Text by Genevieve Goyer-Ouimette

[They] will dream of means to avoid utopias and return to a non-utopian society, less perfect and freer.

Nicolas Berdiaeff 1

Brave New World, the anticipation novel by Aldous Huxley, is a leading work where the excesses of technological development are imagined. This narrative draws the reader in a society where humans are “genetically modi ed” and where nature is suspicious. The objective is to ensure the happiness of everyone at the service of economic prosperity for all. This world sti es critical thinking; art is prohibited and there are no more artists.

Let us imagine that there were artists in this ctional world by Aldous Huxley... That’s the premise of this edition of the BNSC. In the light of their respective works, twelve guest artists were able to interpret the narrative. Their proposals are inspired, among other things, by the relationship with nature, by the potential damage of ideological conditioning and the pursuit of happiness at all costs.

The ambiguous relationship with nature is an important part of Brave New World. For its installation, Mathieu Valade took inspiration from embryos created in the laboratory. He associates to it human life and planned obsolescence. In that same dissonant perspective, Claire Morgan and Elizabeth Picard are questioning what is natural or not. The former dispose of the elements of nature in an industrial Cartesian order, and the latter uses plastic rods assembled in accordance with the ways of organic matter weaving. With Christopher Varady-Szabo and Catherine Bolduc, visitors discover the strangeness of the landscape and the discomfort it causes. This gaze resembles that of humans from the laboratories when they come out of their controlled world. Varady-Szabo, with his sculptures resembling primitive architecture or to a rolling mountain and Bolduc, with its vegetation of shadows, are forcing us to reconsider the wild environment. This is also the point of view favoured by Kim Adams, who by his models emphasizes the human inability to settle in nature without changing it according to its own needs.

In the work of Erika Dueck, Karine Giboulo and Amalie Atkins, we nd a type of staging that seem to be taken from the novel. They offer views of uncertain spaces lled with paper archives that recalls among other things the forbidden books with Dueck, the representations of the human conditioning like a machine with Giboulo, or again, the unconditioned and “wild” humans with Atkins.

Conditioned happiness, as experienced by the protagonists of Huxley’s novel, was also a source of creative thinking. Indeed, the soma, drug of happiness that immerses those who consume it in a heavenly sleep, caught the attention of the artists. It’s the life free of suffering and introspection that contributed to the creations of Isabelle Gauvin and it’s more the anaesthesia aspect vis-à-vis reality that is found in the room of Guillaume Lachapelle. Finally, the works of Martin Paryse offer themselves as pure pleasure that may well replace the soma, but without the side effects.

Above all, advance curiously in this Brave New World. You are entitled to.

Geneviève Goyer-Ouimette, director of CIRCA art actuel and artistic member of the orientation and selection Committee of the 2016 BNSC

1 This shortened quote comes from the book Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; it’s in French in the original version of Brave New World.

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