalie Côté
2. Mariana Gullco. Jetables. from November 10 to December 17, 2006


par Valérie L'Italien
Mariana Gullco from November 10 to December 17, 2006

Mariana Gullco’s site-specific work, entitled Jetables, featured sculptural, pictorial, functional as well as decorative elements. In the work, Gullco combined a wide range of objects that, as a whole, suggested both vastness and lightness. The artist travelled from Mexico to LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE in order to participate in an artistic exchange inspired, amongst other things, by her experience of integrating into a new milieu and her observation of the domestic and cultural habits of the Quebecois. These observations gave rise to her art works, which she created using everyday materials, such as waxed cardboard containers and coffee filters.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

At the far end of the exhibition space, unused white coffee cups were spread out on the floor, in an arrangement that climbed the wall, extending up to the ceiling. The small domes, stuck one to the other, formed a series of seemingly endless piles, creating the feeling of perpetual movement. The form engendered by this assemblage evoked numerous organic shapes: molecules clumped together; moss sprawling in the undergrowth; an avalanche of snowballs; a cloudy sky; glaciers adrift; or pristine summits… The impressive quantity of paper cups conjured up the idea of surplus and disposability.

On another of the walls of the exhibition space, used coffee filters, made of unbleached paper, marked with stains of a slightly darker colored brown, were stitched together in small groups. A very discrete fine line in turquoise, embroidered in thread on each filter, separated the two tones of brown. The finesse of this microscopic trace, added like a signature to each filter, spoke of the high degree of attention to detail that Mariana Gullco brought to the poeticization of the objects in her work. The contrast between the elegance and delicacy of her approach and the raw nature of the waste materials with which she worked instantly gave rise to a feeling of paradox.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

The low-relief sculpture of Gullco’s essentially monochrome and organic-like compositions brought to mind the image of a mass a mushrooms clustered on the bark of a tree trunk. In choosing to work with simple artifacts, which bore the trace of their use through her addition of a magnificent swarm of colored fibers, the artist simulated nature as much through her signaling of the plant origins of the material as by her echo of a widespread and daily ritual, the preparing of coffee.

Photographic enlargements of a number of the filters used by the artist were presented on the wall adjacent to the sculpture. These detailed and large-format views recreated the map of imaginary landscapes, tracing the winding movement of a stream through the sands of a desert, or the path of a fissure in an erg.

So it was that the groupings of coffee cups mushrooming like moss in the forest, along with the mass of used filters, whose function was altered and form embellished, gave rise to the physical sensation of being invaded. The mass of disposable objects collected by the artist in the space of only a few days was suffocating as, faced with their abundance, their lightness of form gave way to a weighty feeling. A choking feeling invaded the viewer, echoing the earth’s own breathlessness. The accumulation and piling up of these simple artifacts, derivatives of petroleum, almost inevitably redirected our attention to thoughts of expansion and invasion. Thus, the astonishingly fine blue line, moving amongst the mass of homogenous objects arranged on almost all of the gallery surfaces became a brilliant thread of hope, the sign of an opening, of a clearing. This blue line traced the limits, symbolized the passage of the daily life of the other, the consumer, the coffee drinker. It stood as a sign of humanity, a luminous feature amidst monotony, the expression of subjectivity within the repetition of the series.

Through her use of needlework, Mariana Gullco combined the methods of the artist and artisan, emphasizing the value and potential of mixity on all levels. By uniting different approaches, and integrating industrial materials into aesthetic wholes, she heightened, transformed and returned a sense of pleasure to the standard decorative motifs used in commercial products. Thus, at the entrance to LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE’s exhibition space, the artist had fixed four white plastic support structures. On each, she placed a roll of paper towel, bearing floral and maritime motifs embroidered by the artist, revealing another highly refined and elaborate aspect of her practice. The same blue thread used on the coffee filters appeared in the stitching of minute spiral and flower-like forms, superimposed on the decorative print produced by the paper’s manufacturer, adding subtle bursts of color.

It is not unusual to find textile materials in the studio of an artist. However, the specificity of Mariana Gullco’s work likes in the astonishing way in which she recuperates forms of paper disposed of so readily everyday, rendering them unique through her addition of decoration. Through this metamorphosis, they become rare. She creates a permanent tension, a game of ongoing slippage, between the common and the precious, the ordinary and the fantastic, the essential and the futile.

