A word from the directors and a text from a curator.

A Word from the directors // Lynda Baril and Audrey Labrie

The 8th Biennale nationale de sculpture contemporaine (BNSC) presents the works of national and international professional artists, works produced in 2018 in response to the theme Trajectoire des sens – Art et science (Trajectory of the Senses – Art and Science).

For this edition, advances in technology led the artistic orientation and selection committee to focus on three elements: a theme, artists and works, elements that would enable visitors “to travel between the material and immaterial, the tangible and intangible, the mobile and immobile, the visible and invisible - phenomena that provoke feelings of exaltation and euphoria and engender the creation of new trajectories of meaning, emotion and poetry.”

Throughout history, a number of artists have played an important role in the progress of art and scientific thought. For example, Leonardo da Vinci carried out experiments and demonstrations of phenomena in the realms of sculpture, science, architecture and philosophy. Similar to the evolution of the new technologies, the invited artists of the 8th Biennial explore these avenues and propose projects of research where matter is transformed either physically or virtually, at the frontiers of low-tech and high-tech.

The Biennial also brings together fifty or so artists connected to a rich programme of activities – a roundtable discussion, conferences, a satellite event, parallel exhibitions and introductory workshops – points of convergence of experience, sharing, and exchange between artists, partners and the public.

The Biennial is proud of its accomplishments, its established partnerships and the links forged with the public over many years, and at each event the BNSC renews itself and evokes the complexity, hybridization and decompartmentalization represented by currents in contemporary sculptural practice. This year, the satellite event covers a wider territory than previously, and includes a greater interactive participation, one that reaches out to a public that is different from town to town.

Everyone is therefore invited to discover sculptural works that are at the crossroads of artistic disciplines, where traditional skills, matter and objects are animated or diverted by kinetics, robotics, and digital and sound art. In other words, apparently low-tech devices are enhanced by technological elements coming from high-tech research, whilst other digital technologies provoke immersion and interactivity. In short, sculpture has opened itself up for the greater profit of a trans-disciplinary art!

A text from a curator // Émilie Granjon

Trajectory of the Senses- Art and Science

The artist explores both physical and virtual matter in determinate or indeterminate spaces, until reaching, or even going beyond, the limits of perception. How does sculpture evolve in such an environment, and how do artists explore the relationship between art and science in order to propose hypotheses and lines of research that are ever more surprising?

It is within a research laboratory at the crossroads between art and science that the artists of the 8th Biennale nationale de sculpture contemporaine create destabilising works that extend the limits of sculpture. Our sensorial capacities are strongly solicited through contact with these works - our perception is undermined and our cognition tricked. Thus our whirling senses are at one with the confusion of meaning.

Matter’s second wind

In the beginning was dust. From dust issued form, from form issued the body, before finally returning to dust. Engaged in a cycle of growth and decay, this minute speck contains within itself a clear potential for transformation. At last, however, this ‘tired residual matter comes to the end of its useful life’ - as happens with the fine dust resulting from the recycling of glass, a material particularly appreciated by Alice Jarry. In ‘Dust Agitator’, though, the artist questions the potential of this waste product. Under glass bell jars, kinetic installations show the volatile and sedimentary properties of this fine particle. In rescuing this inert residue from its banality, the artist disturbs our preconceptions and vision. José Luis Torres also aims to take the banal onto a higher plane, through setting up strategies for transforming the object. His project, ‘Errance’, both misleads and fascinates us. The elements, knowingly laid out here and there, portray an imagined cartographic representation where street furniture moves mountains, both literally and figuratively. The structural scale proposed by the artist renders the work accessible. Steeped in a world of scientific references, the piece creates ‘a space that questions migratory reality within which displacement induces fragility and instability.’ Diane Landry’s work also introduces a zone of perception-cognitive uncertainty. The artist creates sculptural installations that bring recycled matter to the fore, installations that take a look at the banal character of objects from an unexpected angle. While ‘Chute’ examines the concept of hydro energy in 60 motorized flipbooks, the ‘Le nième continent’ portrays a group of microcosms within each of which a plastic bottle is floating. The allusion to the sadly infamous 7th continent is obvious! A circular structure oscillates around each bottle, using a mechanism whose apparent simplicity hides a solid technical and technological mastery. This swinging movement sets up a hypnotizing rhythm that numbs our senses.

