Exhibition Reviews

Evergon: Theatres of the Intimate. Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Québec. October 20, 2022 – April 23, 2023. Curated by Bernard Lamarche

  • Marie-Lise Drapeau-Bisson

…more information

  • Marie-Lise Drapeau-Bisson
    Postdoctoral Fellow, Carleton University

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Cover of Number 96, Fall–Winter 2023, pp. 6-187, Archivaria

How are intimate and elusive experiences such as sexuality and emotions documented and archived? This question has been taken up empirically and theoretically by a number of influential queer, feminist, and critical race scholars who have expanded our understanding of what might be considered records of the past. The recent exhibit Theatres of the Intimate, showcasing work by Canadian photographer Evergon, at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ), offers a good example of the powerful way the arts, and in this case photography, contribute to documenting and archiving affective and ephemeral experiences. As suggested by the exhibit’s title, there is a tension in Evergon’s photographic archiving of intimacy between the documentation of private everyday experiences and their theatrical production and mise en scènes. Inspired by Ralickas, who argues that “Evergon has developed a highly personal queer mythology driven (i.e., produced and sustained simultaneously) by the power of the photographic image,” I focus in this review on the ways in which the exhibit Theatres of the Intimate shows photography as both a powerful artistic medium to capture and document reality as well as a medium to reinvent, create, and transcend it. One of the main successes of Theatres of the Intimate is its demonstration of photography as an artistic medium of both evidence and other-world-building. On the one hand, the exhibit demonstrates the ways in which photography contributes to political visibility by providing material evidence of communities, practices, and landscapes; on the other hand, it also shows how photography can be used to create archives of imagined and mythical worlds that open up opportunities for self-expression. As such, Theatres of the Intimate constructs an archive of intimacy that is both real and imagined, where photography is used as a documentary archive of queer identity and sexuality as well as a creative archive of imagined intimacies and communities. The exhibit opens with an invitation to blur the boundary between intimate and public, which pulls the visitor into Evergon’s universe. With its multiple subsequent small rooms, connected by archways with a minimal number of artworks, the physical setting of Theatres of the Intimate effectively brings visitors close to Evergon’s oeuvre. The curators have successfully used the contrast between saturated deep-blue and gallery-white walls to provide the impression, at times, of low ceilings and a feeling of proximity with the work, and at other times, of a spacious room for larger photographic frames. The first display is unremarkable and does an adequate job of contextualizing the work by didactically introducing key themes of Evergon’s oeuvre: the political character of his work; his fascination with fantastic and mythical worlds; and his technical playfulness with mediums, styles, and genres. It is however the subsequent display, the Ramboy invitation, that truly pulls us into the poignant intimate journey we are about to begin with the artist. Past a set of glass doors, visitors enter a woodsy cruising ground, invited in by a member of Evergon’s mythical community of Ramboys, described in the exhibit text as “a cast of half-man, half-ram characters whose liberated, masculine promiscuity is revealed in their customs and rituals.” In this large-scale picture, a Ramboy with a penetrating look presents us with a Polaroid of the forest, the calling card for the exhibit (see figure 1). This mise en abyme stands alone, atop a wall saturated in navy blue, a colour visitors will encounter again as it ties together the multiple small rooms of the exhibit. The rest of the exhibit is organized along two axes that organize Evergon’s work by themes and techniques rather than chronologically. First, the …