“Créer à rebours vers l’exposition”
The case of the second Automatist exhibition
2019.05.15 - 07.13
MARIE J. JEAN
In adopting a variety of roles throughout his career—artist at work, editor, sponsor, producer of a sitcom and of a play—Klaus Scherübel examines in his art practice the context and wider history of culture. For this exhibition, VOX has entrusted him with the role of “conservator,” tasked with reactivating an event that is at once mythical and foundational to modern Quebec: the second Automatist exhibition of 1947. This “artistic reactivation” is the sixth iteration of “Créer à rebours vers l’exposition”, the Centre’s research project on the history of exhibitions in Québec, begun in 2016.
For more than seventy years, the second Automatist exhibition has been widely studied in monographs and anthologies, to the point that it is today thought of as a legendary historical event. In the same way exhibition catalogues do, those volumes shape our perception of works and orient our appreciation of the context in which they appeared, whether through the substance of their critical commentaries or the quality of their visual documentation. Before the 1980s, exhibition catalogues tended to consist simply of reproductions of works, only seldom showing the context in which those works had been presented. And yet, in publications that mention the second Automatist exhibition, a photographic reproduction often accompanies the textual commentary. It shows the works, with Paul-Émile Borduas and Madeleine Arbour visible in the background, framed in a doorway. Over time, the photograph has gradually superimposed itself on people’s idea of the exhibition, eventually becoming its consummate visual reference. Seeking to “work back” through time and reactualize the past starting from the present, Klaus Scherübel has used this image as a conceptual tool: he has reconstituted, three-dimensionally, the black & white photo taken by Maurice Perron in a context that has since become historic. Through that diversional operation, the image, which had originally been reproduced in “book space,” infiltrates the gallery space and, through that spillover effect, acquires the form of an exhibition.
This exhibition benefits from the financial support of the Federal Chancellery of Austria and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. VOX also wishes to acknowledge the precious contributions of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. The use of Maurice Perron’s works is possible thanks to the kind permission of Line-Sylvie Perron.