Tag Archive for: Self-Organisation

Studiolo

Studiolo: The Collaborative Work of Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe, a major retrospective exhibition and accompanying book (Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Artextes Editions and Art Gallery of Windsor, 1997-1998)

 

Covering all of our large scale site-specific work to date, Studiolo charted — as book and as exhibition — the overarching vision of these projects and the links between them along lines of leitmotifs and major pre-occupations.  From the explorations of public service and urban fabric in Projet Building / Caserne #14 to the ‘history of the body’ that was Le Musée des Sciences and the origins of museums that we had examined in The Wilds and The Deep and beyond, Studiolo gave us an opportunity to reflect on a singular practice that was at its core collaborative.  

Here is the artists’ statement from the Montréal version of the exhibition:

Studiolo is a project in and of itself. Its very subject is our work, which the public knows as a series of projects that punctuate what is, for us, a rich continuum. We wish to give those who have visited our site works — as well as those who have not — a sense of the seamlessness with which we ourselves experience the long and fruitful collaboration that we two have had to date. In purposely leaving open the vast volumes of two of the MACM’s exhibition rooms, we remind visitors of the huge spaces in which we have worked. Creating clusters of similar objects and counter-pointed images from widely differing projects, we also form intimate zones of reflection on the many threads which weave together our artistic practice. Most of the artworks which remain after one of our projects has been completed are those which were made or gathered together in the studio, created in a fertile research period before we even inhabit a site with which the public will always associate one or the other of our projects. These works, unlike those which we make as part of the buildings themselves, often return to the studio when the project is over. There, they become integrated into a living visual continuity; fragments of all the projects exist together side by side for us two in our home, creating new constellations of meaning, and revealing over time the formal, visual and ideological links between projects. This evocation is the message of Studiolo. Already resonant with the memory of each site project, each object also participates now anew in revealing to the public the artists’ view of our own work.

At the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the curator who brought the exhibition into being was Gilles Godmer; at the Art Gallery of Windsor, it was Helga Pakasaar. The show brought together work from private and public art collections including the National Gallery of Canada, Le Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Brown University Art Museum, and others.

 

Studiolo the book was already underway as a major publication project when the idea of an exhibition was formed: it was Lesley Johnstone, then Director of Publications at Artextes Editions, who had come to us early in the 1990s with a book proposal.  Her vision and tenacity were essential to the book’s success, as was its designer, EA Hobart of Zab Design and Typography, who collaborated closely with us — literally page by page.

This is the flyleaf text:

The large-scale building projects of artists Martha Fleming & Lyne Lapointe are legendary in certain circles. And yet, because of the independent nature of their production, a comprehensive overview of this seminal work has not yet been published. This book fills that gap.

A document, a bookwork, a manifesto, Studiolo explores the extensive and varied creative process of this collaborative pair. It covers not only the site works produced for entire abandoned buildings in Montréal and New York City, but also the discursive underpinnings of their fifteen-year practice. The artists’ image research and aesthetic are part and parcel of showing and telling in Studiolo — itself a work of art.

Divided into two sections, the first half of the book is a lyrical docu-fiction by Martha Fleming in which key fragments of the artists’ experiences are offered as clues for the reader. The second half is composed of extensive conversations between Fleming, Lyne Lapointe, and Lesley Johnstone, Montréal critic and curator and the Director of Artextes Editions. Leitmotifs of the projects and links between them, their conditions of production, and the relationship the artists establish with their audience are all addressed in this wide ranging section. Over one hundred photographs of five major projects are reproduced for the first time, many in colour.

Lively, moving and visually stimulating, Studiolo is an essential chapter in an underground history of contemporary art and community activism.

 

 

Further Links:  Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; Art Gallery of Windsor; Studiolo; Artexte; Zab Design and Typography

[Image References: Studiolo, an exhibition by Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe, as installed at Le Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (1998) photographed by Richard Max Tremblay; pages from the book Studiolo (Fleming, Johnstone, Lapointe: Artextes Editions, 1997) designed by EA Hobart of Zab Design and Typography; the cover of the book Studiolo incorporated the photograph Four Girls Laughing, by Frank Cooke (1905) Courtesy of the Public Record Office of Great Britain]

Introduction & Index

Introduction & Index, silkscreened translucent banners and artists’ bookwork (1994): Printed Matter (New York); Artexte@MACM (Montreal); Bath Public Library (UK); Ridington Room, University of British Columbia (Vancouver), C Magazine (Toronto)

 

A meditation on censorship and the power of print, and on the editorial apparatus as a constraining device with a complex subtext, this work was originally conceived as part of the project The Spirit and the Letter and the Evil Eye (with Lyne Lapointe, Bath, 1994).  As a limited edition set of banners, it was shown in multiple venues in Canada and the UK through 1994.  As an artists’ bookwork, it was published that year in C Magazine, with ‘Introduction’ being the first page of the magazine, and ‘Index’ the last page.

