Series of three exhibitions of Art, Cinema, and Video seeking to make a portrait of the 1975 art scene in Quebec. The art exhibition was divided into two separate exhibitions (exhibitions 1 and 2) travelling separately through Canada. Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Cinémathèque Québécoise, Bibliothèque nationale du Québec.

Art exhibition 1 was also presented at:
Vancouver art Gallery (Feb. 10 - Mar. 7, 1976)
Winnipeg Art Gallery (Mar. 29, 1976 - May 9, 1976)
Art Gallery of Ontario (May 20, July 4, 1976)

Art exhibition 2 was presented at:
Musée Régional de Rimouski (Dec. 17, 1975- Jan. 28, 1976)
Centre d'art de Sherbrooke (Feb. 2 - Mar. 1, 1976) )
Confederation Centre, Charlottetown (May 15 - Jun. 15, 1976)
Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina (Sept. 1 - Oct. 15, 1976)
Glenbow Alberta Institute, Calgary (Nov. 12 - Dec. 12, 1976)

Quebec 75: Arts-Video-Cinema
February 11 - March 7
(preview Tuesday, February 10, 8:00 pm)

"Quebec 75 is a series of three exhibitions: Art, Cinema and Video. The joint exhibition is a survey of art in Quebec over the past five years and a look at current trends and tendencies.
Quebec 75/Arts was organized for the Institut d'art contemporain, Montreal, by director Normand Theriault, who comments:

"There are eighteen artists in this exhibition and they are all proof of the vitality of the last five years though they obviously don't represent all the different tendencies of the period. But this has never been our aim. An exhibition, prepared and presented with the aid of public funds should not just add information to what already exists. What we are undertaking is not a promotion, but an informative clarification of a historical period. Our judgment and consequent selection of certain artists was premised on the following two questions: Did the artist question art and his own medium in a fundamental and basic way? And was the formulation of this question satisfactorily answered by his works of art? ...

"The approach that we have used is not meant to overemphasize the present to the detriment of the past ... No, we are not denying the past but we are breaking with it in the following way; the artist has no obligation to create or categorize his works within traditionally defined boundaries, such as painting, printmaking, or sculpture. He can and should be able to make use of many different mediums without necessarily becoming a formalist ... Also, we have no desire to prove that Quebec has an avant-garde art scene: the word 'avant-garde' is more the product of commercial marketing than it is of a self-consciousness about the meaning of art. Rather, this exhibition can basically only prove one thing: it can only affirm the existence of a new situation. Art is not simply an ensemble of objects which are given meaning by their aesthetic or moral principles. A work of art is an object and as an object its meaning is the product of a process of communication with the spectator. This is new in Quebec and though the above has been said before it has never been said by as many artists at the same time ...

"Included in the show are: Pierre Ayot, Edmund Alleyn, Jean-Serge Champagne, Melvin Charney, Yvon Cozic, Christian Knudsen, Suzy Lake, Real Lauzon, Gilles Mihalcean, Claude Mongrain, Gunter Nolte, Leopold Plotek, Roland Poulin, Garfield Smith, Serge Tousignant, William Vazan, Robert Walker, and Irene Whittone.

"Quebec 75/Cinema was produced by Jean-Pierre Bastien for the Cinémathèque Québécoise, Montreal. Analyzing the period covered by the exhibition, the organizers comment:

"'1970-75, despite its shortness, seems to us to provide a good opportunity for understanding Quebec cinema as a whole: during this short time Quebec film has grown very rapidly but its development has been of the kind which will allow us to show certain dominant tendencies and primary themes have come to the forefront. Some of the most important films in the history of Quebec cinema were made during this period.

'Who, in 1964, would have thought that the creation of films like Pour La Suite Du Monde, by Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault, Le Chat Dans Le Sac, by Gilles Groulx, and the first features by Jean-Pierre Lefebvre, would awaken European film criticism to the phenomenon of our cinema?

