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Isa Tousignant
Montreal
July 05, 2007
You’d think the Biennale de Montréal would rule the city’s artistic landscape this summer, but that isn’t the case. Despite the celebratory nature of biennales (as well as the fact that we all exercised particular patience waiting for this 2007 edition – three years rather than two, due to previous editions having broken the bank), the excitement has definitely petered out. After an explosive beginning, the fun, far-out events curator Wayne Baerwaldt programmed have ended, and in their wake only the somewhat lackluster permanent exhibitions are left. While Galerie UQÀM has been electrified by Venetian envoy David Altmejd, and the Parisian Laundry, located in the relative boondocks of St-Henri, has been turned into an oasis of amazing and novel creative goodness, the Biennale’s more central locations in and around the Bourget building leave something to be desired. Baerwaldt’s vision is appealingly rebellious and populist, and his concerted attempt to integrate a variety of art forms is appreciated, but only a handful of the works stand out (the 2boysTV, for example). Overall, it could have done with a healthy dose of editing.
 
Thus, come July, Montrealers - and anyone who may have traveled to the city for the occasion (Do people really travel for the Biennale de Montréal? Or is it still the equivalent of Montreal Fashion Week?) - are left with time on their hands and a yen for some good art. Enter Artefact.
 
 
Alexandre David, Untitled
 
Artefact Montréal 2007 is the third edition of a public art event that recurs every three years. It migrates throughout the city. In 2001, it peppered the length of the Lachine Canal with sculptures by ten notable Quebec artists. The 2003 edition took over Mount Royal, where ­thirteen artists created works for the trail between the Smith House and the Belvédère. This year, the party is at Parc Jean-Drapeau, on the original site of Expo 67 (which this summer celebrates its 40th anniversary). Twenty international artists, most of whom aren’t in the habit of making public art, have installed outdoor sculptures all over the island that relate, somehow, to the Expo - or, more specifically, to the assigned theme of “pavilion.” The result is a 90-minute free artistic trajectory for all.
 
 
Catherine Bolduc, Le Bout du Monde
 
What strikes one most is the breadth of interpretation of the common theme by the various artists. Of the international artists invited, Taiwan's Wang Chih-Chien undoubtedly goes furthest into the recesses of oddity: his handful of barbed creatures in a tree are intertwined with wires that imply a technological aspect to the work, but there is none to be seen. France's Marion Galut offers beauty via a window, titled La vague et l’océan, created with a simple brushed stainless steel square that looks onto a pool of water right by Buckminster Fuller’s famous geodesic dome. The window emits a soundscape of waves that mix marvelously with the birdsong that animates the park.
 
 
Trevor Gould, Architecture for a Petting Zoo (detail)
 
The weaknesses in this exhibition come from the many artists who are not familiar with large formats. Artists like Diane Borsato, Caroline Hayeur and Trevor Gould, who are used to working in a gallery context where there is no distraction from the work of art, are here faced with a new environment. What had promised in both Borsato and Hayeur’s case to be banners reproducing photographs in monumental size ended up being not that big at all, dwarfed by the natural grandeur of the surroundings. Gould’s piece, Architecture for a Petting Zoo: The Devil’s Playground, transports one with its allegorical aspect and the tactile seductiveness of his watercolours, but his plan to drape tree trunks in paintings to create an enchanted forest would have been more effective had the paintings been big enough to actually reach around the trunks. Still, all the ideas are interesting, and the visit itself elicits a glorious communion with nature.
 
 
Samuel Roy-Bois, Le visible et l’indivisible
 
The artists who succeed in integrating with the site include Samuel Roy-Bois, who created a simple-as-pie sculpture made of a plywood box with four Plexiglas windows that take shape thanks to condensation. It’s as ethereal as it is organic. Catherine Bolduc enchants with her Alice in Wonderland-style door onto an underground universe, inviting intrepid viewers to peek into the peephole. The always-hilarious BGL have created an out-of-use ice-cream shack for the occasion (How many kids’ hearts will they break?). And Alexandre David definitely contributes the work that blends best with its environment: he had intended his pavilion to be used by people and is it ever! When I visited, it was the site for a family picnic and a sunbather’s delight. All the while, the striking plywood structure manages to maintain its sculptural and artistic integrity.
 
 
BGL, La Mouche et le Sucre
 
Artefact’s general intention for the 2007 edition was to revisit the Expo site, but also to explore an era, to bring back memories for some while letting a new generation discover the significance of the international event that literally transformed Montreal. Curators Gilles Daigneault and Nicolas Mavrikakis offer additional delights with various Off-Artefact exhibitions throughout the city, further bringing attention to the artists they are promoting. In the Belgo, you’ll find two fantastic sculptures by David alongside gorgeous photos by Chih-Chien at Galerie Thérése Dion and a series on paper by Trevor Gould at Lilian Rodriguez. There are also works at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Art Mûr, the Galerie d’art d’Outremont and soon too at Joyce Yahouda.
 
 
Isa Tousignant is the Arts and Culture Editor at Hour magazine.
 
 
Exhibitions continue until July 8.
 
Artefact Montréal 2007: http://www.artefact-montreal.com/
Exhibitions continue until September 30.
 

 

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