What does it mean to be global? How does globalisation affect the art world? What would a global art world be? What story do we tell ourselves when we talk about the international art scene? As a Montrealer asked to write about my community, who can I choose to represent this world? How do I define this community? Where does nationalism stand in this? Does it still have a role to play in the art world?
These are the questions that have accompanied me while writing about Ben Clarkson, Minna Pöllänen and Josée Pedneault’s works for the Alternative Art Guide .
The 3 artists have exhibited at Les Territoires, the emerging artist-run center I run. Ben and Minna participated in the Mappe program, an exhibition and mentoring program that focuses on promoting artist`s careers and Josée is one of the founding members. Josée Pedneault is from Montréal. Ben Clarkson now lives in Montréal but has worked in Winnipeg for a number of years and Minna Pöllänen is a Finnish artist living in London.
So I have been wondering what it means to talk about the local? Who do I choose to promote and why? How do I answer this request to represent my local community on this global blog?
What is our common ground? The public space we share is where we exist together and where the word community takes its ground. Yes, but our public space has changed drastically.
Its physicality has never been mandatory for it to exist. Public spaces are also conceptual and exist as archetypes in our imagination. However a physical space was what I had in mind for a long time when thinking about the public space. Public spaces are now also commonly known as being virtual – a real virtuality (just to play with words!). The Internet is a space where we exist all together with platforms where we socially interact and exist publicly. Without this incredible public space, on which this post now exists and can become part of a global world, I would not have been able to work with 2 of the 3 artists I selected and they would not have become part of my community.
Ben Clarkson, Minna Pöllänen and Josée Pedneault all present very different aesthetics and interpretations. Yet they all question the notion of public space sharing many of the interrogations I’ve posed above.
In Hell yes, one of Ben Clarkson’s latest video on the theme of death, the viewer is confronted with an overload of information. Text, video cut-outs and moving images – ranging from pornography, murder and suicide, landscape to sheep fucking – are superimposed and changing at a very fast pace. The collage-like video bombards the viewer with cut-out and distorted stories all found online. Facing narrations violently broken into pieces, the viewer is abandoned, left with the responsibility and hard task of trying to create a story.
The accumulation, the variety of images and the violence of those images also make us wonder about what else exists on the Internet. How much information are we uploading online? What do we choose to put there? Ben Clarkson’s work can suggest the idea that the virtual world, a sort of avatar of our reality, has become a world of its own; a public space where we construct reality. Open ended, like the world he is telling us about, Ben Clarkson’s video incites us to wonder: what are the myths and archetypes that we carry along in this new global world? What does it mean to choose what we are bringing and showing in this new public space? And what is the power we hold in this promise land?
For her new series untitled The New Gods, Josée Pedneault traveled to Carillo Puerto, a remote community in Mexico where she became the observer of an unusual celebration. On Holy Fridays, whilst everywhere else in Mexico is at a day of mourning, Carillo Puerto’s streets are taken over by an unconventional masquerade. The homemade costumes and characters become a microcosm of specific roles and interaction in contemporary society revealing individual desires to exist as someone/something else. Josée Pedneault’s portraits capture these other identities. As soon as they start existing as images, because they are fixed in time, the one-day game becomes serious. The photographs reveal the important part of theatre that we play in the public space making us wonder if existing in the public sphere isn’t all about acting. More specifically, the clown-like costumes referencing pagan beliefs as well as religious icons challenge the authority of the religious system that regulates values and actions. This public questioning functions as a catharsis for the actors. Pedneault’s work, because the performance is captured as an image and continues to exist beyond the celebration, suggests that the game could keep going. What if we definitely change the roles we play? Will we be able to change the story?
The New Gods is a larger art project that includes photographs as well as sculptures. The project is created in collaboration with Mexican artist Alejandro Garcia Contreras.
Minna Pöllänen Observatory series presents an installation where the spectator is called on to observe part of a landscape. On a wooden platform Pöllänen sets up binoculars that spectators are invited to look into. The artist however has written the rules of the game as she transforms the binoculars so that they orient and subvert the gaze of the passers-by. The artist signifies the importance of the locations through the various looking instruments that propose different modes of visual perception. The actions undertaken by the artist fuel the curiosity of the spectator: why has this precise location been selected? What events have shaped this landscape? By only showing small fractions of the landscape, the work moves the mundane out of its context and turns it into an unfamiliar entity. In her imitation of touristic strategies used to showcase historical and picturesque locations, Pöllänen codifies the gaze of looker with her own mode of interpretation. The a priori vernacular location becomes the locus of tales, where the looker receives the role of narrator. The observatory series presents a new way to read and recount the public space. Through its form and arbitrary collection of ‘sights’ Observatory I engages in a critical dialogue with the traditional landscape viewing platforms, often located in idealized locations.
Marie-Josée Parent is the general director and curator of Les Territoires, an art center dedicated to emerging visual artists in Montréal. She completed a Masters in Art History at the University of Montréal. Marie-Josée has served as an invited critic for the visual art department at Concordia University. She also is a member of galerie de l’UQAM’s artistic direction committee and of the Montréal Arts Council’s visual arts committee. She has given talks in a number of conferences regarding reading works of art, in particular at the University of Sao Camilo in Sao Paulo, Brazil; in Ottawa as an Action Canada fellow; during the Art Matters festival in Montréal and at Memorial University in Newfoundland. She serves as a volunteer for ArtsScene Montréal and is a 2012-2013 Action Canada Fellow.
Les Territoires is a non-for-profit artist-run center dedicated to presenting the work of emerging artists and research practices that expand on theoretical approaches to contemporary art. Les Territoires’ mandate is to support artists in their emerging professional careers and to help develop their public profile in national and international art communities. Les Territoires facilitates artists’ integration into the art market and gives continual support to their art production.