"Who would have thought that the cinema as practiced here would become a model in the development of the history of world film?"

"Also, we must not forget that this period (1964-70), in which an authentic Quebec cinema was born and grew, is as short as the present period which this exhibition is designed to illustrate: It may seem as if the choice of 1970 as a starting point for this retrospective is an arbitrary choice.
"But this date is important because it was in 1970 that the October Crisis happened; it was in 1970 that a liberal government was elected in Quebec; it was also in 1970 that 25% of the voters cast ballots for the Parti Québécois. This date is also special in the world of cinema because it was at this time that On Est Au Coton was made by Denys Arcand. The censoring of this film and its subsequent prohibition by the head of the National Film Board inaugurated a debate on the effectiveness and viability of filmmakers employed by the state. 1970 is also the time in which a series of films, part of the project Premieres Oeuvres (First Works), were completed. This was the first concrete chance young filmmakers had to make a personal statement through film.

"However, there is not a radical break between 1970 and the preceding period. We cannot talk of a "new wave" or of completely different thematic emphasis. We can, in fact, justifiably assert that the films being made continued to express the nationalistic feelings of the period prior to 1970 ... The 1970 to 1975 period is distinguished more by its image and style than by any severe break with the preceding six years ... '

"Quebec 75/Video, comprised of tapes, interviews, and panel discussions held in Montreal during the exhibition's initial showing, October/November 1975, was organized and produced by Yves Chaput, Gerard Henry, and Michel van deWalle. Funding bodies for the joint exhibition included the national museums of Canada, the Canada Council, the Arts Council of Greater Montreal and the National Film Board.

"The art and video sections of the exhibition will take up the entire gallery. The cinema section is being handled by Pacific Cinémathèque, with screenings at the National Film Board, 1155 West Georgia."

Reference: Vanguard, vol. 5 no. 1, 3-4.


Quebec 75
[excerpt] Review by David Burnett

Quebec 75 Arts has become an exhibition of political and artistic confrontation. When Normand Theriault first proposed the project early in 1974, at its core was a question, 'What is Quebecois art now. When the exhibition opened in Montreal 18 months later, it centred on Theriault's declaration, 'There is no Quebecois art, only Quebecois artists'. The original question combined the expectations of artists, critics, and gallery personnel, but the declaration, and the exhibition itself, fragmented these expectations. And even if Theriault's intention was pragmatic more than it was ideological, the result has been to polarize opinion in the Montreal art scene.

"Theriault's idea of an exhibition was formulated as a project of the Institut d'art contemporain, of which he was the director. Funds were obtained from the National Museums of Canada corporation for a major exhibition of Quebec art that would have national circulation. Quebec 75 Arts comprised work by 18 artists in two exhibitions. Exhibit 1, the main show, opened in Montreal, and went to Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Toronto; Exhibit 2, made up of less expansive projects by the same artists, was scheduled for Rimouski, Sherbrooke, Charlottetown, and Regina. Planning of the exhibition in principle was undertaken by a committee composed of senior museum staff, art critics, teachers, and administrators. Major differences within the committee with regard to the purpose and composition of the exhibition precluded decisions on those matters and the committee broke up early in 1975. Although Theriault took further advice from other people, the form and position of the exhibition as it came into being essentially represented his line.

"Taking the years 1970-75 as a base, Theriault looked at artists working in Quebec whose aesthetic directions were formulated or were under re-examination during those years and whose works, he felt, were innovative or challenging within their chosen media. The criteria of inclusion were interpreted to make no distinctions on the basis of language, racial origin, birthplace, or length of residency in Quebec. An original list of 80 artists was reduced to 30, whose studios were visited. Twenty artists were chosen for the exhibition, two of whom did not, in the end, show. It was decided that the exhibition would emphasize very recent work, and a number of the pieces were in fact made specifically for Quebec 75.

