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Launched in 2012 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery’s Permanent Collection, the SIGHTINGS satellite exhibition program was conceived as an experimental platform to critically reflect upon the possibilities and limitations of the modernist “white cube.” As part of this program, artists and curators are invited to develop projects for a cubic display unit located in a public space at the university, with the aim of generating new strategies for art dissemination.

Following examinations of the issues of work/labour and pedagogy, the 2017-2018 program thematic for SIGHTINGS, developed by curator Katrie Chagnon, explores the area of psychopathologies, scrutinizing processes that disturb the contemporary psyche—be it individual or collective. In this context, the SIGHTINGS cube functions as an experimental apparatus: an observation room, a metaphor for mental space, a “black box” that has become transparent. Accordingly, SIGHTINGS will host a series of projects questioning the limits between the normal and the pathological, the self and the other, interiority and exteriority, as well as the structures (neurotic, psychotic, depressive, anxious, etc.) that condition our lives.

SIGHTINGS is located on the ground floor of the Hall Building at 1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West and is accessible weekdays and weekends from 7 am to 11 pm.

Struggles of the Work Table
Alexandre Bérubé, Struggles of the Work Table, 2018. Installation detail
Alexandre Bérubé, Struggles of the Work Table, 2018. Installation view
Alexandre Bérubé, 2017

January 25 – May 6, 2018

A project by Alexandre Bérubé


Artist talk
Thursday, March 22, 2018, 6 pm

The Table as a Surface and Incorporeal Doubles: Return on several ideas that guided the elaboration of the project Struggles of the Work Table

In this talk, artist Alexandre Bérubé discusses various “working narratives” that accompanied the realization of his project, sharing thoughts on glass architecture, standardized furniture, the installation space, relationships with surface and the effects of presence, among other topics.

Location: SIGHTINGS Cube
1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Hall Building
Ground floor

For SIGHTINGS, I continue a cycle of projects focusing on the work table, while considering the particular exhibition context of the cube and the possibilities and constraints specific to the transparency of its walls. These walls simultaneously reveal the cube’s interior and exterior, but through distinct experiences of the gaze that uniquely reconfigure the relationship between visual, physical, and mental experiences. While the interplay of the gaze and perspective (the body’s position, the placement of the gaze) are equivalent outside of the cube, they become disjointed on the inside—the space is accessible to the gaze, but inaccessible to the body physically excluded by the display module. The disjunction induced by the transparency of the walls is an opportunity to reflect on the potential autonomy of the gaze, its ability to project into an enclosed space, and even construct its own body.

I imagine a person, standing near this table, in an enclosed space. This imagined person, next to a table, in an imaginary space is what I call a figure.

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The inside of the cube features an installation whose main motif is the work table, a basic element in the practice of visual art within a university context. Furniture and photographs are arranged much like in a private environment, and reference the table motif through their presentation or representation. Although it can’t be physically inhabited by the viewers and students who frequent the building, the cube’s interior is meant to be occupied by figures that are mentally projected through one’s gaze. One of the installation’s challenges is to use the arrangement of furniture inside the cube to generate a sense of presence, and even allow different figures to appear. This aspect of the project is based on two joint hypotheses: on one hand, the effects of presence are possible due to the imaginary projections of the gaze and by the superimposition of mental and physical spaces, and on the other hand, that mental space is where the aforementioned figures exist.

Presented on a surface doubling the cube’s exterior faces is a pseudo-theoretical text that can be conceived as the early stages of a psychological case study about the installation space. This text explores a number of research hypotheses on the question of space within psychopathology,1 based on the bodily and psychological relationship that I maintain with my own workspace. One of these hypothesis is that the loss or exhaustion of the self, which, among other things, characterizes the melancholic state associated with the artist and the erudite, is a spatial problem. Through the dissolution of the subject within space, I suspect that we generally live like imaginary figures—projected by someone else’s gaze—that are indistinguishable from the mental environment in which they evolve.

Alexandre Bérubé

  1. Reference to the title of a lecture by Ludwig Binswanger, Das Raumproblem in der Psychopathologie (The Problem of Space in Psychopathology, translation ours), delivered in 1932 and first published in 1933.

The artist wishes to thank Katrie Chagnon, Hugues Dugas, Michèle Thériault, Jo-Anne Balcaen, Simon Brown, Anne-Renée Hotte, Caroline Mauxion, Gilles Rivard and Danny Glaude, for their significant contribution to this project.

Alexandre Bérubé is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Visual and Media Arts at Université du Québec à Montréal. He holds a research grant from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – société et culture (FRQSC). His recent installation projects are developed around furniture used by practicing artists in a university context. He investigates the relationships between the work table and the seated body by observing the gestures, postures and orientations involved in the regular use of institutional furniture. In order to study the phenomena of imitation and stereotyping specific to this context, he distinguishes between the biological and the symbolic body. In January 2017, he presented the first part of this research on the work table at l’Œil de Poisson, in Quebec City.