écologies / ecologies

Julie Roch Cuerrier, Caroline Mauxion, Jessica Slipp

AVE gallery, Saint-Henri, Montreal

July 6th to September 8th 2017

Co-Curator with Josephine Rivard 

 

What I call “reality”: a thing I see before me: something abstract; but residing in the downs or sky; beside which nothing matters; in which I shall rest and continue to exist. - Virginia Woolf.

 

Virginia Woolf's definition of “reality” is abstract but resides in the landscape and gives her an affirmative sense of existence. She is blending with the environment rather than imposing herself upon it. Her interest in operations of perception and memory aligns in many ways with artists’ enduring interest in the environment. This desire to be immersed and to reveal the world’s interconnectedness echoes an ecofeminist eagerness to destabilize the patriarchal split between nature and culture. Moreover, feminist art historian Lucy Lippard described our attraction to the territory as follows : « the erotic communication of body and place combines the elements of desire and risk with those of time and space.»

 

Following similar considerations, the work of the three artists in the exhibition “Écologies/Ecologies”, Caroline Mauxion, Julie Roch Cuerrier and Jessica Slipp, is centered around the sensible, offering novel forms of being which include the earth, the land and its surroundings. They have developed innovative ways of crafting time and space that reinterpret how humans engage with the flesh of the world. Whether it be by rethinking cartesian ways of map making, or by manipulating perceptions of light and colour, they share an interest in the multiple ways of affecting and being affected by the natural.

 

Map and territory reach into one another as Jessica Slipp internalizes the land. Her recent project, Lines made by walking aims at recording the body's kinesthetic relationship to the territory. At every step, she tames the slopes of the ground and maps the contingency of her relationship with the landscape. Offering new perspectives on cartography and sound art, Lines made by walking mimics the territory itself. If cartography has traditionally aimed at modeling reality in ways that objectively communicate spatial information, Slipp instead traces our phenomenological awareness of space and reality by fusing the map and the land. Her lines resemble topography, tracing the shapes of mountains, waves or even the ripple of the wind. Outlined on a Cartesian grid, the lines are interpreted as musical partitions emulating the sound of waves or the wind. The chant offers a spiritual recording of an embodied experience of landscape. Dispersed on the floor are simplified models of rocks, some of them covered with high-resolution scans of the artist's skin. The work seems to ground the body within the territory, questioning the limits of our physical being. Between the microscopic and the macroscopic, between the personal and the universal, the artist’s body becomes contemporary topography.

 

Caroline Mauxion's Les Interludes revolves around Virginia Woolf's most experimental novel, The Waves, in which the story of six characters is broken up by nine brief interludes depicting the changes in a coastal scene following “the majestic march of day across the sky" described by Woolf. Simulating the movement of the sun, from East to West, Mauxion photographed a blue surface in natural light as her shadow altered its colours, forms and reliefs. In Mauxion's Les Interludes, as in Woolf's classic, the emphasis falls upon human beings in relation to reality. At its heart lies a search for a sublime, one that reflects a feeling or intuition about reality which cannot be described but rather must be, in Virginia Woolf’s words, “suggested and brought slowly by repeated images before us until it stays, in all its complexity, complete”. The pieces are almost pixelated marks of light and, and along with their vivid purples and blues, they seem always in a state of emergence, hovering on the verge of unpredictability. The work is never complete, as the glazed surface of the paper mirrors the natural light of the gallery, constantly changing our perceptions. Hence, while Mauxion's use of her body to alter light and colour in her photographs may be seen as an attempt at controlling their outcome, rather it evinces the agency of light and colour themselves.

 

The notion of the agency of colour is also central to Julie Roch Cuerrier's The National Geographic Atlas of the World. Her research project began as she sanded off the maps of old familial atlases, collecting its powdery pigments. Stored in small scientific dated plastic bags, each pigment corresponds to a specific map or territory. One of the most bewitching atlas pigments is reused in The World's History. Diluted Again. From maps to canvas, this reappropriation of a printed colour to represent a certain part of the world promulgated the deconstruction of information as we know it. At the same time, the artist also deconstructs a family myth, as the atlas involved in this procedural approach belonged to her grandparents. By erasing its surfaces, she brings this universal tool to a personal and subjective level.

 

Reinterpreting the indexical properties of maps, the artist travelled to the Aran Islands, in Ireland. On the Island of Inishmore is one of the most mythical geological formations of Europe, The Worm Hole, a natural vast quadrilateral shaped pool into which the sea ebbs and flows. This natural geological phenomenon is recalled by the colour of Julie Roch Cuerrier’s family atlas; a dark teal once artificial and only visible on paper, now tangible in the real landscape.

 

Her project is an investigation into the authority and vulnerability of cartographic space, using the atlas as a metaphor for complex historical and philosophical questions. By bridging her family history and the current world, Cuerrier also examines the malleability of this geographic tool. As mentioned by Lippard, “the « naturalization » of maps - the myth that maps show the world the way it really is - veils the fact that maps are cultural and even individual creations that embody points of view” (The Lure of the Local, 1997). In addition, Roch Cuerrier highlights the fact that maps do not have the power to account for the real landscape. Constantly changing, the territory consists of trees, mountains and rivers, and not only pigments of coloured ink on a sheet attached; “if maps exist to order and record the world, the world fights back” (L.L., The Lure of the Local, 1997).

 

This exhibition understands ecologies in a critical sense, as both natural and human.

From the Greek word oikos, meaning “house”, ecologies refer to the natural environments and conditions of existence of living beings and the relationships that are established between them and their environment, or more generally with nature. By returning to the first meaning of the word, the exhibition aims at highlighting the dynamism of the natural world, in which diverse processes intersect and give rise to new forms. “Signaling the potency of these relations, “ecologies” thus refers to systems that are themselves never static or centralized, but instead variable and dispersed” (IVC, issue 20, 2014). Drawing on the term’s connotative richness, the exhibition offers a comprehension of ecologies that is also rooted in the personal, an encounter between the body and the territory - an exchange in which the artists explore their agency in relation to that of the land. 

- Marie-Charlotte Carrier and Josephine Rivard 

Images Julien Renaud-Belleville

This project would not have been possible without the collaboration of the following organizations
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