The ‘introduction’ at the beginning of a book and the ‘index’ at the end are conventions which help us navigate both the text and the ‘body’ of a book, and which define at one and the same time the spatial and the intellectual ‘lie of the land’ between the covers.  They are also redolent of sensory experiences of handling and manipulating the book itself: the ‘introduction’ is a physical way in – a threshold – and the ‘index’ that cuts through the book’s text by subject can also refer to the finger turning the pages.

As all knowledge is powerful, powers over it are carefully managed: Index is also the short-form title for the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list of books either censored or banned by the Catholic Church.  This list was active from 1559 to 1966, created as a direct result of the advent of the printing press, and the consequences of reading and circulating materials which appeared on it were at no time more draconian than during the Inquisition.

This was one of a series of works, large and small, that I made during this period using translucency in a two-dimensional format as a way of creating depth of field, relational structure and comparison between two discrete line images. Another example of these conceptual print projects is Metaphysical Subject, commissioned by the Laboratory at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art for the British Journal for the History of Science (1998).

What was particular about Introduction & Index was that it drew thoughts about book and print culture and convention together with the media of printing and publishing itself.  In a sense, the banners are as much bookworks as was the publication of the work in C Magazine, and both versions are spatial as well as graphic.

It was Julie Ault and Doug Ashford who invited us to display the banners at Printed Matter; Lesley Johnstone who invited us to display them at Artexte when it ran the bookshop for the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; Antonia Payne and Angela Kingston in Bath; and Scott Watson in Vancouver.  Marie Fraser, then Montréal Editor of C Magazine, curated Introduction & Index into the publication.

 

 

Further Links:  Printed Matter New York; Artexte; C Magazine

[Image References: all images are of Introduction & Index, by Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe (1994)]

La Donna Delinquenta

La Donna Delinquenta (Montreal, with Lyne Lapointe, 1987)

 

The abandoned Corona vaudeville theatre was the perfect locus for exploring meeting points between social marginalisation and the society of the spectacle. ‘Technologies of the Self’ met Plato’s Cave in this large-scale site-specific installation which took place in Montreal’s Saint Henri of the Tanneries area, a working class neighbourhood laid out along the Lachine Canal. Taking its title from one of the foundation stones of criminology, Lombroso’s The Female Offender (1927), the project critiqued pseudo-scientific studies of the socially marginalised from a feminist perspective that incorporated affect as a prodigiously constructive tool.

The Corona was built in 1912: Bertillon, Ellis, Galton, Lombroso, were all still alive in that year — Galton only just. It was this seam of modernity’s pathologisation of the disenfranchised that had struck Lyne and I during the research we effected for our preceding project, Le Musée des Sciences in 1984.  We vowed to return to the subject of representation and marginalisation with what would be our third major site work for Montreal — La Donna Delinquenta.

We found most of these authors as primary research while working in the Osler Library at McGill University and the Wellcome Library in London, though we were later to rediscover much of this material in Gould’s Mismeasure of Man (1981). In French-speaking Quebec in the 1980s the intellectual rudders were more Foucault’s Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison (1975) and Debord’s La Société du Spectacle (1967).

But at that time, even the antidote of Foucault and Debord required an antidote in turn, especially for artists working in a feminist register and seeking to explore the cultural production of which our work was a part, wanting to identify and to undo inadvertant complicities. It was not enough to effect an analytical critique, however complex that might be in and of itself. How do we as women find a way to break out of a prison made of manufactured pleasures through pleasure itself?

