Michel de Broin + Ève K. Tremblay : Honeymoons
November 6 - December 18 2004

ÈVE K. TREMBLAY | MICHEL DE BROIN
Honeymoons, 2004
Catalogue couleur comprenant des essais bilingues d'Eduardo Rallickas et Udo Karl de Sauriac
48 p. : 38 ill. ; 24 x 17 cm
ISBN 2-9808695-0-3
DISPONIBLE
 

ABOUT THE SHOW | WORKS PRESENTED | VIEWS OF THE SHOW | ARTICLES | LINKS


ABOUT THE SHOW

In Honeymoons, artists Eve K. Tremblay and Michel de Broin team up to produce a photographic work exploring the tension that animates the encounter of two singular worlds.

"We've travelled together several times, in an experimental frame of mind, each of us becoming for the other an object of fascination. These peregrinations were opportunities to study invisible phenomena through which information is silently transmitted. All these honeymoons, repeated over and over again, are voyages toward the other. They've become our way of seeking out the extraordinary in the everyday. Honeymoons sets in motion a balance, which is constantly re-obtained by way of an arsenal of signs that transmits a kind of magnetic field through which two mammals are able to love one another."

What comes out of this duo's artistic project is a captivating exploration of the invisible topography of love.


Conceptual Love [La promesse de l'image]

Eduardo Ralickas © 2004

"‘We are but one.' Everyone knows, of course, that two have never become one, but nevertheless ‘we are but one.' The idea of love begins with that. […] It could affect anyone, moreover, couldn't it, to realize that love, while it is true that it has a relationship with the One, never makes anyone leave himself behind. If that, all that and nothing but that, is what Freud said by introducing the function of narcissistic love, everyone senses and sensed that the problem is how there can be love for an other."

 

Jacques Lacan, "Love and the Signifier"1

Conceptual Love

Although it is tempting to examine the images in Honeymoons in terms of a rigorous analysis of the concept of love, perhaps by making surreptitious references to Roland Barthes' critique of amorous discourse, I have chosen to forego entirely these enticing yet predictable textual filters. In keeping with my wish to avoid well-worn paths so as to offer the reader some insights that may be useful in approaching the works themselves, I have sought to remain faithful to the seductive tableaux at hand instead of applying a predetermined and perhaps ill-conceived hermeneutical agenda upon them. I have my reasons. In fact, I believe that throughout the history of modern thought, many singular jugglers of the rational kind have carelessly attempted to wed the sensuous and the conceptual, thereby giving rise to indigestible syntheses and other chimera. It is deplorable that with the aid of convoluted periphrases and tortuous circumlocutions, the philosophical tradition has consumed innumerable nuptials under the aegis of the love of wisdom. Perhaps fittingly, if this love has failed to measure up to the object of its affections, the blame may lie in the manner in which philosophy has courted its beloved: the love of wisdom has invariably been partial to the sphere of the concept, thereby fashioning a discourse that has embraced a concept of love and not the thing itself. Given that I lack the requisite talents for rational acrobatics, in what follows, I will focus mainly on the plastic effects of the sentiment of love that have been given shape in the works at hand. Put differently, I will examine the materiality of love at play in the photographs of Honeymoons, in which one can discern a clear tendency to flirt with the slick look of conceptual art.

It is not within a philosophical corpus that one will encounter traces of conceptual love, but rather within a recent body of work produced by two artists whose collaborative efforts have disclosed the figurative powers of love. In the Honeymoons series, love is at once the starting point and the medium through which a teleological narrative is made manifest; it is also the ideal underpinning a practice that has yielded a myriad of images created with love and whose subjects are amorous through and through. This overabundance of the sentimental is not tautological, for the Honeymoons project openly stages the affective aspects of amorous experience themselves and traces their proliferations as they breed signs, figures and forms in various plastic languages. Succinctly put, the gesture of love in Honeymoons is the vehicle through which the Symbolic is laid bare for all to see.

‘I' Promise…

We are undoubtedly in the presence of two dissimilar artistic practices: Ève K. Tremblay is known for staging distinctive photographic tableaux populated by a cast of idiosyncratic protagonists, while Michel de Broin is recognized for creating subversive sculptural works that resist facile categorizations. And yet their partnership in Honeymoons has resulted in a surprisingly homogeneous series of photographs that both strives towards a hybrid aesthetic and attempts to intertwine their respective plastic strategies, while maintaining a delicious degree of tension between them. Indeed, Honeymoons has been authored by two artists who have acknowledged their mutual fascination for the realm of the Other and whom Cupid has brought together to make up—this fact cannot be overlooked given the present context—a couple. At play in these works is the highly theatrical characterization of a pair of lovers whose union is comprehended as a project. It is important to grasp what is at issue in this notion of unity qua project, for the intelligibility of many images is at stake. Simply put, project indicates that we are in the midst of striving and of suffering; to carry out a project [pro-jet] implies that the ultimate fusion long awaited for is perpetually cast out [jeté devant], like a stream of water [tel un jet] towards infinity. In other words, completion always slips away. The resulting temporal disjunction is the very site—this last word is appropriate when speaking of the geography of love—of a ceaselessly renewable repetition of nuptial scenes. In truth, repetition is the means by which the topos that structures the entire series is brought to light (namely, the encounter); it is the embodiment of this narrative element as it is rehearsed over and over again in endless permutations. Ultimately, if "repetition requires novelty and in so doing turns towards the playful, which appropriates novelty into its own domain,"2 one could posit that Honeymoons narrates the enactment of a staged union, and that the story, which always changes yet always remains the same, promises to deliver the Subject.

