by Guy Sioui Durand
Two forms of orality opened and then closed the exhibition Ensemble at VU in Quebec City in October 2016. At the opening, an Indigenous talking circle, led by Nadia Myre, was performed in the large gallery called Espace américain. At the end of the exhibition was a roundtable in the centre of the same gallery, moderated by curator Anne-Marie Proulx.
To the extent that the artworks surrounded the opportunities for speaking, the unifying form that is the circle may also have structured the path – the circulation of gazes – toward these multiple forms of community. It was in fact an organic awareness of knowledge, knowhow, and behaviour that made it possible for the works presented to take shape “ensemble” (together)! Each in its own way, these elements of visual and textual art became evidence of thought in action. It is in this sense that the “broadened” photographic views in Ensemble seemed to urge a perspective on these attractions, dualities, sensualities, and human adventures as being fully marked with the seal of harmony, sharing, or teamwork.
Circulating in Words. The highlight of Ensemble was its opening. The Anishinabe artist Nadia Myre could simply have stood by her three photographic tondi of centrifugal-attraction beadwork that mix the identity-related colours of red (Aboriginal), pink (First Nations Métis and “mixed blood”), and white (Canadians, Québécois, and others). But she was at the gallery to present, in addition, A Casual Reconstruction, a performance of discussions by six characters, standing in a circle within which they moved as they spoke and exchanged words. This dense dialogue expressed diverse states of being, perceiving, assuming the multiple hybridities of the Aboriginal identity through the language used in specific contexts. There were no wild harangues, or theatrical readings, or speeches; rather, there were shifts among imaginary territories made of thoughts, doubts, statements, through the circularity and orality for which the performative body is the raw material. These movements were thus artistic, geographic, and intercultural.
Diffuse Friendship. Like a flock of visual fireflies resulting from so long a friendship that several art genres had to be called upon (love poem by Saint-Denys Garneau, multiple arrangements of photographs inscribed in the light of daily life in the country, cut-out silhouettes, watercolours, and beautifully creased drawings), the artworks by Nathalie Caron and Charles Guilbert gambolled across almost the entire long wall of the large gallery…
[See the printed or digital version of the magazine for the complete article and more images.]