March 2, 2011

Parallaxe, Jonathan Plante at Galerie Division by Greg Stone

Galerie Division
1368 Greene Avenue
+1 514 938 3863

When I sit down with artist Jonathan Plante to talk about his new exhibition, we talk about a lot of things. A lot of serious things. We explore the density of European art movements. We discuss technology shifts. The dawn of motion picture. Austerity. Modernity. Perspectives. "But," Mr. Plante cuts in during our conversation, "firstly, this exhibition is a very stupid proposal." And I remember that I took this photo of myself at the gallery, and yeah, I see what he's saying.

The author

"Yeah, I designed those," he tells me. "I made them one by one. At the opening, it was beautiful to see everyone with those big glasses." I wish I had been there to see that. I really do. A swank opening of an art exhibition (in Westmount of all places) and everyone wearing a seven-year-old's robot goggles. Stupid and beautiful. Parallaxe, Mr. Plante's latest exhibit at Galerie Division, was excellent at this kind of juxtaposition; where, stuck to the wall, the serene and the absurd hold hands and watch you react.

Jonathan Plante is a young, Montreal-based artist who has studied mainly here at Concordia, and at De Ateliersin Amsterdam. He's shown at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal. He's soft-spoken but enthusiastic about what he does, and articulate about it as well. Parallaxe was shown during the month of February at Galerie Division.

In this exhibition, Mr. Plante's work primarily explores anaglyphs, you know where an image is doubled, layered over itself and shifted slightly, one red and one blue. And, when seen through a pair of red-and-blue glasses, it creates a three dimensional effect on a two dimensional object. You know it. It's sprinkled throughout your childhood like dandelions. In his series titled Famille De Stijl, Mr. Plante uses this ageing but modern medium to present 19th-century portraits. Portraits that just fell into his hands. But, I'll just let him tell the story:
While I was in Amsterdam, I was taking photos outside one day, and there was a woman who saw me taking photos. I don't know how she deduced that I was not a tourist, but she did. And she said, "Are you a photographer," and I said yeah, and she said, I have something to show you. So I followed her and she showed me some photos that she kept from her roommate that died, and they were huge photographs of 19th century portraits, like family portraits. So I thought it was amazing, and we talked a bit, and she said, if you can do something with these, take them. A total stranger.
So take them he did.

Practically, an anaglyph is a very technical object. The two images have to be identical, the lines perfect, the shift precise, to create the most effective three dimensional experience. As you might expect, a computer does the trick nicely. Mr. Plante, on the other hand, uses watercolour. "I started doing these portraits in red and blue in pastels, and it was working. I love this weird thing between the technology and the medium, and the representation of the technology by a traditional medium, and I switched to watercolour because it was even more absurd because watercolour is the most subjective thing, so the two over-lapping portraits are obviously very different." The effect is surreal. When you look at the portraits with red-blue glasses, you certainly don't get the standard three dimensional effect, but a more subtle, skewed, hesitant three dimensional effect (sometimes wearing the glasses upside-down is more convincing). It's ghostly. Which is perfect because Mr. Plante is trying to show how subjective technology can be. He wants to suggest that precision can often be more misleading than uncertainty. That sometimes, the more information you've got in your pocket, the harder it is to find your keys. "If I wanted the three dimensional effect to work, I would have never done it with watercolour. I would have done it with Photoshop, or with photos. This is the most stupid and absurd way to do 3D. Obviously with watercolour it doesn't work, but just enough to know that it does, and it doesn't."

Composition 2 (Famille De Stijl) Watercolour on paper, 24" x 18" 2010. Image courtesy Galerie Division

In calling this series Famille De Stijl, Mr. Plante is referencing the early 20th-century Dutch art movement De Stijl, where the artist takes a subject and removes all the information you need to understand it, resulting in basic primary colours and immensely simplified composition. Mr. Plante did the same thing with these portraits. He stripped them of colour and form and this, argues Mr. Plante, ultimately creates a more substantial rapport between the portraits and the observers. "An abstraction is always something you relate to in time, and at the end, there is an identity to it, you relate to it. And I find the same thing with these portraits. You don't know the person, but with time you relate to the portrait, you create a relationship with that figure. The figure becomes something personal."

Composition 6 (Famille De Stijl) Watercolour on paper, 24" x 18" 2010. Image courtesy Galerie Division

But Parallaxe is more than just these resurrected portraits. Much more. There's Open Widow, a video Mr. Plante put together that is thick in historical art context. In the video, also done using anaglyphs, Mr. Plante himself approaches Marcel Duchamp's masterpiece The Large Glass and opens the window. Mr. Plante explains to me that this gesture was meant to "air out modernity," to allow a new perspective on a definitive modern sculpture. The anaglyph provides a nice tweak on the piece as well. The title refers to sexual aspect of the piece. I won't get into it too much, but the top half of Duchamp's masterpiece houses a lonely bride, the bottom half her nine bachelors. Duchamp left them separated for all of time, until Mr. Plante decided that the window needed to be opened and the bride reunited with her bachelors. It's a declaration of a video; a bold anthemic gesture.

Still from Open Widow Animation Video Edition of 3, 2010. Image courtesy of Galerie Division

And then there’s the one that grew on me. Titled, A Rose is a Rose is a Rose, this sculpture is literally sitting on the floor of the gallery, like it's growing there. Mr. Plante did this sculpture using anaglyphs too, offsetting the blue and red rose. So, ahem, it's a three dimensional sculpture in 3D. You don't get much more absurd than that. Once I realized that, the piece gained massive points with me. And Mr. Plante's explanation helped too. The red rose is obviously a symbol for love. The blue rose, on the other hand, doesn't exist naturally. You have to use dyes or genetic modification to get a blue rose. In other words, it's technology. Or virtuality. It's "unachievable and achievable at the same time," as he puts it.

A Rose Is A Rose
Is A Rose Pigmented clay 28" x 10" x 8" 2010. Image courtesy Galerie Division

Another excellent piece in Parallaxe is Palindrome, a short (quite possibly, endless) video loop of a simple horse running. The piece has its roots in the fabled 19th-century debate over whether or not a horse's feet leave the ground when it's running. Leland Stanford took it upon himself to prove, using then-current photography techniques, that yes, all hooves are off the ground at one point. The discovery did much more than just answer this question; it may have invented motion-pictures. The video Mr. Plante created, using scotch tape, reflects on this story. He took the basic image of the running horse, and reversed the legs. So the body goes one way while the legs go the opposite. "At first it was very scientific. It had nothing to do with art." If Mr. Plante can't contextualize art historically, no one can. "Stanford was deconstructing the movement of the horse. He was trying to get the true, exact movement. As for me, I'm trying to do the opposite. I'm trying to not deconstruct, but reconstruct it... So basically I'm doing an animation with the image that he did, but instead of being scientific and true, I am trying to bring it to total subjectivity... And it's very subtle, but what it says about technology and progress is that it's a moving image, but it's still." Right, a palindrome. Technology can go forwards or backwards, but in the end, you end up right where you began. It's a demanding but poignant critique of progression as static. That technology is basically an oxymoron.

Parallaxe basically refers to vision and perspective. It means the shift of the position of the observer in relation to the thing being observed, which creates a shifting perspective and a shifting vision. It's downright scientific; early astronomy relied on it and it's integral to technology like microscopes, binoculars and computer screens. But, just like the running horse, Mr. Plante plucks this idea from the tree of science and bakes an art-pie with it. "Vision itself is parallax because we have two eyes, we see in stereo. And we have approximately 6 cm between our eyes, which means that our eyes never see the same thing. We have two different images but the brain makes one image. For me, Parallaxe is the space between, the space between the two images, the blue and the red, and the shift that exists. And of course the shift between what you see and what you understand in reality." Parallaxe is an excellently thoughtful exhibit, full of context and humour. If its intent was to shift perspectives on the technologies we rely on for information, then well done Mr. Plante. If its intent was to make me look stupid in upside-down space goggles, it did that. If it was intended to make me laugh, it did that too.