What is one to make of the narrative topos of the encounter? The playful nature of words is quite helpful in the present context, since I hold that the encounter does not take place at all— for it has no place (the topos is dystopian). Conversely, if this couple meets on any common ground, their encounter occurs in an empty space they both somehow occupy and which is at the origin of all their acts of longing and sharing that have been made visible in the photographs. Their encounter is fostered by a non-space that conditions their isolated, protracted gazes. The geography of their love is a topography of absence, which has given shape to the nuptial pilgrimage sites they have not ceased to frequent. Without a doubt we are dealing here with a subjectivity traversed by lack whose fulfilment is at best wanting. Unity here is duplicitous. It is a double act. The scenography of Honeymoons is driven by a desire to bridge an inalienable gap between self and Other. In Honeymoons, love is an act of translation that betrays its own insecurities, its moments of uncomfortable silence, and its inadequacies to overcome the rift that is constitutive of all communication. Hence these photographs bring into view the painful path that leads to the Other and which is the cause of so much grief.

Much like the inaugural chord of a musical work whose entire subsequent development is a quest for resolution, the first photograph of the series is quite eloquent (see Honeymoon SF8 [Vertigo]). In it two images of art-historical significance easily coalesce: Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (c. 1818) and The Sea of Ice (c. 1823–25). Notwithstanding the fact that we are dealing here with an agitated liquid ocean (as opposed to a gaseous or frozen one) in front of which two people stand in place of the German painter's lone drifter, the comparison is far from trivial. The convergence of form betrays a striking convergence of content, insofar as the first instance of conjugal union in Honeymoons functions as a metonym for Friedrich's anonymous man, thereby subtly introducing the theme of the pair's subjectivity (or perhaps of the partial subject) and the modalities of its photographic representation. In fact, it is striking to realize how such a small number of Honeymoons' images depict the young lovers together within a single space. In light of this, the reference to Friedrich's reflective Wanderer—which represents subjectivity contemplating its own activity—is certainly not gratuitous. The significance of this citation is enhanced by the reference to the other canvas, whose central theme revolves around disaster and loss. In the ensuing conjunction of meanings is cast the very leitmotiv of the photographic series itself: Honeymoons epitomises a narrative of long-awaited synthesis. The photographs are thus conceived as heralding the advent of a promised Subject; however, if in its very first instance on stage it finds that it is the subject of division, the entire game will consist in fashioning the conditions leading to the renewal of its self-acquaintance.

Self-encounters of the Imaginary Kind

Is it not remarkable to note the overabundant presence of a wild, untrammelled nature in these photographs, in which will be played out many a timid approach to the magnetic Other, or in which we can witness both our lovers aping private rituals of love?


Schopenhauer, who is remembered for having preferred the company of a poodle to any human being of either gender, and whose apology of feral love in the wild state remains a classic in the genre, would certainly not have been surprised. It might have brought the philosopher some degree of contentment to examine these lust-ridden athletics in the forest personified by a pair of artists. Their transformations are quite singular: in the series, the duo is metamorphosed into small creatures of the underbrush, transfigured into desperately ravenous mammals, transmuted into climbing predators, or simply frozen still behind the shelter of a large rock that both eclipses and makes visible the configuration of a strange beast, a monster that oddly resembles a singularly whole being (see the image entitled Honeymoon AP2 [Beast], which functions much like a mirror stage comprising two people ). If her hand and his head can only come together behind the material veil of nature, what are we to make of the long-awaited spiritual fusion, of the marriage promised by the title Honeymoons? In a word, the ultimate union has been concealed by the very materiality of the image, or to put it more accurately, the promised fusion has been disguised by the fact that it dwells here as the image.


The Other is pervasive in these tableaux; it is omnipresent as an abyss, as a hazardous substance towards which the self is fatally drawn despite all efforts of resistance. There persists, nonetheless, an unbridgeable rift that keeps otherness at bay—and therefore in its native domain. In the Honeymoons project, the gap of otherness is espoused in the materiality of representation itself understood as the site of difference. In essence, the entire series is constituted by a relatively small number of formal strategies that work to transform the affective (in the psychoanalytic sense) into form, thereby reminding us that the gratification of desire will only be partially fulfilled (that is, it will take us only as far as the surface of the image and not beyond into the imaginary realm of pure subjects). Thus, by multiplying gestures and their pendants, by accumulating savvy citations of previous works stemming from the artists' rich corpus, and by harbouring formal elements that isolate the protagonists in their respective sheltered worlds, the production of desire in the series is fundamentally mediated by an excess of signs. In their creative efforts to forge a shared symbolic universe or even a common artistic tongue, both artists have fashioned images comprised of metaphors and metonyms of plastic elements that are dear to them as a couple. Sometimes one artist has clearly singled out a shape, an anecdote, or an entire scene from the artistic production of the other, thereby contributing to their respective appropriations of one another's work. In some respects we are dealing here with the birth of language. These nomadic wanderings into the realm of the Symbolic are essential for comprehending the status of the photographic image in Honeymoons; simply put, photography is here embraced as a means for giving shape to a set of fantasies between self and Other and is not to be regarded as passive realism.


