February 13, 2014

Olivia Boudreau’s Oscillations of the Visible

Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery at Concordia University
Olivia Boudreau, Femme allongée, 2014. HD video, colour, sound, 13:15 minutes. Courtesy the artist and the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery.

The Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery presents the first exhibition to examine the video and performance work of Montreal artist Olivia Boudreau. Since 2004, Olivia Boudreau has combined video and performance in works that exist through duration and repetition. Her practice, focusing mainly on the body (her own until 2009) carrying out everyday actions (taking off underwear, drying oneself after a shower) or maintaining a pose (on all fours, sitting in an armchair) in a register of excess, puts to the test not only the body but also visitor experience and his or her faculty of perception. The works’ execution, dictated until recently by a few precise and simple rules—a static shot, a sequence governed by external factors, a tight frame—results in extended images that are animated by an economy of movement carried out in silence, or sometimes interrupted by ambient sound.

This exhibition traces the development of Olivia Boudreau’s practice from its beginnings to a new video work in which she abandons the static shot, introduces narrative and human interaction, and assumes a directorial role. This shift from self-representation to the body of the other, and its observation, is also present in a new performance that will unfold over the duration of the exhibition. In it, two performers are held in each other’s presence through positions they assume in the gallery.

Through spatial layout and modes of presentation, the artist and the curator open this practice up to a series of questions: how do the succession of simple repetitive actions and the forthright expression of intimacy—primarily that of a woman—exist within the exhibition space and in the presence of the visitor? What notion of the visible is channeled through video and the performative act? When the female body leaves self-representation and enters the narrative field how is its reception transformed? How does the subject constitute itself in the absence of speech? What does one make of a hyper-awareness of the labor of minimal action and its mediation?

The exhibition is made possible with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

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