In making La Donna Delinquenta, Lyne and I were interested in the conventions of theatre, both physical and representational, and in the notion of entertainment as a form of social control. For guidance at the analytical end, there was Catherine Clément’s magisterial L’Opéra ou la Défaite des femmes (1979).  In artistic practice, there were the extraordinary experiments of artists and writers such as Carolee Schneemann, Hélène Cixous, Yvonne Rainer, and in particular the film The Gold Diggers, made in 1983 by Sally Potter, Rose English and Lindsay Cooper, whom we knew.

The dilapidated interior of the Corona Theatre was redolent of the moral tale of the silent movie, Disney for the jobless, and the trickle-down from Bertillon to identikit composite photographs to children’s toys such as Les Mille et un Têtes

 

 

And it was also one of the few palaces of pleasure that had been open to the neighbourhood, a palace that had stopped having shows and films in the 1960s, shortly after the opening of the new Saint Lawrence Seaway diverted most cargo vessels away from the Lachine Canal.  What of the ‘society of the spectacle’ when even the spectacle is taken away?  Because this was a project about a place, as well, a post-industrial inhabited urban landscape:

Along the dark fissures that the railway snakes through Montréal like the eroded veins of a closed mine, one of the oldest industrial centres in Canada undergoes rapid transformation. La Donna Delinquenta and Le Musée des Sciences took place in neighbourhoods along the Lachine Canal. A key element of the now faltering sea-rail mercantile route that built Canada, it was closed in 1970. In Little Burgundy and Saint Henri of the Tanneries, clusters of empty industrial buildings hiding pcb-infected oils and barrels of fluor snake along the knifelike cut that the Lachine Canal slices between them.

With the passing of the canal and now the railway, whole communities have been strangled. Incinerators, warehouses of bricks, the purgatory of the corrals on the living side of Canada Packers’ abattoir hugging the railroad tracks as a desolate backyard, the frozen, broken open ovens are all that remain of a colonial sugar refinery of Caribbean cane. Expanses of terrain have been ripped up by speculative bulldozers and blocks of workers’ wooden homes boarded up completely. Aqueducts have been drained, and now give up the silt and refuse that settled with the travel of goods along a watery surface. This mucky sludge is the nighttime of the city, the dusk that has settled permanently along these ditches of commerce in an age of technology.

Along the dead water the powers that be install a new park with red and white swings that oddly mirror the industrial cranes and other structures of the port that loom inactive but menacing above them. These are the public sites in which the notion of family is constructed, and its false hope suspended; where the female labour of child care is naturalized, where snapshots are taken. The park’s pathway leads our gaze to those infernal machines on the horizon, breaking open the fragile myth of recreation and procreation the young trees valiantly knit together around the park’s social reason to be.

from Studiolo (1997)

 

Urban space, architecture, abandonment and occupation: bringing these elements together in a prodigious and creative act is an entirely different proposition today.  The artist who showed us that it could be done was Gordon Matta Clark, and interestingly, among his inspirations was a group of young squatters occupying an abandoned factory site, whom he met in Milan in 1975.

We took the route of legal access to this and other buildings we worked in; it was often protracted and complicated, but no less radical. It is perhaps best to situate La Donna Delinquenta in its own time and register by quoting from a lecture Lyne and I gave not that long after we had completed it.  This lecture, entitled ‘Ghost Story’, was given in several places, including the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, and the Université du Québec à Montréal in 1992 — now 20 years ago:

 

Our projects are not at home in a documentary mode — they are lived events, firmly anchored in a vision of mutual respect between artists and communities. The projects are not illustrative products of art or architectural theory and consequently they don’t give themselves easily to “explanation.” They are rigourously not polemical statements, thesis props, or resolved totalities which are produced by the logical positivism of the builder-architect or the arch self assurance of the political artist. In the visitors’ book for La Donna Delinquenta, someone wrote: “Thank you for giving me somewhere to hide.” This intense privacy is the reward given to an audience which could consider our respect for them somewhat demanding. We speak now about these projects from a specific, fugitive and acknowledged present. We will talk to you about our work as a whole, and you will witness it in fragments, in ruins, in the photographic slides.

What we do with buildings as artists is insurrectional and by appearances unpolished. It is also generous, supple and intimate. We address the meaning and deep structure of buildings not as architects or as planners, but as lonely and alienated users. Armed only with a conviction of the primacy of our shared psychic experience of space, without any tool or intent to construct, without the will or the capacity to puncture and alter, to restore or recycle, we briefly inhabit, reinvest with social meaning, and render accessible to a large public abandoned buildings which resonate within their communities; involving ourselves, the buildings, and these communities in a discursive activity which fuses our experience of mediated space with other complexly related social issues.