Like many artisans, Gullco’s approach to using materials seems to emphasize know-how, related to means of fabrication. Her work evokes popular art forms in Mexico and shows the influence of a long tradition of indigenous craft, which has nowadays been appropriated by the tourist market and industry. For her previous exhibition, the artist worked with used sachets of medicinal herbs and tea leaves, collecting them in their thousands with the help of friends and family. She used them to create new functional objects, including an immense cover, once again employing craft-based techniques such as sewing. In another work inspired by the Taoist concept of yin and yang, the artist turned to crochet.

Mariana Gullco’s ‘jetables’ (disposables) re-actualize techniques that are rooted in centuries of customs of the peoples of tropical America. She transforms waste materials into souvenirs and relics, whether by presenting the objects in their original form, which enables the public to immediately recognize them, or by embellishing them. Faced with these common objects that form an almost living universe, the artist invites us to see, to grasp things differently, drawing our attention to notions such as the minute and the infinite. The approach involved in looking at the works constructed by Gullco is not strictly intellectual, rather it is physical and conscious in a relationship that reminds us of the incredible force of attraction and interdependence that exists between the individual and matter.

This Mexican artist often involves those around her in the devising of her exhibitions, inviting them to participate in the creative process, notably by collecting everyday items, and then giving them a second breath of life. Her very real interest in humanity is there for all to see. The waste materials that she uses bear in them a sense of the universal; they test the sense of humanity in each of us. Whilst her works may not always arouse debate, they prompt the viewer to reconsider the notions of responsibility and freedom, and to reexamine their relationship with the material world and daily life. Gullco’s art opens a space in which to reflect on infinity, on man’s presence in space, on what Alain Cotta referred to as “our intentionality with regard to the world.” By restoring the poetic force of objects, her work inevitably confronts us with the problem of the erosion of the beauty of the world.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

What is remarkable in the work of Mariana Gullco is its dazzling sense of integrity and immanent human sensitivity. In choosing to work with everyday materials, and reappropriating the ceremonial nature of needlework, Gullco has created her own language, a “language with which to speak directly to the viewer,” as the artist describes it. Her concerns drive her creative practice, and a sense of urgency that is inseparable from the importance of “doing”. An encounter with Mariana Gullco is perhaps a moment in which to recall one’s own passage in the universe, which is marked by the traces that one leaves, traces that proliferate. Art works, along with the world and conscience itself, are always a matter of remaking.

Valérie L'Italien
3. Collection 1. DIY inventors, or Les Patenteux, of Quebec: La Collection sound performance evenings. from January 25 to March 1, 2007

DIY inventors, or Les Patenteux, of Quebec: La Collection sound performance evenings

par Érick d'Orion
Collection 1 from January 25 to March 1, 2007

“A patenteux is someone who does things that others have never done and who has imagination within.” 1 – Mathilde Laliberté

It is no accident that for a number of years LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE has held audio performance evenings. Such events have a strong link with the art center’s mandate, which focuses on the promotion of site-specific and installative art practices, whether in terms of their dissemination, production or documentation. 2

The La Collection series of events took place from January to March of 2001 and involved the furthering of links in the field of contemporary visual arts practice, by way of the involvement of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, (MNBA), and their Prêt d’œuvres d’art (CPOA) collection. The principle was simple and yet at the same time extremely interesting, to use art works loaned from the collection as the basis for the creation of sound works, presented in front of a live audience. The artists invited by LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE to participate in the events each chose a work from the collection and used it as the inspiration for an audio performance, which also featured the original visual art work.

The link between sound art and the visual arts can be superficial: how many times have you witnessed performances involving audio and video in which there is nothing linking the elements, and the relationship between visual and auditory experience, other than artifice and gadgets ?! That said, LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE’s choice of sound artists resulted in a complete osmosis between creativity and inspiration in works presented across five evenings. The series included one event that took place at the MNBA, in an exhibition space dedicated to the colossal Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg by Jean-Paul Riopelle, an artist who has been omnipresent in Quebecois culture since the sixties.

The sound artists invited to participate in the project had one thing in common : the ability to work with new instruments or better still to create a new array of stringed instruments – instruments of their own that acted as forms of audio sculpture – revealing a further link between the visual and audio arts.

Martin Ouellet, January 25, 2007

Selected work: Lointain indéterminé no 3 and no 4, by Jean Lantier, 1998-1999, acrylic on wood.

For this work, the creator presented a discrete, almost unobtrusive form of instrumentation. The audience found themselves asking just how Ouellet – who was seated with them – had managed to produce his sounds, which all traveled in the same direction, as Lantier’s strange and blurred diptych looked on.

