Ecological Art: Pushing the Limits of the Exhibition

Does the gravity of ecological content exonerate artists from having to be concerned with form? The formal meagreness of some exhibitions “dedicated to the cause” might lead one to think so. These assembled ecologically virtuous or activist artworks, extremely informative, wavering between ethical duty and emotion, have long not known which drummer’s beat to follow.…

Black Gold: The Esoteric and the Ecological

Our society’s rituals of consumption are marked out in prehistoric time. Ossified imagination fuels the quest for energy, propels drilling deeper and deeper into the ground. However, the forthcoming risks associated with oil extraction will soon be subterranean in only the shallowest sense. No longer deeply hidden, the energy problem will course through steel tubes…

Nature in Brackets: The Position of an Art Centre

Over the last fifteen years, numerous curators and critics have tried, through theoretical exhibitions, to redefine the role of art in relation to ecology – to find the right relationship between them.1 Perspectives that are too narrow or that drive home the principles of a fundamental duality are held in contempt: the ideas about ecology…

Plastic Undone: Montalti’s Ephemeral Icons

Plastic exists as a significant node in a network of cultural, economic, environmental and political interests. It takes on many roles: domestic servant, caretaker, medical support, kitchen aid, industrial worker. The material is pervasive, yet the cultural sentiment towards it in Anglo-American culture is ambivalent at best. The hostility towards plastic seems to stem largely…

World of Matter, or Complex Thought about Terrains

When I speak of complexity, I am referring to the primary meaning of the Latin word “complexus,” “that which is woven together.” -Edgar Morin While the environmental issue has been and continues to be widely expressed in an alarmist context, many artists now believe that such an urgent matter demands we take the time instead…

The Cloud in Video: Notes on Isabelle Hayeur’s Aftermaths

The evolutionary span of Isabelle Hayeur’s photographic and videographic body of work is related to her capacity to cast an ever-deeper gaze at environmental issues (urban sprawl; the impact of the petroleum, housing, and tourism industries on the deterioration and destabilization of ecosystems). For fifteen years, Hayeur has been thinking and rethinking the image of…

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and the Persistence of the Diorama

The dioramas that Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster created in New York for the DIA Art Foundation present us with heterogeneous temporalities and places. These display boxes, which are about the size of a small theatre stage, are fascinating because they captivate the gaze and project the body into an intriguing space bathed in light. The models for…

Bête Noire by Kent Monkman. Revenge by Diorama

The first dioramas to represent animals in their natural habitat were introduced into North American natural history museums at the end of the 1880s. Although these displays were directly inspired by the dioramas Louis Daguerre had devised in 1822, they differed with regard to one crucial point: the introduction of the third dimension. While Daguerre’s…

The Diorama as Artistic Process

In an 18th century Parisian drawing room, a fox sits enthroned on the divan of a duchess. The animal seems absorbed by a pigeon perched the decorative back moulding, wings spread, readying perhaps to fly off. In the centre of a reception hall with walls covered in crimson fabric, two stags are about to charge…

Vicky Sabourin’s Stagings

Vicky Sabourin was headed for a career in the theatre before she turned to the visual arts. Each of her installation works combines a tableau vivant and a diorama in which she performs, so that viewers can appreciate them whether she is there or not. Inspired by minor news items, personal or family anecdotes, stories…

Sculpture, You Ask?

Rethink sculpture? The question is addressed to us, obviously, those of us who reflect on art. Critical thought, somewhat like the fire brigade, always comes late: we try to keep up to date with reality’s transformations, its upheavals. But when we realize that critical thought no longer holds true, we tend to want to reinvent…