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Calgary
Lindsay Sorell
Andrée-Anne Roussel at TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary
June 13, 2018

The camera pans over hands lazily kneading dough and minimally stocked white kitchen shelves, then down past fine wood railings to the hardwood floor. Montréal filmmaker and media artist Andrée-Anne Roussel’s solo exhibition -Pathie at TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary is a series of cinematic micro-observations acted out in four films, one kinetic sculpture, and a lush soundscape. Using the predictable palette of a minimalist lifestyle blogger – white, grey, coral, wood, ceramic, coffee, and wool – she creates controlled environments where unpredictable, almost science-fictional movements, become significantly mind-bending.



Andrée-Anne Roussel, -Pathie, 2018, installation view

In an otherwise curated environment, the kinetic energy of objects creates Kafkaesque deviance, anarchy, science, and spirituality. In one film, a butter knife mysteriously rotates clockwise on a countertop, then counter-clockwise. Coffee laps in its cup on an unmoving table. Eggs roll back and forth for no apparent reason. Objects are slow, and move in a shallow field of focus, gently enacting the unseen like dowsing rods. In another film, characters and rooms are spun upside-down by the camera; aesthetically perfect, isolated, and peaceful scenes are transformed into a chaotically rolling but hypnotizing and placated reality.

The two final films, identical except for their actors, mirror each other on facing walls. Creating an entrancing duality of gender, narrative, and perspective at all times, the films focus on the expressionless gaze of the actors observing kinetic energy. From various languid positions – sitting on a bed reading, unenthusiastically kneading dough, putting on a nice wool sweater, thoughtfully drinking coffee – actors pause to observe with a gaze that could be bored, depressed, apathetic, thoughtful, or entranced. The privilege of having time to think in such languid positions becomes apparent, and parallels itself with my own ability to attend this art show and spend time in contemplation.

Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition from 1958, first on Roussel’s reading list for the exhibition, comes to mind. The book outlines Arendt’s argument for the discrete equality rather than hierarchy of the vita activa (the “active life,” made of meeting biological needs, fabrication, design, artificiality, and relations between people) and the vita contemplativa (“contemplative life”). With Arendt in mind, the entire exhibition could be an exploration of this balance between vita activa and contemplativa – alluded to by the repetition of food elements, the artificiality of the set, and the relational and contemplative elements in the work.



Andrée-Anne Roussel, -Pathie, 2018, detail

There is a physical coffee cup at the end of the gallery, sitting on a plinth high enough to let me look inside. With my every step around it, the coffee inside ripples. I do a little tap dance, it swirls inward; it tells me: your energy is never wasted. My apathy is played into empathy, and my passivity into subtle action. A bit of a tear comes out the side of my eye, and I think it’s because -Pathie, both ominous and sweet, validates the simplicity of presence and spiritualizes – or makes magical – inner life.


Andrée-Anne Roussel: -Pathie continues until July 14.
TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary: http://www.truck.ca/
The gallery is partially accessible.


Lindsay Sorell is an artist and writer who recently collaborated with the Advanced Toastmasters of Calgary for the IKG Live 1 performance festival and completed two solo exhibitions of new work: Exercises in Healing at Contemporary Calgary and Buddha, Why Am I Alone? at AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art. She is currently working on a large-scale watercolour painting of food and is the editor of Luma Quarterly. She is Akimblog's Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram.

 

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