VOX — Centre de l’image contemporaine

Exhibition view, Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site

Period rooms
Jocelyn Robert
Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site

2019.06.22 - 11.08

Jocelyn Robert has conceived a work for the residence of Sir George-Étienne Cartier, Montreal lawyer, Patriote, reformist politician, and architect of Canadian Confederation. A visit to the period rooms created in memory of this eminent statesman elicits many questions. What has become of Cartier’s ideas nearly two centuries after his death, now that his writings have been distorted by time and the context of their dissemination differs starkly from that which prevailed when they were first published? How do the echoes of his thought persist in the testimonials transmitted, or in the period décor of his residence? Jocelyn Robert’s sound-based work was created using the piano exhibited in the living room on the second floor and the sheet music for a song written by Cartier himself: “Ô Canada ! : mon pays ! mes amours !” The notes of the piece are here transformed such that they become echoes of themselves, ripples of memory leading to a loss of meaning and finally silence. Above the piano, a video shows a hand striving to write a text, the motion of which, continuous and uncertain, keeps us in a state of expectancy. One can therefore note, as Zaki Laïdi as written, that unlike “History, which imparts distance and thickness (between past and present), memory seeks to […] update the past by denying the hierarchies of time” (Le sacre du présent, 2000).

Period rooms, sous le commissariat de Marie J. Jean, VOX, 2019.

The period room offers a fascinating experience of space and time: it locates visitors in an interior reconstituting a past that seems remote, and frozen for eternity. This dizzying anachronistic effect is accentuated when such rooms are reconfigured from the point of view of the present day, through artists’ interventions. The latter can elicit new narratives, whether historical or fictional, or foster associations with a time that is long gone. In so doing, each intervention creates a temporary opening into the past represented by the period room in question, encouraging visitors to engage in new and unfamiliar experiences there.

Curated by Marie J. Jean, this event presents experimentations by seven contemporary artists—Steve Bates, Thomas Bégin, Pierre Dorion, Frédérick Gravel, Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, Jocelyn Robert, and Claire Savoie—in the period interiors of the Château Dufresne, the Château Ramezay, Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal, the Sir George-Étienne Cartier residence, and the Guido Molinari Foundation. Concurrently, at VOX, centre de l’image contemporaine, Klaus Scherübel has produced an art intervention that employs the period room format to reconstitute two exhibitions organized in 1947 by the Automatist artists.

This is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program. With this $35M investment, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada. This event was also made possible with financial support under the Agreement on the Cultural Development of Montréal between the City of Montréal and Québec government.