Looking at art might feel indulgent, but Philippe Pirotte, the curator of this year’s Montreal Biennale, believes that “in art, we deal with stuff we avoid in life.” The 10th edition opens tomorrow at Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, with 55 artists from 24 countries pushing the idea that aesthetic pleasure has the power to drive social change.
The biennale’s title Le Grand Balcon comes from Jean Genet’s 1956 play Le Balcon, which takes place in an exclusive brothel while a revolution rages in the streets below. Reality and illusion collide as the prostitutes and their clients take on the roles of figures from the opposing sides.
Of the big names, there’s a mannequin installation from Isa Genzken and American painter Kerry James Marshall (who’s been illustrating black people in America over the past 30 years) presents his powerful Afro-Futurist comic strip series, Rythm Mastr. It features people from his Chicago neighbourhood working with a superhero who battles evil with futuristic and traditional African dress and equipment.
Belgian painter Luc Tuymans presents four new works, including the Doha series of blue-wash paintings that depict the empty galleries of Qatar’s museums.
Much of the new work is multidisciplinary. Canadian artist and filmmaker Moyra Davey premieres a new film, Hemlock Forest that follows-up her exploration of proto-feminism Les Goddesses. Germany’s Anne Imfof combines elements of live opera with installation, drawing and sculpture. New York artist and composer Marina Rosenfeld’s latest project involves musicians from an infantry regiment of the Canadian Army.
Art allows us to understand feelings from the past and present, and see how they recur. For Pirotte, this “can’t be analysed or described, but there is a recognition deep down that it can be an answer to our deepest fears and needs.”
The 2016 Montreal Biennale is held at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal from 19th October 2016 to 15th January 2017. bnlmtl.org