Making art from money has its costs
Quebec artist Mathieu Beauséjour knows better than anyone how filthy money can be.
“ It’s covered in other people’s microbes,” Beauséjour says.
And those microbes are most unfriendly. Beauséjour’s arms broke out in a rash from handling about $ 17 million worth of shredded Canadian currency he picked up from the Bank of Canada and has just installed, as an artwork, in a vault of a former Toronto- Dominion Bank on Sparks Street.
“ I wear gloves now,” the artist says, as he shows off his newly healed, tattoo- covered limbs.
Beauséjour was chatting inside the old TD Bank, which has temporarily been turned into the strangest art gallery the national capital has ever seen. The shredded money is just one of the installations composing a multi- artist exhi- bition called Making Real, which is the main visual art event of the National Arts Centre’s multi- disciplinary festival, Quebec Scene. The show opens tonight, running only until May 5.
Actually, Beauséjour’s installation, appropriately called Filth, is one of the tamer, more conventional pieces in Making Real. The plan is for Beauséjour to cover the floor of the vault in shredded currency and then shape it into waves. Other artists, working in everything from the washrooms to the storage areas to the ATM nooks, are decidedly more high- tech, employing everything from the sounds of outer space to a mystery movie filmed right in the derelict bank.
Making Real and the National Gallery’s De- con- structions are the two most eye- popping Quebec Scene shows I have seen so far. Making Real was curated by Montrealer Marie Fraser and De- con- structions by the National Gallery’s acting curator of contemporary art, Josée Drouin- Brisebois.
There are other Quebec Scene exhibitions at almost every public gallery in Ottawa and Gatineau. Some were reviewed in this space earlier.
Jean- Pierre Gauthier, currently the talk of Montreal with his solo show at the Musée d’art contemporain, has installations at both the National Gallery and the former bank. Gauthier is best known for his kinetic sculptures, whose erratic movements are influenced by the presence of visitors.
At the National Gallery, Gauthier offers Crashes ( Identified Flying Objects). A dozen plastic garbage pail lids rise to the ceiling and then fall to the floor at varying speeds and intervals. Some crash onto the bed of Styrofoam chips scattered on the gallery floor. Others land quietly and smoothly. ( Kids love this one. Take them for a visit after a tour of the Ron Mueck hyper- realist human sculptures down the hall.)
Gauthier shares a room at the National Gallery with Gatineau’s Annie Thibault, who has plastered the wall with dozens of Petri dishes filled with growing fungi.
In the next room, Tricia Middleton has literally carved a hole in the wall to offer viewers a peek into an alternate museum, if not an alternate universe.
Gauthier’s Sparks Street installation was not completed during my recent advance peek. But, come tonight, count on hearing some mighty strange sounds from dark corners of the bank basement, including a staff bathroom.
Nearby there will be a video by Pascal Grandmaison, who filmed something of a mystery story right in the bank. In the video a man is seen trying to enter the bank. An identical man is already in the bank. There’s an air of menace to it all. Watch it from beginning to end. Well, actually, there is no beginning and no end. This is art to give your brain a charley horse.
So, what are these two exhibitions all about? Essentially, they are testing the limits of what art and an art gallery can be. They also demonstrate that art galleries serve as laboratories, especially in our high- tech age.
Art is meant to be a reflection of our preoccupations. And we are definitely obsessed and sometimes befuddled and angered with technology, whether it be an ATM at a bank, a cellphone in our hand or the latest laptop software.
Way back, before computers, art was preoccupied with beauty, tragedy and other emotions. Now, contemporary art is focused on technology. It is art that makes us say “ wow.” But it is art that does not stir our passions. It is art that touches our soul about as much as the Star Wars robot R2- D2.
Another Quebec Scene offering is at Ottawa City Hall. This an exhibition by three Outaouais artists. Diane Lemire’s irregular- shaped cement platters are spectacular. Paula Murray’s ethereal porcelain vases appear to glow from an inner light. Johanna Nousiainen has contributed a series of unappealing woollen cocoon- like objects hanging from the ceiling. Until June 3.
The Ottawa Art Gallery’s participation in Quebec Scene is an exhibition by three artists, Angela Grauerholz, Raymonde April and Klaus Scherubel, entitled Rereading. Each artist has created an installation based on the reinterpretation of an existing work of art or literature. Grauerholz, for example, has recreated the scenes, threedimensionally, seen in famous 1920s photographs of the reading room of Soviet artist Alexandr Rodchenko. Frankly, all three installations are puzzling, esoteric and self- indulgent. Until June 3.
More promising is an exhibition opening tonight at Galerie Montcalm in the Hull sector of Gatineau by two of the hottest young painters from the area.
Jean- François Provost does abstracts; his work gets better every year. His long- time friend, Marc Nerbonne, paints aerial cityscapes that seem ready to melt into the abstract.
The pairing of these two is ingenious. Expect much of these two prodigies in coming years. Until June 3.
Other shows can be found at Gallery 101, SAW Gallery, Axe Néo- 7, Art- Image and the NAC foyer, among other venues.
For more information about Quebec Scene: www. quebec scene. ca.
Jean- Pierre Gauthier has installations at both the National Gallery and the former TD bank.