How student-artists perceive one garment

From globalisation to self care, the shirt covers it all

From FASA grants for individualized projects, to student run exhibitions at the VAV Gallery and the Art Matters festival, Concordia fine arts students are given many opportunities to showcase their work annually. Student work of all mediums, and touching upon a broad range of issues is included; nothing is left unaccounted for.

Among these are the works of Elisabeth Perrault, Petro Psillos and Camille Charbonneau, student artists who work in a variety of mediums but share some common political and material ground.

These three student artists have used shirts as the medium for their messages.

Perrault’s untitled piece, exhibited during Relics.jpeg, at the VAV Gallery from Oct. 1 to 19, is a very large button-down shirt with printed motifs, made entirely by hand. The exhibition was curated based on material engagement according to the VAV’s curatorial statement, “relating to one another in their physicality and their ingenuity in the exploration of materials.”

Perrault’s work merged her skills in textile, fibre and design with screen printing processes to summarise the history of labour exploitation in the textile and fashion industries. “The image is made up of a young American girl in the 1900s. Through her, we can perceive actors exploited in their workforce,” said Perrault. “A shirt is a universal garment that most people have at home. A unisex garment that has no identifiable identity. It’s a reminder of how our everyday clothes are made.”

The transparency of the material is for emphasis of the voluntary blindness of our society in the face of this ethical problem,” the artist said.

Perrault’s design, choice of fabric, buttons and screen printed image encourage consumers to divest from fast fashion, reflecting the past and present of the clothing industry.

Similarly, painting and drawing student, Petro Psillos, created another large t-shirt made out of smaller, identical ones. “War (1991) is part of an ongoing series of authority-related t-shirt installations and sculptures,” said Psillos, who sewed four promotional t-shirts worn by Cineplex employees (himself included), to depict Ricardo Trogi’s recent film, 1991.

“Because I work at Cineplex Laval, I had to wear this shirt as part of my uniform for a month straight,” explained the artist. “During that time, the shirt got butter stains, popcorn oil stains, sweat, tears, rips… I started to think about how the employees of the cinema behave like a community, and how we’re all working together towards the end-goal of a corporation, but also developing skills and techniques, relationships and habits.”

Both Perrault and Psillos’s pieces critique contemporary consumption and labour exploitation by using the shirt as a medium.

“Since we look all the same wearing the same t-shirts, we are easy to group as one entity. To the outside customers […] we look all the same, without personality, not individual, not unique.” said Psillos. His work—exhibited as part of Art Matters during Sites of Embodied Silence at the VAV Gallery—uses the relatability of the shirt to confront viewers, increasing the typical size of the garment to create a wall, a physical obstacle to navigate in the gallery space.

War 1991, Petro Psillos in Sites of Embodied Silence at the VAV Gallery during the Art Matters festival. Photo courtesy of Art Matters.

For War (1991), Psillos intended to connect the exchange between business and culture as a testament to Quebec’s shrinking national identity. He saw this as a parallel to the way Cineplex and other corporations impose authority over their employees, especially through language control within immigrant communities enforced by Bill 101 and 115.

In both cases, I am stripped of my individuality and expected to submit to another person’s perspective,” said the artist.

Through the film it represents, to its colour and wear, War (1991) contains powerful references to escapism, globalization and bloodshed. Buttery popcorn stains allude to the dispute of oil and its production, and the size and name of the piece refer to the then recent demolition of the Berlin wall.

As a global symbol, the shirt can also be intensely personalized. Camille Charbonneau’s performance piece, 1 Corinthians 6:19, conceives the body as something that is borrowed, to be confined to a gender binary, and something to be hidden.

The piece, exhibited during Art Matters, consists of garments lined with beads. “While worn, the beaded sentence ‘YOUR BODY IS A TEMPLE’ found in the shirt, on the in-sole of the shoes, and inside the knees of the pants is imprinted on the skin through pressure,” explained Charbonneau. “The use of the shirt, and of the other pieces of clothing in the project, stand as a symbol of oppression […] the emphasis put on the body being ‘a’ temple instead of ‘your’ temple limits someone’s well-being to a singular way of applying care to a body, and for gender non-conforming individuals, that care involves removing the shirt, and letting the wounds heal.”

The biblical passage 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reads, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies.”

