Canadian Art Magazine

Isa Tousignant’s Top 3: Into the Deeps by Isa Tousignant.

Canadian Art Magazine.
Dec. 2011

Anima at FOFA Gallery, Montreal

Curated by Christine Redfern upon the publication of the graphic novella Who Is Ana Mendieta?, which was created by Redfern and Caro Caron, “Anima” was a mise en abyme of some of Mendieta’s film work with art by contemporary Montrealers. The novella, an expressively illustrated tour de force about the art and life of the Cuban expatriate, examines Mendieta’s path in a patriarchal art world during the heyday of the feminist revolution. It was a particular pleasure in the gallery to see some the artist’s actual work and its recontextualization alongside pieces by some of my favourite locals—Karilee Fuglem, Elena Willis, Jason Sanchez and Caron herself. But the star of the show for me was Philomène Longpré.

Longpré creates video art that is packed to the brim with impact and implications; her works carry a poetry in their aesthetic that’s dark, spooky, fragile and sensitive. Xia, the piece included in this exhibition, is an interactive projection that awaits a viewer’s presence to move. It features a woman wrapped in a long sheath of heavy paper, and lying on another sheet of paper. When she “senses” you, she shifts positions—the paper against paper makes a dramatic rustling sound, a noise joined by that of her breathing as she gets going. Her extremities are covered in what seems like charcoal—a substance, at any rate, that leaves traces of her contortions. It’s like watching someone battle insomnia, writhing from one end of an uncomfortable bed to the other, except that the paper that binds her implies fetishism, imprisonment and possible torture. In her conceptualization of the exhibition, Redfern took inspiration from a phrase of Mendieta’s: she wanted to unite works “grounded on the primordial accumulations, the unconscious urges that animate the world.” Xia hit it right on the nose.

Isa Tousignant, who writes criticism for various outlets, is a contributing editor for Canadian Art.