The phenomenology of sound takes a second look at matter

No question of hypnosis in Martin Messier’s ‘Sewing Machine Orchestra’! Twelve old domestic sewing machines, aligned one beside the other, begin to play an unreal sound composition. The rhythm, slow at first, accelerates. The musical choreography, entirely created by computer and amplified by microphones, is accompanied by spasmodic programmed lighting. The global effect produces a perception-cognitive conflict that pulls the senses in different directions. In ‘Asservissements’ by Jean-Pierre Gauthier, perceptual instability is induced by a spatial orchestration composed of robotic violin bows linked together with curving metallic strings. This spatial arrangement is at first surprising and then intriguing! Messier and Gauthier use the musical potential of objects, whereas the duo Béchard Hudon emphasize vibration, notably the vibration of objects that, a priori, are devoid of any potential for emitting sound. In the ‘Chute des potentiels’, the materiality of the objects is revealed thanks to a mechanical ballet composed of fishing rods. Set up in a circle, the rods have disconcerting baits – mobile telephone motors – attached to the ends of their lines, baits that are placed within easily recognizable glass objects (pots, vases, etc.). We are deluded by these lures that create a vibratory composition at once contemplative and electrifying. Vibration, rasping and friction are all sound phenomena that Caroline Gagné uses in her installation. The artist, who takes the title of her piece from the African proverb, ‘Quand un arbre tombe, on l’entend ; quand la forêt pousse, pas un bruit’ (‘The falling tree makes more noise than the growing forest’), evokes the paradox of nature, at times silent, at others noisy. Forms cut out of metal, representing a treetop and a fire escape, are placed on a frame and a light source projects their shadows on the ground, thus creating a quasi-immersive environment. A subtle sound can be heard - the sound of nature that is normally inaudible, a sound that arises from points of friction or trembling and from points of unexpected contact, like a tree branch that strokes or brushes against the surface of a fire escape. The subtlety of the immersive quality of the work draws our senses into serene contemplation.

Stimulate the living

For other artists, an interest in natural phenomena finds rich veins of inspiration in the study of living entities, notably through the creation of singular ecosystems. Giogia Volpe’s project, ‘Insurrections végétales’, is conceived as a nomadic garden set in a trailer. The fluorescent pink light shining from the windows attracts our attention. What ecosystem could generate such a colour? On the threshold of fiction, artifice and nature come together. In this near unreal world the plants continue to develop – a good example of their adaptive capacity! Annie Thibault also experiments with this line of research in her reflection on the culture of fungi. ‘La Chambre des cultures, déviance et survivance – Forêt et Candélabre’ is presented as a series of installations from which large quantities of growing mushrooms emerge. Under the transparent sheeting, which appears to clothe the sculptures as much as to increase the thermal effect needed for their development, life is spreading its wings and is proliferating in the same way as ecological interconnected systems. The elegant and spectral bearing of the sculptures confers a certain strangeness and majesty on this fungal forest.

Translate in order to magnify nature

How can nature’s elements be magnified within the context of a natural catastrophe? By using artistic expression to translate the scientific data that describes each phenomenon. In her piece, ‘The Burden of Every Drop’, Nathalie Miebach interprets the data of violent storms and hurricanes in intriguing sculptural language. Our eyes are immediately drawn to the lively chromatic range, and the strong colour saturation prevents us seeing the fine details of the sculptures. Once the eyes have adapted, however, they scrutinize the work and discover complex compositions constructed with order and rigour, using a dense mesh of objects and fibres. The paradox here is staggering, since the work is a profound expression of chaos. In the work of Pierre Landry and Matthew Shlian, chaos yields its place to movement. Rigour and method are retained in their work, work that is inspired by scientific principles that the two artists transpose into rich artistic projects. Pierre Landry evokes the basic principles of science with geometrical forms. Whilst the layout of triangles and rectangles determines the vectorial dynamics of the work - thus taking into account the tensions between the forms in order to initiate the idea of movement – the diagonal lines integrated with the forms complete the effect, and depth is indicated by the play of light. In Matthew Shlian’s work, the embodiment of volume and movement is created by meticulous work in paper. While small pyramidal paper constructions create movement in ‘The Night Before the Cup Walked’, the modeling of paper in ‘The Process Series Set’ is vertiginous. In extending the metaphor of the fold, the artist transfigures scientific principles with ingeniousness and delicacy.

Rereading the myth of progress

What else can be said about the myth of progress other than that it is an offshoot of performance and growth? Brandon Vickerd and David Clark take a critical look at the race for progress. The network of objects and varied images that compose David Clark’s installation, ‘The Nine Lives of Schrödinger’s Cat’, depicts a complex narrative about ‘explosions and clouds and science’s complicity in the industrialization of war.’ The confrontation is grating and our feelings are stunned. In Brandon Vickerd’s ‘Challenger’, on the other hand, the shock is literal.The replica of the emergency exit of NASA’s space shuttle that collides with a letterbox, reminds us that scientific dreams come at a price. Unavoidable failure seems to be necessarily linked to the unknowns of progress - a brutal thought nevertheless. The memory of failure leaves a bitter taste in the collective imagination. Louise Viger’s work evokes much gentler memories. The wooden manikins, whose forms resemble crash test dummies, become human. One of them leans on the other in a pose of tender abandon. They are both positioned in the attic and seem to find refuge in intimacy and memory. In this place of a myriad possibilities, a great source of fantasies, the two manikins embrace the gentle dreams of the imagination. Thus art and science continue their fertile dialogue and enchant our sense

1. Quoted from Alice Jarry’s presentation text.

2. Quoted from José Luis Torres presentation text.

3. Quoted from David Clark’s presentation text.

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