Let us take this analysis one step further. I have posited that the overabundance of signs operates on two levels: on the one hand, it affords love the very conditions of its visibility; on the other hand, it veils the couple's sentimental endeavours completely (the image behind the boulder is still fresh in my mind). It would not be an exaggeration to claim that if the sign is here embraced as a sign of love (that is, as a production triggered and shaped with love), it also functions as a dense, opaque element that casts a shadow on the onlooker's gaze. Moreover, it would seem that the sign gives itself up entirely to scrutiny and interpretation while somehow resisting the best of our hermeneutic efforts. In other words, the omnipresence of signs in Honeymoons is that which gives substance to representation. Signs are the flesh of the image. Ultimately, if the self is thwarted by the very fact that all self-relation is inexorably mediated by (the signs of) the Other, then to dwell in its discourse is equivalent to inserting oneself in the domain of the picture.


The conclusion is inevitable: selfhood is a truly deficient affair. It is simply not there where it seems, even if it seems to be there. The best of seamstresses could not conceal the seams that everywhere abound in the single robe that unites our pair. You may involuntarily recall here Plato's hackneyed fable on the origins of love. I have not. In fact, my aim has been to draw your attention to the fallacies of plenitude when it comes to thinking about subjectivity and its potential representations. I believe this line of thought has also informed the productions of our protagonists, whose project of self-portraiture has given rise to a projection of Oneness. The result is remarkable: it brings into full view the function of the artist in the making. One cannot but savour the sophistication with which the invention of a connubial identity in the narrative aspects of the series perfectly coincides with the image-making process, with the artistic work of figuration. Both artistic identity and fictive personhood are unveiled as identical entities within these pictures. The spectators of such images thereby witness the process of self-fashioning as it unfolds before their eyes. By sowing division within the ranks of unity, this fictional autobiography is nonetheless aware of its inherent limits. Limitation is ceaselessly displayed throughout; it is what breathes life into these magnificent tableaux.

1. Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge: Book XX, trans. Bruce Fink (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998), p. 47.

2. Jacques Lacan, Les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse , ed. Jacques-Alain Miller (Paris: Seuil, 1990), p. 72.

3. For the sake of clarity, I would like to note that in this image, Ève K Tremblay's hand and Michel de Broin's head are the sole components of a seemingly entire person.


WORKS PRESENTED

Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon AP3 (game), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon AP2 (beast), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5

Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon LS5-PL3-PL4 (glimmer), 2003, C-Print, 2003, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon LS5-PL3-PL4 (glimmer), 2003, C-Print, 2003, edition of 5

 

Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon APM (heights), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon AP1 (capture) , 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon AP9 (climbing) , 2003, C-Print, edition of 5
Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon WM1 (hug) , 2003, C-Print, edition of 5

 

Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon AP5 (corner), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon SF2 (cones), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon SF13 (pipe) diptych, 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon SF13 (pipe) diptych, 2003, C-Print, edition of 5

 

Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon SF8 (vertigo), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon SF5 (help), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon SF7 (aperture), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon CASRDQ (big B), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5

 

 
Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon VPC (skip), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon MTL5 (moon), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon AP5 (Ripe), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon B3-B7-B2 [Pectopahta], 54 cm x 19 cm, 2003, edition of 5

 

Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon WM3-SJPJ7 (light), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon WM3-SJPJ7 (light), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5 Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon, 2003, C-Print, edition of 5
Michel de Broin + Eve K. Tremblay, Honeymoon SF14 (grab), 2003, C-Print, edition of 5

VIEWS OF THE SHOW













ARTICLES

Campbell, James D. Bordercrossings, "Visual Art: Ève K. Tremblay and Michel de Broin", Issue 93, p86-89

Lamarche, Bernard. Le Devoir, Moi et l'autre, Saturday November 20, and Sunday November 21 2004, E8

Lehmann, Henry. The Montreal Gazette, Portraits of love and intimacy: Artists approach love from very different angles, Dec 11, 2004 ( 614 words) H2

Delgado, Jérôme. La Presse 2, Histoires de couples, December 9 2004

Dejardins, Eloi. L'artichaut: journal des étudiants en arts de l'UQAM, Lune de miel d'enfer ou comment Michel de Broin et Ève K. Tremblay ont envisage leur Mois de la Photo, Vol III no 2, December 2004 – Jan 2005

Lamarche, Bernard. Le Devoir , D'histoire et d'exotisme, Saturday, August 28 and Sunday, August 29, 2004


LINKS

-Michel de Broin's website
-Ève K. Tremblay's website

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