February 28, 2011

Éric Cardinal: Histoires Improbable, Jocelyn Philibert, Laurent Craste: Abuse, Subvertion at Galerie SAS By Meaghan Thurston

Galerie SAS
372 Ste Catherine ouest #416
+1 514 878 3409
January 27th to March 5th 2011

One Criticism Sandwich: Hold the Art Babble

"A lot of my work is about not being able to do something well... it tries to locate itself in a place where the appreciation of craft is not a part of the appreciation of the piece", Richard Tuttle (a kick-ass minimalist artist, in case you didn’t know) said in a recent interview.

During the writing of this review of the work of Éric Cardinal, whose show Histoires Improbables is currently at Gallerie SAS, I repeated under my breath Mr. Tuttle's refreshingly frank words — to no avail. Apologies from the outset, it's hard to review a show that you didn't like without descending into a ridiculous discourse of just plain negativity about the works, so I'll start with detailing what was interesting about it.

Ink Drawing: Fungus no. 2 (2011) India ink and pencil, 32 x 44 in

Mr. Cardinal's large scale India ink drawings appear as abstract geometric designs from afar. But, when you get up close an orgy of Disney figures, M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E, and Goofy and maybe even Donald Duck is revealed. I was particularly taken aback by Histoires improbables no. 6.

Histoires improbables no. 6 (2011) India ink, - 32 x 44 in

Which uncannily is almost exactly like the dream I have when I'm about to get sick. In case you don't know what I mean by that, I'll explain. I've had this dream repetitively since a child. Two cartoon characters inaudibly talk at me, and then get into a rolling fist fight as the words, "POW!" and "BANG!" appear above their heads. Next morning, "WHAM!" I've got a cold. But, I digress. M. Cardinal's Histoires exposes that awkward anthropomorphic mouse for what he is — a mutant. Not simply a character in animated cartoons and comic strips, but as virulent and contagious as the common cold. Titles, Fungus no. 2 (once I found some tofu in the back of my fridge growing mould that looked something like this) and Effigies make no effort to hide M. Cardinal's grudge against the never-ending and constant increase of images of the Mouse of Capitalism.

How best to describe Mr. Cardinal's sculpture? 'Mutilated religious kitsch' and 'I definitely thought I saw a dildo in one of them' are two phrases that spring to mind. For all the crafting that went into them, and while normally I'd be interested by the idea of a garden-variety statue of the Jesus sprouting cranial dildos,

Ascension (2010) Polyurethane foam, 100 x 170x 140 cm

for example, is just plain ugly. Etres Dites and Comme une sorte de surgissement, did not help me forgive the former desecration. Don't get me wrong; I'm not crying "Heathen!" because he's made an ugly Jesus sculpture. I myself covet the sculpture of the Virgin Mary I inherited from a friend's grandmother and my house is filled with an appalling number of holograms of the Virgin of Guadalupe (she's my patron saint after all). I know the things are unsightly. Religious iconography occupies a powerful place in the human imagination and the mythologies of self-sacrifice, virtue and piety often go hand in hand with unabashed worship of hideously ugly sculptures of saints and the Virgin Mary. Yet, I have a sneaking suspicion that the theological debate over the logistics of the ascension, that is, the belief that certain special people such as Jesus and Mary ascend directly and bodily into Heaven, will not be helped by M. Cardinal's suggestion that the whole idea is really just thinly veiled penis-envy.

Initially, when trying to 'place' M. Cardinal in some loose art narrative, I thought of Richard Tuttle because upon reading M. Cardinal's artists' statement I thought these two artists might have had more in common. M. Cardinal writes:
Until now my work consisted in a variety of simple and spontaneous gestures done on various types of objects. I was folding, gluing, crumpling, and cutting. If I have long been more interested by objects of quick consumption (towels, plastic utensils, etc.), I now use about anything, any objects at hand might end in one of my sculptures. When I work with a chair, a roll of toilet paper or a ping-pong ball, I am not working with ideas. It is respectively this chair, this roll of toilet paper or this ping-pong ball that I am interested in according to what they have to offer in terms of material qualities. Some objects allow us to fold them and some others to tear them. This is how I tackle the objects and materials that I use.
Alas, M. Cardinal's new sculptures are a far-cry from the spontaneous, 'sculptural drawings' of Richard Tuttle - check this out if my vague description of his work did not suffice:

Whereas Richard Tuttle is the master of making art from "feeble" materials such as paper, rope, string, cloth, wire, twigs, cardboard, bubble wrap, nails, styrofoam and plywood, etc., Éric Cardinal's sculptures are hideous, cheap plastic things. The poverty of their material qualities makes his statement sounds like art babble to me and therefore their commentary on (I assume) Quebec and religion and sex is lost on my fickle eye for beauty.

Luckily, my day was saved by Jocelyn Philibert's digital photography, also showing at SAS. Of the series, Night Set,

Untitled - Sans titre (pont sur la rivière Ouelle à Saint-Onésime d'Ixworth), 2009

and Sans titre (saule pleureur) (2006) were particularly striking. By M. Philibert's lens, trees at night possess a special luminosity He creates each image by piecing together hundreds of pictures of the subject. Whether or not the images are truthful reproductions of the subject is beside the point, the final product is an eerie resemblance to the thing where the real looks like an illusion and the 'authentic natural' is called into question. I'd wager that M. Philibert's attitude to making images of nature is in tune with what Ansel Adams said of the photograph: "beauty comes first." Long before the digital reproduction of images, the relationship of the viewer with the natural world was changed by the photographic lens.

Lastly, a note on the work of Laurent Craste, whose ceramics you'll find nestled in the third and final room of Gallery SAS. His delicate urns, vases and teacups, all of which have been attacked with heavy tools such as axes, crowbars and knives, indicate there is certainly a rebellious spirit at work here. That rebellious spirit is versed in the technical knowledge and know-how of his craft, however.
The outmoded ideas disseminated by bucolic scenes, floral bouquets and exotic trash, are presented and staged to highlight their racist or sexist elements and the conservatism of the object's owners. Therefore the critique of the representation also becomes a critique of the medium
so says M. Craste of his work. Two pieces certainly cut me like a knife. Paire de vases Médicis. Série des scènes pittoresques: Hiroshima et Auschwitz (2010), pink vases, one of which is painted with a scene from the gates to the camps at Birkenau, the other with a scene from the aftermath of Hiroshima. I visited Birkenau this past spring. There was and is nothing bucolic about that place. Even the grass and the flowers left on the rail tracks did nothing to suggest that life ever was or ever will be idyllic in that place. What I found strangely moving when I visited Birkenau were the enormous piles of everyday objects on display: shoes, brushes, cups and saucers. Orphaned objects stored behind glass, lonely reminders of their former owners. I felt that M. Craste's vases perhaps not only stand in as artifacts of war, but as reminders of the cultural plunder of it. During the Holocaust, everyday objects such as china, crystal or silver were lost forever. The monetary value of these kinds of objects is never equal to their worth to individuals and families.

