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Features / September 18, 2008

Michel de Broin: Emote Control

Michel de Broin Late Program 2008

Berlin- and Montreal-based artist Michel de Broin has an uncanny knack for making lyrical connections between elemental mechanics and modern life. A case in point is “USURE MENTAL,” an exhibition of new sculpture and photos currently featured at Galerie Donald Browne, which wryly points out some surprisingly obvious common ground in primal urges and mass communication. To start, De Broin’s Late Program, a sculpture that takes the guise of a classic-model television set but is, in fact, a fully functional wood-burning stove, is a clever criticism of the hypnotic power of vacuous network programming. (After all, who hasn’t found themselves equally mesmerized by the glow of a campfire and television screen?) But the work also offers a paradoxical reminder of the shared and, in many ways, fundamental ritual of fireside socializing—not to mention the disconnected, individualized nature of modern relationships mediated by television. Similarly, De Broin’s photo series Silent Shouts reconsiders basic forms of communication in images of heavily etched windows from public transportation vehicles. It’s a thoughtfully observant reading of the innate human need for expression, from the Paleolithic drawings of the Lascaux caves to the stylized painting of graffiti art, and one can’t help but see the inescapable irony that these hastily scratched messages are parts of a legitimate if subversive contemporary visual language all-too-easily overlooked as simple vandalism. (372 rue Ste-Catherine O #524, Montreal QC)