"Theriault wished to avoid a panoramic show such as Le Quebec des Moira de 35 and Quebec Underground had been. Quebec 75 does not represent an overview or even a cross-section of Quebec art at this time, but a statement of what Theriault describes as its 'facettes dynantiques'. One of the most contentious aspects arising from this was the omission from consideration of many Quebec artists of quality whose work between 1970 and 1975 was considered to have done no more than continue developments personally formulated before 1970. When the exhibition opened at the Musée d'art contemporain it was almost unanimously badly received in the Montreal press and the opinions expressed there were similar to those raised in the discussions organized at the museum. But published reaction to the show, so far, has given little serious attention to the works themselves and less consideration to the artists. And objectively Theriault's position is validated or invalidated by what he has chosen to show. An attempt to confront the work itself must surely be the first and major responsibility of any art criticism.

The nexus of the politics of art and the determined activity of the artist is cynically expressed in Robert Walker's Is Politics Art? In fifteen 20 x 20 in. photographs, the blue-suited artist, glass in hand, smiles and chats his way through a season of the Montreal art scene. The photographs are technically undistinguished, poorly centred, and mostly shot from about waist level. But as a group, they are given an 'artwork' structure in which to express their content. First, the name and title of the person Walker meets is boldly stamped on each print, and second, the grid arrangement of the prints gives a compounded importance to Walker himself through repetition. In a parody of traditional art the work has, thus, both form and content.

"Superficially Is Politics Art? points up the reality of the artist in the art world. But what comes through as profoundly disillusioning is the way in which the art system accepts and neutralizes radical statements. What is made and the haste with which it is thrust into convenient categories reveal a disregard for technique as a 'problem' and for the work itself. It seems that many of Walker's projects, from his first Insurrection Art activities through the Six Suites-Sex Sweets prints, have lost their radicalism too easily to their art. It is as if he cannot be less an artist than he is. But then, of course, nobody will look at his work for its art, but only for how quickly its ideas can be typed, photographed, or shouted.

"Robert Walker's social face must remain essentially untransformed by his activity. His face is his name and his activity of meeting is his title: in this way he can assert himself as a respectable part of the art world.

Transformation of the private, mirrored face is exactly Suzy Lake's activity. A Natural Way to Draw documents such a transformation. Sixty photographs on a storyboard record how she uses her face, covered in white theatre make-up, as a support upon which she draws her own portrait. A similar process is recorded in colour video with a soundtrack over it of a man reading from an academic drawing instruction book on 'the natural way to draw'. The complementary information of the video and the photographs is keyed by six drawings in the left margin of the storyboard showing the stages of an academically produced self-portrait.

"This presentation lacks the more disturbing aspects of Lake's Simulation series ... where, by a process of photo-transplants, she changes her features into those of someone else, creating and violating. In A Natural Way to Draw she piles up information by hitting the same point with a battery of technical alternatives--video, sound, drawing on her face, drawing on paper, photography. The result is to put more stress on the techniques of artistic structure than on tricks of perception. The Simulations, dependent on a particular visual ambiguity, could be repeated endlessly, like a sort of psychological Composite Kit, but with refinement incipiently replacing challenge. A Natural Way to Draw, despite a certain loosening of tension, points towards a re-challenging of method and technique ...

Theriault's concern in Quebec 75 was more with validating certain directions than making particular quality judgments. It had to be a calculated risk, however, and it seems to me that the work shown here of Cozic, Mihalcean, and Smith exposes the extent of that risk.

"Ayot's destruction of the Musée d'art contemporain, despite what I have described as its miscalculation, is nonetheless witty and amusing. Cozic's Touchez: Do Not Touch is similarly ironic concerning the work of art/museum relationship. Large three-dimensional letters reading 'Touchez' are roped-off into a corner with a museum notice reading 'Do not touch'. The unpleasant synthetic materials and rather nasty colours of the letters are real Pop, but the effect is a laboured joke.

