Art is an onslaught of meaning. It is meant to provoke. And it can get all up in your face—literally—as the Blackwood Gallery demonstrates with its most recent exhibit, Landscapes Events Reproducted. Yannick Desranleau and Chloe Lum, the Montréal-based duo known as Seripop, aren’t afraid to challenge viewers with colossal structures, super-saturated shades, and multiple points of attention all at once, and the result is an immersive yet delicate negotiation of space.
The Blackwood’s director/curator, Christof Migone, describes the exhibit in terms of the way it is meant to be experienced, as an opportunity to “play with possibilities until monomania sets in” and to “disturb and derange 2D into 3D”. Certainly there is an element of irony at play with Seripop’s 3D paper structures, which are meant to convey the sheer mass of buildings and whales yet simultaneously undermine such heavy forms with their very ephemerality.
Upon entering the main space of the Blackwood Gallery, the viewer is confronted by a cube-like piece hanging from a rope and hook known as “More Time than Space”, a site-specific work that extends towards the back wall and morphs into a poster piece along the gallery floor. As a result, there is some hesitation on the part of the viewer to traipse over the word art (even though the words bear no meaning at all and therefore somewhat validate the act of stepping on them), and so space quickly becomes limited in the mind of visitors, even though you are perfectly welcome to walk across the entirety of the unoccupied gallery floor. (I too found myself tiptoeing towards the painted floor, unsure if I should go any further.) Desranleau and Lum have previous experience with postering and typography as well, and they use this interest in language to both construct and collapse meaning wherever they can.
Occupying most of the neon floor space is “Dis-donc à la grosse de se tasser”, which was reinstalled at the Blackwood following its appearance at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal in 2011. The urban piece is a towering structure of paper cylinders that requires the viewer to walk around in order to see the text painted on the walls behind, but also requires you to have some knowledge of the classic Herman Melville tale Moby Dick. “DISENGAGED AND” occupies one wall while the opposite reads “HOISTED ON DECK”, and the nautical theme continues in the e|gallery with “What Should Have Been and What Would Not”, another work specifically designed for the gallery space. There is even less room to wander around here, with an immense net hanging from the ceiling and filled with more 3D paper configurations, leaving just enough room in the aisles for visitors to limbo under the belly of the beast in the rear of the space. Clearly a reference to the captured whale, Seripop describes the Moby Dick reference as “a metaphor of conquest of spatial entities of all forms by man”. The ongoing issue of space is also linked with the highly ephemeral nature of the pieces as the weight crushes down on the origami-style shapes, and they eventually spill down onto the floor where nothing shields them from the threat of slush-covered shoes (so be careful!).
An extension of the exhibition is the unusually placed “Chandigarh Is One” sitting atop the archway of the CCT Building link to the library, which features another pile of 3D forms—perhaps the remnants of the larger paper sculptures on display in the galleries, or a representiation of debris and rubble as a comment on the way society indulges in material excess, only to toss it aside for something new.
Seripop also designed the cover art for MSTRKRFT’s 2007 album The Looks, for which they won the Juno Award for CD/DVD Artwork Design of the Year, and also belong to the “noise rock” group AIDS Wolf.
Landscapes Events Reproducted runs until March 4 at the Blackwood Gallery in the Kaneff Centre and in the e|gallery across from lecture hall CCT 1080, open Monday to Friday from 12 to 5 p.m. (Wednesday until 9 p.m.) and Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 3 p.m.