In M. Craste's other works on display, including Iconocraste 0 – IV series, the ceramics take on an humanlike guise. M. Craste casts his ceramics after having stabbed or otherwise abused them, hence they mold to the weapon. Iconocrash 1 looks to be yelling back at its abuser. "These savage porcelain sculptures depict heavy tools smashing into vases, urns and teacups, satisfying the need to rebel against Grandma's china" Stephanie Saunders wrote in Toronto Life in her article where she also wrote that M. Craste was one of the "Ten Artists First Time Buyers Should Invest in Now". I cherish my grandmother's china, and given M. Craste's devotion to the craft of ceramics, I can't imagine he'd take one of his hammers to his family heirlooms. Though, if the mood struck, it'd make for a charged performance piece.

Praise is due to Galerie SAS for taking chances on Quebec artists, even if that means subjecting me to utterly ugly sculpture. No apologies necessary SAS, because when a student, when broke, when looking for a legitimate excuse to raise a glass or five with other art wonks, you're my go-to gallery. Hands down, SAS throws the best darn vernissage in town. I didn't make it to the opening for the Cardinal and Philibert show and while it was nice for a change to visit the gallery without the impetus to cram another bottle of ice-cider in my bag, I bet a glass of wine would have tempered my dislike for Cardinal's sculptures.

February 25, 2011

Les Sphères Polaires, Bernard Duguay, Pierre Gagnon, Lucion Média by Zeke


There are 24 (or maybe 25 I haven't been able to get a straight answer from anyone) round objects, hanging out near rue Jeanne Mance until the 27th of February. They're collectively called "Les Sphères Polaires." And I think they are horrible. But just to say they are horrible and dismiss them with a one word review actually makes me look like the jerk and the asshole. So bear with me as I attempt to explain why I think that "Les Sphères Polaires" should be condemned to someplace slightly more "Polaires" like the Gulag Archipelago, and forever be banished from Montreal.

Oooh! A big white ball!

First off: Unless there is a festival of some sort, the area where "Les Sphères Polaires" are located is a business district where the large majority of the people who are near it are near it in between the hours of 9AM and 5PM. During the hours of 9AM and 5PM the sun is out and as a consequence "Les Sphères Polaires" are a bunch of white spheres that do absolutely nothing except take up space. During the daytime they don't do anything, which is a pity. Because the technology exists to do some pretty spectacular light shows during the day, but whomever is the power behind "Les Sphères Polaires" decided that they were only going to "do stuff" at night.

Man, that is some amazing public art!!

At night, by my best guess, during the winter there are perhaps four people who walk from rue Sainte Catherine and rue Jeanne Mance to avenue du President Kennedy and rue Jeanne Mance. All night. Yes, there are the folks who are eating at Brasserie T! who are forced to watch "Les Sphères Polaires" (and thankfully Brasserie T! seems to attract crowds) otherwise the only people who would see "Les Sphères Polaires" would be those four intrepid people who choose to walk from rue Sainte Catherine and rue Jeanne Mance to avenue du President Kennedy and rue Jeanne Mance each night. 'Cause if I can remind you slightly, it is cold in Montreal in the winter, and as a consequence most people stay indoors, drive or take the metro and do not venture outside unless absolutely necessary. Last week it was -30 degrees. Even fewer people ventured outside at night.

Be still my beating heart...

So we have a case of something being touted as quote: art unquote, which should therefore entice people to come see it, but unfortunately being in the position (and place and time) where pretty much nobody goes to see it. Now this would all be fine and dandy if some person had decided that they wanted to show off their mad skills at doing stuff with white spheres on their own dime and time. You know something like Lightning Field, or James Turrell's Roden Crater, or something like that. But the fine folk behind "Les Sphères Polaires" somehow convinced a jury of their peers to let the Quebec and Montreal governments to fund the whole project.

Gotta love that color scheme, someone spent a lot of time figuring that one out.

Now I don't know about you, but if my tax dollars are going to fund art (and I really and truly like the idea that my tax dollars DO go and fund art, after all we are living in Quebec here) I want them to go to art which will be seen by people and is not horrible.

I was discussing "Les Sphères Polaires" with a friend, and she said I shouldn't be so mean, after all they were pretty. I asked her if she thought they were anything more than pretty, and while she initially said yes, when push came to shove, she couldn't come up with another adjective. Now I'm not against pretty things per se, I have no problems with roses, baby seals, sunsets or anything else that can be generically called quote: pretty unquote. But where I do have a problem is if someone tries to convince me that roses, baby seals and sunsets are high art. Quote: pretty unquote, and other adjectives like quote: cute unquote while might be sufficient for other people as far as defining what they like in art, but it doesn't do it for me. Quote: pretty unquote, if you hadn't noticed is a very one-dimensional description, and while we're at it is also fairly personal. Your pretty is not my pretty, and if you're going to push me any further, there ain't no accounting for taste, either, and yours sucks.

Isn't it wonderful how they can get them all the same color at the same time? Technology is so wonderful these days.

But beyond taste and relative ideas of prettiness. The whole project doesn't make sense to anyone! On first glance (which is only what most people give it anyhow) at night the 24 (or 25) spheres appear to change and switch color, occasionally something appears inside that vaguely looks like shadow puppets, all the while there's a vaguely Cirque du Soleil ultra world beat type of music that is playing in the background. What you don't know is that there's a red thing (kind of octagon-shaped, looking like a squished bass drum) with some holes on its side that actually controls everything. How do I know this? Because one night I was one of those four people walking from Sainte Catherine to avenue du President Kennedy and there was this guy who popped up from out of nowhere moving his hands like he was playing some sort of steampunk theremin who spent more than five minutes trying to not only explain to me how "Les Sphères Polaires" worked, but then another five minutes trying to convince me to control them.

That just jumps up at me and screams "wave your hands over me!"

Now, if the fine folk behind "Les Sphères Polaires" realized that they needed someone to explain the nuts and bolts to the four people who go from rue Sainte Catherine to avenue du President Kennedy each night it was only because they must have realized that for the most part people had no idea what the heck was happening, how the heck it was happening or why. And on top of that, they had probably used the word quote: interactivity unquote, multiple times in their grant applications (although, now in going over things, it occurs to me that this might have just been chosen by the folk at Spectra - there are no government logos anywhere). And then suddenly realized that when they went to take pictures for their final report that there were no people in the pictures to demonstrate quote: interactivity unquote.

Shadow Puppets! Wow!

Uh-Oh! That's not good. If you write the word quote: interactivity unquote, in your grant application it is a foregone conclusion that you need to have pictures of people using you art in your final report. If you don't, you're never getting another grant again. From anyone. Ever. So what do you do if what you wanted to happen isn't happening? You hire what here in Quebec is called a quote: animator unquote, or in the rest of the world is called a master-of-ceremonies. It probably would have been better on the grant application, if instead of needing what here in Quebec is called an quote: animator unquote, or in the rest of the world is called a master-of-ceremonies they had just written the words Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. But they didn't, so we're stuck with what here in Quebec is called an quote: animator unquote, or in the rest of the world is called a master-of-ceremonies. Pity. Although on the plus side I've heard rumors to the effect that they hired either homeless people or folk on welfare, so if you can get over the fact that these quote: animator unquote, (after all we are in Quebec) have to work in minus 30 degree weather, it probably can be considered a positive.

A close up of a hole.

But, don't get me wrong, shadow puppets are cool. In fact I've heard it from a very reliable source that shadow puppets are the next black. But one thing I like when watching shadow puppets - actually like is not the right word - the one thing I demand when watching shadow puppets is a plot, a storyline, or in simpler terms something that has a beginning, middle and an end. If you hadn't noticed "Les Speheres Polaires" are spheres - they don't have a beginning or an end - they do have a middle, but that's about all they have. And only having a middle is fine and dandy until you try to impose some sort of linear structure to your art by projecting shadow puppets. No way, no how, ain't gonna work. Or in even plainer terms don't even think about it.

