On the invitation of the Galerie de l’UQAM and the curator Louise Déry, the Quebec artist Jean-Pierre Aubé carried out a series of live interventions during the preview days of the Venice Biennale (May 6 to 8), followed by an exhibition at one of Rome’s most prestigious institutions, Radio Arte Mobile (May 14 to 27). This double international project was produced by the Galerie de l’UQAM and supported by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ). The event allowed Jean-Pierre Aubé to showcase a singular artistic practice, going back twenty years, which explores various subjects such as auroral choruses, electromagnetic pollution, cyber-surveillance and radio astronomy.
At the Venice Biennale, Jean Pierre Aubé continued his investigation of radio frequencies, particularly through an exploration of the city’s “electrosmog”, i.e. all the electromagnetic fields present in a place. During several live interventions, he targeted the electronic communications of wireless devices, which some consider to be essential tools for the smooth functioning of society, while others view them as potential health hazards. In a period paralyzed by a fear of cyber-attacks, even cyber-terrorism, their proliferation has also raised issues related to pirating, detection, surveillance and, consequently, privacy infringement. Using a mobile set-up (Venetian cart, antennas, radio receivers, computers) and assisted by a small team on the ground, the artist intervened in different places of the Biennale and the city during the preview days. “Nowadays,” says Jean-Pierre Aubé, “when there are people, there are waves. The passports, telephones and tablets which we carry around with us are small communicational beings. They are constantly signalling their presence and transmitting their location to the dozens of relay towers which dot our cities. Between them, they share thousands of information packets which they encode and decode. During the Biennale, I will take advantage of this gathering of visitors in order to intercept these messages and collect them and, why not, to share some of them myself.”
Jean-Pierre Aubé's project is entitled Electrosmog Venezia. During the first three days, from May 6 to 8, the artist recorded several radio frequencies on the Biennale sites, collecting, documenting and recording emissions from personal communications systems. Equipped with a portable device consisting of multiple radios, antennas and networked computers, he scanned the skies over Venice, assisted by performers Myriam Laplante and Mathieu Latulippe. Their interventions constituted various means of grasping the electronic smog enveloping the city.
Jean-Pierre Aubé and his assistants offered a series of public actions in the Campo Santa Margherita, in the Dorsoduro district, on May 7 and 8, from 9 pm to 10.30 pm. His mobile set-up, with projectors, lasers, computers, antennas and receivers installed on a Venetian cart, gave the impression of technological tinkering, demystifying the sophisticated nature of electronic communications presented by big companies and the risks of piracy they imply. Curator Louise Déry notes that the Jean-Pierre Aubé project revolves around a double observation: "Although our wireless communication tools are lightweight, thin and easy to use, they are connected to an enormous infrastructure. And despite the supposed complexity of a technological world in perpetual progress, an artist, with his little team in the field, like ham radio operators, can venture into the smog of Venice to capture a reality that is invisible, but nonetheless present and consequential in our lives.”
The opening of the exhibition was preceded by a roundtable organized by RAM radioartemobile, with a varied group of researchers and thinkers on the issue of radio frequencies.
Jean-Pierre Aubé, artist
Louise Déry, art historian and curator of the exhibition
Giuseppe Di Giugno, physicist focusing, since the 1970’s, on the audio digital, founder of IRIS
Michelangelo Lupone, composer, researcher, designer of soundscapes
Cristian Stanescu, astrophysicist
Luca Zevi, architect and urbanis
A graduate of the MFA program at the Université du Québec à Montréal, Jean-Pierre Aubé is well known for his sound and visual representations of very low frequencies and radio frequencies using ingenious methods and technologies, which enable him to sound the magnetosphere and space. Over the years, he has become a sort of explorer-artist who, equipped with curious antennas, radio receivers, software of his own making and an array of computer hardware, captures various frequencies and then models this data into singular landscapes, which are displayed via charts, photographs and audio and video recordings.
For the curator Louise Déry, Jean-Pierre Aubé is a landscape artist of a novel genre. A sound and wave magician, he makes us aware of an invisible part of our surrounding world, its poetry, its ecology and the dangers threatening it. She recalls that “artists have always turned their eyes to the sky. I view Jean-Pierre as following in the grand romantic tradition, his head raised towards outer space, both listening and observing it, he evokes its boundlessness while at the same time revealing the congestion which our inexorable technological footprint has brought to this immensity. In a world where the sky is being sold by the piece to meet the demands of the communication industry and in which formidable powers are busy hiding information or spying on the transmitted contents, Jean-Pierre’s work focuses our attention on the vast issues regarding the respect and damage of the planet and its surroundings, and the effect of these practices on each human being.”
Born in 1969 in Kapuskasing, Ontario, lives and works in Montreal.
Education: MFA, Université du Québec à Montréal
Exhibitions: RAM radioartemobile (Rome, 2015), Expression (St-Hyacinthe, 2015), Le Fresnoy (Tourcoing, 2013), Canadian Centre for Architecture (Montreal, 2012), Clark (Montreal, 2012), Séquence (Saguenay, 2011), Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2011), AXENÉO7 (Gatineau, 2010), Galerie de l’UQAM (Montreal, 2008 and 2010), Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (Quebec City, 2008), Palais du Tau (Reims, 2008), Ludwig Museum (Budapest, 2007), ZKM (Karlsruhe, 2005)
Performances: Venice Biennale (2015), Elektra (2012 and 2011, Montreal), MUTEK (2010, Montreal), Mois Multi (Quebec City, 2005), @rt Outsiders (2005, Paris)
Award: Prix Giverny Capital 2013
The Galerie de l’UQAM receives annual support from the Canada Council for the Arts for its operations.
Special thanks to the Westin Europa & Regina (Venice) and the Conseil des diplômés de la Faculté des arts (UQAM).