Open Studio: Inlandsis exhibition Brochure

September 13 - October 20, 2012

Toronto, Canada

Andrée-Anne Dupuis-Bourret’s exhibition, Inlandsis, is a print and paper installation comprised of one giant piece, La débâcle. The work is made of 5000 pieces of screen printed paper, folded and assembled onto a hidden structure of foam and cardboard. The work evolved from Dupuis-Bourret’s initial idea, which was to make a river of paper in her basement. As La débâcle grew, it evolved into something larger and less structured.The work’s form is dependent on the space it is in, changing from one exhibition to another. The lines, marks and patterns screen printed on the paper are more about providing textures and tonality than they are about giving the viewer singular images to look at. Each piece of paper making up the work is folded into the familiar shape of a four-cornered children’s paper game. You know the one...”Pick a colour. OK. Now pick a number...” Though the prints are not structured in a way that can be played with, the very fact of this shape conjures up ideas of children at play. The toys, if we can call them that, set out the structure of La débâcle, giving it a welcoming quality.

In its construction La débâcle moves from print, to object, to installation. The simple alchemy of art; turning one thing into another, erases the four-cornered toys, making them into something more material than symbol. Part of La débâcle is an exploration of how repeated geometric forms can evolve into a structure that appears organic. Mathematics and nature collide. Any component of La débâcle is a clone of any other component. However, in being adjoined, and in becoming a singular mass, the clean geometry of the individual disappears; the four-cornered paper toy is no longer itself. En masse a loose, flowing structure of another kind droops across the gallery. Singular, rigid individuals become a relaxed blanket of a group. The oppositional qualities of the single, and of the mass, owe their existence to one another.

Giant paper structures like La débâcle mark a growth in Dupuis-Bourret’s practice -a move away from editions and narrative-based artist’s books. Although both types of work have diverging trajectories for her, the idea of landscape remains consistent. Her installation work uses the same basic actions as her book works: screen printing on paper, assembling, and binding, and it explodes these concepts into a process beyond image-making. Instead of focusing on individual images, Dupuis-Bourret focuses here on the craft of the work, on the material qualities and construction that record the process of labour itself. In looking at La débâcle one only gets part of the story. The story of a completed, singular entity lying at ease. In this form it is easy to forget the journey of how the work came to be. We see a version of what the work tells us, but not the story existing behind, and before the work is finished. The stuff of La débâcle is so much about the making, the process and the activity, and not just the end product. Of course where the journey ends is important, but in a way it is evidence of the real work, which is to say the crafting of the installation. In repeating small, simple actions Dupuis-Bourret accumulates products of her labour and time. Her practice is process-based and highly organized, but those ideas are only whispered in the gallery space. An ongoing photo archive of Dupuis-Bourret’s process and work in the studio is accessible through her blog, Looking at it viewers can get a deeper sense of the work in development, and of the steps along the way from idea to structure. 

Let’s talk about the poetics of this project for a moment. It seems to be a rather grand existential gesture to call your art, an enormous marker of time and labour, a debacle, doesn’t it? A catastrophe. Calling the work La débâcle is both endearing and heart-breaking. It is an act of vulnerability to admit failure, or its possibility. It is a gesture of intimacy, but it is also an act of defeat.

We know from experience that meaning is often what we make of it. So, it is perhaps true that when Dupuis-Bourret calls her work La débâcle she is not ruminating on the likelihood of her practice, or the practice of art-making, as a disaster. Instead, let’s consider the relationship of this wording to the exhibition title, Inlandsis; a French word referring to an ice cap or glacier. The glacier in question here is La débâcle, a piece Dupuis-Bourret refers to as being inspired by an ice jam on a river near her house, and by the disappearance of a glacier in the mountains of British Columbia. The organic form of the work imitates the shape of the craggy, dirty mass flowing across the water. The idea of ice melting returns the conversation back to somewhere near the beginning, to the idea of transformation. As Dupuis-Bourret changes paper to object she speaks about acts of representation and recognition. She directly refers to the glacier, but beyond that Dupuis-Bourret is interested in looking at how we relate to what is around us, and at how those relationships evolve. Dupuis-Bourret plays with what we recognize as print, or as paper toys, to address the spaces in between the parts information we encounter. With her process, and her work, she looks at how we choose to understand or interpret what we see, and at how our thoughts and relations shift in accordance with the changing landscape.