And for those of you who think that I don't know diddly about shadow puppets, allow me to show you what I think are good (if not great to awesome) shadow puppets. William Kentridge just rocks my world and rocks it hard.

Before I forget, another absolutely horrible thing about "Les Sphères Polaires" is the music. Imagine if you will some type of music slapped with the label world beat. Then dumb it down to world beat music for infants. And then dumb it down further by imagining world beat music being played by infants. No way, no how, world beat music played by infants is going to be anything more than a LOL Cats for the second decade of the 21st century. But because everyone who sees "Les Sphères Polaires" only sees it for an extremely brief time the music played alongside only needs to be like the music played in your favorite mall, banal and dumb. Not quite completely in the background so that you don't consciously hear it, but at the same time definitely not a Lady Gaga song.

I dunno if you've ever seen the Teletubbies, but I have. Not that we have to get into a long discussion about why, suffice it to say, I was doing it with someone else's child. But after much pondering, it occurred to me, that "Les Sphere's Polaires" are exactly like the Teletubbies. Simplistic, designed to keep infants quiet, docile and content. And besides you know that it isn't good for an infant to be watching TV.

Getting fancy in this one, shadows and blue. OMIGOD!!

How exactly are "Les Sphères Polaires" simplistic? Well, if you notice most art uses a bunch of different colors. "Les Sphères Polaires" tends to be only one color at a time, as if having a varied palate would kill them.

How exactly are "Les Sphères Polaires" designed to keep you quiet? well, if you notice they make a lot of noise on their own, and it's cold out. I don't know about you but when it's cold, I don't like shouting (actually I don't like shouting at any temperature). And if someone is going to insist on playing loud noise, I'm not going to feel obliged to be heard over their din. Which means I'm going to be quiet - you on the other hand might react differently.

How exactly do "Les Sphères Polaires" keep you docile? Well if you drink the Kool-Aid and believe the hype that "Les Sphères Polaires" are cutting edge art then obviously you're not going to agitate for other cutting edge art. (yes, I recognize that's a tautology, but bear with me for a moment, ok?) But even if you don't think that "Les Sphères Polaires" are cutting edge art, as soon as you accept that they are art, then you stop asking questions. And to me that's the key point, art should always engage you in ways that make you think. After the initial "Oh cool!" squeal there is nothing substantial, no meat, all fluff, empty calories - I can continue listing the metaphors for as long as you like – but how about I save us both the trouble and stop here?

In case you didn't get the point, I'm repeating it. Technology is so wonderful these days.

Continuing along the line of how banal they are; if you happen to be able to stand watching and having to listen to them for any extended amount of time, you will quickly realize that for the most part the colored lights of "Les Sphères Polaires" are synchronized with the lights that are being used to quote: enhance, unquote the brutal and facade of the Musée d'art contemporain. So somehow, someone, somewhere, decided that the pretty lights within the balls were art, and somehow, someone, somewhere else, decided that the pretty lights on the side of the building were not. I just don't get it. And while I'm at it, who in the heck decided to quote: enhance, unquote the Musée d'art contemporain? The building is just plain ugly. To quote the seminal 1980s band Fishbone, "U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi, you're just ugly." There is no amount of quote: enhancing, unquote, that could turn that sow's ear into a purse. But whomever decided that a ginormous blank wall along rue Jeanne Mance (fer chrisakes' she was one of the founders of Montreal!) was a good idea, should be politely asked to try hanging out there while teaching people about the interactive aspect of "Les Speheres Polaires."

Doesn't that scene just make you want to dive right in?

Because of this massive blank wall that stretches from rue Sainte-Catherine to avenue du President Kennedy and the design of the Place des Festivals there is no integration of "Les Sphères Polaires" with the neighborhood whatsoever (ok, maybe a little, there are five of the balls that hang out in front of the Musée d'art contemporain, but they are so separated from the 19 or 20 others that they might as well be two separate installations. And those five that hang out in front of the Musée d'art contemporain ain't interactive, either). If you're going to be placing art in a neighborhood, one of the prime directives is to make it work with its surroundings. If your art is constantly fighting with its surroundings, the art is not going to win. As far as I can tell the only kind of art that is going to work in that neighborhood is the kind that is high up above ground level. If someone were to place some kinda big (not ginormous, nor humongous, but big) statues on top of the Musée d'art contemporain that then glowered down at the people who ventured to set foot on rue Jeanne Mance. Now that would be kind of cool. Big statues of snowmen. And then if you wanted to make them quote: interactive, unquote. You could set up some type of automatic snowball making machine and then make each one have an arm that was like a catapult. That way pedestrians would have to dodge the snowballs as they crossed Place des Festivals – and on top of that it would also make for some pretty entertaining scenes for the diners at Brasserie T! Plus, it would be easy to do during the day, when most people are in Place des Festivals during the winter. Win, win, win all around, except for those poor tourists who (inadvertently) got hit by a snowball.

But before I get too far ahead of myself and completely set up next year's show. I should get back to "Les Sphères Polaires." And ultimately it is a bad use of technology. Technology should help people do things that they previously couldn't. When used as art, it should make people think. "Les Sphères Polaires" does neither.

Last month I was watering the plants at a friend's house that was in the neighborhood of the Place des Festivals and as a consequence was able to see the balls form a variety of perspectives (her condo is on the 17th floor, so I was able to see them from up high, and as my schedule wasn't that rigorous, sometimes I would water the plants in the morning, sometimes at night, and in order to get to and from her place I would have to literally trip over them, so I got to see them up close as well) and there wasn't a single perspective where they made me think or enabled me to do something that I previously couldn't, except perhaps walk in a straight line from Brasserie T! to the metro, but that wasn't related to any technological advancement what so ever.

To my mind public art, even ephemeral public art needs to have a purpose and/or a reason. And beyond enabling Bernard Duguay and Pierre Gagnon of Lucion Média to make some money I can't think of a single purpose and/or a reason for "Les Sphères Polaires."

By this point we're almost at 2,700 words, either you've gotten my point, or you stopped reading a long time ago. So there really isn't any point me bringing up the wasteful use of energy in order to keep things inflated and making noise, nor is there any point in me talking about how they are supposed to represent immense snow globes but fail miserably nor is there any point in me flogging this horse much longer, I presume you get the idea. But if you want to continue the experience you can listen to what I said about "Les Sphères Polaires" right here.

Play Here

Download: MP3 12MB / FLAC 40MB / Ogg Vorbis 6MB or Stream
Originally broadcast on the Monday Morning After on CKUT 90.3 FM, Montreal.

Believe it or not, Nancy Reagan was right – Just say "no" to "Les Sphères Polaires."

February 23, 2011

Corps Étranger, Sarah Garzoni, Galerie Art Mûr Part Two: Revenge of the Taxidermist By Greg Stone

Art Mûr
5826 rue St-Hubert
+1 514 933 0711
January 8th to February 26th

As sure as the tides will change, Sarah Garzoni, artist and taxidermist of the exhibition Corps Étranger, now showing at Galerie Art Mûr, responded to my email an hour after my review of her show was published. So, Part 2: Revenge of the Taxidermist. And since I did all of the talking in Part 1, I'm going to let Ms. Garzoni take the reins on this one: We conducted it in French but I translated it since all of what has been written here has been in English. (However since I am not a professional translator, I have left the French version here for you to read as well – if anyone has a better translation, please let me know.)

Greg Stone: Why did you become interested in taxidermy as an art form?
Comment, pourquoi t'es-tu intéressée à l'art de la taxidermie?

