Living Things

75 - Printemps / été 2012

Theme: What strategies are contemporary artists using to “animate the inanimate?” To better understand the complexities of our rapport with things, this issue casts a critical eye on contemporary artistic practices that challenge our common perceptions of the “object” and that invite us to reconsider its nature, status, and various functions. This number takes stock of a current phenomenon that resists the dematerialization of art heralded by new media, a phenomenon that manifests itself in a “return to the object” and in the avid interest of the social sciences in material culture.


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Articles à la pièce

Dominique Allard
Jean-Philippe Uzel
Vanessa Morisset
Emily Rosamond
Patrick Poulin

Inanimate Objects, Do You Have a Soul?


From Object to Animated “Thing”: the Disenchantment of the Object
[Joseph Beuys, Brian Jungen, Guillaume La Brie, Guillaume Lachapelle, Doris Salcedo, Adrienne Spier]
This article proposes an examination of the animated object in light of recent studies in “Thing Theory.” As opposed to the unidirectional relationship between subject and animated object—where human fantasies project a soul onto the object—theories of “things” favour a dialogical relationship between the object and the one who perceives it. The primacy of the everyday object in current artistic practice is also of particular interest. Thus, the author proposes to reconsider a recurring object in these practices—the chair—in its passage from object to animated “thing.”

Some Responses to the Return to Object Fetishism
[Mathieu Beauséjour, Marcel Broodthaers, Cooke-Sasseville, Damien Hirst, Zoe Leonard, Cildo Meireles]
Since the mid 2000s, in the wake of neo-pop (Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst), commodity fetishism has been experiencing a comeback. Works exemplifying this trend have gained legitimacy in some theoretical writings, including those of W.J.T. Mitchell, who gives a literal—i.e., non-critical—reading of Marx’s famous essay on “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret thereof.” Countering this fetishistic reading of art objects, the author examines the current practices of Cooke-Sasseville, Zoe Leonard, and Mathieu Beauséjour, who share a propensity for animating fetishes (by using precious materials or bank notes) while critiquing or obstructing their power of fascination.

Dreams of “Hijacks and Bird Accidents.” Camille Henrot’s Cult Objects
What if our relationship with the world had never ceased to be archaic? Since the Enlightenment, Western culture has eschewed the irrational in favour of scientific explanations and technological advances. Yet, periodically, doubts surface as to the success of these advances, and with them the feeling that within each of us a core of primitiveness has remained intact. The works of Camille Henrot—objects bought on the street, sculptures inspired by artworks from Africa or Oceania, videos shot in Egypt or off Vanuatu—explore the primitivism of our relationship with the world through our ambiguous attraction to exoticism and its opposite, the cult of technology.

Object Lesson: David Askevold’s Learning About Cars and Chocolates
David Askevold’s twenty-minute video Learning About Cars and Chocolates (1972) tackles a host of epistemological questions about how we live with, live through, and come to know commodities. This text provides a detailed analysis of how a few of these questions play out in the video.

The Automaton and It’s Number
[Valérie Blass, Vanessa Beecroft, Maurizio Cattelan, Magalie Comeau, Jean-Pierre Gauthier, Patrick Ward]
In contemporary art, the object becomes an animate object not by way of any virtual means, but simply in and of itself. In the process, it withdraws itself into the subject as it annuls their relation. Ultimately, one must pay heed to this event in order to think the object anew in contemporary art. This essay deals with works that represent objects by relying on digital codes in non-digital artistic practices. It also examines works that embrace the animist character of automaton-machines as well as the absence that leaves objects in a state of ruin.

Patrick Beaulieu - Little Soul Factory


Thomas Hirschhorn: On Hyperconsumption and Resistance
This paper outlines Thomas Hirschhorn’s contemporary criticism of consumption, tracing his move from a consideration of consumption to hyperconsumption as illustrated with a discussion of two of his recent works, Das Auge (The Eye) and Crystal of Resistance. In these installations, he travels beyond the traditional criticism of consumption, which is often limited to inanimate objects, toward a broader purview that encompasses living bodies, and on the social systems that define contemporary society, with an emphasis on crisis and socio-economic precariousness. Possible modes of resistance are considered in relation to these systems through various networks, such as the internet, and social formulations, such as collective action.

Theaster Gates: an Architecture Waiting to be Used
This essay will examine Gates’ recent exhibitions at the Kavi Gupta Gallery (Chicago) and Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art to tease out the implications of Gates’ approach to histories and institutions as readymade structures, as well as examine how, through embodying the mediating roles of master of ceremony and preacher, Gates creates relational networks between communities and artistic practices.

[Josée Dubeau]
A new series of drawings produced by Outaouais artist Josée Dubeau while on a six-month residency in London, UK, establishes a keen overview of her practice. The artist’s careful, precise, often delicate work incisively comments on our relationship with systems and structures both micro and macro, physical and conceptual, organic and inorganic. Time and space, as well as their attendant concerns of duration and the body, emerge as dominant themes that are traced from elements of early installation pieces through to an unconsummated large-scale chalk drawing on the public walkway outside Tate Modern.

Partager sa « petite affaire privée ». Claire Savoie et Cristina Nuñez
Dans cet essai, Céline Huyghebaert analyse le sens de l’intime dans les expositions de la Québécoise Claire Savoie et de l’Espagnole Cristina Nuñez qui ont été présentées pendant la 12e édition du Mois de la Photo à Montréal. Dans ces deux récits photographiques et vidéographiques qui jouent avec les codes du récit de confession, les matériaux privés ne sont pas les « médiocres » vestiges d’une vie particulière avide d’être fouillée, comme le dénonçait Deleuze en parlant des œuvres qui se construisent à partir des « petites affaires privées ». Ils sont assemblés dans une structure esthétique, afin de hisser les éléments personnels, soit dans leur banalité la plus grande, soit dans leur puissance dramatique, à un rang collectif.


New York | MoMA PS1, September 11 by Vanessa Morisset

New York | Marian Goodman Gallery, You Have Been There by Jennifer Alleyn

Londres | South London Gallery, Alice Channer: Out of Body by Martine Rouleau

Montréal | DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art, Chronicles of Disappearance by Gabrielle Moser

Paris | Gaîté lyrique, 2062, aller-retour vers le futur by Nathalie Desmet

Montréal | Galerie René Blouin, Nicolas Baier by Jennifer Alleyn

Toronto | Mercer Union, Annie MacDonell, Originality and the Avant Garde (on Art and Repetition) by Gabrielle Moser

Vancouver | Rennie Collection, Damian Moppett, Collected Works by Kathleen Ritter

Montréal | Usine C, L’Opéra de quat’sous by André-Louis Paré

Montréal | Théâtre La Chapelle, Sepsis by Christian Saint-Pierre

Publication | Artur Zmijewski. Scénarios de dissidence by Érika Wicky

Publication | Historique de skol commenté by Denis Lessard

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