A system of rigid plastic tubes and cylinders made its way to the artist’s chair. We soon understood that the buzzing in our ears was being produced by the orchestrator and stringed instrument maker that is Martin Ouellet, as he sat, concentrating and moving his fingers at the extremities of his “pneumatic” system. An air compressor secreted in the entrails of LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE provided the necessary ammunition to produce the sounds. This was a contemplative work that combined high and low frequencies. The resulting audio effect was perfectly concordant with Lantier’s work.

With striking simplicity, Martin Ouellet performed a short minimalist work, which followed the slow auditory experience with which he began the evening. A pierced beer can attached to a long piece of string turned above his head, gradually making its way over the heads of the audience. The subtle variations in acousmatic sound were captivating, with the auditory experience varying for each listener according to their position in space and the speed and height of the object.

Maxime Rioux,February 8, 2007

Selected work: Assemblée phosphorescente, Proposition no 1, by Pierre Bruneau, 1995-1998, phosphorescent pigment and acrylic on canvas.

Since 1996, Rioux’s audio work has focused on his “Ki robots”, a system that he has invented that enables him to animate acoustic instruments with the help of inaudible base frequencies. The artist used several of these robots in his creation of a soundtrack for Pierre Bruneau’s multi-panel work consisting of several canvases of varying sizes that, to the naked eye, appear blank. The space was bathed in a near-total darkness, as projectors lit up the robots from beneath or above so fragments of phosphorescent images (profiles of Gainsbourg, a portrait of Lenin) were revealed by a person shining a bright lamp on Bruneau’s work.

The movement of the robots – primitive sculptures composed of string, metal wire, steel blades, familiar forms of container, wooden drumsticks, cymbals, etc. – created a strange sound track that was both percussive and tribal, plunging the audience into two layers of observation: the movement of the sculptures and that of the fragmentary characters that appeared on the wall.

Raôul Duguay, February 21, 2007

Selected work: Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg, by Jean-Paul Riopelle, 1993, mixed media.

As a poetic homage to the life and work of the immense figure that is Riopelle, Duguay’s contribution to the series was singular. Accompanied by a multiflutist and a taped soundtrack, this omni-creator (sic) accompanied himself from time to time, playing trumpet, delivering a work that evoked the thirty panels of the fresco by Riopelle, who passed away in 2002. The instrument invented by Duguay – his phonetic poetry – explored Riopelle’s imagery with skill and sincerity in a resolutely beat and jazz work.

Frédéric Lebrasseur, Lyne Goulet and Marco Dubé, February 22, 2007

Selected work: Dragons et dragonnes, by Fabienne Lasserre, 1998, acrylic on paper.

For this performance, the selected work was literally integrated into the creative process. Frédéric Lebrasseur, a percussionist and patenteux, and Lyne Goulet, a multiflutist, asked the video maker and VJ Marco Dubé to create a real-time mix of images of works by Fabienne Lasserre. This videographic work, projected onto the wall, served as the inspiration for the duo’s improvisation, in an approach that evoked the era of silent cinema when live musicians accompanied film screenings. Thus, various vignettes of Dragons et dragonnes functioned as an inspiration on two levels.

Following the purist traditions of contemporary experimental music and improvization, the duo structured a performance that began from “point a” and made its way to “point b” without the slightest stasis. The work involved a great deal of movement, echoing the movement and expressions of the characters in the chosen work. Using voice, cymbals, African percussion, saxophone and flutes, the duo staged an effective and at times fantasy and image-laden recreation of the narrative in Dubé’s video score, and its mix of colorful personalities from Lasserre’s work.

Sabin Hudon and Catherine Béchard, March 1st, 2007

Selected work: Fascination no 6 and no 7 (dissolution), by Patrick Bernatchez, 2002, acrylic and resin on mirror and wood.

The first live performance by this multidisciplinary artist duo featured sculptures that generated sounds, but in a different register from those found in the work of Maxime Rioux, as much in terms of their sonority as their aesthetic.

Hudon and Béchard’s work featured a universe of “micro-sounds” – forms of friction, buzzing, random melodies and slow movements – along with fragile-looking sculptural elements controlled by two computers. The performance was acoustic, as the generative elements remained un-amplified. The sounds produced by the various elements of the work, spread out here and there, travelled subtly thanks to the natural reverberative qualities of the space.

The soundtrack created by the duo was in perfect synergy with the inherently minimal quality of the art work that they had chosen. The performance was both visually and aurally captivating and arresting.

