Email has replaced letters, FaceTime on iPods stands in for face-to-face conversations and the matte finish of an e-reader screen is edging out old-fashioned paper as the new medium for the printed word.
With the modern experience becoming increasingly digitized, the complaint that the physical elements of everyday life are falling by he wayside is often heard.
Although new technology and media are often blamed for this change, it is precisely the new media arts which inspired Florence Vallières, the curator of Studio Béluga’s newest exhibition WEIGHS.
“[The exhibition] came from my research and involvement with new media art, where there is a certain concern for the presence of the body, whether it’s the participants’, visitors’ or the artist’s own,” Vallières explained. “I wanted to put together a show that would involve the body, its sense of balance and gravity.”
Bringing together pieces from 11 Concordia fine arts students from disciplines as varied as ceramics, fibres, sculpture and studio arts, Vallières has curated WEIGHS as a mostly sculpture-oriented exhibition whose pieces are often suspended from the ceiling, feature heavy metal elements or otherwise evoke a sense of heaviness, lightness, suspension or gravity. The pieces contemplate the divide between mind and flesh, the ethereal and the physical.
The care with which WEIGHS has been curated is evidenced by the variety and ingenuity of the works which, while they all centre around the theme of weight and the question of the role of the physical in everyday life, are highly different one from the other.
Janna Vallee’s Anchor/Cradle, for example, features a suspended cocoon-like bed seeming to hover inches from the floor, while Melodie Reay’s Marion Helen is a sculpture of an elderly nude corpse curled into the fetal position to represent sleep, its skin exhibiting all the wrinkles and folds expected, creating an impression of something at once delicate and weightless and morbid and heavy, though not sad.
Marie-Pier Malouin’s (38×2)+15+19 consists of a series of white square veils hung one after another as on a clothesline, each cloth featuring a series of thin concentric circles that are made larger on the middle, lowest-hung cloths, and smallest on the ones at the head and tail of the clothesline. The overall impression is one of weightlessness, but also one of impossibly thin layers building up to a visual, if not physical, sense of occupying a large amount of space.
Remarkably for an exhibit that seems so thematically-focused, Vallières described the process of curating WEIGHS as being one that developed organically as works were submitted, and a clearer picture of the exhibit as a whole began to emerge.
“Instead of artists submitting to a specific theme with its own demands on the medium, we did not divulge the themes we wanted to work with, and were therefore encouraged to adjust the themes according to what we saw,” she explained.
“The submissions which ended up speaking most straightforwardly to my themes—and this should have been obvious—were sculptures,” added Vallières, for whom sculpture was a new and exciting medium with which she had not often previously worked.
“The idea behind my choices was to make the show representative of student art in Concordia,” Vallières said, commenting on WEIGHS’ role in participating in Art Matters 2012, the ongoing Concordia arts festival. “Student work which is part of Art Matters is shown in professional and underground galleries all over town, including storefronts in the Mile End [Block Party] and the Art Matters van [Vehicular Commodities],” Vallières said, “so the festival really makes the artwork visible.”
“In the context of the student strike, which has just been voted for by fine arts students, I feel that Art Matters takes on another aspect,” Vallières said, talking about the relevance of the recent tuition hike protests and questions of funding to projects such as those participating in Art Matters.
“It’s another way to showcase student work and involvement and show the benefits of accessible tuition and resources,” she added.
WEIGHS’ open house event on March 2 featured an exploration of artworks by Geri, an eclectic Montreal-based artist active in the ‘50s. Artist Stéphanie St-Jean Aubre will close the exhibit with a show of her artwork Béton for WEIGHS’ finissage on March 16.
WEIGHS runs until March 16 at Studio Béluga (160 St-Viateur W., #508A). For more information, see http://weighs.tumblr.com.