The buildings themselves are not cheap and temporary exhibition space nor are they found objects — they are ideologically, socially, emotionally and economically charged architectures which we choose with care as integral parts of our work. This collaborative work receives an audience numbering in the thousands and composed largely of people who are not museum-goers.

The ephemerality of these projects is their historicity, and their analyses on a speeding diagonal, their lacunae and their startling discoveries, their convictions, their determinisms, their years of research, are constructed without instruction. Their paths of understanding are strewn about with unabashed contradiction, and above all they are passionate experiences, at once virtual and lived, communicated as if by phereomones through an acridity which is at once of the building and of the fearful desire to understand. All our projects are about the tyranny of meaning. For us, meaning is constructed in as arbitrary, subjective, fragile, strangely valiant and often brutal a fashion as architecture itself.

The trajectories of our development and research is not a progressive, defineable line to be unfolded as a legitimating pedigree of the self-taught, as if these sites of learning had been laid out to us — or to anyone — as a kind of obligatory syllabus which we have followed patiently. In fact, it is a series of scents which we have pursued with difficulty and in disorder.

In our projects for and with abandoned buildings, we work with the complex psychic fabric left as a kind of palimpsest or veneer on the structure itself. The material which we manipulate is in fact not so much the building per se as its psychic history, which is of course the thread that weaves buildings into and out of a living and magnetically contradictory social history mapped out onto the urban fabric. Every building is a memory theatre and retains a psychic and emotional aura gleaned from the passage of all those who may have come between its walls, and this elastic umbilicus is firmly anchored in the memory which those people retain of their passage. A boarded-up building is an embodiment of the unconscious. It is also a reminder of the failure of capitalism. The projects themselves, in lifting the veil on these buildings and the denied unconscious inside them, create an unforgettable punctum in the urban narrative. They are sites of the possible.

 

 

La Donna Delinquenta (and other of our site projects) is fully documented in Studiolo : The Collaborative Work of Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe, by Fleming, Johnstone and Lapointe (Artextes, 1997). Alongside Le Musée des Sciences, the other two projects which form our ‘Montreal triptych’ are Projet Building / Caserne #14, (1983) and Le Musée des Sciences (1984).

 

[Image References: all images are of La Donna Delinquenta by Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe (1987). Large format colour photographs are by Marik Boudreau.]

Le Musée des Sciences

Le Musée des Sciences (Montréal, with Lyne Lapointe, 1984)

 

This major site-specific installation — a ‘history of the body’ before its time — took place over the entirety of an abandoned beaux arts Post Office Building at 1700 Notre Dame West in the Little Burgundy area of Montréal. Using everything from the sorting room floor to the surveillance corridor,  from the Postmaster’s apartment to the coal chute, we subjected the building, medical history and museological convention to analysis. It was the second of the ‘Montreal triptych’ of large-scale projects Lyne Lapointe and I made in quick succession through the mid-1980s. Working for the first time with both history of science and with museological convention, this project and the research we effected towards it changed the direction of my practice forever.

It is for this project that I first read Foucault. And Feyerabend’s Against Method, Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Baltrusaitis on perspective, Giedion on mechanisation, Didi-Huberman on La Salpetriêre, and Bernard Cohen’s then relatively new Albums of Science. Not to mention Gerard Turner on collecting microscopes, Brian Coe on the history of cameras, and Stillman Drake on Galileo. It is for this project that I first set foot, with Lyne, in the Wellcome Trust Library.

 

 

To situate Le Musée des Sciences in its intellectual time, it is worth noting that it opened in February of the same year that Volumes II and III of Foucault’s Histoire de la Sexualité were published for the first time. It would be another five years before ZONE Magazine’s Fragments for a History of the Human Body and Sander Gilman’s Disease and Representation; another decade before Jean Clair’s Paris exhibition, l’Âme au corps (1993).

That this project, as early as 1984, meshed a critical inquiry into the history of the body with analyses of the representational practices in which the body is bound up, including museological conventions, still seems astounding to me. That it was effected by artists on the periphery as a self-produced large-scale work involving an entire abandoned building even more so.

