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Mois de la Photo à Montreal: Camera Non-Obscura

With the 11th annual edition of Montreal’s Mois de la Photo filling art spaces throughout the city’s downtown core, questions of the practice and relevance of lens-based image making, particularly in a 21st century context, are once again up for debate. And for good reason too. The proliferation of digital media, increasingly globalized points of view and a certain neo-conceptual/pop culture bent among artists working with photography have loosened, or perhaps disrupted, the framework by which traditional photographic practice has long defined itself.

Curator Gaëlle Morel brings some critical perspective to bear on this new photographic paradigm in a selection of 24 projects by Canadian and international artists gathered under the title “The Spaces of the Image.” Using the notion of “scenographic experiments” as a guide, Morel proposes a “withdrawl” from the predominance of aesthetics as the definitive measure of contemporary photo practices in favour of artists’ engagement with space and installation. As she writes in her catalogue text: “These works necessitate a new relationship with the public, one that involves a form of interactivity.”

That common thread of interactivity carries a particular socio-political charge throughout the exhibition, adding a poignant edge to Morel’s curatorial premise. At Galerie de l’UQAM, French artist Pascal Convert’s Madone de Bentalha re-presents an award-winning news photo of an Algerian massacre as a large-scale wax sculpture, lifting a trenchant image once again from the ambiguity of media saturation. Similarly, at Les Ateliers Jean Brillant is Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar’s The Sound of Silence, an immersive installation based on the tragic story of Pulitzer Prize–wining photojournalist Kevin Carter.

Columbian artist Oscar Muñoz’s critically acclaimed series of mirrored portraits of victims of political violence, Aliento [Breath], is at the Maison de la culture Frontenac, while French-Lebanese artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige present Circle of Confusion, a monumental aerial image of Beruit backed by a mirror and cut into segments for viewers to take away from the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery. Galerie B-312 hosts Turkish artist Kutlug Ataman’s video installation 1+1=1, depicting the politically and emotionally divided “double life” of Cypriot poet Nese Yasin, alongside London artist Zineb Sedira’s examination of immigration and lost histories based on the gaps in language between three generations of her own family. And at the Maison de la culture du Plateau-Mont-Royal, David Rokeby takes on omnipresent concerns of public surveillance and the specious taxonomy of personal emotion with his computer software–driven video installation, Taken. (Various locations, Montreal QC)

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