Emmanuelle Léonard. Deployment

Curator: Louise Déry

Artist: Emmanuelle Léonard

November 1, 2019 - January 25, 2020

Opening: October 31, 2019, 5:30 pm

Galerie de l’UQAM highlights the end of 2019 and begins anew in 2020 with Emmanuelle Léonard. Deployment, an exhibition putting forth a new body of photo and video works by the Montréal-based artist, initiated during a residency in the Arctic.

The exhibition

Deployment presents a body of work undertaken by Emmanuelle Léonard in 2018 during a research residency in the Canadian Far North sponsored by the Canadian Forces Artists Program. A continuation of the artist’s photographic and videographic projects from the past fifteen years, which focused on the hierarchies that form within social, judiciary, military and religious systems, this group of works pursues her interest in the function of authority and the mechanisms by which it is circumvented or undermined.

Observing the exercises conducted to assert Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, Léonard discovered a diverse set of realities: strategic military deployment in a region of the world where the national, political and economic stakes have been raised by global warming; young adults committed to the collective values of the army while remaining intent upon their own personal quest; the Inuit Rangers, without whose contribution it would be useless to attempt to learn how to survive in such cold; the innocence of the soldiers’ awe before the grandeur of the northern landscape.

Despite conditions that make filming extremely difficult, Léonard captured the activities of soldiers shielded against the cold by clothing, face masks and goggles that make them appear sometimes spectral and anonymous, sometimes very real and individual. Turning her attention to training exercises that level identity as well as to the participants themselves – their perception of the world independent of the military model – the artist witnessed the waiting and the relative passivity of soldiers confronted with motors that refuse to start in the northern night that is so disquietingly slow to fall, if not entirely eclipsed, where nothing momentous is said, done or claimed.

The exhibition also includes two projects initiated in Colombia that establish a curious resonance with the military in the Arctic and between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. In one, soldiers secure their observation post in a white mist that hinders their efficiency. In the other, young miners endure the infernal heat of the isolated desert region of La Guajira to collect snow-white salt. Snow, mist and salt open a space of contrast and dialogue between these images with a highly political charge that evoke the eroding of a precarious world.

The artist

Born in 1971 in Montréal where she lives and works, Emmanuelle Léonard holds a master’s degree from University du Québec à Montréal. Her work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, OPTICA, VOX, Galerie de l’UQAM and Mois de la Photo (Montréal); at Kunsthaus Dresden and Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (Germany); at Mercer Union and Gallery 44 (Toronto); at Glassbox (Paris); at L’Œil de poisson (Québec), etc. She has participated in artist residencies at Villa Arson (France), the Christoph Merian Foundation (Switzerland) as well as the Finnish Artists’ Studio Foundation, and was bestowed the Pierre-Ayot Award in 2005. She was featured in a 2012 exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Toronto, as part of the International Grange Prize for which she was nominated, and in 2013 at Le Fresnoy, France, as part of the À Montréal, quand l’image rode exhibition, curated by Louise Déry.

The curator

Louise Déry lives in Montréal. She holds a PhD in art history and is the director of Galerie de l’UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal) since 1997. She was previously the director of the Musée régional de Rimouski and curator for the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. She has curated a number of projects featuring canadian and international artists in Québec, Canada, Europe, the United States, Mexico and Asia, such as Giuseppe Penone, Michael Snow, Sarkis, Nancy Spero, Antony Gormley, Dominique Blain, Aude Moreau, Graham Fagen, Artur Żmijewski and philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy. Déry was also curator of the Canada Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, with a David Altmejd exhibition (2007). She is the recipient of the first Hnatyshyn Foundation Award for Curatorial Excellence (2007) and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts  in 2015. A member of the Royal Society of Canada, she was named chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France) in 2016.

Upcoming catalog

120 pages long, both in French and in English, this publication will include comprehensive documentation pertaining to the exhibition, an essay by Louise Déry, curator and director of Galerie de l’UQAM, an essay by Stefanie Hessler, director of Kunsthall Trondheim in Norway and a portfolio of past works by Emmanuelle Léonard. The launch is set to take place in January 2020.

Support provided by

The artist thanks the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canadian Forces Artists Program.

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