  1. Grosbois, Louise de, Raymonde Lamothe and Lise Nantel. 1978, Les patenteux du Québec. Montréal: Parti pris editions, p. VIII.
  2. As part of its artistic mandate, LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE offered the Quebec public a series of exciting contemporary performances centered on the chosen thematic. These moments of creation demonstrated once agin that visual art is a creative and inspirational vector for the conception and devising of audio art and new music forms, even more so when the makers in question have the heart of a patenteux…
Érick d'Orion
4. Julie Andrée T.. Study of a phenomenon or the invention of a memory. from January 26 to February 25, 2007

Study of a phenomenon or the invention of a memory

par Florence Le Blanc
Julie Andrée T. from January 26 to February 25, 2007

From the 26 January to the 25 February 2007, Julie Andrée T. undertook a site-specific residency at LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE. The artist has produced a considerable body of work, and her installations and performances have brought her international recognition. She has been a member of Black Market International since 2002, and regularly collaborates with other artists, including Dominic Gagnon and Benoît Lachambre. From time to time, she co-directs works by the PONI collective and has also been a member of the experimental theatre group PME, directed by Jacob Wren.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

The relationship between the body and space is a fundamental area of exploration in the work of Julie-Andrée T. Étude d’un phénomène ou l’invention d’un souvenir forms part of a body of work that has been ongoing for some time, centering on the relationship between the human and nature. The project is inspired by current interest in climate change, and particularly the natural disasters that it produces, in a context where the media often serves to distort the perception of the population.

Julie Andrée T. presented an installation at LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE that sought to construct the fragmented memory of a natural disaster. Her interpretation of climate was based on a range of references and media, developing an aesthetic of disaster in which it is difficult to gain access to information.

The installation was divided into four sections that interacted to create a strange habitat. The first section consisted of three pictures made of squares of white ceramic. In the first picture, one of the white squares was replaced by a small screen displaying images of an erupting volcano. In the second picture, two small speakers took the place of white squares, and played recordings of disturbing sounds and stories of disaster. Smoke came from the third picture, by means of a similar device. A glass screen placed in front of each picture prevented us from coming directly into contact with the works. As a whole, the triptych conveyed the impression of a natural disaster by means of three different senses: sight, sound and smell. The ensemble evoked the feeling of segmented memory.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

At the far side of the exhibition space, a concrete block leant on a wall that bore the outline of a forest in red and off-white. Drawn upside down, the heads of the trees seemed to flow like blood from the ceiling. On the wall perpendicular to this, another forest, on its side, seemed to fall to the floor. This flood of red, which seemed a response to the block of concrete, signaled another natural catastrophe, laying bare the tension that exists between man and nature.

The third section of the installation consisted of another piece of concrete leaning against the wall. To the right, rectangular plaster moulds burst up from the floor. They seemed to float above the ground, as though time stood still. This created the feeling of being witness to a meeting that had been interrupted. The fixed feeling of the scene was accentuated by the weightiness of the materials used. A mysterious substance that resembled blood emerged from the left and right side of the concrete, as though an accident had taken place. Given that the trace on the right was more marked, one surmised that the second accident was more recent. These traces of ‘blood’ gave a pictorial feeling to the space, harmonizing with the drawings that the artist had chosen to include.

Before entering the space, there was a sense that the elements were moving, communicating amongst themselves, and the feeling that they had suddenly frozen to preserve the secret of their story. This effect contrasted with the three pictures, which seemed instead to be communicating something that cannot directly be perceived.

The viewer felt obliged to keep a distance from the elements on show, a distance that marked out this residency from other projects by Julie Andrée T on the theme of climate. For her project Prudence Volontaire, presented at Le Lobe in 2004, the artist created parloirs-isoloirs (self-contained spaces) featuring a series of micro-climates designed as situations that would provoke meeting with viewers. The artist worked again with the reality of climate in Weather Report/Potentiels évoqués, presented at SKOL in 2005. On this occasion, she developed structures in which viewers could enter directly into contact with different artificial climates. The spectator’s senses were thus called to react to conditions of heat, fog and wind…

By contrast, at LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE the artist presented the audience with sealed elements, something like a bottle that it is impossible to open. Instead, viewers had to fix the fragments of the work together, enabling them to re-transcribe, in their own way, the memory of the natural disaster that had taken place.

Julie Andrée T. likes to work outdoors with elements taken directly from nature. On occasions, she creates shelters as with La Salle Commune, which featured in the Espace Blanc event held in Rimouski in 2005. So it was that during her residency at LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE, Julie Andrée T. staged a performance, working along the shores of the Saint-Charles river for the day. This site has born the brunt of pollution and symbolizes natural disaster for the artist.

