Marc Audette: An Education
In his new body of work, Classe d’art 010, photographer Marc Audette takes on art school and, more specifically, the classroom environment. He cleverly shifts it away from the perceived institutionalization of creativity and transforms it into a rich and subjective territory for inquiry and inspiration. Having taught at York University for over a decade, Audette has an intimate understanding of how a banal classroom can become a space of both formulation and transition. It is within this arena that the human body, as well as a seemingly random and haphazard collection of objects, can become shells filled with a variety of connotations and associations (often within just three hours of class time!). With this series, Audette taps into that experience of reconsidering something anew. By taking ubiquitous classroom furniture such as drawing tables, mismatched chairs, white sheets, garbage cans and human models, he creates evocative still lifes through complex positioning and lighting.
Entering La Maison des artistes visuels francophones, the first image encountered is David 2. In this work, a seemingly glowing, decapitated head rests on a project table. With different framing Audette could have produced a picture where his photographic “tricks” remained a mystery. Instead, he presents information that “teaches” how the image is made.
Moving further into the gallery, the space is darkened to highlight three backlit photo works presented on false walls, which themselves glow from a light source positioned behind. The pairing of Rahim été 08 and Lyne été 08 creates a provocative diptych. In these two works, the titular figure models are perched on assemblages of classroom furniture, their heads disappearing into the light emanating from a missing ceiling tile above. Teetering between religious rapture and alien abduction, the models become actors within this contemporary twist on the tableau vivant. The backlit effect further enhances the idea of a transformative spiritual and intellectual enlightenment that imparts knowledge and skill.
The back room of the gallery features an installation that combines photography and video with different types of tape and found furniture (a ladder, chairs and a garbage can). This use of installation is not a departure for Audette; it is a continuation of his tendency to push photography around. At first encounter, it seems to function by showing the image’s creation and presentation in real time. Then, in a mode similar to that of the photographs, just when the work is about to resolve itself it slips and morphs its point of reference. This is partly due to the movement of the video, the upside-down orientation of the image and the play with perspectival space.
Marc Audette’s choice of subject matter is not surprising, but what is unexpected is the variety and depth of information he is able to mine. He fully understands the special potential of what can take place in an art-school classroom in terms of it becoming a threshold onto new ideas. Both a critique and a window into this pedagogical environment, Classe d’art 010 reinforces the relevance of art school during a moment when it is undergoing significant evaluation.