Photo: Francis Vachon, The Duty
Jonathan Watkins is a commissioner of the biennale.
The man runs the biennial for many years, has been the commissioner of several of them (Sydney, Shanghai, Sharjah, united arab Emirates…). The opinion of Jonathan Watkins, therefore, you can rely on, and according to him, that of Quebec, Manif d’art, ” is the biennale the coldest in the world “. Difficult to contradict.
The experienced British, director of the Ikon Gallery of Birmingham, is in Quebec for the past three weeks as the curator of Manif d’art 9, which opens in a few days — on the 16th of February. It is, in fact, the first non-francophone to design the programming of the event born in the year 2000.
And it is with a thematic poetics, headlined by a title drawn from the language of Leonard Cohen, which he proposes to look at the art, and the planet. With So small between the stars, so large against the sky (excerpt from Story of the Street), the commissioner has wanted to deal with environment — ” a key issue “, he said, so ” complex “, between the alarm bells and doses of wonder.
“It is more interesting a drop [of water],” he said, using the French word, that look at the item I want to emphasize that art does not have the monopoly of beauty. “
Met in the lobby of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ), the cottage of the central exhibition of the Demo, Jonathan Watkins has a phlegm well uk, the voice asked, gentle. It is, however, on the eve of the visit of the press and, in the view of the rooms of the pavillon Lassonde of the museum, the Demo is not ready.
“I am touched and flattered to have been invited. I understand that a native English speaker here, it’s a bit special “, he says. He discovered Quebec city during the previous Demo, in 2017, and has been captivated by everything that brings it closer and away of the premises. Such a false brother, who finds the gap between him and these young people in Quebec who say they believe, on the coins, it was queen Victoria that figure.
“In terms of diversity, Quebec is neither New York nor London, but there is a such a mix of French, british Commonwealth, First Nations !” exclaimed he.
Aboriginal artists, in this 9th Demonstration, will be strong many, moreover. In this “European white” with blue eyes, attach to the First Nations, that he is just discovering, is quite natural. Since he is interested in indigenous cultures around the world, including the Sami of Scandinavia, for years, do not see in his approach to ownership, he warns.
In terms of diversity, Quebec is neither New York nor London, but there is a such a mix of French, british Commonwealth, First Nations !
— Jonathan Watkins
“Indigenous cultures are not derived from arts venues. The concept of art is different, it’s not like you can hear it. Working here was too good of an opportunity to [do not include First Nations artists]. Between them and the Norse, there are more resonances than I imagined. The landscape, the climate… ” listed there.
Among the artists identified by Watkins are Manasie Akpaliapik, known for his sculptures whale-bone, and Shuvinai Ashoona, author of the drawings blending everyday life and mythology. Of Sweden, the commissioner brings Britta Marakatt-Labba, author of embroidery.
Jonathan Watkins, has selected forty artists, twenty of them being exposed to the MNBAQ, the others being scattered in solo, or in a dozen sites, either in the public space. Despite all his baggage, he maintains that it is Quebec that has everything determined.
“The theme of the biennale stems from the city. I am inspired of Quebec, nature, places “, said the commissioner, noting that it was guided by his sense of smell. Place at the Villa Bagatelle, two british artists, George Shaw and Thomas Bewick, the latter from the Eighteenth century, has decided without knowing that the heritage house was of british origins.
Like the Europeans of contemporary art, which landed in Quebec, Jonathan Watkins is fascinated by the number of our artist-run centres, a “powerful network” second to none, according to him. They are focused on the production, not just on the broadcast, and they complement each other by their specialization of these centers, a pole fascinating that, in Quebec at least, its vitality.
According to him, the MNBAQ win a lot to join in the Demonstration, an event that is rooted and grounded in artist-run centres. It should be noted that the Québec city Biennial has also won in this association. The support of the museum is reflected not only in human resources and logistics, it also allows economies.
“The resources invested in the biennale by the MNBAQ release of funds from the side of the Manif d’art, who can then reinvest in other aspects of the biennale, without the central exhibition or the biennial lose in quality “, we are told, on the side of the organizers.
Anyway, the guest curator has played with the double reality. He said he was blessed to have been able to benefit not only from the expertise of artist-run centres, but their available pool of these creators to incorporate some in its selection. This is the case of Caroline Gagné, Amélie Laurence Fortin or Fanny Mesnard.
“I’m working on the theme of the memento mori [remember you will die], a three-time. I say goodbye to a territory, the one of my cottage, I discover a that I do not know, the Magdalen islands, and I will be back at another for the second time, Winnipeg, ” said Fanny Mesnard to explain its relation to the theme of the Manif. His project, combining ceramics and colourful paintings and fantastic on a background of” abundance of plants “, was the only one ready on Tuesday. But storm or not, the Manif winter will start this week.
Jérôme Delgado was in Quebec city at the invitation of the Manif d art
Manif d’art 9
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and various places, from 16 February to 21 April