Making visible

[Winter 2018]

By Jacques Doyon

This issue’s thematic section presents works that come from a wide variety of places and times, but all are marked by the notion of public visibility. These three bodies of work cover a wide spectrum of what defines the public space for artistic expression, ranging from the concrete civic and urban space in which artworks are put to the test of fitting with people’s daily lives and the constraints of urban planning, to the more specialized professional and worldly network that hosts and nourishes experiments and new artworks, to the cultural and political context that circumscribes what can be said in society.

With a corpus that currently numbers some 350 photographs of works of public art, most of them contemporary, and of commemorative monuments and graffiti, Justin Wonnacott has composed a sort of visual essay on the multiplicity and diversity of artistic interventions in the urban space of the Ottawa region. He does not attempt to produce objective or aesthetic documentation of the works; rather, he wants to show the context of their integration and how people interact with them, by highlighting the occasional incongruities that result from where they are sited and who visits them.

When he arrived in Montreal, Gabor Szilasi began to take pictures documenting gallery openings on the Montreal art scene, and he kept up this practice throughout the 1960s and 1970s. These previously unseen photographs, now featured in an exhibition at the Musée McCord, take a look back at the people and institutions that were involved with the modernization of the visual arts during that period. More than to artworks, they testify to the creation of an environment – containing both artists and art lovers – who were open to new aesthetics and actively contributed to the updating of Quebec culture, and to the role that Szilasi has always played in bringing our culture to light.

Iran, année 38, an exhibition at Les Rencontres d’Arles in summer 2017, offers an overview of photographic production in Iran from when Khomeini came to power, thirty-eight years ago, to the present. From images of a more political and documentary nature, showing censorship and the struggles of the opposition, to poetic images, many tinted with irony, addressing the difficulties and joys of a society slowly becoming more tolerant, the exhibition points out the impact of politics and religion on the creation of a site of free expression. The some two hundred images by sixty-six photographers presented in the exhibition offer a remarkable survey of the photographic culture and realities of contemporary Iran.
Translated by Käthe Roth

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