Sylvie Cotton

Anne-Marie Dubois
  • Sylvie Cotton, Ma sapience, 2010. Photos: courtesy of the artist
  • Sylvie Cotton, Incursions (phase présentation finale), 2018. Photo: 3e Impérial, centre d'essai en art actuel, Granby
  • Sylvie Cotton, Incursions (phase présentation finale), 2018. Photo: 3e Impérial, centre d'essai en art actuel, Granby
  • Sylvie Cotton, Perruques, 2016. Photos: courtesy of the artist & 3e Impérial, centre d'essai en art actuel, Granby
  • Sylvie Cotton, Perruques, 2016. Photos: courtesy of the artist & 3e Impérial, centre d'essai en art actuel, Granby
  • Sylvie Cotton, Perruques, 2016. Photos: courtesy of the artist & 3e Impérial, centre d'essai en art actuel, Granby
  • Sylvie Cotton, Perruques, 2016. Photos: courtesy of the artist & 3e Impérial, centre d'essai en art actuel, Granby

In her performative interdisciplinary practice, Sylvie Cotton examines the reciprocal connections between art and life through a relational approach anchored in encounter and exchange. Taking a philosophical and pragmatic stance in which action art, installation, drawing, and writing overlap, Cotton seeks to immerse herself in the day-to-day lives of people — who may or may not be familiar with the art world — in order to establish an intimate and privileged rapport with the other. Evidence of these immaterial experiences are drawings, photographs, and artist books, which bring a sense of permanence to Cotton’s projects, allowing the public to experience her encounters, which ultimately exist only in the intersubjective relationship between the artist and the world around her.

True to the protean and empathic nature of this in situ and in spiritu work, as Cotton likes to describe it, the Incursions project is the result of her profound contemplation on the idea of presence toward others. Produced between 2015 and 2017 during a residency at 3e Impérial centre d’essai en art actuel, in Granby, Incursions originated from her encounters with ten people from the Granby region who agreed to share moments from their everyday lives with her. By performing the ordinary — volunteering, talking about art and death, participating in setting up a philosophy café, and other activities — Cotton explores the concept of presence as a bonding agent capable of generating artistic experiences. Sketches of heads without faces made during an art class (Perruques, 2016) and the publication of a book (Avec du l’autre, 2018) document and enrich the project. Firmly rooted in what Cotton calls “intimately engaged art,” these face-to-face encounters demand trust and abandon from both artist and participants, for the emergence of the work relies principally on mutual engagement.

Following Heidegger, for whom the notion of presence results in a form of performativity of the self, Cotton’s art practice hinges on trust, discomfort, empathy (toward oneself and others), and emotional availability to give concrete expression to an art of encounter capable of blurring the line — if one exists — between art and “real” life.

Translated from the French by Louise Ashcroft

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