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Susannah Wesley
Sebastien Cliche at articule | Mathieu Cardin at Parisian Laundry
March 18, 2014

While checking out a couple recent exhibitions in Montreal, I couldn't help but notice the connection between two works I had seen: Sébastien Cliche's Self Control Room at articule and Mathieu Cardin's Reality Sucks at Parisian Laundry (the latter is part of the MFA group show Collision 10 that closed this past weekend). On the surface, the works are quite different: Cardin's installation is colourful and sprawling – the creation of an eccentric and highly personal world – whereas Cliche's installation is clean, precise, impersonal, and largely black and white. To be fair, the deeper subject matter of each work is also divergent: Cliche is interested in surveillance and its impact on the self, while Cardin, in an almost Gondry-esque fashion, delves into the idea of highly creative inner worlds. However, both artists have created studio-themed meta-installations that reveal personal narratives.

Sébastien Cliche, Self Control Room

At articule, the viewer is first confronted by their own reflection in an immaculate sheet of glass leaning against a mover's blanket. Turning the corner, the gallery appears to be in a very tidy state of installation in-between shows. An artist's worktable as well as a maquette of the gallery space occupies the centre of the room. There is also an octagonal room at the back of the space that you must walk around to enter. The octagonal room turns out to be an observation station filled with monitors, and it's here that the viewer realizes that each aspect of the exhibition and their interaction with it has been under close surveillance.

In the basement room at Parisian Laundry (which throughout the years often seems to inspire/attract among the best works in the various editions of Collision), the viewer walks into an ante-space that appears to be a janitor's room. A glimmer of light appears through the door of a locker and, if confident enough, the viewer will open it and realize they can walk through and into a massive studio space filled with supplies and art installations in progress. Walking around back of a box that has been built within the space, the viewer realizes they can look into, but not enter, an immaculate gallery-like space inside. A clever 3D trompe l'oeil within makes the viewer re-evaluate some of what they have previously walked through.

Both Cliche and Cardin's installations represent a room within a room within a room that belongs to a mysterious missing subject. And each installation blurs the role of the viewer in a discomforting way. Who are the objects, subjects, and the missing characters of these highly constructed, manipulative spaces?

Sébastien Cliche: Self Control Room continues until April 13.

Parisian Laundry:
See website for current exhibitions.

Susannah Wesley is an artist and curator living in Montreal. She has been a member of the collaborative duo Leisure since 2004 and from 1997-2000 was part of the notorious British art collective the Leeds13. Formerly Director at Battat Contemporary in Montreal, she holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Art History from Concordia University. She is Akimblog's new Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.



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