The Complete Dare Videos is an exhibition of work by Simon M. Benedict organized by guest curator Eduardo Ralickas. For this exhibition the curator transformed the new project room at Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain into a fully functional cinema. As a result, he not only forfeits his role as curator—and thereby becomes a cinema programmer of sorts—but he also invites the spectator to question his own viewing habits and to perform the familiar role of "movie goer". As is customary in cinema settings, a schedule has been posted outside the screening room in the hopes of transforming the behaviour of viewers. Ralickas purposely chose to screen a series of playful video works about identity. The films have an amateurish and sometimes "trashy" quality that recalls the aesthetics of experimental cinema and challenges the habitus of white cube spectatorship.
The project's point of departure is a three-hour long video performance in which Benedict engages with the book I Dare You!— a pre-teen self-improvement guide written by the founder of Nestle Purina, William H. Danforth, in the 1940s. Benedict's performance involves reading the book's prosaic information out loud from cover to cover in a single sitting.
The "I dare you to read this book" video performance completes a cycle of works that revisit the dialogical nature of daring. These videos invariably follow the same pattern: a member of the artist's entourage (a friend, a family member, a colleague or a co-worker) dares the artist to perform a given feat. The actions to be performed are formulated verbally and provide the final title of each video. Needless to say, they are chosen for their ridiculous and humiliating character. In the resulting videos, Benedict brilliantly demonstrates his incompetence as he attempts to embody a subway station rapper, the egg-man, or a master of enunciation. Performative failure characterizes the series as a whole.
From an anthropological point of view, such challenges stem from ritualistic forms of socialisation and can be regarded as rites of passage within a community with common bonds. As a mode of behaviour prevailing in adolescence, moreover, the process of daring is symptomatic of an image of self projected by one's peers as members of a social group attempt to determine the limits of their respective subjectivities and agencies.
However, by addressing this intersubjective process within an artistic framework, Benedict's dare videos intelligently raise the question of the artistic subject as a discursive formation whose very existence is determined by the voice of the Other. In this light, the exhibition frames Benedict's videos as reflections on the nature of self-portraiture. But whereas the depiction of self is the aim of most such work, Benedict's videos bring to the fore the social and linguistic process whereby subjectivity first comes into being. In Benedict's case, this involves paying heed to how the Other plays a creative part in both shaping and picturing the artistic self. Ultimately, the self that emerges here exists merely as representation and is bereft of any autonomy whatsoever (even if only an imaginary one), as the language of the Other engenders a precarious (and often quite comic) agent of his own passivity: a subject of humiliation.
This exhibition is part of a larger project exploring how recent art is concerned with performing instances of its own failure.
Simon M. Benedict is a visual artist from Montreal currently based in Berlin. He works in photography, video, drawing and sculpture. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University in 2010. In 2011, he took part in a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts. He has exhibited in Québec, Canada and Europe.
Eduardo Ralickas is an art historian, art critic and curator based in Montreal. He holds a doctorate from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris) and the Université de Montréal. His art criticism has appeared in various Canadian periodicals, including Parachute, esse, Ciel Variable, and Blackflash. He has also authored essays for Intermédialités and the Journal of Canadian Art History. In 2011, he contributed to Le travail qui nous attend, a book-length publication launched in conjunction with the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal's second Quebec Triennial. His is currently the Associate Curator at Artexte.
VIEWS OF THE SHOW
SATURDAYS: 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm
« Je veux que tu manges les pissenlits par la racine ».
Single channel video, 2008. Running time : 6 min 33 sec.
« J'te gage que t'es pas capable d'écrire les ingrédients du ketchup, sur le sol, avec UNE SEULE bouteille de ketchup ».
Single channel video, 2009. Running time : 5 min 38 sec.
« Tu dois t'écrire Eggman sur la bédaine avec un marqueur noir (sur un t-shirt s'il fait froid). Tu dois descendre St-Laurent de Mont-Royal à Ste- Catherine avec un œuf dans une cuillère. Tu as le droit à 2 œufs mais si tu les pètes tu dois retourner à ton point de départ ».
Single channel video, 2008. Running time : 9 min 52 sec.
« Tu dois passer la Saint-Valentin dans un resto et y attendre une personne qui ne viendra pas... »
Single channel video, 2009. Running time : 18 min 17 sec.
« Je te défie de peindre une copie de la Vénus de Botticelli ».
Single channel video, 2009. Running time : 16 min 52 sec.
« Je veux que tu ailles freestyler dans un endroit public. Put your best gear on yo ! ».
Single channel video, 2009. Running time : 4 min 54 sec.
« Je te défie de m'embrasser à l'aéroport pendant cinq minutes sans arrêt ».
Single channel video, 2008. Running time : 5 min 10 sec.
FRIDAYS, 1 pm
« I dare you to read this book ». Single channel video, 2011. Running time : 2 h 56 min 2 sec.