In autumn 2014, Emmanuel Galland and François Lalumière reiterated their collaboration by presenting AVENIR AVENUE (PREQUEL) at the Centre CLARK in Montréal. Having already left their mark as visual acrobats at Articule with the intervention Retourne-moi / Invert Me Out in 2010, the mischievous duo struck again with this new exhibition. The title, which could almost be mistaken for a personal development program posted on YouTube, immediately suggests a perplexing path and indicates the distortions ahead.
The exhibition took shape in a broken up white cube space bathed in stark bright light. This radical and neutral ambiance was combined with an array of dispersed works installed all over the place, from floor to ceiling, in complete disregard of museum display conventions. Left simply as they are, the various productions were not accompanied by any explanatory information. Hard to miss, there were also the retractable belt “crowd control” barriers structuring the viewer’s path through the space, though anyone could move or bypass them if they so desired. The exhibition gave one the impression that the entire gallery has been transmuted into a work of art, or that of being confronted with an ironic retrospective. The display baffled visitors, while at the same questioning notions pertaining to copyright in our contemporary society.
The predominant piece of the exhibition comprised a series of photographs and drawings about transforming the Mount Royal cross into an arrow. Echoing the artists’ penchant for contradiction, this arrow points to a non-path, as it guides us towards a future and the unknown. The redefinition of this symbol is relayed in other works, leaving us with a sense of doubt before these sensory detours, which are no longer constitutive of independent entities in the absolute. Playing on notions of non-places and overlaps, Galland and Lalumière test the limits of our imagination and memory. The duo insist on this point by exploring the superposition and deconstruction of the narrative principle. The idea of a timeline, whether it be one on the level an exhibition’s space-time or on the scale of a lifetime and its decisions, is reworked here.
Formally AVENIR AVENUE (PREQUEL) also recalls explorations, essays and other tinkering virtuosos such as Fischli& Weiss; but under its pseudo DIY guise the proposal is more political than it appears. The restricted movement and the constant reminder of rules put an entirely different twist on this display in which we are, in a way, caught in a trap. Moreover, the space is dominated by portraits of the artists, the size and mounting of which recall the conventional photographic representation of political candidates. Both by way of the visual propositions, which seek to redefine rules, and by the repeated presentation of these in the gallery space, this exhibition becomes the contradictory prism of conventions.
It was indeed quite tempting, for artists who like to work with what is already given—often through interventions in an architectural context—to play with the narrative potentials inherent in the gallery space and their respective practices. That being said, our sole disappointment is that the AVENIR AVENUE (PREQUEL) experiment did not step outside of the confines of the institutional space so as to expand the notion of reversibility at the core of this abundant body of work.