Alternative exhibition space live-streams Concordia students’ work
Are you tired of the traditional gallery setting? Do you just want to stay home in bed until summer arrives? Then Concordia photography student Phil Mercier and his partner, Lisa Theriault, designed the Closet Gallery just for you!
The couple—both artists originally from New Brunswick—were frustrated with the lack of exhibiting opportunities available for emerging artists and decided to create an alternative space in their own Montreal apartment. Mercier and Theriault set up the first show inside their closet in 2017. All shows in the Closet Gallery are self-produced and live streamed.
As is the case at most galleries, the curators of the Closet Gallery email newsletters about upcoming shows and share them on social media. When the gallery first opened, many of the featured artists were friends or acquaintances of Mercier and Theriault. Although some artists prefer to only have their exhibits streamed for a few days, the gallery began with week-long live streams running everyday from Monday to Friday.
Today, only emerging artists from Concordia’s BFA programs are invited to submit their project proposals. Mercier and Theriault recently applied for and received a Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) grant to fund their initiative. The grant covers materials and equipment needed for the live streams, as well as artist honorariums.
“We really strive to support artists financially, to remove barriers and respect the work that artists do,” Mercier said. The FASA grant allowed them to form a jury to select projects to be featured in the gallery. The jury includes Erandy Vergara, the art director of the Eastern Bloc gallery, and Camille Larivée from the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective.
Once selected, the artists visit the couple’s home to get a sense of the space they will be working with. They may run a test stream to see how the work looks ahead of time. Mercier insisted that the process is collaborative and that selected artists must be open to possibilities, as live-streaming can change the way a work is perceived.
“Ultimately, we want to give tools to artists to help something fun happen,” he said. The Closet Gallery recently had artist Georgia Graham perform an interpretive piece alongside her artwork in the closet. A Self in Constant Movement was streamed from March 5 to 9, with Graham’s performance on the final day. The stream can be accessed in the gallery’s archive at closetgallery.ca.
Three Unattending Moons, a sound and ice sculpture installation by Juliana Delgado, was streamed from March 29 to 31. The title of the piece was inspired by Two Evening Moons, a poem written by Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Delgado and Garcia Lorca share a love of water and the ocean. The ice sculptures, one of a bride and groom and another of two dolphins, were streamed melting under changing coloured lights over three days, with audio looped in the background. Delgado edited the audio recordings to include a mixture of readings meant to induce an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). These include poems by Garcia Lorca, Renata Pallottini and Carlos Drummond de Andrade, with layered sounds of crackling and water in the background.
“There are recordings of small, constrained spaces to mirror the space of the closet—people talking in elevators, sounds of a shower, muffled recordings taken inside my bag,” the artist explained. “The sounds of myself talking are echo-like, distant and eerie.”
Delgado works with themes of nostalgia, grief, longing and the passage of time. She said the Closet Gallery was the ideal space to show this installation, as she is intrigued with place-based art and “working within the constraints of the small space rather than against it.” The idea to work with ice was inspired by the time constraint of the live-streaming process. The artist embraced the Closet Gallery’s method in the creation of her sculptures, showing something that was evolving and changing.
Delgado is currently in her second year of painting and drawing at Concordia, and will be participating in the Celine Bureau residency, with a focus on audio projects, in the spring.
The Closet Gallery will be occupied with artist Alejandro Barbosa’s work from April 3 to 6. It will be live streamed on closetgallery.ca.