IOTA: Gallery Pop Up (Deux) - Rémi Belliveau
IOTA: Gallery Pop Up (Deux) is a pop up gallery that featured twelve Nova Scotia and New Brunswick contemporary artists, and two Halifax commercial art galleries for an online sale and pop-up sale event. Artworks were available for pre-purchase from May 1st to June 17th, 2017. All artists were featured for an interview as part of the Six Questions series, released every few days starting the first week of May 2017, and leading up to the live pop up event: June 17th, 2017 at the Anna Leonowens Art Bar + Projects.
The below artworks are no longer available for purchase through IOTA.
28 juillet 2015 (7.79$) & 1 HAMBURGER, from the Deluxe Series, are found paper bag prints that corresponds to 1) 7.79$’s worth of take-out that I bought at the Deluxe French Fries chain of restaurants on July 28th 2015 and 2) a series of hamburgers that I ate there over a few years. Having grown up in the small Acadian community of Memramcook, NB, and now living in the city, I’ve developed the need for a ritual that makes me feel Acadian within the urban landscape – eating at Deluxe, a south-eastern Acadian staple, is the ritual that I’ve adopted.
La transfiguration de Leo Burke appropriates Raphael’s final work The transfiguration and replaces the figure of Jesus Christ with the Acadian wrestler Leo Burke. In inserting narratives from my own cultural community into renowned paintings, I’m looking to valorize the unknown stories of Acadians while creating new mythological narratives within my works.
Rémi Belliveau in an interdisciplinary artist, musician, writer and archivist from Memramcook, New Brunswick. His recent group shows include Writing Topography at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and Holding the pose at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery. He is currently co-director of the Galerie Sans Nom, co-lecturer of Acadian Art History at Université de Moncton and lead vocalist for the art-rock group Les Jeunes d’Asteure. His historical essay Brûler l’image: How Screenprinting Manifests in Contemporary Acadian Art was recently published by Canadian Art online. He is currently conducting research for a book addressing the emergence of rock & roll culture in Acadian communities before 1972. http://www.ruinebabine.com/rmi-belliveau-artiste/
Six Questions with Rémi Belliveau
IOTA: What do you think of kitsch in relation with the symbolics of Acadianhood?
Rémi Belliveau: The thing about Acadianhood that makes it difficult to pin down is that it changes from one regional community to the next. We all share a common history, speak the same basic language and wave the same flag but face different realities in our respective geopolitical landscapes. The only true blue kitsch imagery that I associate with Acadianhood is that of Evangéline because it contains the kind of massed produced sentimentality that, in my opinion, makes for good kitsch. There’s also the fact that it comes in the form of prints, postcards, statuettes, porcelain tea sets, etc. which hasn’t really been the case for any Acadian symbol aside from the flag perhaps. However, what’s fascinating about Evangéline as an Acadian symbol is that it was appropriated and has little to do with the Acadian experience. I think that working out this duality in my practice has led me to the exercise of associating specifically non-Acadian things like classical art, molasses and wrestling with my own interpretation of Acadianhood.
IOTA: Is your interest in appropriating European art history a product of your own education in the Canadian art school system, or is it intentional, as a way to insert the Acadian experience, in the pre and post-colonial histories that brought Acadians to Canada?
RB: In thinking about representations of actual real Acadians in classical art, of which there are none aside from the odd portrait and the sparse background brush strokes of British landscape painter Samuel Scott, I began imagining what a specifically Acadian classical art might look like. Working mostly in print media, I have the ability to appropriate and reproduce images with relative ease so I began inserting Acadian narratives into works by classical masters in order to generate this non-existent aesthetic vocabulary. The effect is twofold: on one hand I can insert the Acadian experience in pre and post-colonial histories by referencing historical paintings, and on another hand I can generate new histories by inserting the Acadian experience in the non-historical narratives of biblical, literary or mythological paintings. Although the end result has less of an obvious political statement, I think that the latter is truer to my initial intention of generating a new visual nomenclature – here; the act of generating this new imagery becomes more important than the imagery itself.
IOTA: You have said that you are inspired by the structure and use of “world mythologies” in your works but then specified the other day that you are really looking to Greek myth. You’ve also said that you are interested in the Acadian identity due to its malleability and that its history is less rooted in fact, and perhaps more so in hearsay. Hindu mythical narratives then, perhaps more so than Greek, relate to your use of myth, in that the myth stays the same (Évangéline? The Acadian spirit?), but appears to defy time, and reappear symbolically in various situations and forms, which can be interpreted variously depending on the Acadian’s ‘faith’. Taking this into consideration, is the contextualization of the Acadian identity in your work a genuine look at the spirit of the Acadian as an ephemeral being that inspires a way of life, or are you propositioning that the ‘Acadian’ does not exist?
RB: I think that the former resonates more with the kind of cultural matter that I perceive myself as working with because the true Acadian identity always does exists but only in the present moment, that is to say, it was different a moment ago and is always on the verge of changing. In that sense, the Acadian is an ephemeral being because adaptation through self-reinvention is at the core of the Acadian’s survival in the real world. Mythologies work much in the same way, in that they all find their basis in some reality and evolve drastically overtime while retaining something essential. This ambiguity and malleability is what I love about addressing Acadian culture through my practice because it allows me to generate my own interpretation of my Acadianhood and apply it to real world scenarios.
IOTA: There is an autobiographical aspect to some artworks, such as the Deluxe series where you documented your monthly meals at the restaurant Deluxe for two and a half years. You collected the screen-printed bags and labelled them with your meal and the date on which you ate it. The project points to a sort of cheapness within our culture, with the screen-printed bags that are badly offset, and the cheapness of the food at a time of low personal income: Are you interested in themes of failure and dark humour, and where does this come from?
RB: To me, eating Deluxe or Dixie Lee, two Acadian brands of fast food, implies a sort of culturally specific ritual that I find somehow romantic. My mom once told me that, as a kid, the only reason my grandparents ever took her to the city was to eat at Deluxe. It’s as though this Americanized Acadian culture was pulling her out of her sheltered rural reality and into the 20th century mass. This story has always stayed with me and I have a hard time disassociating it from my regular trips to the restaurant. I know I sound completely ridiculous when I say this, but when I was eating there to save some cash, it didn’t feel like I was failing because I felt like I was participating in something culturally specific to my identity. Eating at Deluxe has become an important ritual in my urbane Acadianhood and the inherent humour in that is only partly intentional because I actually like eating there.
IOTA: How important is the communal experience either in your work or in the viewing of your work?
RB: My work relies heavily on notions of Acadianhood that exist solely in a communal sphere so the communal experience is central to the understanding of what I’m doing most times. This poses a challenge to people looking at my work from an outsider’s perspective because some references may appear to be exclusive to Acadians, but these things are always explained in text. I want my practice to double as a platform for discussing Acadian culture and sharing it with other cultural communities.
IOTA: What’s next?
RB: About three years ago, I became interested in the history of rock and roll in relation to Acadian communities in the 50s, 60s and 70s. I spent an enormous amount of time researching this topic in the hopes of making a documentary, which I abandoned in favour of a book, which hasn’t come to fruition yet. As of late, this research has begun seeping into my art practice and prospective projects for the next year almost all rely on elements of found vinyl manipulated through video and digital audio. I’m also developing an obsession with digitizing archives and making them accessible so I’m hoping to further integrate that into my practice as well.