Sarah Garzoni: In general, my work questions the relationships that we have with animals. I think there are a few fields where humans behave paradoxically. I always ask, by what means, throughout history and different cultures, can animals become a god, or even how a simple piece of raw material becomes a functional object, like a leather jacket? By what psychological processes, what criteria, decides whether an animal will become a companion, or will end up on our dinner plates? Since the beginning of time, we have used animal skins, animal fat, flesh, horns, scales and secretions... to produce fragrances (musk, amber)... jewelery, dyes, food... deconstructed, transformed, aestheticized the idea of the living animal out of our minds so that the idea of the animal itself becomes a very abstract concept because of our conventions. Cigarette papers, photographic film, candies made from gelatin... applications and animal derivatives are ubiquitous in our daily lives, and appear well anchored in our habits. Using taxidermy to give these animals their original forms, in effect, industrializing the animal, turns that concept [of the abstract animal] on itself. Taxidermy is an in-between, a transitional equilibrium point where the animal, motionless, has both cultural codes (related to the reification of the animal), and a return to its status of being alive.

For example, in Masquerade (2005), the fur coat becomes the animal itself, since all the elements that allow for identification (head, ears ...) were kept. It's the same for Boudoir (2008): The failure to eliminate certain parts of the animal causes a feeling of discomfort, which emerges from the ambivalence. This principle is based on a Kafkaesque metamorphosis, similar to a hallucination in which objects become incarnate and come to life.

D'une manière générale, mon travail interroge les rapports que l'on entretient avec l'animal. Je pense que rares sont les domaines où le comportement de l'homme parait aussi paradoxal : Je me demande toujours quels sont les mécanismes qui, à travers l'histoire ou les différentes cultures, vont mener l'animal au rang d'un dieu, ou bien d'une simple matière première qui deviendra un objet fonctionnel comme une veste de cuir? Par quel processus psychique, sur quels critères, choisie t-on de faire qu'un animal deviendra un compagnon ou finira dans notre assiette? De tous temps, on a utilisé sa peau, ses graisses, sa chair, ses cornes, ses écailles ses sécrétions... pour produire des parfums (musc, ambre...), des bijoux, des colorants, des aliments… Ainsi, déstructuré, transformé, esthetisé, la trace du vivant est très loin de nos esprits, et l'idée de l'animal devient alors une notion bien abstraite au vue de nos habitudes. Papiers de cigarettes, pellicules photos, bonbons de gélatine... les applications et dérivés d'origines animales inscrits en filigranes dans notre quotidien sont omniprésents, et semblent bien ancrés dans nos moeurs. En redonnant leurs formes originelles à ces animaux grâce à la taxidermie, le processus qui va de l'animal vers l'objet dans l'industrialisation, se retourne ici sur lui-même. Il s'agit d'un entre-deux, d'un point d'équilibre transitoire où l'animal, figé, présente à la fois des codes culturels (liés à sa réification), et un retour à son statut d'être vivant.

Par exemple, dans Mascarade (2005), le manteau de fourrure redevient l'animal lui même, puisque tous les éléments qui permet de l'identifier (tête, oreilles…) ont été conservés. Il en va de même pour Boudoir (2008) : Le fait de ne pas éliminer certaines parties de l'animal, provoque un sentiment de gêne, une inquiétante étrangeté, qui se dégage de ces ambivalences. Ce principe est basé sur une métamorphose Kafkaïenne, de l'ordre de l'hallucination, dans lequel les objets s'incarneraient, reprendraient vie.

GS: In general, how did you obtain the animals used in Corps Étranger?
En general, comment as-tu obtenu les animaux que tu as utilise pour Corps étranger?

SG: For the most part, the animals for Corps Étranger were carefully selected from farms, just as we choose bacon. It was part of the process. It would have been ambiguous for me to use only the leftovers from the food industry. I wanted to go through with my reasoning, remain consistent. My goal is obviously not to offend, or to look like some moralist, but simply to raise questions.

Pour la plupart, les animaux pour Corps Etranger ont été consciencieusement choisis dans des élevages, exactement comme l'on choisirai du bacon, cela faisait partie de la démarche. Il aurait été ambiguë de ma part de n'utiliser que des restes de l'industrie alimentaire. Je voulais aller jusqu'au bout de mon raisonnement, rester cohérente. Mon but n'est évidement pas de choquer, ou de porter un regard moraliste sur certaines pratiques mais simplement de susciter des questionnements.

GS: Have you received any messages or comments from animal rights groups?
As-tu reçu des messages ou commentaires des groupes des droits des animaux?

SG: No, not yet. However, I have had 'skin deep' reactions. Notably during a school tour at one of my shows: a father was very shocked that we exposed this kind of thing to children. Although I find some TV programs or images you see on the internet much more violent, I think his reaction was very interesting: No one is shocked at the sight of a leather armchair, but if it still has the head of the animal, it is scandalous, indecent... On the other hand, since taxidermy is a treated skin and "tanned," and covers a certain volume, mimicking an animal form (although now often made of polyurethane), then what about wearing a leather or fur coat? Couldn't we then be considered a kind of "walking piece of taxidermy?"

But more importantly, what about the numbers killed industrially? Which for the most part is hidden from society. They kill nearly a billion animals annually in France alone.2 Should we also hide McDonald's Restaurants from children out of fear that they might figure out the changes that their hamburger went through to become a hamburger? But again, animal sacrifice seems more legitimate, more "natural." Yet, as Jacques Derrida reminds us: "the consumption of meat has never been a biological necessity. We do not eat meat simply because you need protein - protein can be found elsewhere. It is the consumption of the animal, as in the death penalty elsewhere, that is a sacrificial structure, and therefore there is something "cultural" associated with archaic structures that persist which we must analyze.3

Which is more important, creating functional objects or just creating?

It is precisely this kind of problem that interests me. Just like Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer wrote, for whom 'art reveals, reveals a suffering already existing, it shows what we prefer forcing, in our everyday moral schizophrenia'.1 For him traditional taxidermy is a "trauma," a subversive taxidermy, through its staging confronts the viewer with a reality which has been carefully hidden, it plays the role of revealer.

Non, jamais pour l'instant. En revanche j'ai eu des réactions "très épidermiques". Notamment à l'occasion d'une visite guidée d'une école lors d'une de mes expositions : Un père à été très choqué que l'on fasse visiter ce genre d'expositions à des enfants. Bien que je trouve beaucoup plus violents certains programmes TV, ou images véhiculées par le net, je pense que cette réaction est très intéressante : Si nul n'est choqué à la vue d'un fauteuil de cuir, en revanche, si celui-ci présente encore la tête de l'animal, cela est scandaleux, indécent… D'autre part, en partant du postulat qu'une taxidermie est une peau traitée et "tannée", qui recouvre un certain volume, imitant une forme animale (bien souvent aujourd'hui en mousse polyuréthane), que dire alors du fait de porter un manteau de cuir ou de fourrure : Ne serions nous donc, finalement, pas si loin de sortes de "taxidermies ambulantes"?

Mais surtout, que penser de la cadence industrielle, qui loin de nos yeux, abat près d'un milliard d'animaux par an et ce rien qu'en France?2 Faudrait-il aussi cacher aux enfants tous les Mac Donald's, de peur qu'ils ne devinent tout le chemin qu'il a fallut à leur hamburger pour qu'il ne devienne hamburger… Mais là encore, le sacrifice animal parait plus légitime, plus "naturel". Pourtant, comme nous le rappelle Jacques Derrida : "la consommation de la viande n'a jamais été une nécessité biologique. On ne mange pas de la viande simplement parce qu'on a besoin de protéines — et les protéines peuvent être trouvées ailleurs. Il y a dans la consommation de l'animal, comme dans la peine de mort d'ailleurs, une structure sacrificielle, et donc un phénomène « culturel » lié à des structures archaïques qui persistent et qu'il faut analyser.3

L'art du palais serait il plus important que l'art de créer?

