Manif d’art 9: salvation through utopias achievable in the Québec city Biennial

Manif d’art 9: le salut par les utopies réalisables à la Biennale de Québec

Photo: Idra Labrie
Krištof Kintera, “Systemus postnaturalis”, 2016-2017

According to the approach of the curator Jonathan Watkins, and according to the poetry that he borrowed from Leonard Cohen, we are beings so small yet influential on the nature gigantic and grandiose. These scale ratios and strength are echoed in the Manif d’art 9, and its title, ” So small between the stars, so large against the sky “.

In this biennial characterized by the opposition between an extensive set menus and solos, a good number of works considering the games scale. In particular at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ), which is hosting for the second time, as in 2017, the central exhibition.

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A demo obviously successful

By way of introduction, there could not have been better than the work of Daniel Corbeil. The installation Cited laboratory (2012-2018) is both a huge scale model and a miniature world, characters lilliputians included. In addition to a collage of drawings, the work takes on the appearance of a housing tower in complete autarky, with its “production of algae for food” and its marshes ” for the filtration and purification of grey water “.

There are at Corbeil, as in many of the twenty artists gathered at the MNBAQ, a mixture of art-anticipation and pragmatism in science. The “utopias achievable” may be our last hope, given the state of the planet.

If the way Corbeil is enjoyable, or good child, this is not the case of the song comes at the end of course. Imposing by its size, by the number of its parts and by its connection, Systemus postnaturalis (2016-2017), the Czech Krištof Kintera, configures a city with technological waste.

Manif d’art 9: le salut par les utopies réalisables à la Biennale de Québec

Photo: Idra Labrie
Tomás Saraceno, “Aerocène”, 2019 Credit: Idra Labrie

There are materials rejected and deprecated in this installation loosely sound and kinetics. Obsolete, according to the company paid in the performance state of the art. Because at Kintera, each wire and each switch seem to (still) useful.

The commentary ecologist Kintera is undeniable. Door-to-fake of the waste, its mountain of garbage comes to life, with even a strong aesthetic — a beauty, let’s say. Yet, ahead of his appearance of floating island, it is impossible to hunt this image of plastic material that derives, in abundance, in the seas of the world.

Wonderful distance

Planet to drift, Manif alarmist ? Not so much, same as the content dark is rare.

In addition to Kintera and its pollution due to the over-consumption, there would be in this area as Caroline Gagné, author of a sound and video installation on the melting of the ice. Still that The sound of icebergs (2017), in its brilliance of light, the soothing sound of water-drops and the slow pace of the images, something comforting.

Appearances are deceptive, and all depended on one’s point of view. The artist of Quebec suggests subtly, particularly through a wall of translucent that distorts, or reverses, the image of the block of ice.

Our wonder of nature, based in part on a distance ratio. The iceberg has fascinated as her alarming melt takes place under other skies.

Near the work of Caroline Gagné, the facility observation instruments called Aphelion 1 (2016), Patrick Bernatchez, and sculptures shamanists, whale-bone of Manasie Akpaliapik reflect the interest of the human to the distant and mystical. Each fragment of these works insists on the multiplicity of perspectives and points of view.

Nature, in these cases as in others — the photography of Michael Flomen, or the painting and ceramics of Fanny Mesnard —, inspired by fabulous performances. As the idea is to evoke an ecosystem unknown (Flomen) or the concept of paradise lost (Mesnard), the artists welcome the richness of what the planet has to offer.


The tone of Watkins is not tainted by the pessimism usual as soon as we deal with the environmental issue. Unlike the film-exhibition Anthropocene trio Jennifer Baichwal-Burtynsky-Nicholas de Pencier, the Demo 9 creates hope.

The expo central does not deny the danger that awaits us, like this that evoke Corbeil, Kintera, Won, Mesnard,… The human, however, can change that.

In a sort of response to the Anthropocene, the Argentine Tomás Saraceno offers Aérocène, a project that takes on multiple forms like so many utopias are achievable.

Up to the era of “reconciliation” and the “symbiotic relationship” with the Earth. To get there, Saraceno has been working with other artists and researchers. Among their inventions : a ball inflated with air, raised by the sun and worn by the wind.

The result, in the museum, is reflected by the presence of the object, deflated — the proof that he exists ! —, a sound atmosphere and breathtaking images. The nature still marvel, of course. But for how long ? Even real and achievable, utopia will it be something other than a chimera ?

Manif d’art 9 – The Québec city biennial

At the pavillon Pierre-Lassonde buildings of the MNBAQ, from 16 February to 21 April