For the performance, Julie Andrée T. collaborated with Francis Arguin in attempting to create links between the two banks of the frozen river. This action underlined the ephemeral nature of the river and the various conflicts to which it has been subjected in a succession of redevelopments.

The performers began on either side of the river, each tied to their respective riverbank by a cord knotted around the waist that limited their movements. A series of actions followed in which the two protagonists interacted, creating a dialogue between the two riverbanks. With the help of shovels, they exchanged snow. Other actions took place independently, such as the use of traffic cones to call out to moose. The repetition of their movements gradually formed a pathway of water linking the sides of the river. A conversation had been established.

The site gradually changed shaped. Road signs marked the pathway, displaying arrows or circles, always pointing in opposite directions, along with cords that created obstacles to direct contact between the riverbanks. A red liquid appeared in the center of the river, evoking blood: a distress signal. The tensions generated by these communication problems between the human and his environment echoed those in the LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE’s exhibition space.

Further to this series of actions, the performers’ bodies also featured in the aesthetic of the work as a whole. In different sections of the performance they adorned themselves with self-adhesive strips. Those worn by Julie Andrée T. were blue, whilst Francis Arguin wore red strips. As with the road signs, these features further added to the marking out of the space.

After a while, the performers changed positions, each completing the semi-circle on the ground that the other had begun, also exchanging self-adhesive strips. Gradually the differences between them gave way, revealing two bodies linked by the same colors. Although they never met each other directly, through their actions they ended up resembling, merging with and understanding one another.

In devising a new set of markings for the river, Julie Andrée T. gave the river a voice. At the end of the conversation, the site had changed meaning by way of the set of references hat unfolded form the use of natural materials and road traffic objects. This redefining of the relationship and connotations that exist between place, bodies and objects prompted spectators to reflect on their own identity and environment.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

This intervention at the Saint-Charles river can be read as a fragment of the installation presented at LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE. In the case of both works, nature calls out to a humanity that understands little of its distress. In devising a poetry of the unfamiliar by means of everyday references, Julie Andrée T. created the paradoxical feeling of taking the viewer closed to a beyond that is as unknown as it is familiar.

Florence Le Blanc
5. Alexandre David. I’ve felt this before, but…. from March 16 to April 27, 2007

I’ve felt this before, but…

par Jacqueline Bouchard
Alexandre David from March 16 to April 27, 2007

Although Alexandre David detests disciplinary categorizations, he considers himself a maker of sculpture. Whilst he works in a number of diverse practices, which he regards as secondary, his preference is for sculptural installation. David’s objects are also spaces; his work deals with our understanding of space and objects, and the complementary relationships that exist between them.

Over a period of five weeks, David transformed LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE’s exhibition space into a joinery workshop; wood is a very enjoyable material to handle, the artist tells us, and is something that can be recuperated. The doors opening out onto the street carried with them a fine dust and the perfumes of the forest.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

The first week of David’s residency involved the hanging of threads in the space, forming a three-dimensional sketch. The artist is a perfectionist, which led him to rework his idea over twenty times during the process. For example, in order to avoid juxtaposing an impeccable cut of wood with the irregular, and potentially disruptive line, of the ceiling he decided to leave a slight space between the two. Initially, the final form of the work was to have been an L-shape, allowing movement around the work. This plan was abandoned. Boxes built at ceiling level were also demolished halfway through, after a week of consideration:

“I took them down. I had the impression that I was simply reproducing a traditional cloistered form, with a roof and an empty center. It was too loaded. It interrupted the tone of the work, turning the space into a single entity, when I wanted to create a number of very different spaces. If I had another six weeks, I’d do it, build and fill the space with them. Just to see. But it’s always a question of choices.”

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

“When I arrived at LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE I saw two systems: one, parallel to the street, consists of two walls with columns in the center; the other is autonomous, and independent of the street. So I wanted to explore these two directionalities in the space: to emphasize the columns and the experience of separation, and the distinction between two halves.”

Alexandre David’s installation demanded an effort on the part of the viewer for it to be properly appreciated. This was not because the work was hermetic in nature – the artist stresses that his work is not intended to be conceptual – rather it is experiential. In order to grasp the intentionality behind the work, one must therefore scale it. Here I attempt to retrace the journey that he proposed, with the help of the artist’s words.

“Being up high on the work gives us a sense of direction, because when we see its surface, we see that there is no access into the space at any point. We can come back down or go higher. If we go higher, something happens: we realize that there is a curve near the base of the work that is barely noticeable. It is not a visual curve, but a curve in the base of the structure that we feel when we are walking on it. Why is the curve there? I wanted to create an architectural environment, not in terms of design, or creating an interior in which my installation would become a type of loft. I was more interested in exploring the relationships between different types of sensation to create something singular, something new.”

