The BGL boys give consumerism the finger from within a commercial gallery
Like a misericord stabbed swiftly into the mercantile world, piercing commerce’s boisterous self-assurance in a dramatic deathblow, Quebec City’s BGL wield power.
That may not be your first impression, though, as you walk into Art Mûr and find a stuffed moose posing as a turnstile.
Humour is the blade bandied by this installation art trio from Quebec City (Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère and Nicolas Laverdière) intent on exposing, unravelling and getting jiggy with today’s unquestioning philosophy of commercialism. I’ve awaited their return to Montreal breathlessly since their solo at the Musée d’art contemporain in 2001, and this, Se la jouer commercial (esthétique de présentation), notably their first exhibition in a commercial gallery ever in this city, does not disappoint.
The sheer fun of the experience is what grips you. The aforementioned moose, full-sized, stuffed and mounted on a pivot, forces you out of your arty assumptions from your first step into the expo. Fully blocking the entrance, the moose requires that you push whatever part of him you can grab (he’s surprisingly soft, by the way) to be let into the show. From the first moment, this is a hands-on experience.
Highlights of the trajectory throughout Art Mûr’s considerably large ground floor include the beat-up motorbike, repaired from a perilous accident and trussed up onto a trolley. The refurbished object served the boys in a performance, Rapide et dangereux, where two of them on rollerblades pushed it forward throughout the streets of the province’s capital while one rode and steered it, an experiment hilariously captured on video. Their signature Marche avec moi pieces – severed little kids’ legs on wheels complete with a push stick for all the fun you can handle – always make me laugh. Jouet d’adulte, the turned-over three-wheeler pieced like so much prey by a volley of arrows, is also a fave, poking fun at three-wheelers, at hunting, at toy cars and the silliness of us all.
What’s new to me, and trippiest of all with this exhibition, though, is its context. BGL have made a decade-deep mark on Quebec’s art world with their constant, relentless and powerful critique of all things commercialism, consumerism and materialism. It’s an easy enough statement to make in this day and age (though few have done it with such aplomb), especially from within the walls of effete art institutions whose very nature negates their ties (and accountability) to the real world. But the BGL guys, like anyone, need to eat, to pay rent and to buy fancy jackets to wear at their vernissages. So they need to sell art.
Art Mûr is the place where they’re selling their art for the next while, and they’ve transformed it accordingly. They’ve built walls in this commercial art space only to bash holes into and cut chunks out of them. They’ve made the space pretty with nostalgic wall decorations throughout the space, but left traces of paint powder and dust and pigment all over the floors, the exhibition pamphlets, Art Mûr’s business cards. They’ve made this a shop with a turnstile entrance, for goodness sake, like Wal-Mart or Pharmaprix, but the turnstile is a moose.
While adhering to the necessities of the buy-and-sell, BGL have screwed with it and made it their own. In no way have they wavered from their philosophy and criticism. But there’s no point in getting all serious about it, is there?
BGL: Se la jouer commercial
At Art Mûr (5826 St-Hubert), to Feb. 18