/MARC DULUDE’s work explores the concept of landscape and its representation. He builds formal labyrinths that are based on an interplay between the visible and the invisible, the perceptible and the sublime, all the while seeking to break down nature behind a delicate veil: the mirror. His playful performative sculptures, videos, and photographs invite viewers to (re)think nature itself and challenge our perception of it—it is not strictly about representing trees and lakes, but about showing a different way of immersing ourselves in and relating to an environment.
/Originally from Saguenay, MARC DULUDE is based in Montreal. He holds both bachelor and masters degrees from the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi. Active as a visual artist since 1999, his work has shown in nearly a dozen solo exhibitions and in numerous group shows and artistic events.
REFLECTIONS ON “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS?”
“Have you seen this?” Before even walking into the gallery, Marc Dulude calls out to us and invites us to bear witness to something. The works shown at Stride are not meant as a series per se, nor should they be misconstrued as a retrospective. However, in line with an important aspect of his artistic practice (namely, his deep desire to explore the potential of materials chosen for their intrinsic qualities, both formal and symbolic), the works comprise a survey of sorts, summing up the particular interest he’s had in mirrors for the past four years.
The exhibition includes videos, photographs and sculptures associated with three different projects investigating “notions of landscape and nomadism” and “analyzing our way of immersing ourselves in an environment,” in order to “(re)think nature itself and challenge our perception of it.”i The Invisible Bike (2009) was realized in an isolated and picturesque countryside during Dulude’s participation in a production residency at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Lumsden, and The Dazzling Ship (2009) was created for the “WaterpodTM Project” in New York City. ii Both bicycle and model ship are covered by a cubist, mosaic-like assembly of irregularly shaped mirrors, which act as canvas and camouflage for the sculptures (assisted ready-mades): “the reflecting surfaces give the illusion that [they] are levitating, suspended in time and space, flying through a kaleidoscope of images.”iii In the gallery, one can see two videos documenting on-site performances, photographs of The Invisible Bike, The Dazzling Ship itself, and, last but not least, Levitating Rock (2012), a site-specific installation derived from the temporary public work L’Envolée iv (2010). Without literally reflecting nature, Levitating Rock recalls a rock thrown into a still pond causing a ripple effect, while also alluding to a carnival fun house with its convex and concave planes causing distortions and caricatures.
Dulude has been working with the mirror as prime material since 2009 v. Its formal properties and aesthetic qualities have surely been a significant draw, but it is highly doubtful he chose this particular material without some awareness of the significance it holds anthropologically vi, psychologically vii, and artistically viii, whether it be as an actual object (archeological artifacts), as a medium (collages, installations, etc.), or as a subject in paintings. On the latter, without being particularly well-versed in its key symbolic usages, simple common sense will tell us the mirror has long been a tool for self-portraiture or optical effects, and has represented narcissism, truth, tautology, infinity, etc. A little background in art history will reveal it also opened subtle and mysterious breaches in a number of iconic works, such as The Arnolfini Wedding (1434) by Jan van Eyck, Las Meninas (1656) by Diego Velazquez, or A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882) by Edouard Manet. Amongst our contemporaries, one could think of Russian artists Francisco Infante-Arana’s and Nonna Gorunova’s Mirror Landscapes (1970s-80s), Italian Michelangelo Pistoletto’s multiple Mirror Paintings (1961-present), Austrian Gustav Troger’s Mirror Man performances (2008-present), London-based Arran Gregory’s Wolf exhibit (2012), etc. From Quebec’s own art scene, references to Michel de Broin’s Superficial (2004) or David Altmejd’s Colossi series (2007) are also inescapable. Intentionally or not, Dulude hereby inserts himself in a long-standing tradition and narrative. And he definitely holds his own.
Built up around notions of the reflected environment and the reflected self, Dulude’s body of work offers simple yet discerning and effective ways of engaging the spectator and experimenting with the most classic of visual vocabularies: the landscape and the portrait (such universally recognized themes that they now refer to conventional page orientations). Dulude himself describes these sculptures as formal labyrinths based on an interplay between visible/invisible, perceptible/sublime, seeking to break down reality behind the delicate veil of the mirror. Although their physical structure doesn’t change, they undergo a shift every time they are seen. As they optically reflect and integrate their new surroundings, they disrupt regular perspective and hold a continuously renewable potential. Each piece is an ephemeral stage for representation, paradoxically enlisting that instability as a constant. Even when they aren’t operated in a performance, The Invisible Bike and The Dazzling Ship are not static but dynamic, almost “kinetic” sculptures, particularly rich hosts of interpretive possibilities both conceptually—in the mind’s eye—and materially—as an embodied experience.
Accustomed as we are to seeing mirrors in our everyday life, the multitude of fragmented reflecting surfaces in Dulude’s works contribute to draw us in and make us ponder their theoretical significance. For example, our corporeal integrity is dissolved when approaching Levitating Rock, and the viewer, normally constructed as the watching subject—literally, a spectator—suddenly becomes the object of the work, assuming both positions within the same physical space in one singular moment. This goes beyond projecting oneself into or being transformed by art; it is a whole mise en abyme of one’s own gaze as originator, receptor and interpreter of an image, a metaphor in line with conceptual debates on postmodern artistic practices and theories of representation, somewhere between the original, the copy and the simulacrum ix.
To sum up, The Invisible Bike, The Dazzling Ship and Levitating Rock can generate a chain of endless reflections, none of which can ever be etched onto the works themselves. They can be chronicled and shared through videos and photographs—as shown in Have you seen this?—or second-hand accounts—such as this very essay¬—but these recordings will be invariably lacking. Beyond the traces they leave, Marc Dulude’s works need to be experienced.
i. Marc Dulude’s artist statement.
ii. See http://www.thewaterpod.org/.
iii. Marc Dulude’s artist statement.
iv. L’Envolée was on display during the 6th edition of Paysages éphémères, “Correspondances pour le Mont Royal” (Avenue du Mont-Royal, June 30th to July 25th 2010). A different version of Levitating Rock, entitled Roche en levitation déformant la réalité, was also part of the “Sculpture – Ludisme” group show (Galerie SAS, June 9th to August 20th 2011).
See Regard et tain (2009), Paysage fictif (2011), etc.
See James W. Fernandez, “Reflections on looking into mirrors”, Semiotica, vol. 30, n°1-2, 1980, p.27-39.
Jacques Lacan’s “mirror stage” for example.
See Laurie Schneider Adams, “Mirrors in Art,” Psychoanalytic Inquiry 5, 1985, p. 283-324.
See Gilles Deleuze, “Simulacre et philosophie antique” in Logique du sens, Paris, Minuit, 1967.
/GENEVIÈVE BÉDARD holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts and has completed course work towards a Masters of Art History with a SSHRC grant at Université de Montréal. While pursuing independent projects as a writer and aspiring curator, she is Assistant to the Director at Atelier Graff and a regular collaborator of Optica and VOX.