C'est précisément ce genre de problématique qui m'intéresse. Cela rejoint le propos de Jean- Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer pour qui, " l'art dévoile, révèle une souffrance déjà existante, il montre ce que l'on préfère refouler, dans notre schizophrénie morale quotidienne".1 Pour lui, alors que la taxidermie traditionnelle efface le "trauma", la "taxidermie sabotée " (botched texidermy), à travers la mise en scène, confronte le spectateur à la réalité, à ce qui a été jusqu'ici soigneusement caché. Il joue donc le rôle d'un révélateur.

GS: Will you continue to use taxidermy as an artistic medium?
Est-ce que tu vas continuer à utiliser la taxidermie comme un médium artistique?

SG: Not necessarily, I would not want to fall into a routine. Taxidermy has proved to be the form that has best served my purpose, but I think there are many mediums that could allow me to fulfil my artistic process. I think for example as tools, scientific devices are not so far from my thoughts.

Pas nécessairement, je ne voudrai pas tomber dans une sorte de recette. Ici la taxidermie s'est avérée être la forme qui servait au mieux mon propos, mais je pense qu'il y a beaucoup de médiums qui pourraient me permettre de nourrir ma démarche. Je pense par exemple à des outils, des dispositifs scientifiques qui finalement ne sont pas si loin de mes préoccupations.

1 Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer : Animaux dans l'art contemporain : La question éthique Jeu. Revue de théâtre, Mars 2009
2 Florence Burgat, l'Animal dans les pratiques de consommation
3 Jacques Derrida, l'Animal que donc je suis

February 21, 2011

Bunk Bed City, Dean Baldwin at Le Centre Clark by Jessica Surendorff

Le Centre Clark
5455, avenue De Gaspe
+1 514.288.4972
January 20 - February 26, 2011

I feel like a total pain-in-the-ass since I arrived at the gallery fifteen minutes after opening, and admin is still setting up. I ask the admin, Corinne, if it's okay to come in? 'Yes, we're open', she tells me as she hits a button an an old cassette player, and Nat King Cole's Smile begins to play from the speakers. Nice.

Once again I am a 'lone wolf' in the gallery... not a sole in sight, but I can tell straight away that a lot has been going on at Centre Clark. Dean Baldwin's installation Bunk Bed City looks exactly like what it is supposed to represent: the kitchen and dorm rooms of a summer camp. It looks as if someone has been living in the installation, and Corinne tells me it's because Mr. Baldwin invites people to join in social gatherings in the gallery. I take a closer look at the gas cooker and I can see spots of oily residue from last Thursday's dinner. (Which was titled 'Hopeless Romantics Society: A Heart Surgery, A Ceremony, A Meal').

Installation view of Bunk Bed City by Dean Baldwin at Centre Clark. Photo by Dean Baldwin

At the entry to the space is a large circular sign inscribed with the installation's name Bunk Bed City. Behind this big satellite dish-like plaque, hides Mr. Baldwin's creation. How should one tackle this installation, I wonder? I'll be boring, I think, I will go clock-wise.

The first section I encounter is the side of the kitchen, and I peer into a space reminiscent of my childhood. This place reminds me of holiday beach houses I used to go to as a kid - each time a group would stay at the house they would leave items behind. Over time, the collection of 'forgotten and unwanted things' would accumulate to a point where there is almost no space left for anything new. But no one as the heart to throw any of these things out - it's just a summer holiday house after all...

This feeling is exactly what Mr. Baldwin aims to evoke with his art work; this one in particular being reminiscent of a summer camp. The installation, made from recycled materials and found objects, has a yucky but cozy feel at the same time. The lack of windows means very little natural light enters from the front foyer of Centre Clark, and the low halogen lighting adds to this closed in and cozy atmosphere.

Installation view of Bunk Bed City by Dean Baldwin at Centre Clark. Photo by Jessica Surendorff

Visitors to the Bunk Bed City could loose hours snooping around the space; and I feel a kind of voyeuristic enjoyment from taking in all the little bits and pieces in the installation. Hanging plants with withering leaves; a Royal Doulton tea-cup on top of a little wall-nut dispensing machine; a pair of blue striped Adidas shoes under a bed... I then take a closer look at the cassette tape collection that's between the coffee urn and the fridge. Along with the Nat King Cole that is playing there is a mish-mash (especially from 80s and 90s), of Simply Red, Stevie Wonder, Counting Crows, The Eurythmics, etc. To top it off there is a compilation of the Star Wars Trilogy soundtracks.

Along the 'roof' in the kitchen is a string of lights, made from globes inside little teacups, which throws some light onto this rather dim space. Even though this installation is cluttered, the colour palette gives it uniformity. Subdued tones of mustard yellow, lime green, burnt out orange are interspersed with punches of red, like the ancient Cola-Cola drinks fridge.

The textural element of the installation is created with the use of steel and plastic kitchenware, glass jars and bottles, and the various off-cuts of wood Mr. Baldwin has used in the building materials. The textures and colour-theme is continued throughout the rest of the space, into the bunk beds surrounding the kitchen. As I am taking note of the construction, I look up and see two pastries have been nailed to the ceiling.

Installation view of Bunk Bed City by Dean Baldwin at Centre Clark. Photo by Jessica Surendorff

On the kitchen counter, naturally, is an assortment of food; picked out to match the colour-palette. Tomatoes, courgettes, ginger, oranges and pineapples. I wonder how long the food has been here for, but things are looking pretty good. No mold in sight. But - that would be an interesting aspect for the theme of this installation. Many a time I have been to a camp and have been pleased with a discovery; "Wow, somebody forgot their Frisbee and cricket set!", and other times no-so-pleased, "Hmmm, somebody left an apple in the bottom drawer for who-knows how long". Next to the assorted fruits and vegetables; is a bowl of shiitake mushrooms marinating in red wine and herbs. I'm guessing it's been sitting here for two days, so the wine is at least still wine and hasn't become vinegar. (I later find out that rotting food is something that Mr. Baldwin likes to explore in his work, with one of his photography studies being Food I Left In The Fridge Too Long). It's time for me to leave the kitchen and explore the rest of the space.

Food I Left In The Fridge Too Long by Dean Baldwin courtesy Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects

Around the edge of the gallery Mr. Baldwin has set up the actual bunk bed aspect of Bunk Bed City. Something about this section seems static and airless, but perhaps this just in contrast to the kitchen, which has such obvious signs of recent activity. But for all I know, people may have been crashing on these bunks after a few drinks at one of the evening events. (Although, resting on the hard base bunks don't look too comfy..) Never the less, Mr. Baldwin achieves what he set out to do and that is evoke feelings and memories of the dorms at a summer camp. A game of Twister, some puzzles and a set of skis are stacked and crammed together above one of the beds; an old worn leather suitcase sits on top of another. I notice there has been a subtle change in colour, with a move towards more cool tones of green and blue. The base of each bed has been covered with textile; with each having a different print. The beds also have curtains or wooden blinds added for a bit of 'privacy'. The retro lamps and light fittings that Mr. Baldwin has used to give a source of light to each bunk and adds a nice touch to the otherwise dark corners of the space.

