Dialogue on cultural identity

Hélène Roulot-Ganzmann
Special Collaboration

March 9, 2019

Dialogue sur l’identité culturelle

Photo: Denis Farley MBAM
View of the exhibition “Connections: our diversity of artistic dialogue with our collections” at the Museum of fine arts of Montreal

This text is part of a special booklet.

In anticipation of the opening in November of the new wing of the cultures of the world and of living-together, the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal (MBAM) shines the spotlight on seven artists emerging from the cultural diversity. With the exhibition Connections : our diversity of artistic dialogue with our collections, the museum presents seven contemporary works questioning the notion of cultural identity.

They are seven. Seven emerging artists, born here or not, living here or settled elsewhere, but all having a connection with Canada. They have origins in China, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Kenya, or even in Libya. And their works are in the prints of this multi-faceted identity that they live and on which they reflect.

“We proposed a dialogue with our collection of the cultures of the world, tells Erell Hubert, curator of pre-columbian art at the MMFA. This represents 10 000 pieces approximately. Each has chosen one or a group, others have rather preferred to work in more conceptual way. The idea is to take inspiration from our works, for the most part, from a classical repertoire, to look at them otherwise and to do so a dialogue between cultures. “

A fragment of the artistic creation of the original

Brendan Fernandes was born in Nairobi in 1979. He now lives in Chicago. In his artistic practice, he often uses african artifacts from museums. The loss of the traces of their provenance raises questions as to their authenticity and highlights their colonial past.

The artist establishes an analogy between their history and his own journey as an artist of canadian descent, kenyan and indian. But Fernandes is also a former dancer of classical ballet, and he has always been interested in the importance of the body in the expression of cultural identities.

“I was interested in all the aspect of the movement of the performance inherent in traditional african art,” said Ms. Hubert. When present masks in a museum, this movement is lost. We end with a presentation of the masks without a costume, static, which are only a fragment of the artistic creation of the original. “

For his work, entitled Lost in Display, the artist has chosen the masks of the collection and made them into 3D models. He has also created choreographies he shot, and in virtual reality was made to wear the masks the dancers.

“It gives back movement to the masks to re-create the original concept, continues Erell Hubert, who explains that it is not, however, dances of the time. It does not work, as would an anthropologist. It is a creation purely artistic. “

Contemporary concerns

Among the other artists, we find the Montreal original, the libyan Arwa Abouan, who with his work Without home explores the transmission of knowledge by women, the prejudices in general, and the supposed obscurantism of muslim in particular.

The implementation of personal belongings is the fruit of a collaboration between the artist original argentina Maria Ezcurra, who often explores the consequences of mental, physical and emotional displacement, and the art historian from mexico Nuria Carton de Grammont, a specialist in contemporary art Latin american. They have asked 21 migrants to present them with an object having a particular value in their migration process and have established a dialogue between the contemporary objects presented by the participants and the objects in the Museum’s collection to focus on the story of their journey.

“We also have two artists of chinese origin,” adds Laura Vigo, curator of asian art at the MMFA. Hua Jin insists on the sacrifice of environmental, cultural, and spiritual that China imposes in the name of economic development. The artist is inspired by chinese porcelain from the Museum and their design cobalt blue to create twelve plates, which throw a bridge between the past and the present. Each plate illustrates a traditional design, laser-printed and then dimmed and faded. While referring to chinese tradition, this fading highlights the notions of disappearance and transformation. “

The idea is to take inspiration from our works, for the most part, from a classical repertoire, to look at them otherwise and to do so a dialogue between cultures.

— Erell Hubert, curator of pre-columbian art at the MMFA

About Karen Tam, it is inspired by it also chinese porcelain from the Museum, but to condemn ironically the common places and the idea that the West in general and Canada in particular are the ” chinitude “.

“At the beginning of the Eighteenth century, in order to satisfy the western demand, China produced porcelain pieces in the style of japanese Imari, says Mrs Vigo. The seven vases of triple gourd designed by Tam are inspired by the porcelain of this kind in our collection. It mimics the traditional design with glitter and polystyrene foam. But, instead of painting birds, the artist represents crawling insects that mimic the appearance of other insects to blend into their environment to fool their predators or their prey. “

Question the discourse of the museum overlooking

At the end of the exhibition, these seven works will enter the Museum’s collection and will be presented in the month of November in the new wing of the cultures of the world and of living-together in the pavilion Stephan Cretier and Stephany Maillery.

“They will bring a new perspective on the culture of elsewhere, says Laura Vigo. The works that we have in our collection come to us for most of the first canadian collectors, who had never set foot in the East. They looked so spooky, they created this idea of the East, charming, mysterious. The works which arrived at the Museum were not even considered as works of art in their countries of origin. “

For Erell Hubert, he is to continue long-term dialogue. To enter voice more contemporary in order to demonstrate that the discourse of the museum dominant up to today is not the only possible one.

“There are different ways of being in relationship with the objects, she concludes. The old objects have a resonance, a relevance in the contemporary world, in the questioning of identity. They are not just relegated to history, but they allow us to understand the relationships in the present. “

“Connections: our diversity of artistic dialogue with our collections”

Until June 23, 2019