Le Grand Balcon draws loosely on Jean Genet’s Le Balcon, in which the play’s high porch is a space of contestation between revolution and counter-revolution, reality and illusion. A recurring motif in Genet’s writing, his balcony is a place of perverse acts where representation itself can be perversely troubled.
For Genet (and for many other artists, including Shakespeare) the balcony is also a topos of amorous flirtation: a privileged but ambiguous space that brings lovers closer while keeping them apart. It is a desiring apparatus and a theatrical space that articulates the complex relationship between inside and outside, up and down. The balcony is also subject to a particular regime of visibility, a space where a person can dramatically stage herself, with power and vulnerability on display.
As a brothel, Genet’s Grand Balcon presents a fiercely ironical microcosm of the power elite besieged by revolutionary forces at the gates. In turn, the exhibition Le Grand Balcon enacts Genet’s concern with meta-theatricality and role-playing by unfolding experiences alongside “objects” that often refuse to reveal themselves as truths. As an exhibition, Le Grand Balcon aims to generate experiences that open up a mental space to rethink some of our most pressing matters—our ruinous ecological practices, the accelerating dematerialisation of the economy and the evolution towards a global prophetic community turned against itself.
The works selected for Le Grand Balcon betray a preference for “images” of deep historical resonance that materially and sensorially bind us to the here and now. Thus the exhibition enjoins us to reconsider our pursuit of sensual activities: deeply felt pleasures. Can we develop a hedonistic politics? An ethical hedonism? A joyous utilitarianism and an aesthetics of sensual materialism that mobilise both the brain’s and the body’s capacities to their fullest, against the indifference of (mere) knowledge?
Along with Genet, Le Grand Balcon enlists the infamous Marquis de Sade, who adds a human’s right to pleasure to the canon of human rights. His advocacy of pleasure uncovers the paradoxes of the bourgeois principle of formal equality by exposing the fact that fantasy categorically resists universalization. Fantasy is the absolutely individual way in which someone structures her/his “impossible” relation to things.
Our exhibition aims for something quite radical: to develop an unruly and recalcitrant space that gives form to an aesthetics of resistance to the violence of quantification and categorization, and to the violence of naming and controlling. Calling for a materialist and sensualist approach and betting on the liberatory potential of art, this exhibition invites us to rethink both the (im)possibility of an emancipation through pleasure—and its urgency. It summons us to affirm the pleasure we must take—a hedonist politics—far from the easy rewards of consumption. It entreats us to recast the pursuit of sensual pleasures, enlisting pleasure anew to play a decisive role in everyday life and political decision-making.
In the tradition of Genet and de Sade, Le Grand Balcon will be simultaneously playful and fatalistic in its presentation of rooms, corridors and balconies where things can go—very creatively, very constructively, very pleasurably—astray.
—Philippe Pirotte, curator, Le Grand Balcon
Le Grand Balcon is presented by La Biennale de Montréal and co-produced with the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) in collaboration with other local partners and venues.
Le Grand Balcon is on view to the public from October 19, 2016 to January 15, 2017.
Press and Professional Preview
Curators and Advisors
Philippe Pirotte is an art historian, curator, critic, and Director of the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste Städelschule and of Portikus, leading centres for contemporary art in Germany and beyond. Pirotte was one of the co-founders of the contemporary art centre objectif_exhibitions in Antwerp, Belgium. From 2005 to 2011, he was Director of the internationally renowned Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland where he organized solo exhibitions by artists such as Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, Owen Land, Oscar Tuazon, Jutta Koether, Allan Kaprow, and Corey McCorkle. From 2004 to 2013, Pirotte held the position of Senior Advisor at the Rijksakademie for Visual Arts in Amsterdam. In 2012, he became Adjunct Senior Curator at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. He also served as Advising Program Director for the Sifang Art Museum in Nanjing and is an advisor for the Kadist Art Foundation (Paris/San Francisco). Sylvie Fortin
Executive and Artistic Director
Sylvie Fortin joined La Biennale de Montréal as Executive and
Artistic Director in September 2013. She was previously Editor-in-Chief
(2004-2007) and Executive Director/Editor (2007-2012) of ART PAPERS,
leading the Atlanta-based organization from a regional publication to a
global thought leader. She was Curator of Manif 5 – the 5th Québec City
Biennale (2010), Curator of Contemporary Art at the Ottawa Art Gallery
(1996-2001), Program Coordinator at LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE (Quebec City,
1991-1994), and a long-term collaborator with the Montreal artist-run
centre OBORO (1994-2001). Her critical essays and reviews have been
published in numerous catalogues, anthologies and periodicals,
including Artforum International, Art Press, C Magazine, Fuse, NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art and Parachute.
