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Autant en emporte le vent: Country Style

Deschambault-Grondines and Saint-Casimir Jun 9 to Sep 20 2012

With roots that date back to Samuel de Champlain and the early days of New France, the historic village of Deschambault, just downriver from Quebec City, might seem an unlikely playground for contemporary art. In fact, Deschambault and the neighbouring village of Grondines have a reputation that’s as avant-garde as it is habitant. The region’s Biennale internationale du lin de Pontneuf opens its fifth edition in 2013, and this summer it hosts the group show “Autant en emporte le vent,” featuring outdoor and museum installations by 13 contemporary Quebec artists.

Organized by Quebec City artist-run centre L’Oeil de Poisson, the show picks up on the 2010 exhibition “La colonie” which brought works by the likes of Thérèse Mastroiacovo, Milutin Gubash, Graeme Patterson, Roberto Pellegrinuzzi and the art collective BGL, to the area’s landmark buildings in a bid to upturn the historical status quo with a humourous and sometimes eerie touch. This time around, curators Véronique Lépine, Guillaume La Brie and Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre split the exhibition into two complementary parts: the first, a series of landscape-based installations in a field and barns outside the nearby town of Saint-Casimir which took place through June; and the second, an ongoing exhibition of works by the same set of artists in Deschambault’s 19th-century Moulin de la Chevrotière.

“We didn’t give the artists a theme to work from,” says St-Jean Aubre, who curated the old mill portion of the show, over the telephone from Mont-Tremblant. “Some artists were interested in taking a character or story that could have happened, like using the idea of the farmer or the hunter. Lots of projects were narrative, directed toward a story. Others used possibilities of the space, the opposition between nature and culture, and the idea of memory and conservation.”

That freedom to “react to the landscape, not just physically but also with ideas and imagination,” as St-Jean Aubre puts it, added another key element to the show: the unexpected. Take, for instance, Mathieu Valade‘s six-foot-high, camouflaged type-treatment of Times New Roman hidden in front of a treeline, Marie-Hélène Plante‘s invasive mushroom/television antennae sculptures subtly multiplying on barn beams and old mill antique furniture or Karine Payette‘s installation featuring a hunter with rifle nervously pacing in his living room projected at life size in a barn at Saint-Casimir and echoed inside a barn maquette in the old-mill gallery. Ronald McDonald even makes an appearance in Deschambault courtesy an opening day performance and video work (where he sings ironic variations on the “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” theme) by Thierry Marceau.

For La Brie—who, along with Lépine and eight other artists in the exhibition, is part of the Montreal collective Pique-Nique which specializes in pop-up art events in urban parks—“Autant en emporte le vent” offers an opportunity to work outside of the usual rules and regulations. “When you do projects like this in the city,” he says, “you have to install work and show your heart, then take it all back down in one afternoon. So you have to think about what can be done under those constraints. When we did it in the field [and in the old mill] we could work differently, more permanently and larger. It changed the work. But it’s still the same way of thinking: we want to transform how you can experience reality, for a day or a month.”

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