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Numéro 94, octobre-novembre-décembre 2011, janvier 2012, p. 58-61


Direction : Isabelle Lelarge (directrice) et Céline Pereira (directrice adjointe)

Rédaction : Isabelle Lelarge (rédactrice en chef)

Éditeur : Revue d'art contemporain ETC inc.

ISSN : 0835-7641 (imprimé)  1923-3205 (numérique)

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Nicolas Grenier, Communautés unies / United Communities, Galerie Art Mur, Montreal. April 30 – June 18, 2011

James D. Campbell

Résumé | Extrait

Montreal Nicolas Grenier, Communautés unies / United Communities, Galerie Art Mur, Montreal. April 30 – June 18, 2011 Nicolas Grenier births the architectural Uncanny with extraordinary thematic consistency and finesse in the works exhibited here—and succeeds in a stellar haunting of the built world, with inbuilt lessons for the future.His United Communities proposes a pristine and radiant—say better, radioactive—architecture situated somewhere between utopia and dystopia, between abodes of outrageous affluence and the taxonomy of ‘perfect’ slum dwellings and housing for the poor. Migrant Workers Are Accommodated Directly in the Fields and Share Communal Apartments Designed in a Spirit of Social Equality is like a isometric diagram of George Lucas’ cinematic dystopia THX 1138 (1971), with the presiding architect Le Corbusier co-opted as robotic flic or Big Brother on the design side. Or consider Vertically Integrated Socialism, with its brilliantly rendered belowground “inclusivity apartments” for impoverished subjects, which speaks so much of an asphyxiating order of control, a totalitarian universe undreamt of by Stalin. The idea of an “architectural uncanny” was developed by architectural historian Anthony Vidler in his attempt to relate how our understanding of architecture is often pervaded by and implicit in complex, unfathomable and even threatening personal existential experiences. His concepts build upon Sigmund Freud’s classic 1919 essay on the uncanny, explaining how the German word unheimlich, of “un-homely,” effectively embodies the sensation of the uncanny as being estranged from the comforts of home. Grenier gives us homes, the putative comforts of which are themselves uncanny and imaginatively grounds us within them.1 The radioactive palette heightens our sense of exposure. Alongside Vidler’s uncanny, Grenier’s work can be fruitfully explored in terms of Marc Augé’s notion of non-place and the central tenets of the totalitarian state in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian—and visionary—novel We. Indeed, within the points of the triangle marked out by these commentators, we have the proverbial nub of Grenier’s paintings: their implicit thema. It is, of course, consummately strange that Grenier’s ‘architectures for work and inhabitation’ remind us of the non-places that the French anthropologist and theorist Marc Augé developed in his seminal book Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, 2 —after all, these are places for human dwelling rather than the vast portable parentheses of the airport or ATM machine precincts. Not so strange if we understand that it is precisely because they register a potent thematic of estrangement built up from bifurcated tropes of the built world and nature that requires deconstruction on our part as viewers complicit in the making of meaning. And all the windows and doors are closed. We are looking at blueprints ostensibly built upon utopian signifiers that are in fact harbingers of the apocalypse: humans under total control. Architectural eugenics. But while human agents are conspicuous by their absence in many of these paintings, we project them—ourselves—in there, and with unsettling results. They possess ontological as well as epistemological implications that stem not from theory but from visual perception itself and our own emplacement in the built world. The idea of Supermodernity and non-place has its necessary complement in Anthony Vidler’s notion of warped space.3 He says: “Fear, anxiety, estrangement, and their psychological counterparts, anxiety neuroses and phobias, have been intimately linked to the aesthetics of space throughout the modern period.”4 Well, it is impossible to avoid the frisson as we project into Grenier’s unsettling paintings. The aesthetics of space here and the uncanny architectural problematic conspire to generate a low-lying but pervasive sense of unease. Vidler posits a dualistic idiom of warped space. There is a wholly psychological space, an inventory of sundry neuroses and phobias that reaches within and beyond subjectivity per se and inhabits the postmodern landscape hand-in-glove.

Auteur : James D. Campbell
Ouvrage recensé : Nicolas Grenier, Communautés unies / United Communities, Galerie Art Mur, Montreal. April 30 – June 18, 2011
Revue : ETC, Numéro 94, octobre-novembre-décembre 2011, janvier 2012, p. 58-61
URI : http://id.erudit.org/iderudit/65183ac

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