New Directions

[Spring 2005]

by Jacques Doyon

This issue of CV ciel variable is extraordinary in more than one way. Our portfolio pages are devoted exclusively to presenting a work that we feel is particularly important, Reading Room for the Working Artist, Angela Grauerholz’s most recent piece.

This issue also includes an insert, produced in collaboration with the Fondation J.-Armand Bombardier, that presents new digital colour photographs by Raymonde April, who, in 2003, was the first photographer to receive the Prix Paul-Émile Borduas. And finally, with this issue we inaugurate an expanded section of reports.

Reading Room for the Working Artist is a work of exceptional scope. The result of five years of gathering and arranging visual materials and texts related to art and to thought about modernity up to the present, this piece presents a dozen art books, each a hundred pages long, as well as a twenty-minute film collage. These elements are presented in the context of a partial reconstruction of Aleksandr Rodchenko’s Workers’ Club Reading Room, a work designed for the 1925 Exposition internationale des Arts décoratifs et industriels modernes in Paris. Fragmentary and plural, this work by Grauerholz constitutes a synthesis of the fields of interest that have fed into her production of recent years: photography, design, literature, cinema, and art theory. It bears witness to the wealth and complexity of the issues in modern culture. And it constitutes a plea in favour of education and access to a culture of art based on research and a critical aesthetic.

In her previous works, Grauerholz had familiarized us with her interest in photographic archives, her exploration of the status of veracity of the image, its narrative layers, and its contexts of presentation and access, whether institutional or private. The analytic and theoretical aspect of her proposals remained, however, more implicit in those works. This aspect is incorporated here according to processes that multiply the levels of the statements made and evoke the exchanges, affinities, and debates inherent to the development of a complex and original way of thinking and aesthetic.

The book Vorbilder (Models) is central here, expressing the threads of what constitutes a sort of rhizomatous genealogy – from Rodchenko to Richter, from Warburg to Becher, from Benjamin to Borges and Calvino, from Malraux to Warhol, to name just a few – of her own investigation of the photographic archive, of the fragment, of intertextuality; of her questioning of the status of the artwork and of its reception; of her re-creation of worlds in which the subjective and fictional share is measured against complex artistic and theoretical constructs, in which irony sits alongside the most radical utopias, in which aesthetic issues are used to render the complexity of the world. The materials of the working artist are those of culture, our culture, with its infinite nuances, its accumulated wealth, and all its subtlety.

In closing, I would like to express particular thanks to Angela Grauerholz for her important contribution to the creation of this issue. Thanks also to Cheryl Simon, who alerted me to the existence of this work and offers an in-depth analysis of it here, and to Colette Tougas for her focus on the literary dimension of this work. Finally, thanks go to Raymonde April, Jean-Claude Rochefort, and Sylvain Descôteaux of the Fondation J.-Armand Bombardier for having entrusted us with production of the insert devoted to April’s recent works.