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The 2000s


         From the beginning of the 1980s onward, the curators associated with the Gallery of the Saidye Bronfman Centre had defended the hybridization of traditional media but dispensed with performative practices and the electronic arts. Upon taking over as director of the gallery from David Liss in 2001, Sylvie Gilbert broke with this trend. Renée Bart, who succeeded her in 2004, continued in the same experimental vein. Without neglecting painting and drawing, the exhibitions of this period often presented moving images and interactive works or were extended beyond the walls of the gallery through offerings displayed in the urban landscape.


        Prior to the new millennium, few curators and artists had thought to use the gallery’s windows as a porous membrane separating the institution from its outdoor periphery. In 2002, curator Gregory Salzman organized Regarding Landscape, structuring the display of the exhibition’s works around this unique viewpoint, opening on the adjacent park. In 2006, the exhibition of works by Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky also fostered a dialogue between the works and the street. The two artists are known for their models of cars constructed using large sheets of aluminum. In the gallery, these sculptures were juxtaposed against the streams of cars visible to spectators through the windows.[1] During the third in the series of The Banal exhibitions curated by Cate Rimmer, artist Clément de Gaulejac presented Lavaggio Vetrina, a project created in Milan in 1998. The artist then asked the galleries for permission to wash the windows of their institutions at no charge. This offer of service allowed de Gaulejac to surreptitiously leave a trace of himself in the elitist art milieu without having to go through official channels. At the Liane and Danny Taran Gallery, de Gaulejac added to the complexity of reconstructing an account of the event by papering the windows with posters describing the project. Like the drawings that Sol LeWitt deployed on the gallery’s windows for the exhibition 45’30’North-73’36’West in 1971, de Gaulejac’s initiative constituted a rare example of a work chosen to integrate with this aspect of the centre’s architecture.


            To ensure the proper conditions existed for viewing works involving videos or media arts, the curators often set up a cube annexed to the rectangle of the gallery (please see the photographs of the installation of the exhibition Ene-Liss Semper: Four Works, 2003). In 2007, artists Neil Cummings and Marysia Lewandowska displayed moving images but did not use this solution. For their project Enthusiasm, they brought together a collection of films made by Polish factory workers in the 1970s when the country was under communist rule. Using thick velvet curtains of different colours suspended from the ceiling, they created three distinct projection areas that corresponded to the various possible configurations offered by the films’ themes (love, desire, work).[2]


            During this period, the gallery was transformed from time to time into a social platform. In 2003, curator Jennifer Fisher presented a retrospective of the works of Linda Montano, who is known for her long-term performances that tend to blur the boundaries between art and life. This time, the artist used the gallery as a therapeutic consultation site, where she met visitors to the exhibition. The tension between the presence of the artist’s body and her image relayed through technology was ingeniously integrated into the layout of the exhibition.


            In 2005, Gilbert gathered a team of four curators[3] to create an exhibition specifically aimed at the residents of the Côte-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grâce district, where the gallery was located. The Decarie Expressway became the title and metaphoric thread of the exhibition, as it both dissects and disregards the area. Seven artists and collectives were invited to create projects that explored this complex environment. Many chose to develop site-specific projects outside the gallery but returned the ensuing photographic and video documentation for display within its walls. However, artist Althea Thauberger took the opposite tack. She visited various religious sites (churches, synagogues, mosques) and put together a temporary choir made up of singers representing a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. Ultimately, these individuals came together in the gallery for a recital, but their survival as a group was left in limbo when the artist moved out of the neighbourhood. Thauberger’s initiative underscored the exhibition itself as a gathering of signs and gestures necessarily destined to be dismantled into each of its parts. It also highlighted the differences between the universal concept of culture championed by the centre in the 1960s and the diverse audience it addressed in 2005.







[1] The installation photos from this period also show the extent to which the curators tried to establish a view of the gallery from the street when darkness brought transparency to its windows (please see the whale skeleton from Shapeshifter by Brian Jungen in the 2002 exhibition Think Big).


[2] While not initially designed with this in mind, the exhibition’s use of the centre’s curtains also served to block out the visual distractions outside the gallery.


[3] Gabriel Doucet-Donida, Sylvie Gilbert, Isa Tousignant and John Zeppetelli.


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