Send your junk on a journey
Who doesn’t have something lying around their home, a useless object that just doesn’t seem to make it to the garbage can or the recycling bin for one reason or another, gathering dust year after year? If you can relate to that reality, then
from page 1 you might want to consider coming out to the Haskell Free Library on Valentine’s Day to meet with a newcomer to Stanstead, Montreal artist Raphaelle de Groot. And, in case you’re interested, she’ll be more than happy to take that dust collector off your hands!
Ms. De Groot is an accomplished artist who is particularly interested in people’s ‘ordinary’ objects. “I have been collecting objects since 2009. I’ve collected them in Lethbridge, Alberta, Quebec City, Italy and I’m now doing it in Granby,” the artist explained. She’s not interested in objects that people are attached to or that have any value, although they may once have had meaning, but objects that are just being stored for one reason or another; if there’s a story behind the object, even better.
“It could be a gift from an ex, or something that’s been waiting for years to be repaired. This is a chance to give a life to those objects and to liberate you from them; to make you lighter!” said Raphaelle enthusiastically. “I don’t just gather the object but also the stories behind the objects. I ask how they got it, why they are now ready to let it go and a few other questions. These anecdotes will become part of the work. The person remains anonymous but the essence of the object is revealed.” Providing examples, Ms. De Groot mentioned a red, curly telephone cord, long since detached from a phone, from an earlier collection. That cord belonged to a woman who, when a young girl, sat every night by the telephone, playing with that cord, waiting for her father to call.
“I don’t make a sculpture with the objects, I make a collection of them. I’m a performance artist so I travel around the world with the objects.” Ms. De Groot’s art evolves as she travels with her object collections, literally carrying them, influenced by the experiences she has. She often photographs or videotapes her collections as they travel, features them in exhibitions, and they may reappear in other art projects that she undertakes.
Interested in the reality of borders, she has chosen the border communities of Stanstead and Derby Line for her newest collected objects project. “Because of the particularity of Stanstead and Derby Line, I thought it could be interesting. I’m curious how people connected with this border and about the idea that there is a community with relationships and also this legal, administrative territorial mark that exists as part of the community. I have a general interest in borders because I married an Italian so I cross a lot of borders; my life is organized with borders.
“I also understand that Stanstead is very attached to its history and knows the value of objects: the Colby Curtis and the Stanstead Historical Society have collections.”
If you’d like to learn more about this interesting art project or you’d like to donate an object, Ms. De Groot is holding an information session at the Haskell Free Library on Tuesday, February 14th, at 5:00 pm. “I’ll explain the project more and show the different things that I do with the objects. At the end of July they will be able to see what I’ve done with their objects. The people’s participation will be part of the artwork,” commented the artist, adding: “This is a unique opportunity for the people of Stanstead, Derby Line and the surrounding area to send their objects on an incredible journey. I’ll be collecting them between February 14th and the middle of March, so it’s now or never!”
“Sometimes the objects that I get look boring or cheap, but I cherish them and as a collection they become very interesting. They show us that time passes; everything has its moment of glory and then becomes useless. They have a power to testify about us as human beings.”
In July, 2012, Ms. De Groot will return to Stanstead, after travelling with her new collection of objects, to produce some kind of an art exhibit or event, depending on how her project evolves. Her project is part of a bigger art project entitled Stanstead Project or how to cross the border which is being produced by the Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University. Genevieve Chevalier, the guest curator of that project, commented: “Part one of the project was an exhi- bition at the Foreman Art Gallery that dealt more with the issue of borders around the world. Part two is more about the specific culture of Stanstead and Derby Line and how the border has had an impact on that culture.” Another artist who is participating in this project, Althea Thauberger, will present a film project,at the Haskell Library, related to the issue of the border at the same time as Ms. De Groot’s event at the end of July.
Raphaelle de Groot at work with objects from her collection during a residency at the CEGEP de Granby Haute Yamaska.