Corey McCorkle is an artist who lives and works in New York. A
graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA) and the
University of Illinois at Chicago (MFA), he also completed the
Architecture Program at Pratt Institute in New York. He has had solo
exhibitions at Maccarone, New York (2013, 2011, 2007); Artpace San
Antonio, Texas (2010); FRAC île de France, Le Plateau, Paris (2010);
Stella Lohaus Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium (2009); and Kunsthalle Bern,
Switzerland (2005). His work has been featured in many group
exhibitions, including Inside Out, MOCA Cleveland (2012); Erre, Centre Pompidou-Metz (2011); The World is Yours, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæck, Denmark (2009); Le Corbusier: The Art of Architecture, Barbican, London, England (2009); Political/Minimal, Kunst-Werke, Berlin (2008); Modern Ruin, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2008); Whitney Biennial 2008, Whitney Museum, New York; Traces du Sacré, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2008); 4th Berlin Biennale (2006); The Plain of Heaven, Creative Time, New York (2005); and Greater New York,
PS1, New York (2004). McCorkle is the Interim Senior Lecturer who is
responsible for the Art & Architecture course at the Royal Institute
of Art in Stockholm since February 2015 and an Adjunct Professor at the
Steinhardt School of Culture at New York University.
Aseman Sabet is a doctoral candidate in Art History at
Université de Montréal. Her research examines the emergence of a theory
of tactile knowledge in eighteenth-century esthetic discourse and art
criticism. She is also an independent curator and a sessional lecturer
who frequently contributes to a number of contemporaray art
publications. She is co-director of the French chapter of the Canadian
Society for Aesthetics and a member of the board of directors of the
artist-run Centre Clark since 2014. She lives and works in Montréal.
Kitty Scott is the Carol and Morton Rapp Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. Previously she was Director of Visual Arts at The Banff Centre, Canada; Chief Curator at the Serpentine Gallery in London, and Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Her extensive resume includes exhibitions of artists such as Francis Alÿs, Stephen Andrews, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Paul Chan, Peter Doig, Janice Kerbel, Ragnar Kjartansson, Ken Lum, Scott McFarland, Silke Otto-Knapp, Frances Stark and Ron Terada. She was a core agent for dOCUMENTA (13) in 2012 and co-curator of Liverpool Biennial 2018. Scott has written extensively on contemporary art for catalogues, books and journals and edited the publication Raising Frankenstein: Curatorial Education and Its Discontents (2010). She regularly lectures at arts schools and curatorial programmes throughout North America.
The Biennale de Montréal (BNL MTL) was launched in 1998 by the Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal (CIAC), which produced the first seven editions of this international contemporary art event.
In 2013, La Biennale de Montréal became an independent non-profit organisation dedicated primarily to producing the biennial event BNLMTL. With this in mind, the new organisation promptly formed an innovative strategic partnership with the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC), which itself had presented two highly successful editions of the Québec Triennial.
In its current form, BNLMTL thus incorporates the two previous exhibitions into one major event that can now take advantage of the complementary skills and resources of two prominent Montréal institutions, La Biennale de Montréal and the MACM, in addition to those of its many other contributors.
A key fixture on the Canadian contemporary art scene for fifteen years, BNLMTL can now offer an expanded and varied program of exhibitions, talks, screenings and performances by building on a well-established Montréal network. BNLMTL is consequently in an ideal position to invite a broader audience to discover the latest visual arts practices and gain a greater awareness of the issues they raise. Through its initiatives, BNLMTL also strives to support the work of artists from Québec, Canada and beyond, open new avenues for discourse on art, examine curatorial practice and play an influential role in the network of international biennials through the particular experience it provides in probing the burning questions of the world today. Mission
The mission of La Biennale de Montréal is to foster, support, interpret and disseminate the most current visual arts practices by producing the biennial event BNLMTL. In this way, La Biennale de Montréal offers a wide audience a privileged opportunity to grasp the aesthetic and social issues addressed by today’s art. La Biennale de Montréal also provides an international platform for Québec and Canadian artists, curators, theoreticians, art critics and researchers working in various fields to meet, encounter and discuss cutting-edge practices, and contribute to different international networks.
All of the initiatives of La Biennale de Montréal are premised on risk and experimentation. Its goal is to support the most daring, thought-provoking art practices and curatorial projects while offering the public a diversity of experiences.