Situated between two of the bunks is what looks like a performance area. In front of gold voile curtains (decorated with bows and faux-sequined material) is the performance space. Today, it looks like some strange operating table. Atop of the simmering gold tablecloth is a pile of celery and artichokes, a couple of surgery masks and a silver platter. In the centre of the platter lie scalpels and blades. This 'operating table' is a clear indication of what took place at the event on Thursday evening: Vegetable dissection. Perhaps there is some metaphor between heart-surgery and the dicing and slicing of the artichoke hearts? Mr. Baldwin is know for turning his work into a social spectacle; using the artistic environment as a space for people to not only view his work but participate in his work (e.g. turning the installation into a party). For the remainder of February, Centre Clark hosts bi-weekly events at Bunk Bed City, where Mr. Balwdin invites guests to join in cooking, drinking, games, karaoke, films and of course - the destruction of the installation, set to take place on February 26th 2011.

Installation view of Bunk Bed City by Dean Baldwin at Centre Clark. Photo by Jessica Surendorff

Apart from the voyeuristic aspect of being able to 'snoop' through the installation, and discover the interesting and humorous bits and pieces in the space - one of the great things about Mr. Baldwin's work is its dynamism. The next time I go to the space, the installation will be different. Perhaps nothing too drastic, but things will have moved. I like this idea that the installation is not 'perfect', and only mean to be viewed one certain way. When Mr. Baldwin invites people to the space, their presence means that it is not only the artist that determines the aesthetics of the space... the general public too. The idea of community and interaction between artists and the public is one of the defining points of Centre Clark. Not only is this place a gallery, but also has a work-space with specialized woodworking equipment open to the public. Centre Clark also offers their professional level technical support to the community. Be sure to drop by Centre Clark to check out this installation, or even join in one of the evening events for some cocktails or karaoke. (Art and alcohol: a great combination).

February 18, 2011

"Out Thinking In Circles, In Circles Thinking Out" at Galerie Push by Michael A. Armstrong

Galerie Push
372 Sainte Catherine ouest, #425
+1 514 544-9079

Standing Outside of Circles; Spending Time Thinking In

By: Michael A. Armstrong

Comfortably nestled on the fourth floor of Montreal's Belgo building located at 372 Rue Sainte Catherine, Galerie Push and its recent exhibition "Out Thinking in Circles, in Circles Thinking Out" has what it takes to draw in any art fan in. But that's the easy part. Curated by Kyle Beal - a Montreal based artist represented by Galerie Push, "Out Thinking in Circles, in Circles Thinking Out" was as a thoughtful addition to Montreal's Belgo, delivering a thematically cohesive collection that pushed intellectual buttons without staying heady. Unapologetically living up to its founding mandate, Galerie Push delivered an attractive dose of art, transforming an otherwise sterile 20x20ft room into a conceptual playground, proving what a wealth of talent, a sharp mind and a keen eye are capable of.

Lucy Pullen – "Hole"

The Belgo is a pretty unassuming building, with a main entrance on Ste. Catherine street that is sandwiched between its in-house coffee stop Café Crème and Souvenirs Jannat. What lies beyond the doors of the Belgo has emerged as something of a hub for Montreal's contemporary artists' scene. Galeries D'Art Contemporain du Belgo hosts a diverse mixture of more than 30 state subsidized artist run centres and privately operated galleries, with Galerie Push standing as a flagship for the next generation of emerging Canadian artists to showcase their work here in Montreal.

An effort of entrepreneurship, operating an art gallery must at the end of the day pay the bills. Founding director of Galerie Push, Megan Bradley however, compromises none of her credibility simply for the sake of selling art. A challenge she's admitted to being an unfortunate factor fellow members of her profession routinely face. "It's tricky," she's noted in past interviews, "you have to be very selective and you have to pick things you really think exemplify what your gallery is all about, but you have to also think about how it's going to be perceived in the marketplace." Yet, despite the very real pressures operators of gallery space face to showcase what might be – politely - deemed as "sellable art," Ms. Bradley remains keenly aware of the importance her role at Push, dismissing, quaintly I might add, the politics of profitability, mere moments after bringing it up herself in our conversation.

While art does have to sell, she never loses sight that art still needs to be "art." There is a comforting absence of elitism that a statement like that might otherwise initially elicit; in fact, far from it. Rather than seeing her position in the art circuit with any sense of power - that say a struggling student of the arts might otherwise perceive in such a role, Ms. Bradley views her position instead with a sense of purpose and dedication; attuned to showcasing the work of emerging artists in as many forms they are able to present, and she, able to accommodate. A genre, she admits is pretty broad, but also one that keeps her proactive and immersed. Keeping an eye on the pulse of Montreal's art scene is one thing, keeping the other on what is present and prescient, regardless of where it came is a different challenge altogether. Especially for the owner of a gallery in an arts scene that I, an outsider, bravely ventured to guess was "insular," a description that left her nodding in agreement.

"Obviously I want to be able to support artists who are directly in my community; you're always more inclined to work with those around you; those who you know and care about" she said, then clarifying further, saying that... " ultimately what's important for the gallery to be able to distinguish itself is to have a really strong grouping of emerging, contemporary, mostly Canadian artists. That to me will be stronger than any ties I have here; with Montreal or otherwise. It's just not my mandate." This perspective may come to the chagrin of some proud Quebecois, but I found her rationale compelling. "[Artists] feed off each other artistically... by bringing an artist here from elsewhere... [and having] works that can be displayed side by side. It's the best of both worlds" she states, describing the bounty that occurs when artistic circles overlap and resulting in an exchange where both camps stand to benefit.

Whether she knew it or not, it seemed as though she was describing her role in Montreal, better than if I asked her to do so directly. For Ms. Bradley, art trumps tribe but the diversity of the in-bound artistic talent Montreal hosts, in the end, makes the tribe stronger and their perspectives fresher. Building on the premise that the work shown at Push be representative of the gallery Ms. Bradley seeks to run, she remains focused to deliver on that promise by displaying works by artists that are sometimes quirky, often daring but always new.

This review wasn't initially meant to be a biographical affair, but I'm not sure I'd be able to speak to the kind of gallery Ms. Bradley runs without touching on the virtues she brings to the table. It's part of Push's success. She's a thoughtful and well-spoken member of Montreal's next generation of smart, young professionals, who approaches her role as operator of Galerie Push with a sense of responsibility and purpose. Truth be told, I admire her courage. It takes guts to venture out of the guarded gates of theory and into the jungle of practice, but doing so fresh out of school and on her own terms make her success all the more inspiring.

The collection of multi-disciplinary works by six artists, which were on display in "Out Thinking in Circles, in Circles Thinking Out" stand vibrantly individually but are enjoyed in full effect when seen as a collection. With Kyle Beal presenting his vision in his ode to the circle - the spiral and all things circular - we'd be taking for granted Megan Bradley's role at the helm of Push, who makes possible a project like "Out Thinking in Circles, in Circles Thinking Out" possible, let alone have it come to embody what Galerie Push can be all about.

In a conversation Megan Bradley shared with Kyle Beal - a Calgary based artist who's recently made waves by playing with language and irony in his art, Mr. Beal indicated that he was flirting with the idea of curating his first exhibit. Working together on his recent Galerie Push debut "Surveying the Danger Field," it just so happened - to their pleasant surprise - that Push had just the vacancy to fill. Enticed by Mr. Beal's proposal that called for bringing together "the simplicity of basic forms; to act as a ground for which things can get complicated" he chose works that purposefully "perplex you a bit so [that] you keep look[ing] at it... offer[ing] a kind of resistance." Mr. Beal selected for inspiration in this project the circle, a form "so common as to be nearly invisible" - forms that dominate the exhibit but don't oppress it.

