La Biennale de Montréal 2014 L'Avenir (looking forward)
Richard Ibghy & Marilou Lemmens
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L’avenir (looking forward) examines the relationship of contemporary art practices to speculation, futurity and its history, as well as the currency of projecting into the future. The exhibition presents artists working in film, sculpture, photography, painting and installation who respond to current conditions by considering “what is to come.” It also includes artists who propose art practices that are socially responsive to challenges presented by possible futures, practices that are frequently situational, performative and temporal, as well as artists who address the vexed question of the current agency of art and whether it has the affective potential to influence the future.

The project is rooted in the locality of Montréal and draws inspiration from the city’s current and historical context. From this position, the curatorial remit ripples out to consider global issues influencing possible futures and how they intersect with the local. The 1960s is a reference point for a number of the artists included, a time when Montréal was being imagined as a future focused city, as suggested by the theme of its Expo ’67, Terre des Hommes/Man and His World, a title borrowed from the memoir of author and aviator Antoine de Saint Exupéry, which outlined dreams and hopes for the future. Ideas of progress were epitomized at Expo by the United States pavilion, the Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome and its display of Apollo space capsules and technology that would take astronauts to the moon. In parallel to this future optimism were the activities of the Front de libération du Québec throughout the decade that led ultimately, in 1970, to tanks rolling into Montréal and a wave of relocation by Anglophile corporations. Such activism was mirrored in locally specific contexts internationally and included the Paris uprisings in 1968, as well as the civil rights and Vietnam War protests in the U.S. Against this backdrop, artists in the exhibition at times obliquely address the failures of modernism and consider the implications for the present of utopian models of society that were never realized.

Other artists consider the notion of a loss of futurity as a characteristic of the current moment, the sense that we are in an epoch that has gone beyond a point of no return. Environmental issues are relevant here, with current concerns that our world has gone beyond a tipping point in global warming. Underscoring such environmental degradation are issues of geopolitics and the ubiquity of an ever-dominant market economy system that is based on speculation, social stratification, constant market growth and the consequent increased consumption of resources. Against a back- drop of a perceived failure of the left, a number of artists highlight the structural limitations inherent in the global condition that mitigate against a crisis-free vision of the future. […]

Gregory Burke, co-curator, BNLMTL 2014
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La Biennale de Montréal
Montreal, Canada
October 22, 2014-January 4, 2015
Curated by Gregory Burke, Peggy Gale, Lesley Johnstone, and Mark Lanctôt