“It was a pleasure to burn.” The unforgettable opening line from Ray Bradbury’s seminal 1953 sci-fi novel, Fahrenheit 451—which is set in a future society where “firemen” zealously burn books and an underground of “book people” secretly memorize (then burn) them—still packs a timely punch. After all, Bradbury’s dystopia, while framed in the context of the Cold War, was essentially about the violent destruction and tenuous reconstruction of memory and an awakening resistance to the institutional regulation of knowledge, issues that continue to resonate across social and cultural boundaries more than 50 years later.
Montreal- and Berlin-based artist Eve K. Tremblay takes up that concern for knowledge, control and the echoes of personal memory in “Promenades au château de la mémoire et de l’oubli,” an exhibition of recent photo and video works currently on view at Galerie Donald Browne. Drawn from her ongoing series Becoming Fahrenheit 451, Tremblay’s images relate to her attempts to put various culturally significant tomes to memory: Paludes by André Gide, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima, Millennium by Stieg Larsson and, of course, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. There’s a certain sense of isolation to these photos of figures with books set against stormy skies or hidden in solitary landscapes, but also a pensive absorption that anyone who has memorized (or tried to memorize) a favorite text can appreciate.
The exhibition’s related title work is a new video shot on the grounds of a castle formerly owned by a book-loving hermit. It’s an otherworldly setting of grand libraries and verdant gardens that Tremblay links back to Bradbury’s vision of possible cultural refuge hidden on the fringes of society. But these are also the grounds for undetermined mnemonic connections as her “book people” wander and mingle with each other and the “memory palace” of the castle itself. As she writes in her artist’s text: “This new video escapes the narrative of me ‘becoming’ Fahrenheit 451 and meets other narratives. A happy narrative, confusion and the presence of forgetting come playfully in the way of memory to give space for simple and shared experiences.” (372 rue Ste-Catherine O #524, Montreal QC)