The history of art in Acadie, as it is conceived today, began in the 1960s with the establishment of the Université de Moncton and the creation of its Visual Arts Department. Since that time, several generations of artists and cultural agents have built an ever-growing artistic community.
As a result of extensive research in this historical archive, we identified a few dozen topics related to some of the organizations, events, and individuals who made a contribution to the flourishing of arts and culture in southeastern New Brunswick. Some topics were already well anchored in the collective memory, while others were, until today, less well known. In this respect, we wish to contribute to the writing of art history by taking a new look at familiar events and by paying particular attention to the entities that have not received proper recognition. This rewriting unfolds to take a new shape through artistic creation.
The artists were given a list of suggested themes and each chose a piece of this history as the starting point towards the creation of a permanent new artwork, thereby giving new weight to the past. As a result, the artists of Images rémanentes have produced memory-artworks in which time is inscribed but where the topic is interpreted, manipulated, or reconstructed.
Echoing contemporary approaches to writing history, where time is interpreted organically, as a network, rather than linearly, our approach as curators has been heterogeneous and fragmentary. The historical narrative that takes shape through Images rémanentes is thus made up of diverse windows onto particular moments of significance without claiming to be all-inclusive or exhaustive.
We believed it important to work in a spirit of fairness while calling into question the dominant narrative discourse and taking advantage of the perspective afforded by the passage of time. Some of the topics we chose may have bewildered some people at first, but it was our duty to bring into the light the blind spots of our collective art history. At the same time, we have taken a fresh look at some aspects of this history in order to contribute to a better knowledge and recognition of its most significant episodes.
With Images rémanentes we also wanted to create a privileged setting in which to develop relationships between artists and curators, as curating is still in its infancy in Acadie. For us, these connections are horizontal, unfolding in conversation and based on a principle of exchange and togetherness, and it is in this spirit that we hope that curating will continue in the region.
In order to identify a common thread through the works, seeing that they have arisen out of very divergent artistic practices, we imposed a theoretical framework which brings together two key concepts: post-production and the palimpsest.
The concept of post-production puts forth that artworks are products that can be interpreted, adapted, or manipulated for artistic purposes (Nicolas Bourriaud, 2003). By actively inhabiting the already informed material, artists place themselves in new contexts by extending the narrative and providing new understandings of previous narratives. The palimpsest, for its part, refers to objects which reveal the superimposition of texts in layers or which maintain an implicit co-presence with other objects from the past (Laurent Olivier, 1982). By looking back to previous references, the artwork as palimpsest brings pre-existing forms into the present day.
To these concepts is added the idea that the material is informed before being reused by the artists and that memory is constantly being constructed. By preserving its ability to bear witness, the material is reworked by the artist in order to respond to new contexts. Transformation and reclaiming are at the heart of these theoretical approaches and give rise to new versions of memory.
The projects that have emerged from this theoretical framework demonstrate the multiple ways that the past can leave traces on the present. The artists addressed the historical topics proposed through several approaches, such as direct quotation (Maryse Arseneault, Jacinthe Loranger) or indirect quotation of a conceptual or formal kind (Mathieu Boucher Côté, Luc A. Charette, Emilie Grace Lavoie); commemorative gestures (Mario Doucette, Jean-Denis Boudreau); intergenerational dialogue (Marika Drolet-Ferguson, Alisa Arsenault); by extending unfinished histories (Jared Betts, Marjolaine Bourgeois); or in reference to other disciplines (Mathieu Léger, Dominik Robichaud). Because these groupings are porous, we invite people to constantly reinterpret these historical moments.
Michelle Drapeau and Elise Anne LaPlante
Elise Anne LaPlante and Michelle Drapeau, Images rémanentes curators
Currently enrolled in a master’s program in art history at Université Laval, Michelle Drapeau is an emerging curator from Moncton and now based in Quebec City. She has worked as the assistant curator of contemporary art at the Musée des beaux-arts national du Québec and has prepared outreach materials for this same institution. She has been coordinator of the Symposium international d’art contemporain in Baie-Saint-Paul and teaching assistant in art history at Université Laval.
Alongside her mandate for Images rémanentes, she is the assistant curator for Manif d’art, the Quebec City art biennial, curator of all exhibitions in the Quebec City Library galleries, and project manager for the Maison de la littérature. She is involved in the artistic community as treasurer on the board of directors of the Foire en art actuel de Québec, as host of the weekly cultural radio program À l’est de vos empires, and as a jury member for various contemporary art awards, in addition to writing critical essays on art.
Currently enrolled in a master’s program in art history at the Université du Québec à Montréal, Elise Anne LaPlante is an independent curator and cultural worker. She is particularly interested in the representation of women artists in art history and has conducted research into this topic in Acadie. She is also interested in archives, writing on art and alternative practices that exploit the nebulous areas between disciplines and reprogram the history of art for artistic purposes.
Elise Anne is actively involved in the arts community. Her activities include writing critical texts (Liaison, Astheure, and the exhibition catalogue for the Mario Doucette exhibition Harias); coordinating events (the RE:FLUX festival, the Symposium art/nature, the workshop “L’art visuel s’écrit”); teaching (sessional at the Université de Moncton); and by the exhibition projects she has curated: Dérouler l’archive: LASART (1982) revisité (2015, 2017), (RE)voir (2016), Tombées dans les interstices (2017, 2018) and Images rémanentes (2018).