From the press release:

Le Musée des Sciences is … a rigorous analysis of the socioeconomic order carried out over the bodies which that order constructs. [It] confronts the body of men, made machine by a Cartesian anatomy and the Industrial Revolution, with the body-in-pieces of woman, a body which has resolutely refused to look like its portraits. But this work is not ‘new figuration’ — representation is as much an institution as is the scientific method. The privileging of ‘bodies’ of knowledge and their vested interests are equally questioned here, as is the orchestration of the ‘body’ politic through social services rendered in just such buildings as are post offices.”

 

 

It is important to understand the conditions in which this project was possible, conditions which range from Montreal’s francophone proximity to continental thought, to the number of empty buildings in North American cities, post 1970s stagflation. We were not alone in pioneering the occupation of public space through collective creative action: 1984 is also the year that Group Material — including friends Julie Ault, Doug Ashford and, later, Felix Gonzales-Torres — produced their first Timeline project, A Chronicle of US Intervention in Central and Latin America, at PS1 in New York.

Our projects were no less political, forms of feminism taking place in a register questioning cultural convention and aesthetics. All museum activities, from collecting and conserving to display and education, funnel towards acts of interpretation that are essentially representational, involving the conjugation of objects, fragmentary and rent from their original context, into a semblance of meaning outside that original context. With Le Musée des Sciences we sought to extend to, and fully encompass, museum practice within a group of cultural acts more readily familiar as ‘representational’.

Many artists have made museum parodies in their own studios. Some of us, as can be seen in Le Musée des Sciences, have sought to create alternative museums in highly charged spaces which are neither studio nor museum. Still others have parodied anthropological or natural history collections inside the confines of the fine art museum when they are given the chance. Another tactic is to drop artworks into non-art museum display contexts. This stream of work was one of which I was very aware, having participated tangentially in the development of the publication Museums by Artists (Bronson, ed., 1983) whilst working in distribution of Video by Artists at Art Metropole in Toronto.

Yet few had ventured into the science museum. In 1983, Lyne had an exhibition in Stuttgart (Kunstler Aus Kanada, Württembergischer Kunstverein) and we extended our stay in Europe by travelling to several cities in Italy, including Florence. Visiting the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza (now the Museo Galileo) was the original impetus for the project which became Le Musée des Sciences. At the heart of the city which had been the centre of Renaissance art and science, this wonderful museum that was then still organised in displays which followed taxonomies that had actually emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries: it was pivotally inspirational in both form and content.

The chromatically ordered samples of geological materials on the top floor of the museum was still then arranged as a two-hundred year old teaching collection, and it presaged with great beauty a sense of so much of what colour would later be able to tell us about matter once Frauenhofer had invented the spectroscope. Several floors down, the extraordinary set of obstetrical phantoms tried to cover all possible positions of a baby inside the womb at birth.

 

 

This is the moment at which ‘anatomically correct’ comes to mean, as it will for hundreds of years, a realistic representation of a dismembered body — ostensibly so as to focus the medical mind on the area of interest. Row on row of life-size wax and terra cotta teaching models presented what appeared to be stumps of surgically removed legs and semi-intact upper torsos, a carefully circumscribed layer of skin, fat, muscle and uterine wall excised to admit the surgeon’s gaze.

Further, the formally trained eye could observe, stepping from one set of Enlightenment instruments to another merely by passing through a gallery doorway, the clear isomorphic rapport between the barrel of a small cannon and that of a large telescope. It was this cannon and this telescope which first drew me to Feyerabend’s Against Method.

Nowadays, the role of artist-curator is commonly acknowledged, and I have certainly in the intervening years held that position a number of times as I have moved deeper into the museum world. Perhaps less familiar is the gravitational pull I felt in making Le Musée des Sciences with Lyne in 1984: it was a pull in the other direction — I was becoming a curator-artist. In the previous large-scale site work that she and I had created together, Projet Building / Caserne #14 (1983), there was a clear demarcation of roles: I was billed as the curator. By the opening day of Le Musée des Sciences, I was no longer at all sure of that. It would be some years before I realised that it didn’t really matter what I called myself, and many years before it stopped mattering to other professionals.