"It would be, at the least, disingenuous to overlook Mihalcean's Liaison in which his sheer patience and painstaking labour is amazing. Out of a third of a million white golf tees and small red wooden balls, he has constructed a dense block, some six feet high and four feet on each side. Although he started from a regular grid at the bottom, the gluing together of the tees and balls followed no particular internal form. This eliminates any parallel with molecular models, but draws some similarity with an object like Lucas Samaras's Nail Sculpture of 1964. Liaison remains a curiosity (and a conservator's nightmare). It is even a little sad in that it carries through what might have been one of those 'proposal' concepts of a few years ago: 'Take 300,000 golf tees and little red wooden balls ... '

"Garfield Smith's Faim de guerre is artistically miscalculated. From the roof of an iron-bar cage various objects dangle: lead in the shape of bones, a metal file, and brass discs. The spectator, on entering the cage, knocks against the dangling objects and they in turn sound against each other--dull and heavy for the lead bones, hollow for the brass discs. Smith's activism is here primarily directed against the hypocrisy he finds in Canadian foreign aid programs. The validity of his point, however, and the concern he rightly urges be drawn towards it are diverted by the mechanical symbolism that dissipates attention by its heavy indirectness.

"Real Lauzon is the only person in the exhibition whose work reflects in any way the 'folkloric' in Quebec. His La valse ma cabane, or 'Rocking Bungalow', is a delightful and rather crazy construction which can be activated externally by a slight push of the hand or by two people sitting inside of it. It is suggestive of naive art but much too nicely articulated for hard-core kitsch. Frankly, it just seems hopelessly out of place in the somewhat humourless surroundings of an art gallery.

"Humour certainly has no place in William Vazan's Anniversaire, which recalls the 16th of October 1970 and the invocation of the War Measures Act (Quebec 75, incidentally, opened in Montreal on 16 October 1975). As we now see it, Anniversaire is a video-recorded performance in a setting reconstructed for each exhibition showing. A television monitor stands in the centre of a flat mound of sand, 30 ft. in diameter. Twenty-five boulders ring the mound and on each is set a candle. Foot tracks (simulating those of the two performers at the original Montreal showing) mark two whorls in the sand which spiral outwards until they touch at the centre. This performance recorded on the video is part theatre, reminiscent of such groups as the Ontological Hysteric Theatre, and part ritual.

"The performance is most ritualistic in the way its symmetry and that of the setting are made integral. But with the actual theatrical dance-like element lost, the ritual repeated on TV becomes media-dominated. One's attention flits between the physical setting and the recorded performance. When the tape is running it is difficult to do more than take up a frontal position to the TV. When the tape is not running the setting must become the active element. But to what purpose? Where is the concept when the screen is blank? In the sand tracings In the contrast between the switched-off electronic cabinetry and the natural shape and surfaces of the boulders? That hardly seems possible when it is the performance that activates the purpose of the rocks, candles and sand.

"Vazan has used rocks before in Concept sculpture to considerable effect, for instance in Balances. Anniversaire is different, for to use a stone circle is, inevitably, to invoke the declaration of mythic space. It matters, then, whether it is meant to exist actually or metaphorically, for ritual or for theatre. Here (perhaps for technical reasons) this is not made clear and it is not enough to leave to chance whether we should believe or suspend our disbelief."

Reference: artscanada, July/August 1976.

Related people
   Edmund Alleyn - Artist
   Pierre Ayot - Artist
   Jean-Serge Campagne - Artist
   Melvin Charney - Artist
   Yvon Cozic - Artist
   Christian Knudsen - Artist
   Suzy Lake - Artist
   Real Lauzon - Artist
   Gilles Mihalcean - Artist
   Claude Mongrain - Artist
   Gunter Nolte - Artist
   Leopold Plotek - Artist
   Roland Poulin - Artist
   Garfield Smith - Artist
   Serge Tousignant - Artist
   William Vazan - Artist
   Robert Walker - Artist
   Irene Whittone - Artist
   Normand Theriault - Curator

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