Geneviève & Matthieu: Dans l'oeil du menhir (In the Eye of Menhir)
An Interdisciplinary installation from La Jamésie

September 21 - October 19, 2013

372 Ste-Catherine West suite 221
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
H3B 1A2

Open Saturdays from 12 pm to 5 pm




La Jamésie: A New Found Art World?

In their interdisciplinary work-in-progress La Jamésie, which will culminate in a 1,000 kilometre road-trip across the little-known Jamesian region of Northern Quebec, the collective duo Geneviève et Matthieu imagine a new land where all the artistically-inclined and socially-inept of the world can finally live in peace and harmony. As they explore the allegories of the supernatural Boreal landscape, summoning at times the prophecies of science fiction, they have produced a diverse body of sculptural "props" that are revitalized by dark poetry, athletic performance, cinematic sounds and music.

Though the objects included are familiar nodes to modernism, they destabilize us not just for their economy of means and figuration, but for the bruteness of the materials utilized, as if minimalism and abstract expressionism were held-up barely by Arte Povera. A brash play on and critique of art movements past and present - D.I.Y. culture, conceptualism and the "performative" arts - the enigmatic works presented here reveal much of their meaning only when animated by the artists themselves. In a sense, the artists are alluding to the imperviousness of much of modern and contemporary art, which, in this context, can only be illuminated by human interaction and cooperation.

In the new musical performances that are part of this exhibition, the uncannily engaging Geneviève and Matthieu sing of this new land, La Jamésie, where the marginalized - the rejects, artists and losers of this world - can start this Earthly life anew. It is a complicated, but extremely pertinent proposition, given the current political climate where human rights and freedom of expression are waiting precariously on the borderline. 

From their new track Artistiquement (Artistically), they have much to declare:

"No, I will not hop onboard the showbiz bus"

"If we had something to say, we would say it, we wouldn't stop ourselves"

These are some quintessential artist mantras that most creators now recite ever so silently, privately, in their heads, as they grind through the motions of producing market-driven works, while still dreaming of artistic freedom, of a better life. The inherent right of artists to freedom of expression has problematically been depreciated to a mere privilege in this over-commercialized art world which yields more and more influence and control. The art world as it stands is no longer suited for the visionaries, the courageous and the free - where will they go?

Despite this accelerating demise, there is a legion of artists who will not compromise or assimilate (Geneviève and Matthieu are examples), and who are working hard at exploring new possibilities and pathways. La Jamésie seems then to be like a personal and political cry for help, in defence of artistic integrity and freedom. It is an allegory of our present, a time when artists and their work are commodified to such a degree by the art market that it could well be a factory assembly line. Not La Jamésie, but a 28-million dollar diamond skull would be the stuff of science fiction. For some performances, distorter in tow, Geneviève embodies a foreboding voice that could well be coming from a sect leader, a demon or from deep inside herself - we do not know. The chilling effect is fully intended, meant to shake us out of our complacency. 

Since the 1990's, at a time when interdisciplinary art was encroaching so dramatically upon all the disciplines, Geneviève et Matthieu developed their singular, nonconformist approach to artistic ambidexterity. The integration of not only art forms, but of people too, in their practice is what makes it especially meaningful, and although it becomes challenging to distinguish art from life, this might just be the point. Running the artist-run centre L'Écart lieu d'art actuel in Rouyn-Noranda for the last ten years, they recently acquired and renovated a 20 000 square foot building now housing the centre, other arts organizations, and 7 professional artist studios for the region's ever growing arts community. Geneviève and Matthieu live in the old rectory across the street, attached to a church now converted into a live arts venue. L'Écart, however, is not backdropped by a beautiful Boreal forest, but a domineering copper mine only blocks away, making it look at certain angles like it and the mine are one mammoth, preposterous building. 

What Geneviève et Matthieu may not realize is that much of the dreams of La Jamésie have already been realized, in their lives, in their artist-run centre, and in their communities. I can attest, as a longtime "Jamesian" friend, that for Geneviève and Matthieu, culture, community and life are synonymous. They live that authentic artistic life no one ever chose for them. In this project, la Jamésie could be well be a symbolic stand-in for Rouyn-Noranda, or more specifically, for L'Écart, an art hub in the middle of this large Abitibian expanse at the frontier of a new territory they have set out to explore. It is not so much a longing for a better world, but rather a longing for a better art world.

Cultural life very much depends upon the rebels, introverts, bad dressers, outsiders, scribblers, eccentrics and esoterics, who counter the homogenization and institutionalization so often choking the life out of art. Being an artist, in some respect, is a long-term relational commitment, evoked so vividly in the practice of Geneviève et Matthieu. "La Jamésie" is fundamentally about the meaning of art itself, and for the length of this project, we can travel through space and time, and perhaps imagine what it might be like for us to lead a different artistic life.

-Stefan St-Laurent

Geneviève & Matthieu are a duo from Rouyn-Noranda. Formed in 1999, this couple is known for their inter-disciplinary approach that brings together poetry, performance, humour and melody. They are the coordinators of the artists-run-centre L'Écart in Rouyn-Noranda and directors of the Biennale of performance art of Rouyn-Noranda. They perform extensively all over Quebec.

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- Artist's portfolio: Geneviève et Matthieu (06/2011) on Punctum arts visuels - La revue Web d'art sur le Québec