Archives, 1997-2001: first exhibitions and interventions in public spaces.
To begin with, my practice was inhabited by gestures related to capturing the real – discovering through touch, scrutinizing closely, gathering impressions, inventorying, listing, classifying. Attentive observation, intensified by drawing exercises and the cataloguing of information (identification, description, measurement, and so on) immersed me in a state of disorientation and loss of reference points. The more closely I examined something, dwelled and concentrated on the details, the more it seemed to evade me, somehow becoming something else. Words quickly became inadequate to describe what I was observing. These moments of disparity between a state of perception and the act of designating, between the dimensions of experience and of language and representation, brought into focus different ways of apprehending the world – through the eyes, the hands, the skin, or thought, for example.
In this sense, my early works are “exercises in capturing”: starting from observations and concrete gestures, they bring out latent, invisible dimensions of an always-situated reality. The projects/artworks are tethered to specific places or events (such as a public library or an anniversary commemoration), involving a particular methodology or procedure (such as a way of gathering, cataloguing, or drawing), and are formulated from existing and defined traces (such as fingerprints, names in a phonebook, or grains of dust).
2000 | 2001
An intervention produced twice, its procedures adapted to each of the contexts. In its first incarnation, it took place over a period of a month in a vacant store in Montreal’s Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood (L’algèbre d’Ariane, Dare-Dare, 2000). Here, I gathered debris from the site and then counted the particles in each sample which I then recorded in a notebook. Gradually, children in the neighbourhood began adding to my collection by bringing me dust from their houses in Ziploc bags. Its second took place over two days in Cabot Square in the west end of downtown Montreal (Gestes d’artistes/Artists’ Gestures, Optica, 2001), where I marked out the terrain with a grid to collect my samples. This time, while collecting particles, I took note of people’s reactions.
Action ; installation
Microcosme was realized during an artist residency at Le Lobe centre in Chicoutimi. I had heard that companies often used this municipality as a testing ground for various targeted marketing strategies or technological devices (ex: automated teller machines, direct payment services, etc.). Apparently, Chicoutimi’s inhabitants formed a representative sample of the so-called “old-stock” Quebeckers. Interested in this phenomenon and the rather impersonal nature of the statistics used to define it, I fashioned my own method of investigation. From the 1999-2000 edition of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean regional phone book, I cut out every Chicoutimi resident listing and re-ordered them by street name and address. I then read the names out, following a route one might take on foot through the city. The reading was played back in the exhibition space, where the list of residents was tacked to the wall in the form of small strips alphabetically ordered according to the street names. I also strolled through parts of the city, list in hand, and stopped in front of each building to read the resident’s name and address aloud. This, too, was recorded, along with a description of the house facade.
Intervention. Stationnement de la place d'Youville, Montréal.
Photo : Jean-André de Groot.
Intervention. Stationnement de la place d'Youville, Montréal.
Photo : Jean-Pierre Gauthier.
Organized at the invitation of the Centre d’histoire de Montréal, the intervention Mémoire X99-Y04.25 reactivated via a series of ground markings the little-known history of the United Province of Canada’s first parliament: place d’Youville, now converted to a parking lot (1999). In 1849, when Montreal was still the capital, the Parliament—then housed in the same building as the St. Ann’s Market—was burned down by disgruntled Tory protesters, in retaliation for a bill that would have provided compensation to the victims of the patriot uprising (1837–1838). For a long time this event was concealed from the public. Nowhere on the site could people learn about the historical context and political motivation behind the arson. Reminiscent of coordinates on a Cartesian plane (X; Y), the title of the intervention was meant to commemorate the event’s 150th anniversary (25/04/1999).
I was interested in this site as a sort of physical memory lapse, looking to reconstruct with scraps of texts and fragments the multiple states and events that had influenced its identity prior to the burning down of the Parliament. With the help of an archaeologist, I was able to identify the clues and vestiges that lay dormant under the asphalt of the parking lot (the William collector sewer, the foundations of the St. Ann’s market, etc.). I then outlined the locations of these structures using blue and orange paint, and transcribed in white various excerpts from historical documents I had consulted throughout my research. For the duration of the intervention, access to the parking lot was closed-off to cars. Afterwards, the ground markings slowly disappeared, worn off by the weather and traffic.
d’empreintes et Lectures
Bibliothèque centrale de la Ville de Montréal. Photo : Jean-André de Groot.
Intervention ; installation ; livre d'artiste
Bibliothèque centrale de la Ville de Montréal et Centre des arts actuels Skol
Pour Collecte d’empreintes, j’ai prélevé sur la couverture des livres de la Bibliothèque centrale de la Ville de Montréal les empreintes des usagers au moyen de la méthode policière (1998). À la suite de cette intervention, j’ai entrepris de cataloguer les empreintes. À l’aide de lentilles grossissantes, j’ai effectué au Centre des arts actuels Skol des lectures des relevés en exécutant des dessins «à l’aveugle», sans regarder ma main travailler (Lectures, 1999) . Quatre albums m’ont servi à archiver les 160 empreintes accompagnées de mes observations sous forme de descriptions et de tracés variés.
Dare-dare, Montréal. Photo : Jean-André de Groot.
Dare-Dare, Montréal, Qué.
Dans l’exposition Reconnaissance, des empreintes de ma peau (acrylique sur acétate) étaient projetées sur une table où reposait un relief mou (pâte de sel contenue dans une enveloppe de latex) que les visiteurs pouvaient toucher. Un lecteur à microfiches permettait de visionner des empreintes de mon corps. Réalisées avec un masque à peler, celles-ci étaient conservées dans des pochettes de plastique identifiées (bouche, coude, genou, joue, mollet, etc.) et classées dans un cartable à la manière d’un index. Dans un travail vidéo, j’avais recouvert la lentille de la caméra d’une pellicule de latex pour performer sur cette surface différentes actions (l’effleurer, y enfoncer un doigt, la piquer d’une aiguille, y frotter mon visage, etc…). Les écrans des moniteurs de l’installation semblaient ainsi devenir des surfaces sensibles, habités par une présence.