Physical care, clothing restrictions and overall behavior enforced by social norms compiled with critiques on globalization, consumption, violence and politics are embedded in these artists’ respective works. As an often mundane object, the shirt embodies all of this, and proves to be a symbol of Concordia’s 2018-19 art scene.


Finding intimacy and community through art

Somewhere Shared challenges traditional art viewing spaces

How does physicality and space influence the way we view art? How can challenging traditional structures of art viewing, such as galleries, influence intimacy and community?

These are some of the questions that local art collective Somewhere Shared considered in creating their recent event, Somewhere Inside: A Cozy Wintertime Show.

Somewhere Shared is a Montreal based art collective, created by Concordia students and artists Rachelle Alexandra Fleury, Erica Hart, Olivia Deresti-Robinson, and Maggie Hope. Created in the summer of 2017, the collective has held several events that showcase work by local artists. The group focuses on creating spaces and opportunities for local artists, and transforming everyday environments into spaces for art sharing.

Somewhere Inside: A Cozy Wintertime Show took place on Feb. 2, at the Art Loft, in the Plateau. In organizing the event, the collective began with a thematic focus, which then influenced the space the show would take place in, and the art that would be featured. The show focused on ideas of intimacy, the home and the domestic space. The collective’s overarching themes of community building were also incorporated. Keeping this in mind, the collective searched for comfort in the Art Loft, which is both a home and an event location. While the venue serves as a living space for several, it also regularly turns into an event space for local music and comedy shows. The event’s environment exemplified the focus on accessibility and community that the collective values—the live music and film screening further challenged traditional gallery spaces, and removed the seriousness that is regularly present in more traditional gallery settings. It appeared that community connection was just as big a focus as the art was, as for most of the evening, everyone mingled, talked, and interacted with each other and the art.

Lindsey Lagemaat’s Earring considers the connection between capitalism and intimacy, or lack thereof. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

While going through the submissions, it was important for the collective to try to feature as many different perspectives and interpretations of the themes as possible. This was to make sure that, overall, the work being shown would be diverse and complex, adding to the overall concept and the viewer’s understandings and interactions with the show.

Somewhere Inside featured a variety of works, including sculpture, film and live music. Artists featured included Lindsey Lagemaat, a Concordia fibres student, who’s pink, textural, hanging sculpture considers the connection between capitalism and intimacy, or lack thereof. Artist Tiana Atheron, who studies fibres and crafts at Concordia, showcased an interactive work, titled How To Be A Good Hostess, which questions traditional feminine gender ideals, through reimagined domestic objects, such as a broom and a duster, and having instructions for viewers for how to interact with the artwork. As the venue for the event was an apartment and living space, already decorated with art on the walls, the collective worked to find diverse pieces, many that weren’t to be simply hung on the wall, but instead be interacted with by the viewer.

Merival performing at Art Loft for Somewhere Inside. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

The event also held a sit-down film screening and live musical performances from Sara Jarvie Clark, Merival, and Yum! Jarvie Clark is a Concordia theatre student, and a folk-americana-classical musician. Merival is the name of Toronto singer-songwriter Anna Horvath’s musical project, which draws inspiration from ideas of vulnerability. Yum! consists of Concordia students Tyson Burger, Nathan Walsh and Eddy Jackson, who create music that draws from folk, house and punk genres.

In June 2017, Somewhere Shared held an event in an apartment shared by three of the creators, to showcase artwork, music and merchandise created by the collective and their friends. This event looked at generating revenue for the artists from their work, and led to the collective working on future art events. These events continued to focus on their values of supporting local artists, and challenging traditional norms of how we view and interact with art. The collective also finds importance in community building, fostering both connection and intimacy through art.

In June of 2018, Somewhere Shared held its second event, Play. For Play, Somewhere Shared also collaborated with local collective Dress Up Montreal, whose mandate expresses their focus, in being; “an initiative aimed at encouraging self-expression through fashion.” The show took place in an artist’s apartment and rooftop, and featured many local artists, interactive pieces and live music. The event was centered around the concept of playing, or finding freedom, nostalgia and innocence through interacting with art.

Looking to the future, Somewhere Shared hopes to continue to curate different experiences, with a possibility of another show taking place this coming summer. Meanwhile, each of the members of the collective are continuing to practice and create their respective crafts and art practices.

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