The Living | esse arts + opinions

The Living

87 - Printemps / été 2016

Due to art historians’ recent interest in the field of animal studies, as well as esse’s desire to contribute to awareness and transformation of humans’ relationship of domination with nature and the realm of the living, we were nevertheless encouraged to take a closer look at this phenomenon. We decided to address the subject through a non-anthropocentric perspective.

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Articles à la pièce

Amanda White
Estelle Zhong
Julia Roberge Van Der Donckt
Carlos Kong
Lilian Froger & Anthony Divad
Nathalie Desmet
Marina Roy


Surrounding the Living
Sylvette Babin


Beyond Zoocentrism: An Interview with Giovanni Aloi
Ariane De Blois

Engaging with Vegetable Others
This essay examines the work of several artists who use or engage with living plants in their practices, proposing them as entry points to examine a recent plant turn in theoretical discourses. The use of plants in public, participatory projects, works that are politically motivated, and those using technology or performance to translate the experience of being plant, by artists such as Joseph Beuys, Diane Borsato, Ron Benner, and Lois Weinberger, are discussed, as are collaborative projects such as Akousmaflore, Botanicalls, and the Plant Sex Consultancy.
Amanda White

From Critical Art to an Art of Reconciliation: Cohabitation with Non-Human Animals
What art conditions may change our relationship with living beings? In light of Jacques Rancière’s thought on the efficacy of socially engaged art, I examine the necessity of an art that is neither pure critique of current relationships with life, nor a metaphor for proposed relationships, but rather an art capable of establishing a genuine rapport with other living creatures. That is what American artist Fritz Haeg succeeds in doing in his Animal Estates project (2008 – ), in which he establishes symbolic, affective and meaningful relationships with non-human animals that now live with us.
Estelle Zhong

Toward an Anti-Speciesist Aesthetic?
Although some artists think nothing of putting sentient beings to death as part of their practice, others prefer to question humans’ dominant relationship with non-human species by adopting what I propose to call an “anti-speciesist aesthetic.” Although taxidermy has historically served as a vehicle for promoting white man’s supremacy, it may, paradoxically, be appropriated to this end. This is precisely what Angela Singer does when she subverts the human gaze by transforming mounted animals—whose history she retraces—into veritable memorials.
Julia Roberge Van Der Donckt

Fukushima’s Animal
Fukushima’s Animal traces a convergence of nuclear criticism and animal studies through images of animals in contemporary art made in response to the natural and technological catastrophes of Fukushima in March, 2011. Focusing specifically on Pierre Huyghe’s film Untitled (Human Mask) (2014) and Yasusuke Ota’s photographic series The Abandoned Animals of Fukushima (2011), this essay advances the figuration of the animal as a remainder after the ontological nullifications of nuclear disaster. Emerging as the documentary scene of Fukushima’s anxious aftermath, the animal maps the suspension of sovereignty in the irresolution of life after catastrophe.
Carlos Kong

Cultivating Connections: Michel Blazy’s Ecosystems in Motion
The entire oeuvre of Michel Blazy is devoted to living systems. Although he uses diverse materials for his sculptures and installations, many of his works incorporate plants, animals, and fungi. The study of these works reveals the artist’s avid interest in the connections between living beings. Insisting on the importance of observing rather than controlling the living world, Blazy has adopted a non-interventionist artistic approach in constant evolution, one that emphasizes the development processes of plants and their environments.
Lilian Froger and Anthony Divad

Humans on Display: A Subject Almost Like the Others
Since the advent of modernity, the autonomy of art has presupposed that the aesthetic field enjoys an exemption that leads to a lack of accountability for the artist, which seems incompatible with the live exhibition. Some artists choose to exhibit human beings by establishing an ambiguous line between the order of the real and the order of the symbolic, sometimes to the detriment of the ethical. In this essay, the practices of Brett Bailey and Santiago Sierra are taken as examples.
Nathalie Desmet

I am in animal
I am in animal is a piece of writing that is played out as an elaborate and ridiculous language game. In a nutshell, the piece is about human-animal distinction. Ultimately I use the palindrome as a figure to allegorize the mirroring of the animal in the human and the human in the animal. I analyze the sentence “I am in animal” as a failed palindrome and how this failure and its syntagmatic and graphemic elements say much about how humans arose from their distancing from the animal; however, their unconscious is a logical extension of the animal.
Marina Roy



Mamco : l’exposition qui aura duré 20 ans…
La dernière exposition d’envergure de Christian Bernard, One More Time : l’exposition de nos expositions, au Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Genève (Mamco) est l’occasion de revenir sur une politique muséale unique dans laquelle les espaces construits entre les objets, les dispositifs et les situations sont plus importants que les objets eux-mêmes. Une exposition est toujours la réunion de fragments d’une exposition passée et, fondamentalement, une exposition par anticipation. Cependant, en jouant aussi loin la carte du fragment et de la sédimentation, on offre les pièces d’un puzzle qui n’est pas toujours facile à assembler.
Nathalie Desmet

Prosopopées : ce qui anime les objets
L’énoncé de départ de l’exposition d’art numérique Prosopopées, présentée à Paris en décembre 2015, fait du détournement d’objets ayant perdu leur usage premier et animés tout à coup par une force «robotico-numérique» qui les tire vers l’inutile et le désœuvrement, le ciment du projet. Teintée d’humour, l’exposition, qui se réclame de l’art contemporain plutôt que de l’art numérique, se divise en deux parties. Ses œuvres les plus intéressantes problématisent ce qu’il advient d’une machine qui emprunterait des caractéristiques humaines, ou qui imposerait un rythme machinique à l’être humain, sans pour autant réussir à surprendre ou à nourrir plus profondément la réflexion.
Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre

« De la musique avant toute chose ». Ragnar Kjartansson au MAC
L’auteure de cet article aborde les œuvres de Ragnar Kjartansson présentées au Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal par l’entremise du concept de la ritournelle, qui les inscrit dans le paradigme romantique tout en le contrariant finement. Les installations vidéos avec performance musicale de l’artiste islandais, dont A lot of Sorrow et The Visitors sont emblématiques, engendrent en effet des formes en devenir qui valorisent les milieux et les contingences de la réception faisant du spectateur un élément pivot d’expériences culminant dans la joie.
Marie-Ève Charron

Schizes en compagnie du Pétrole

Je fioule
Michel F. Côté et Catherine Lavoie-Marcus


Daniel Brière and Alexis Martin, Animaux, Montréal by Julia Roberge Van Der Donckt

Marie-Claire Blais and Pascal Grandmaison, La vie abstraite 1: Le temps transformé / La vie abstraite 2: Espace du silence, Montréal by Justina Spencer

Tricia Middleton, Justine, Montréal by Jean-Ernest Joos

Kara Hamilton, Wane Awareless & Lifted, Toronto by Alex Bowron

Marie-Claude Bouthillier, Vœux, Montréal by Thérèse St-Gelais

Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens, La vie mise au travail, Montréal by Benoit Jodoin

Yam Lau, Nüshu: Echo Chambers, Brandon by Dagmara Genda

Dana Michel, Lift That Up, Toronto by Fabien Maltais-Bayda

Rose English, A Premonition of the Act / Florian Roithmayr, with, and, or, without, London by Emily Rosamond

Jessica Auer, January, Montréal by Sylvain Campeau

Olafur Eliasson, Nothingness is not nothing at all, Shanghai by Todd Meyers

Nicole Gingras (dir.), Des disques et un couteau – Martin Tétreault, Montréal by Jocelyn Robert

Srimoyee Mitra (ed.), Border Cultures, London by Justina Spencer

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