Michael Blum. Notre histoire || Our History
as part of Galerie de l'UQAM's residency program
Artist: Michael Blum
September 2, 2014 - October 4, 2014
Opening: September 4, 2014, 5:30 pm
Our History | | Notre histoire is a project by artist Michael Blum on the issue of Quebec and Canadian identity. The exhibition is the result of work carried out under the Galerie’s summer residency program. The artist has set up a museum in the exhibition hall, offering a fanciful rewriting of the history of Quebec and Canada, in addition to a publication containing the responses of 86 people to a survey on their vision of identity.
Born in Jerusalem, Michael Blum settled in Montreal after residing in Europe and the United States. He has been here four years, “here” being UQAM, Montreal, Quebec, Canada and, indeed, the New World. In witnessing the massive student protests of the Maple Spring of 2012, the controversy over the Quebec Charter of Values, which was submitted to public consultation by the Parti Québécois government in 2013, and that government’s crushing defeat in April 2014, he discerned in this conjuncture a sensitive issue that would be conducive to investigating connections between generations, between Quebeckers and Canadians in the rest of the country, whether Canadian-born or immigrants, and between French speakers and English speakers. In response to our invitation to do a residency and an exhibition at the Galerie de l’UQAM, he assumed, as he frequently does, the attitude of an investigator conducting an inquiry into this issue.
Inspired by his own immigrant experience, Blum developed his dual artist’s museum – with a Quebec side and a Canada side, separate entrances but a common exit – as in a “real” museum that displays artifacts according to a classification system in a carefully devised setting with supporting references, the whole lying between truth and fiction, scholarly demonstration and mythifying fantasy.
The museum as an artist’s work is of incontestable interest to a university gallery that focuses on multifarious and changing considerations of exhibition practice and the application of knowledge produced in the museum realm. In this regard, Blum’s project is doubly interesting in that it exemplifies and parodies the genre of the exhibition as an artist’s museum while investigating symbols of cultural, social and political cohesion and division. The result of displaying the recent work of such an artist in the context of an artist residency is exposure to both the project’s conceptual development and its material realization. With Our History || Notre histoire, the Galerie de l’UQAM duly records a partly real, partly imaginary chronicle of this country, activated by the critical yet playful perceptions of the artist as investigator.
In addition, the artist developed a survey—”non-scientific” by his own admission—addressed to more than 600 more or less public figures in politics, the arts, journalism and academia, to help establish a conceptual framework for his artistic project. The exhaustive views of the 86 respondents are collected in a publication that runs between cynicism and humour, candour and fervour, in English and French. They formed a kind of field of reflection on daily life. The publication is neither an exhibition catalogue nor an essay, but rather the report on research conducted by the artist with the goal of examining the history of his host country in the light of certain current events that exposed him to the dizzying notion of “identity”. The book reveals the answers to the following questions:
- What is Quebec for you?
- How would you explain the difference between Canada and Quebec to a foreigner?
- If a museum had to preserve the history of the differences between Canada and Quebec, how would you envision it?
- How do you see the relations between Canada and Quebec within two or three generations?
- What common language other than English or French could we use?
About the artist
Michael Blum was born in Jerusalem in 1966. He studied history at the Université de Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and photography at the École nationale supérieure de la photographie in Arles (France). Using video, publications and installations, he develops a body of work aiming at a critical re-reading of the production of culture and history. His major projects include A Tribute to Safiye Behar (9th Istanbul Biennial, 2005), Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. (De Appel, Amsterdam, 2006), Cape Town – Stockholm (On Thembo Mjobo) (Mobile Art Production, Stockholm, 2007), Exodus 2048 (Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2008; New Museum, New York, 2009), Faktories und Felder (Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon, 2012) and War and Peace (VOX – Centre de l’image contemporaine, Montréal, 2014). His work has been the object of numerous publications including Monument to the Birth of the 20th Century (Revolver-Archiv für aktuelle Kunst, Frankfurt, 2005); Mein Land (Unrast Verlag, Münster, 2008); and With Different Clothes, It’s a Different Lady (Beit Hatfutsot, Tel Aviv, 2008). He’s a professor at UQAM’s School of Visual and Media Arts since 2010. blumology.net
The residency program
Since 2009, the Galerie de L’UQAM has extended an invitation to artists in residence. This biennial formula allows an artist to work in the Galerie spaces for an entire summer and exhibit the results of the research at the start of fall programming. The program comes under the mandate of the institution, which seeks to demonstrate the dynamic relationship between exhibiting and publishing, between displaying and interpreting. It is possible to see the outcome of the two previous residencies: David Sprigg, in 2009, and Stéphane Gilot, in 2011.
The exhibition and publication are made possible thanks to the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Université du Québec à Montréal, Faculté des arts, programme d’appui aux créateurs.