Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Nicolas Mavrikakis' How to Become an Artist


I've been meaning to write about Jérôme Delgado's 702 word review of the recently closed exhibit at the Maison de la Culture Le Plateau and the Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec. More so I could comment on the exhibit itself, than on the review.

While I recognize that it has become acceptable for curators to write reviews, and artists to curate and write reviews, I am not comfortable with the blurring of the lines. Given the power that M. Mavrikakis has a reviewer for Voir, things should be made clear as to the how's and what's of an exhibition he organizes.

To get the easy stuff out of the way first, M. Delgado's review is nice, if I were grading it, I'd give it a B or a B+. He mentions seven of the artists (even though there are eight involved in the exhibit) none of them in a negative manner and quotes from Mavrikakis' collection of paper that passes for a catalogue.

While M. Delgado does mention that M. Mavrikakis is an art critic, he does not examine how M. Mavrikakis decided on the artists he wanted to include. He accepts (rather uncritically) that all of them are good artists and ends his article with a rather simplistic open-ended question: [my bad translation] "Why did these artists make it? And others didn't? Nobody knows." Yeah, right, and Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus, no matter what Chico says.

I only got to see half of the show, being carless, and having a day-job trucking out to Ville Saint Laurent is not an easy task - even for art. But I could make some calculated guesses as to what was out in the boonies.

Now that I've finished the overture, on to the meat of the matter: The curatorial abilities of M. Mavrikakis. I strongly doubt that he did much work beyond choose the artists, and write the text for the catalogue (as it is printed on paper, I can't give an exact word count, but it looks like it's about 1,000 words). That, my friends, is not being a curator.

The show is hung extremely sloppily, it took me about 30 minutes to try to figure out where Yan Giguere's art started and Marie-Claude Bouthillier's ended. And even after thinking I got it, somebody else pointed out that I might be wrong. There was an acrylic cube containing archival material from Clara Gutsche and David Miller (the eighth artist) which was completely incongruous with the rest of their art and the exhibit. The doughnut effect of the gallery was bad, as M. Mavrikakis used simple room dividers that then had blowups of the applicable pages from the "catalogue" that pertained to the artist that they were closest to. And those pages are ridiculous, an abbreviated artist CV and what they consider the "lessons" that they learned on how to become an artist. And, while I'm at it the volume on the video that accompanies the exhibit (but is not part of it) was louder than the volume on the videos by Manon De Pauw, which were part of the exhibit.

I did like what was inside the doughnut, personal effects from all the artists, but that stuff wasn't exactly "Art" with a capital "A." But it is always tons o' fun to peer into personal spaces, that's why you're reading a blog, right? And while it did attempt to show certain aspects of each artist's creative process, I strongly doubt that Mathieu Beauséjour really uses or needs condoms in order to make art. But it fits in nicely with his piece "Do I Really Need to Suck an Art Critique to get a Review." M. Beauséjour's addition of a collection of rejection letters was highly un-original, although as entertaining as his choice of personal materials.

While I'm at it, in the catalogue M. Mavrikakis makes some sort of noise about how the artists chosen are representative of a variety of different career paths. However, a quick scan of the CV's doesn't make this obvious. There are a number of exhibition spaces where five of the seven (official) artists have exhibited. Add in the preponderance on Artist Run Centres and from this seat the artists are pretty darn homogenous.

I asked Joanne Germain (or the person who I assumed was Joanne Germain) if I could get in touch with M. Mavrikakis, because I really would like to ask him a bunch of questions about the exhibit. Some how I strongly doubt that he's gonna give me a call anytime soon. Pity. However, if you're reading this M. Mavrikakis, I'd love to give you the space to reply, feel free to email me, or call me at 288-2233 so that we can arrange something.

To wrap this sucker up, I think it would have been way better if M. Mavrikakis had called the exhibit, "I think these Artists are kick-ass," and then gone into detail as to why he thought the work they did was so wonderful. That would have been extremely insightful. I also would love to know if M. Mavrikakis owns the work of any of the artists involved. I can't be too harsh on him because after all it is his first attempt at being a curator, but given how many exhibits I would imagine he's seen, I would have hoped he could have gotten off to a better start.

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