Mr. Beal's exhibition begins, or at least it should, with a quick viewing of his exhibition text. Drawing you in on a cognitive level, spiral text spins outwardly from the center, featuring the fundamental place of circles in human instinct, rhetoric, and symbolism. It's a text that's counter-intuitively easier to read than one might find at first glance. From Jan Somson of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics speaking to humanity's bewildering tendency to wander in circles when lost, to quoting a lyric by the American 60's rock band staple The Byrds, Mr. Beal draws on the traditional meaning of the circle both metaphorically and literally. It's basic place in nature, the cosmos and our daily lives. Imploring us to join him in his journey to rediscover the place of the circle, Mr. Beal uses his own suggestions as a base but provides the space for us to draw our own connections and conclusions.

Galerie Push – Kris Lindskoog "13 Untitled works"

Kris Lindskoog's set of 13 "Untitled" paintings dominates the southern wall of the exhibit, carefully arranged in an irregular 6x3 configuration, it draws your eyes to the set as a whole at first, then forcing you to scale your focus on each piece individually. In a visual grouping he explicitly directed Ms. Bradley to assemble, over the phone no less, your vision is immediately anchored to the empty center of the grid, rotating out, and taking in each of the thirteen works; one by one. Using watered down acrylic paint and the occasional of iridescent spray, Mr. Lindskoog entices the viewer to come find your own circles. For this he provides plenty to work with. The works span from spheres of color to what look like eclipses, almost Venn diagrams of watercolor inspired simplicity. These pieces are partnered with what Ms. Bradley described as "semi-photographic" pieces, where hues of color blend and at once convey the descent of night or the glorious arrival of sunrise.

Galerie Push – Kris Lindskoog "Untitled"

By fusing the complimentary and opposing colors, Mr. Lindskoog pulls your perspective to controlled constellations of iridescent flecks of paint or to shades that dominate and bleed from the edges of the painting, to the middle - always drawing your eyes to the work's epicenter, wherever it may lie. The sum of his "Untitled" works are drawn and painted on a single piece of paper, Mr. Lindskoog's framed illustrations present a perfect place to begin our exploration of the sphere. Progressing to Push's western wall we encounter three photographic prints by David Prince, an American artist, whose subject is what appears to be a nest, situated in the urban environment of what looks like San Diego or Los Angeles, California. What I initially assumed to be a nest, made out of brown sticks, I later came to find - only after my conversation with Megan Bradley - that it actually isn't made up of sticks at all.

David Prince – 53 Street Cleaning bristles"

Mr. Prince assembles the 53 piece "nest" according to precise instructions that come with every set- consisting of broken bristles from a public street sweeping vehicle, adding a completely new twist to my original impression. The safety and sense of normalcy we might associate symbolically with a nest – of the most natural of homes and source of protection from the world outside it - is at once, totally turned upside-down. The "sticks" become instantly recognizable metal blades, with broad sections of the exposed metal rusting into shades of warm sienna and mahogany browns. What appeared at first to be a series of natural subjects in atypical, urban environments instead turn foreign, cold and themselves unnatural.

Galerie Push - David Prince"53 Street Cleaning Bristles"

The "nest," officially titled "53 Street Sweeper Bristles" was also modestly featured at the sill of Push's window overlooking the highly urbanized view of Montreal's downtown. These are but one set of Mr. Prince's work on display at Push, his other being a 43"x42" pencil drawing titled "One Hundred," taking its place to the right of Ms. Bradley's sequestered desk space. It's a simple work made up of what seems to be the work of an unshakable virtue of patience, as well as one hundred pencil drawn rings. Viewed in perspective, it instantly triggers the image of a severed tree trunk, revealing its rings, each representing one year in its life. I dare you to find imperfections and eraser marks; I know I tried!

David Prince - "One Hundred Rings," courtesy David Price

Between Mr. Prince's photographic prints and Shawna McLeod's homage to the disco-ball, we're presented with a TV screen playing a twelve-minute loop of video titled "Tricks in a Cesna." It's an easily dismissible film at first glance with aerial footage from an aircraft mid-air, but attention paid to details pays dividends; not withstanding its breathtaking views of lush islands, full of green, on British Columbia's western coast. Midway though the video Ms. Pullen instructs the pilot to cut the engine above Vancouver Island at 50,000 feet. What results is a dizzying suspension of weight presented by zero gravity, before the plane naturally begins to turn, ever slowly, into increasingly larger arcs in its downwardly spiraling descent, demonstrating how it stays true to Mr. Beal's original theme. Another of Ms. Pullen's work is featured prominently in Galerie Push and is hanging in the center of the room. Titled "Hole," Ms. Pullen fashioned the piece out of a single strip of wooden ash, manipulating with steam, the result is what appears to be part-möbius strip, part-figure eight, instilling in the viewer the circular signs of the infinity.

What came to be my favorite work in Mr. Beal's exhibition is the impressive pair of Shawna McLeod's "Disco Confetti" pieces. Featuring two separate works, both painted in acrylic on wooden panels, one on exposed wood and the other on a softened teal base, Ms. McLeod's "Disco Confetti" is a colorful, controlled explosion of paint. Seeming to be revolving and itself in motion, brilliant multi-colored panels of confetti seem to just lift off the orb, imbuing the painting instantly with a sense of dynamism and movement. The one artist in the collection with whom Megan Bradley has worked with in the past, Ms. McLeod's delicate and striking strokes of color won't fail to impress.

Galerie Push – Shawna McLeod "Disco Confetti 1"

Galerie Push – Shawna McLeod "Disco Confetti 2"

To the right of Ms. McLeod's work is the subtle addition of Robert Hengeveld, whose artwork I had totally taken for granted. Consisting of what looks to be a generic coffee cup taken to-go, it looked like the one of Galerie Push's guests didn't quite find the trash can and left it there. A second glance reveals the small box that the cup is resting on is actually plugged into a nearby outlet, the sleeve on the cup quietly running laps around the circumference of the cup -and most unsuspecting visitors. Mr. Hengeveld's work takes items that are both identifiable and overlooked, leading us to believe we know what they are. Only then does he turn that notion on its head, and I gotta say, I totally fell for it. I'm not sure that feel so bad about it now though, at least because that's precisely the point.

Robert Hengeveld – "Paper Cup"

The final work on display in "Circles" is Amélie Guérin's treatment of Galerie Push's east wall. Featuring the framed "Portrait of a Slow Movement" prominently in the center, it is surrounded by a series of black holes, which appear to be eating away at the integrity of Push's –sometimes- painfully white walls. Ms. Guérin, a Quebec City native who currently lives in Montreal, maintains a playful sense of "transforming the mundane" to "reinvent the wheel." Her works are often humorous and according to her, "transform the ordinary into something creative (or) deceptive." "Portrait of a Slow Movement" is no exception to this rule.

Featuring a blurry photo of what looks to be a group of people engaged in Tai-Chi exercises, when you pay closer attention, the viewer should notice an eminently present smiley face. Taking advantage of the already blurry nature of the photo, Ms. Guérin constructs the face with staggered cutout copies of same photo it's affixed to, making the face appear to blend in, even though it doesn't. It's not supposed to. The result is a subtly humorous and at once perplexing piece. When viewed together with Ms. Guérin's treatment of the wall, it transforms the other-worldliness conjured by the photo and the face, to strangely fit and make sense.

Amelie Guerin – "Portrait of a Slow Movement"

Kyle Beal's attention to basic elements conceptually is inescapable, a major factor in why "Out Thinking in Circles, in Circles Thinking Out" works so well as a collection. It is minimalist in concept but uses the opportunity to maximize every piece's redefinition of it. The exhibit would have been compelling to both the average passersby on the street and serves as an overt reminder to previous visitors of what makes Galerie Push such a unique fixture in Montreal's art scene.