Being Thirty

81 - Printemps / été 2014

For this 30th anniversary issue, we have departed from our usual thematic section to give carte blanche to a number of authors to examine twenty-first-century works or practices that have particularly caught their eye. Rather than merely ranking the best works of the past decade, the essays reveal the plurality of voices and forms of writing on art today—just like the practices that they describe. This issue paints a diverse portrait of art and art criticism as practised in 2014—an adventure in images and words, a brief but exciting voyage into the world of a dozen curators.


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Articles à la pièce

Alain Quemin
Maxime Coulombe
Barbara Clausen
Guillaume Désanges
Thierry Davila
Christine Ross
Marie-Eve Beaupré
Louise Déry
Aseman Sabet

Being Thirty


Contemporary Art Stars: Lessons from the Rankings
Since the appearance of the first “top contemporary artists” list in 1970—the now-famous Kunstkompass—rankings “charts” have proliferated. Many of them, published annually, take account of the visibility of artists, but they also increasingly factor in the importance of the work produced or the influence of various figures in the contemporary art world. Sociological analysis makes it possible to group artists that share certain characteristics in order to better understand the role of factors such as age, sex, and nationality (or country of residence) in the success of artists.

“That too was”: Darkness in the Work of Nicolas Baier
Nicolas Baier’s work is often disturbing. His images defamilairize the world that we inhabit, suddenly leaving us to contemplate the idea of our own contingency: this world is not on a human scale, it was not created for us. Such anti-humanism and contingency are not only destabilizing, but they also provide leverage for imagining a different world.

Staging the Institution and the Politics of the Performative
In recent years a growing number of artists engaged in conceptual and performative practices have used the exhibition as both a stage and a medium to explore their relationship to the archives of their own histories. Two recent projects, by Jimmy Robert at the Power Plant in Toronto and Sophie Bélair Clément in collaboration with the choreographer Marie Claire Forté at Artexte in Montréal, are examples of how the parallel notions of the curatorial and the performative allow an interweaving and counter-reading of various historical threads, from institutional critique and appropriation art to relational aesthetics. Their work is emblematic of a recent shift in the definition and perception of performance art from a body-based genre to a hybrid medium and discursive practice.

PORTFOLIO - David Tomas, Sophie Bélair Clément

Performing the Document: New Political Theatricalities
The writing of facts, in order to reconstruct certain historical blind spots, pervades the field of contemporary art. Thus, many artists have become deviant researchers, erudite falsifiers, who do not hesitate to invent their own documentation when it is missing. Among these manipulators of reality, some (including Walid Raad, Eric Baudelaire, and Dora García) have recently borrowed performative forms to reconstruct their research, giving their object of study a semi-theatrical style. In so doing, they compellingly alter the fundamental issues of performance and documentary art in a post-conceptual lineage.

PORTFOLIO - Christodoulos Panayiotou, Vesna Pavlović, Judy Radul

Giving Away Time: on David Claerbout’s Shadow Piece
Belgian by birth, David Claerbout is one of the most important artists in Europe today. His work questions the status of the moving image and its modes of display. His work attributes a key role to questions of time. With this in mind, he creates temporal objects in stunning formats (Bordeaux Piece, one of his most significant works, runs for almost fourteen hours). Another feature of this work is the shadow, an archaic form if ever there was one, which Claerbout uses to bring about a veritable offering of time.

Historical Time Ecologized
Since the 1990s, contemporary art has developed an aesthetic of temporalization of history that challenges the futurism of modernity. Whereas modernity is mobilized by a promise of progress—a promise to be fulfilled in a future that is constituted through a devaluation of the past and an erasure of the present—contemporary art imagines the future as a temporal category that is instituted from within the present and through some retention of the past. In this essay, Ross describes four current art practices that reconsider the relationship between historical time and ecology.

Letter on the Present

PORTFOLIO - Julie Trudel, Jérôme Bouchard, Sarah Cale, Julia Dault, Pascal Caputo

Visual Arts and Music in Counterpoint
The author considers the fertile phenomenon of the many artistic practices pervaded by music. She describes the effect of this convergence and what results from the experience of transitivity between the visual and musical. In the examples she gives, music is treated as a malleable substance, a sculptural material modelled in a performative context, an anthropological material that can receive the imprint of the visual and contribute to stimulating thought.

Heuristic Categorizations: Contemporary Aboriginal Art in Québec
The question of contemporary Aboriginal art in Quebec is essential but problematic, as it arises from a Western geopolitical and epistemological reality. Through the practices of Sonny Assu, Nadia Myre, Sonia Robertson, and Domingo Cisneros, the author proposes avenues for analysis by examining possible artistic and conceptual commonalities among these Quebec artists (memory, politics, resilience, interdisciplinarity) and observes that Aboriginal methodologies avoid this push for categorization and hold much promise for the future of research on the First Nations.

PORTFOLIO - Christine Major, Marion Wagschal, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye


Affaire classée


New York | Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video by Joseph Henry

New York | Museum of Modern Art, Robert Heinecken Object Matter by Enrico Gomez

New York | Whitney Museum of American Art, Whitney Biennial 2014 by Joseph Henry

Paris | Centre culturel canadien, Get Hold of This Space : la carte de l’art conceptuel au Canada, 1re partie by Nathalie Desmet

London | Acme Project Space, Sophie Jodoin, how permanent is permanent by Dan Munn

Toronto | Mercer Union, push and pull: Bridget Moser, Michael Vickers, Nikki Woolsey by Britt Gallpen

Longueuil | Plein sud, Centre d’exposition en art actuel, Alexis Lavoie, Les yeux crevés by Pierre Rannou

Saint-Hyacinthe | Centre d’exposition Expression, Démarches2 : Exposant deux by Andréanne Roy

Montréal | Centre des arts actuels Skol, Étienne de Massy by Jennifer Alleyn

Bordeaux | CAPC, Sigma by Vanessa Morisset

New York | e-flux, NSK Electronic Consulate by Ariane Daoust

Montréal | Usine C, Manon De Pauw, La matière ordinaire by Christian Saint-Pierre

Montréal | hôtel Le Germain, 2050 Mansfield – Rendez-vous à l’hôtel by Nayla Naoufal

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