[Fall 1998]

by Franck Michel

As we all know, photography now plays a preponderant role on the contemporary-art scene. The autumn cultural season in Quebec provides ample proof of this with a particularly rich programme of photographic exhibitions.

To begin with, there is the first Biennale de Montréal, organized by the Centre international d’art contemporain, with an exhibition devoted to photography and video and featuring, among others, Sally Mann and Joachim Mogarra. Photography has also invaded the museums, with Duane Michals at the Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal, Clara Gutsche at the Musée de Joliette, and fifteen Italian photographers at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in a show called Venise-Marghera: Photographie et transformation d’une zone industrielle. There is also the Déplacement event at Galerie VOX, marking its move to its new space at 460 St. Catherine Street West in Montreal. The gallery will soon be featuring works by Zoé Beloff, André Clément, Susan Coolen, Danielle Hébert, André Paquin, Joan Foncuberta, and Patrick Altman. A colloquium on curating exhibitions completes this impressive programme.

As well, this autumn CVphoto is launching a major promotion campaign in collaboration with four other Quebec cultural magazines: Espace, Le Sabord, Lettres Québécoises, and Revue de théâtre Jeu. From posters to postcards, from press campaigns to subscription promotions, and a launch party: we will be working on all fronts to expand our readership. In fact, specialized cultural magazines such as CVphoto are too often considered “difficult” or hermetic, and potential readers feel rebuffed. This campaign aims to change such ideas and show that these magazines are for everyone who wants to learn something and find out more about a specific cultural sector.

In issue 44, CVphoto deals with fiction, narration, and mise en scène with the American artist Duane Michals and Quebec artists Holly King and Andrea Szilasi. The accompanying texts are commentaries by Francine Dagenais and Gary Michael Dault and an interview by Jennifer Couëlle. For our Point de vue column, we have asked writer and sociologist Régine Robin to talk about autobiography and fiction.

A pioneer and leader in photographic mise en scène and narration, and an emblematic figure on the New York art scene of the 1980s, Duane Michals is one of the points of references of contemporary photography. He has influenced several generations of photographers, and he is still energetically pursuing his quest to reveal invisible realities in short photographic accounts that link image and text.

In Quebec, Holly King is also a pioneer of photographic mise en scène. Since the early 1980s, she has been inventing landscapes – foreign places, enchanted forests, mysterious grottos – that she carefully constructs before photographing them. This phantasmagorical world, created out of thin air, grabs hold of us and awakens our eternal need for the marvellous.

In her recent exhibitions, Andrea Szilasi has been noted for overturning the classic conventions of representation of the body and its organs. She recovers, fragments, glues, sews, weaves, handles, constantly pushing the limits of the photographic support and of representation to produce unique, disturbing images that confront the ideals of art history.

As I look at the works of these three artists, I am reminded of the notion of Théâtre des réalités.1 Although it was coined a number of years ago, when the cleavage between “documentary” and “fictional” photography was more obvious, this expression still has currency. No other term describes so well the paradox of photography that many contemporary artists are exploring, eloquent among them Duane Michals, Holly King, and Andrea Szilasi. In Théâtre des réalités, at play are imagination, phantasy, the mind’s eye directly confronted with reality or at least a semblance of reality that only photography can produce.

1 Théâtre des réalités, proceedings of a colloquium organized by Metz pour la photographie, Metz, 1986.