 

Le Musée des Sciences (and other of our site projects) is fully documented in Studiolo : The Collaborative Work of Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe, by Fleming, Johnstone and Lapointe (Artextes, 1997). Alongside Le Musée des Sciences, the other two projects which form our ‘Montreal triptych’ are Projet Building / Caserne #14, (1983) and La Donna Delinquenta (1987).  I also later analysed a number of the methodologies and outcomes of Le Musée des Sciences in my doctoral project, From Le Musée des Sciences to the Sciences Museum (2004).

Further Links: Wellcome Trust Library; Group Material; Museums by Artists (Art Metropole, 1983)Museo Galileo: 80 years of Display

[Image References: all images are of Le Musée des Sciences by Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe (1984) with the exception of the second image on this page (Wellcome Trust Library Reading Room) and the fourth (Museo Galileo obstetrical models room, 1983). The third image on the page is of the working drawing with which we created the walk-on anamorphosis in the project.]

 

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Projet Building / Caserne #14

Projet Building / Caserne #14, for the abandoned Fire Station 14 (Montreal, with Lyne Lapointe, 1983)

The first of our ‘Montreal triptych’ of site-specific projects occupying entire buildings in the 1980s, Projet Building / Caserne #14 took place in an abandoned Fire Station in the Plateau area of the city. It explored the private life of public service through a stark poetics of space in deepest Canadian winter.

Fire Station 14 had been abandoned for several years when Lyne Lapointe and I applied successfully to the City of Montreal to have access to it for a period of six months in the winter of 1982-83, with the intent of creating of it an artwork. A solid public service construction of cement, the gruelling Quebec winters of -30 centigrade followed by fast spring thaws had already utterly transformed it. There was no water and no electricity, and many of the amenities that had served the firemen on duty had been removed. Our main form of transport for the work we set out to do was a hand dolly: creative constraint.

In the long shadow of arte povera, and by the incandescent light cast by Gordon Matta-Clark, we set about making an immersive artwork that would be understood as such, as much by the textile workers at the neighbouring Paris Star factory as by firemen and curators. We interrogated the building, its fabric, its oneiric and symbolic qualities, its position within Montreal’s urban fabric and its place within a welfare state.

In this first of what would become a number of significant architectural interventions over the next decade and more, we learned with this project to master architectonic vocabularies and spatial conventions, and became familiar with certain psychic geometries that are key in reconfiguring a building to reveal its social meanings.

Rooms were meticulously stripped of wood that might give a false semblance of warmth, windows were blocked and light forced through tiny fissures to illuminate austere, isolate rectangles of colour. The presence of absent bodies was evoked again and again — in the regimental placement of Firemen’s coats on the ground floor, in the magic trick of a tropical camp cot, and in the drawings in soot emblazoned on the sweating marble cubicles of the abandoned shower-room.

Like a sentinel at the door, a camera obscura hinted at the link between surveillance and night-watch, and upstairs, in what had been the changing room for a cohort of brave men became two ice-rinks flanking a tiny campstove that glowed with faint comfort. Its tiny motor powered by a car battery, a child’s record-player slowly spun an LP of tangos sung by Carlos Gardel.

 

Beads of sweat formed on the upper lip. It is the living dampness of the sweat that fear and heat produce that makes soot stick to the skin of the fireman. From the privacy of the cloistered firehall the fireman is catapulted through urban space on a trajectory that defies all the rules of collective order, careening through red lights on the wrong side of the yellow line. Then he penetrates the secret world of the family home, his urgency blasting the walls of the sanctuary in order to protect it, obliging the air of public and private to mingle explosively.

Fire was obviously present in the Firehall; brilliant in its absence, fire was in fact the building’s reason to be. Something outside it that animated it, something primeval its efficiency was meant to master.

from Studiolo (1997)

 

And here is the press release, from January 1983 — nearly 30 years ago:

Projet Building/Caserne #14 est l’oeuvre la plus récente de la jeune artiste montréalaise Lyne Lapointe. En utilisant en entier l’espace de l’ancien poste d’incendie #14 situé rue Saint Dominique en tant que ‘matériel d’artiste,’ ses installations interrogent le phénomène de l’architecture comme ordonnation sociale de l’espace. Explique Lapointe:

‘J’aimerais mettre en évidence l’idée d’une maison — la fonction des étages et des espaces publics et privés tels qu’ils ont été divisés et investis.’

Édifice de dortoirs et de stationnements, il personnifie l’attente métaphorique des pompiers qui sont isolés de la société pour mieux la servir. C’est donc un batiment qui écarte les ‘événements’ du quotidien, un batiment dans lequel on trouve reproduit la société en microcosme exagéré.

