Raymond Gervais and Rober Racine
23 October 1998 – 3 January 1999
in Gairloch Gardens
Listening and looking attention to different languages. Active listening involves memory; that is, one must use memory to reconstruct musical patterns. Likewise, contemplating a work of visual art involves a memory of previously seen things. While music and visual art are often thought of as distinct disciplines, this is not the case for artists such as Rober Racine and Raymond Gervais who treat these boundaries as permeable. For many years these Québécois artists have been crisscrossing over the same intellectual terrain. In this exhibition, guest curator Michèle Thériault has brought together a selection of their old and new works that investigate the links between music, the visual arts, and language.
Rober Racine is passionately interested in the French language. In a massive project that has occupied much of his practice since 1980, he used the dictionary Le Petit Robert to materialize language in every way space, body and surface. His installation Le Terrain du dictionnaire A/Z (1980), for example, features 55,000 words cut out of the dictionary, forming tiny slips of paper stuck onto card and lined up an a base similar to a scale model of a city. Then, with the pierced dictionary pages that remained, he created over 2,000 Pages-Miroirs (1980-1995), which explore the crevices, texture and sounds of language. On each sheet he highlights, underscores and decorates the definitions, even making the written sounds of the musical scale with musical notes, and lays these pages over mirrors so that the viewers' own gaze (at language and through language) is returned to them. To call the scale of his projects operatic is not out of character. His musical accomplishments as arranger and composer are equally impressive
as his work in the visual arts.
Musician, music historian, essayist, broadcaster and artist, RaymondGervais addresses issues of reproduction, imagination and the space of music. For his installations he typically uses a variety of mass-produced objects and the record player itself (which he has described as 'a little theatre of history and time'). His arrangement of these elements creates an environment, which has as much to do with lighting and performance as the ideas set into play by his choice of objects. These installations create a space of contemplation that is characterized by both silence and sound.
Adding to Thériault's selection of their previous work, Racine and Gervais have collaborated on a new site-specific installation that explores the relationship between looking, gazing and listening. As a starting point
they have used two photographs (c. 1913) taken in the living room of the French musician Claude Debussy, showing Debussy, Satie and Stravinsky. Together these composers represent different stages of the musical
avant-garde in the first decade of the 20th century, and both artists have an intimate relationship with them: Gervais with Debussy in a number of installations and Racine in the gruelling 17-hour performance of Satie's
Vexations. The insertion of mirrors into the exhibition space references the artists' previous art production and multiplies the gaze and time.