“The sensations that I am referring to – such as walking on the ground or climbing a slope – are sensations that are associated with exterior architectures. When we climb a hill there comes a point at which we slow down: the angle of the slope becomes less steep, as it levels out at the top before descending. So we stop, turn around and look at the other side. My curve recreates the exterior sensation that prompts people to turn around and look at the other side of space. This is a good example of how I work. I use ordinary things from everyday life to create events.”

“We also feel that the slope is rounded in two directions, which pushes us to the corners, always in a kind of slowed down motion. I didn’t want the work to be aggressive; I didn’t want people to climb straight up the structure and run into the box forms. Instead, viewers can come and sit on the structure, under the boxes, as in a cave or when sheltering under trees or a roof. A range of architectural sensations are in the mix. It’s as though we are protecting ourselves from the sun, from bad weather, this is how the elements of exterior architecture work in my installation. At the same time, the way that the walls are layered with plywood and forms overlap in space, each one positioned in relation to the previous, evokes the feeling of an interior architecture.”

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

“In addition to these sensations, I play on the familiarity of architectural features such as the height of a step or a bench. For example, the point at which one climbs up on the installation, the step, is much higher than normal. But on the other side, nearer the wall, the step looks more like something found in a park, perhaps a bench. The space marked out by this step (or bench) forms a corridor. The environment is therefore composed of elements that are reminiscent of known architectural features, except that my intention is not to evoke a structure that is already familiar. Rather, this approach allows me to propose something that – given its uniqueness spatially – is not really architecture at all.”

“Ultimately, the particularity of my approach lies in the way that I create objects that, quietly, become spaces in their own right. This transition takes place slowly, and from two directions. Beneath us, the platform does not make contact with the wall, it acts and functions as an object. The structure then continues forward, joining back up with the wall, meeting the wall in a way that transforms the object into a site. This accentuates the feeling of turning a corner, prompting us to turn a corner: the title of my residency refers to this sensation.”

“My work has no symbolic value, it says nothing about the world. We discover nothing in it other than what we experience. On the contrary, such symbolism lies on the other side of the work, it forms the foundations from which we are able to experience space. Once the experience has taken place, it has no further significance for me. It can however be related to the everyday, to our knowledge of architecture, prompting us to reflect on space, and perhaps to acquire a critical perspective, as is the case with all art that reconnects us with life. But there nothing to decode in the work.”

“One could, stretching it, speak of a formal experience, but I don’t really like this term, because it often refers to experiences that are separate from everyday reality. I’d speak of perceptual, sensorial or event-based experience, but certainly not of intellectual experience, even if I am able to intellectualize it after the event.”

“One last thing is important, the installation is not a solely visual experience. It involves a meeting between the visual realm and use value. The work does not involve simply looking, or conversely simply sitting. It involves a meeting of the two. One must no longer be able to separate the two, except in terms of language. The work is not merely a functional object. We have to use the space that we see, and for that we have to draw on our basic knowledge of architecture: for example, our everyday experience, when we are young, of hoisting ourselves onto chairs, or of climbing a ladder. Of course, there are more visual moments, images, in the work. Climbing up at this point creates a frontal, visual experience that is supplanted by the sensation of the curve in the floor. I modified a slope during the making of the structure, precisely so that it was not too visually apparent.”

Personally, I am more intrigued by the formal nature of David’s work. My body no longer senses the subtle variations that the artist has introduced into the work, based on his extremely rigorous handling of materials and calculations. I am more attracted to the logical impossibility, the improbable and nevertheless visible fusion of two uneven surfaces juxtaposed with the ground. I am more attracted to the fact that the slope leads nowhere. At the same time, I am tempted by the corridor in the work, which offers a means of moving around amongst other viewers that seems more convivial.

David specifies that he, “wanted to create a form of symmetry, of equivalence between the two spaces. At the base of the structure there is a hollow in which people can walk, and up top there is a hollow in which people can sit. If you stand up, you hit your head, or else you have to walk hunched over. The spaces are, therefore, static (points at which to observe an empty center) as opposed to spaces for walking around (in which you can observe something as it transforms into an image). The voids are a form of punctuation in the object. At the top and the bottom of the slope there is an inversion of volumes. I like this notion of inversion, of negative volume.”