Les hiérarchies militaires, entre capitaine et pompier par example, les traces d’une misogynie conventionnelle, la problématique de l’équation entre la souffrance et l’héroïsme — aussi significatif pour les artistes que pour les pompiers — sont examinés à travers la recherche de Lyne Lapointe.

C’est une recherche, en fin de compte, qui fait une tentative de déconstruction des mythes culturels: la territorialité de l’architecture, l’architecture des classes, la classe des femmes, tous ont été mis en dialogue à la Caserne #14. C’est un projet à grande échelle, représentant un an de travail.

Lyne Lapointe:

‘Ce que je veux faire, c’est de prendre des articles culturels tel une caméra ou meme un édifice, et les amener à un point brut où je pourrais examiner les processus sociaux qu’ils impliquent — dans ces deux cas, la représentation et la désignation des lieux respectivement — et de commenter là-dessus.’

 

And should you ask where Martha Fleming might be in these quoted texts, I am their author. On the poster for Projet Building / Caserne #14 I was billed as the curator. Much of this was to change in the years to come, but of course, what goes around, comes around.

 

 

Projet Building / Caserne #14 (and other of our site projects) is fully documented in Studiolo : The Collaborative Work of Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe, by Fleming, Johnstone and Lapointe (Artextes, 1997). Alongside Projet Building / Caserne #14, the other two projects which form our ‘Montreal triptych’ are Le Musée des Sciences (1984) and La Donna Delinquenta (1987).

Further Links: Arte povera; Gordon Matta-Clark

[Image References: all images are of Project Building / Caserne #14 by Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe (1983)]

Art Metropole Video Distribution

Distribution Manager, Artists’ Videotapes, Art Metropole, Toronto (1979 to 1981)

 

Under the direction of Peggy Gale, Art Metropole was one of the first organisations in the world to curate, archive and distribute artists’ videotapes. This was a very exciting time for this medium, then only about a decade old, as video equipment itself moved from reel-to-reel to cassette, from PortaPak to Camcorder, and the battle for Betamax was lost to VHS.

I worked with Peggy and with General Idea — the founders of Art Metropole — to develop distribution networks and exhibitions of video by artists; co-authoring, compiling and helping to produce the first printed catalogue of AM’s video stable. This is still an amazing document, listing early works by some of the most exciting artists in the field — Ant Farm, General Idea itself, Lisa Steele, David Askevold, Colin Campbell, Bill Viola and more.

At the time, there were few curators in major museums who were up to speed with artists’ time-based work in performance and video. One of the few was — and still is — Barbara London, of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, who has continued to evolve and renew herself as a curator alongside the field itself.  Barbara bought a number of works by Canadian video artists and others from Art Metro while I was there.

In 1980, the Canadian representation at the Venice Biennale showcased video artists in an exhibition curated by Bruce Ferguson with co-ordination and support from Art Metropole. This project took me to Venice for the first time, and I accompanied General Idea to the Basel Art Fair that year as well. It was a crash-course in the art world, and a very different world it was then.

I was particularly interested in the way in which formal and technical aspects of video informed the way that artists used it.  It may be amusing now to hear that the advent of colour video — until the late 70s financially out of the reach of most artists — had a big effect on the kinds of tapes being made, but so it is. Invited to speak at the Nova Scotia College of Art, that was the subject of my presentation.

In 1981 the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, then run by Antonia Payne, invited me to curate a group of videos for a larger exhibition entitled Canada in Birmingham. I included work by Robert Hamon among others, and Ed Lam, my student at the Ontario College of Art and Design — where I was co-teaching the performance and video programme with Noel Harding.

During my time at Art Metro, I also sat on the Board of Trinity Square Video, an artist-run production and post-production centre in Toronto which was instrumental in the development of video art in North America.  Though the main distributor for artists’ videos in Canada is now VTape, Art Metro is to this day a significant hub for artists’ books and multiples.

 

 

Further Links: Art Metropole; Barbara London; Canadian Video Art; VTape

[Image References: all images are from videos which were distributed by Art Metropole during the period when I worked there:  Ant Farm: Media Burn (1975), Colin Campbell: Hollywood and Vine (1977), Lisa Steele: Birthday Suit, Scars and Defects (1974)]