One of the great things about travelling is how even the best-laid plans can fall apart. Because, once you get past the frustration or disappointment, there’s adventure and discovery in the unexpected, a sense of moving forward and into something new. This year’s month-long Montreal Biennale gets that – it’s brought together 24 artists from 10 countries, all exploring the broad and fascinating theme of “chance.”…
Randomness, probability, serendipity and luck are just some of the guises of chance, but it was gambling that inspired the 7th edition of the Montreal Biennale (also known in its more graphically interesting form: BNL MTL). Well, gambling and poetry. Curators Claude Gosselin (Director of the Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal) and David Liss, (Director of the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art in Toronto) investigated the creative force that is Stéphane Mallarmé’s 1897 poem Un coup de dés jamais n’aborlira le hasard (A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance). They found that Mallarmé’s concepts of contemporary art live on today.
“It seemed like a somewhat obscure theme, but it was incredible to see how many artists are working with this theme today, in a renewed context,” says Liss. “It’s a theme that helped shape modernism and art in the 20th century and is still shaping art today, though often in different ways, following different threads and trajectories.”
Among some of the more established artists exhibiting work that plays with the elements of chance at the BNL are Jean Dupuy, Daniel Spoerri, Ian Wallace and Guido Molinari. Their work sits beside the work of younger artists, such as John Bock, Jeremy Shaw and Keith Tyson, using multi-media tools to convey similar ideas in highly contemporary ways. The range of artists and work at the Biennale reflects Liss’ view that “it’s important to understand where contemporary art and, in that, life are both coming from and going to.”
Paule Mackrous, Editor of CIAC’s Electronic Magazine, curates the electronic arts portion of the BNL, adding web-based art and digital technologies – from Mark Amerika, Gregory Chatonsky, Alison Graighead and Jon Thomson, Jhave, Martine Neddam – to an already fairly non-traditional exhibition. This is viewable online and in the impressive, four-storey physical space the BNL occupies this year – formerly the Ecole des Beaux-arts and home to sculpture, painting, video and film installations and multi-media art for the whole month of May.
The exhibition starts this Sunday, May 1 at 3450 St-Urbain and coincides with a 3 p.m. talk on “Chance in art and science” from artist Jean Dupuy, Professor François-Joseph Lapointe and author and art critic Pierre Saurisse, at Cinema du Parc.
Montreal Biennale, May 1–31, Open daily from Noon to 6 p.m. (9 p.m. on Thursdays)
Fondation Guido Molinari (3290 Ste-Catherine E.)
Cinéma du Parc (3575 Parc) each Sunday for film screenings.