On entering his installation at la chambre blanche, Alexandre David saw a form of public space, an empty center (a city center perhaps?) surrounded by walls and encircled with boxes. The project is an extension of an approach that he has been developing in his practice as a whole, whereby the object becomes a site. He is increasingly interested in architecture and less and less in the creation of defined objects. His next project/space, planned for Montreal, will consist of a mobile public space on wheels, with plastic cases that can be opened.

David has always been interested in the architecture of public space, without knowing why. Gradually, he began to perceive public spaces as a form of knot, a focal point from which collective decisions are made. Collective, public space is extremely important to the artist; the physical and material agora inflects the ways in which we work together, and construct community. Architecture, he says, plays a part in a holistic vision of the world. It draws together all aspects of life. It’s a question of ethics, of generosity in the world, of going beyond individualism by creating or collaborating on the creation of forms of critical reflection on collective space. This seems to be shrinking, according to the artist, “We are sold collective space on spectacular terms. Here is a new train station, a new airport, a new museum…”

David prefers working in something different, something unique: “My work is ephemeral because I have no desire for my projects to be installed permanently in space.” The artist wishes to work on small-scale projects that reflect on architecture that influence experience and contribute to the sharing of ideas and the senses. Therefore, although he claims that his work is neither political nor symbolic, he is conscious that it is situated in political space.

He concludes that, “art making draws us into the collective sphere because it involves addressing the other. This is even more the case when the work takes place in public space, at a site that interests the public.” In sum, David wishes to prompt us to reflect on this subject, which does not exclude the rural experience, whilst his preference is for urban settings.

Jacqueline Bouchard
6. Eduardo Valderrey. Living on the Badlands. from May 11 to June 10, 2007

Living on the Badlands

par Alfonso Arzapalo
Eduardo Valderrey from May 11 to June 10, 2007

A discreet vapour emanates from the asphalt, although the cars are barely moving, the noise of their running motors and the smoke from their mufflers continues unceasingly. In spite of the fact that the highway counts numerous lanes, the imperceptible movement of the motor vehicles combines itself with the expressions of resignation and impatience of their drivers. Under the robust structure of the highway a lost stare contemplates the impossible task of traversing the thoroughfare, ironically isolated, he glances in front into a useless leftover space produced by the colossal highways’ structure. We are in any city, going to any place, a familiar landscape that forms part of our everyday as urban dwellers and that repeats itself in almost every city, like a silent echo that we frequently ignore.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

Have we ever asked ourselves how did this come to be? How is it that this situation forms part of my everyday?

Have we ever stepped out of the comfort capsules that our cars represent and analyzed this phenomenon from another perspective, a pedestrian point of view? n environment that doesn’t seem conceive by human beings, where there is no sense of ergonomics or proportion, where, inhabiting, the most essential of human activities, seems an impossible challenge.

Even though the city is filled with contradictions and complexities, it continues to be a strong magnet that attracts a great majority of people. The greater part of the world population lives within an urban centre and migratory tendencies indicate that this number will continue to increase due to the strong pull of economic, political and social interest that attracts people to cities. This fact has transformed cities into fast moving and changing spaces that suffer abrupt continuous transformations in their form and shape. Therefore, leading cities to compromise their identities, their principles and their essence while their poles of interest move and disperse their limits.

What we refer to, as urban centres in reality are a series of different “cities” united by transitory leftover spaces that we have learned to accept and domesticate. These spaces are a new challenge to our understanding of the concept of what a city is. They are ever changing spaces with no personal identity that repeat themselves in most large urban centres around the world, like an “island” that repeats itself in the collective memory of our societies. This all constitutes transitory spaces that we mainly utilise to move from one “city” to another in our extremely polarized urban centres.

These transitory spaces that pretend to link our urban centres in reality divide and separate them, creating frontiers within the urban tissue of our cities, splitting neighbourhoods and creating useless leftover spaces. These spaces are mainly the leftovers of a huge automobile infrastructure that leaves on its way huge useless spaces that have no specific use or intention hence no particular identity.

Thanks to its nature, we have associated these spaces with the post-modern notion of “non-space”, an ideological posture that denies a well-known and accepted concept, questioning its essence and revelling its particular complexity.
Our cities contain hundreds of these “non-spaces” which interrelate with one another creating huge conglomerations that occupy great extensions of our urban surface. The conglomeration of these “non-spaces” creates consequently what we can refer to as a “non-city”, the denial of the concept of city. Following this same train of thought we can argue that by producing and inhabiting the “non-city” we become “non-humans” and our thoughts, words and actions are governed by a “non-understanding”.

These conditions manifest themselves in the fact that while we concentrate ourselves in making our cities more comfortable and functional places, paradoxically we are also doing exactly the contrary. We are creating space with no particular use, intention or identity, spaces that divide and disintegrate our cities and dehumanize the life of its dwellers.

