The most potent works provided attractive alternatives to the prolific auto-portraiture of our digitally enhanced era and instead engaged in considered representations of subjective landscapes (Jesper Just, Luis Jacob, Jim Verburg). Less appealing interpretations of the theme were displays of self-documentation in which conceptual appeal was obscured by a heavy-handed solipsism (Cristina Nuñez, Claire Savoie).
The launch of the festival also marked the first public usage of the main exhibition hall at L’Arsenal, Griffintown’s newest gallery space (for more on L’Arsenal, turn to page 80). Ten exhibitions were mounted on a white-wall labyrinth erected in the middle of the monolithic, echoing concrete rectangle. Among the work on display, Rinko Kawauchi’s brightly hued prints stood out for their simple and masterful capturing of under-celebrated daily moments.
Meanwhile, Just’s cinematic art films were projected at Concordia University’s Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery. Titled “Nomad in One’s Own Mind,” the exhibition featured short, dialogue-free videos whose subjects appear to be caught in states of ambivalence and vulnerability. Romantic Delusions (2008) follows a character inspired by Herculine Barbin as s/he walks around downtown Bucharest before floating between rooms at Nicolae Ceausescu’s 1,100-room palace.
At Galerie de l’UQAM, Roni Horn’s photographs of the surface of the River Thames were identical in size, set in identical frames, hung along a single row around the gallery, and indistinguishable save for variances in the texture and colour of the water. While a different viewing experience of the images—in a publication or on a computer browser, for example—might prove underwhelming, the installation at UQAM so effectively read as rushing water that the audience was subject to the dizzying, pleasurable paradox of simultaneously experiencing both constancy and change.
Montréal, arts interculturels featured Juan Manuel Echavarría’s Requiem NN (2006–11), a wall tiled with large, square holographic prints that each combine multiple photos of a single makeshift memorial for an unidentified corpse dead from violent conflict in Colombia. As viewers move toward the prints, the holograms become animated, sparkle and require spectators to shuffle around awkwardly in order to see all the images. Graffiti surfaces or vanishes, flowers appear or decay, long grasses are trimmed or left to grow. A typically gimmicky medium, the holographic image runs the risk of being cheesy, but Echavarría manages to circumnavigate that fate with the easy appeal of rich images, the illusion of passing time and a ceremonial solemnity for the abandoned dead.