View of the exhibition Périphéries, Musée d’art contemporain, Cité du Havre, Montreal, 1974.
View of the exhibition “Créer à rebours vers l’exposition”: The case of Périphéries, VOX, from April 13 to June 23, 2017.
Marie J. Jean and Claudine Roger
Opening on April 13, 2017, at 5:00 pm
VOX thanks the following for their invaluable contributions: René Blouin, Suzy Lake, Alex Neumann, Chantal Pontbriand, Fernande Saint-Martin, Serge Tousignant, Bill Vazan, Artexte, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Concordia University Library (Véhicule Art Fonds), and the Cinémathèque québécoise (Fonds PRIM d’art vidéo).
“Créer à rebours vers l’exposition”: The case of Périphéries
As part of its far-reaching research project on the history and future of exhibitions in Quebec, VOX presents a second documentary exhibition, this one dedicated to Périphéries.
Périphéries is important to the history of Quebec art in that it evinced, probably for the first time, a receptivity on the part of the Musée d’art contemporain to more “experimental,” singular forms of art that were in step with artistic investigations being conducted internationally. Not only did it elicit forceful reactions in the press—including from critic Gilles Toupin, who gave his review the title Attention ! Attention ! les barbares entrent au musée (“Look out! The barbarians have entered the museum gates”)1—but it also destabilized many in the Quebec art milieu. In spite of that decidedly sceptical reception, the MAC was back at it the following year, hosting the exhibition Québec 75, devoted to artists engaged in multidisciplinary practices, with controversial aesthetic approaches.
Very much in the style of events organized by Véhicule Art, the opening of Périphéries also featured various art happenings, including performances by Tom Dean and Françoise Sullivan, the screening of a film by Francine Larivée, and even poetry readings. The event also served to launch Bill Vazan’s book Contacts, the original pages of which were on view on the lower floor of the museum.
1. Gilles Toupin. “Attention ! Attention ! les barbares entrent au musée.” La Presse, February 23, 1974, p. C-15.
Presented at the Musée d’art contemporain in its Cité du Havre location, from February 17 to March 23, 1974, the exhibition featured works by a new generation of artist members of Véhicule Art: Allan Bealy, Jean-Serge Champagne, Gary Coward, Tom Dean, Jean-Marie Delavalle, François Déry, Andrew Dutkewych, John Heward, Suzy Lake, Henry Lehmann, Dennis Lukas, Kelly Morgan, Gunter Nolte, Jean-Guy Prince, Françoise Sullivan, Serge Tousignant and Bill Vazan.
Organized by Alain Parent, the Musée d’art contemporain’s exhibitions director, in collaboration with Véhicule Art, the exhibition was an opportunity to present various trends in contemporary art of the time, which were classified under the rubric post-conceptual art: Arte Povera, Land Art, Body Art, Mail Art, etc. As Chantal Pontbriand, the author of the main essay in the publication that accompanied the exhibition, so eloquently put it: “Soundtrack, film, transparencies, photographs, accumulations of objects, découpage, happenings—Périphéries was open to all techniques and all media. The common element underlying this exhibition resided in the attitude adopted by most of the artists, one that is more about uncovering and analyzing the mechanisms of art making than offering a work governed by well-defined rules of aesthetics.”1
1. Chantal Pontbriand. “Périphéries au Musée d’art contemporain.” Vie des arts, No. 75 (Summer 1974), pp. 60–61. Our translation.
Véhicule Art (Montréal) Inc. was founded in March 1972 under the aegis of thirteen artists who actively sought to establish a parallel exhibition site markedly different from traditional presentation venues (museums and commercial galleries). It was to be an artist-run space that would “provide a space for the community in which to encounter art and art ideas through as many forms as these processes involve.”1 Véhicule Art opened its doors to the public for the first time on October 13, 1972, at 61 Sainte-Catherine St. West, and quickly established a profile on the local and international art scenes thanks to frequent activities and the active participation of its members in events, festivals and exhibitions. Véhicule Art also gained attention because of the group’s diverse areas of professional activity: it was at once an alternate exhibition space, a printing company (Véhicule Press) and a service centre (Video Véhicule) for use by video artists; it even offered videocassette rentals. Véhicule Art also instituted a documentation centre and a library of slides and videocassettes about local and international contemporary art (Art Data), allowing students and members of the art community to learn about current visual art production.
1. Véhicule Art (Montréal) Inc., Fonds P027, Concordia University’s Records Management and Archives. Founding artists: Gary Coward, Tom Dean, Jean-Marie Delavalle, François Déry, Andy Dutkewych, Suzy Lake, Dennis Lukas, Kelly Morgan, Gunter Nolte, Milly Ristvedt, Henry Saxe, Serge Tousignant et Bill Vazan.
“Périphéries souligne des attitudes définies par quelques artistes montréalais qui ont voulu mettre à jour des recherches actuelles. […] Leur point de vue est celui d’une sensibilité qui s’affirme au niveau du “village global”. Périphéries n’encadre pas ces idées mais cherche à les approfondir, à les étendre et à les faire connaître.” (Text in French, as in original.)