It is this inherent complexity, this apparent particularity that nourishes the artistic discourse of Eduardo Valderrey. This spatial phenomenon of our urban centres influences the creative reflections of the artist, nourishing his project Malpais. Malpais is a particular notion with which Valderrey makes reference to the visible geographic hostility of these areas of our cities.1

Contemporary badlands, territories created and provoked ironically by ourselves while pursuing a more comfortable and efficient lifestyle, making these spaces a part of our everyday. Aside from the aesthetic and formal stimulation that these spaces may instigate, the “non-city” proposes new challenges in the way in which we conceive, inhabit and understand the city, questioning its essence.

How many times have we stopped for an instant to admire this discreet herb that has apparently sprouted from the heart of a sidewalk’s concrete? A fragile little plant that has found its way to grow in the middle of a paved street and that grows slowly, smiling, knowing itself a winner of a silent battle. Maybe with time, this tiny plant grows into a big fruitful shady tree, filling us, without knowing why, with a fresh scent of hope.

In this same manner, Eduardo Valderrey’s work, sprouts like this herb in the middle of a paved street, naturally perturbing its surroundings. Creating a new architecture inside an existing one, installing structures that perturb the existing architecture and using them as screens to project video images that describe the contemporary urban badlands accompanied with rhythmic percussive sounds, Vaderrey deconstructs our notions of the articulate city. His work encourages the questioning of our preconceived notions of the city, making us reflect upon the kind of spaces that we inhabit. In this way, Valderrey’s Malpais is filled with stimulations that lead us to ponder about the cities we live in and the form in which we would like to inhabit them, thus blooming a yearning to change them.

The idea and possibility of altering our cities in the name of common well being is not new. To the contrary, it has been an unfulfilled wish that has accompanied us since the last century. This social desire for transformation has remained a utopia and has been treated by sociologist, philosophers, urbanists, architects and artists alike. In his essay Quotidien et Quotidienneté2, Henri Lefebvre reminds us that in order to change life we have to change society, space, architecture and the city. In this way, the discourse to change the city is a well-known one. One will have to insist then on the fact that in order to be able to change the city one has to change its relating concepts. While discussing his notion of concept-city in his book L’invention du quotidien3 (The invention of the everyday), Michel de Certeau reminds us of the intrinsic symbiosis that exists between the city and its concept. The first step in changing the city is redefining its concept, thus redefining our concepts of urbanism and architecture.

The way in which we understand the concept of living is the heart of this conceptual question about the city. Caught up in the inertia of modernism, which we have not fully analysed and questioned, we continue to live under the premise that gives the automobile unmeasured importance, considering it an essential part of the well being associated with living in a city. It is not until we profoundly question this principle and ponder about its benefits and harmful aspects for our cities, that we are going to be able to start rebuilding our concept of the city and break with our polarizing inert tendencies to disarticulate our urban centres pushing us to inhabit hostile spaces willingly in the heart of the urban badlands that we nourish everyday.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

Paradoxically, like Dr. Frankenstein, we have created a creature that has become an uncontrollable monster. The so-called metropolitan area is made up of both cities and non-cities and seems to grow by itself, like it has a life of its own. Trapped and paralyzed by its inert movement we witness how our urban centres, far from re-creating its spaces, offer us hostile environments lacking real intention. It is said that these spaces reflect the absence of personal, social and collective identities and repeat themselves in any place at any given number. Lets keep in mind that this “loss” of identity is reminding us of a profound collective amnesia that prevents us from remembering the basic fact that we create ourselves the spaces and environments that we inhabit and it is ourselves who create that which we refer to as city.

If at certain instances, it seems like we have created an urban frankenstein, it is our duty to nourish it or destroy it. For the most important part of recovering our identity is acknowledging our capability and responsibility to transform the place in which we live in.

  1. Through out the history of exploration, human beings have encountered all kinds of territories. They founded both abundant fertile lands that fitted their needs and promoted their well being, and hostile inhospitable lands that did not served their purposes and where often avoided and respected. It was this second kind of territories that English explorers called badlands, concept that has been translated into Spanish as malpais to describe this kind of hostile environments of practically no use for human beings.
  2. Lefebvre, Henri. 1972 “Everyday and Everydaylife”, Encyclopaedia Universalis, vol. 13, Paris: Claude Grégory editions. p. 152
  3. Certeau, Michel de. 1970, The invention of the everyday. Paris: Gallimard editions. 416 p.
Alfonso Arzapalo