Philippe Hamelin, still from the series Sci Fi Haïkus, 2012-. Courtesy of the artist


Starting with an elusive title that slips between two languages, Carnations troubles any easy orientation for the visitor. In French, carnation refers to the coloration of skin, in particular white skin, both in general and as an art historical term for the hues of paint used for flesh. In English, a carnation is a flower that blooms white, pink and red. On the one hand, a question of the lifelike in art as well as the color of actual flesh and on the other, a type of plant and a living organism. Evoking at once artifice and the real, carnations pluralized points to further variance and mutation. Assembling new and revised works, Carnations then asks visitors to examine states, forms and feelings of indeterminacy, liminality and change at play in Hamelin’s practice.

Working primarily in animation and employing his background in film studies, Hamelin combines 3D modeling’s plasticity with cinematic techniques of montage, camera angles, and framing in order to set up uneasy associations and juxtapositions both within individual works as well as throughout their arrangement in the gallery. In one suite of works, the steady pulse of edits between camera footage and abstract animations provokes anxious feelings and a sense of suspense. Works featuring fleshy organisms and human-like forms exploit the liveness of animation, blurring the lines that delimit acts of studying art and observing forms of life. Similarly, an exercise in camouflage disorientates any easy differentiation between a thing and its background or environment.

Animation, as a technique common to all of the works, spurs questions of affectability and the potential to be moved. Yet, for all their pliability the animated bodies and forms are also susceptible to manipulation, stuck somewhere between the emotive and mechanistic, spontaneous and formulaic, automatism and habit. The visitor too must find away to move into the gallery. Upon first step into the pink-hued vestibule at the entrance, an antechamber with tinted windows and lit by red lights, the sense of the exhibition’s role as an interval, a break in the usual and gap is widened a little more.


Bois, Yve-Alain and Rosalind Krauss. Formless: A User’s Guide. New York: Zone Books, 1997.
Brinkema, Eugenie. The Forms of the Affects. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014.

Boyer, Elsa. Le Conflit des perceptions. Paris: Éditions MF, 2015.

Caillois, Roger. “Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia.” October 31 (Winter 1984): 16-32.

Cardinal, Serge. “Les « convulsions paroxystiques » de l’acteur : La synchronisation de l’image et du son sur le corps de Jerry Lewis.” Intermédialités 19 (Spring 2012): 65-83.

Carroll, Noël. “The Paradox of Suspense.” In Beyond Aesthetics: Philosophical Essays, 254-64. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001

Chen, Mel Y. and Dana Luciano, eds. “Queer Inhumanisms.” Special issue, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 21, no. 1-2 (2015).

Crary, Jonathan. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000.

 Derrida, Jacques. The Animal That Therefore I Am. Translated by David Wills. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.

 – – – – -. The Beast and the Sovereign. Translated by Geoffrey Bennington. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Didi-Huberman, Georges. Phasmes. Essais sur l’apparition. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1998.

– – – – -. L’image ouverte: Motifs de l’incarnation dans les arts visuels. Paris: Gallimard, 2007.
Eisenstein, Sergei. Film Form: Essays in Film Theory. Edited and translated by Jay Leyda. New York: Harvest, 1977.

Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces.” Diacritics 16 (Spring 1986), 22-27.

Gaboury, Jacob. “Hidden Surface Problems: On the Digital Image as Material Object.” Journal of Visual Culture 14, no. 1 (2015): 40-60.

Grosz, Elizabeth. Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.

Jennings, Gabrielle. Abstract Video: The Moving Image in Contemporary Art. Berkley: University of California Press, 2015.

Goldstein, Kurt. The Organism: A Holistic Approach to Biology Derived from Pathological Data in Man. Boston: Beacon Press, 1963.

Kane, Carolyn L. Chromatic Algorithms: Synthetic Color, Computer Art, and Aesthetics after Code. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014.

Kelly, John Paul. “Terminal; Interface.” Western Front: Terminal. 2017.

Kittler, Friedrich. Optical Media: Berlin Lectures 1999. Translated by Anthony Enns. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2010.

Lamarre, Thomas. The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

— — — — –. “Coming to Life: Cartoon Animals and Natural Philosophy,” In Pervasive Animation: An AFI Film Reader. Edited by Suzanne Buchan, 117-42. London: Routledge, 2013.

Moravia, Alberto. A Ghost at Noon. Translated by Angus Davidson. New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1955.

Mortimer-Sandilands, Catriona and Bruce Erickson, eds. Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

Ngai, Sianne. Ugly Feelings. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

Turner, Victor. “Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites of Passage,” In Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual, 93-111. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967.

Uexküll, Jakob von. A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, with A Theory of Meaning. Translated by Joseph D. O’Neil. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

Produced with the support of the Frederick and Mary Kay Lowy Art Education Fun.


Michèle Thériault

Michèle Thériault is a curator, writer and editor who is currently director of the Leonard & Bina Art Gallery at Concordia University in Montreal. She is interested in translational issues in art, reflexive frameworks, knowledge in art and in the site of exhibition. As director of the Ellen Art Gallery, she has developed a program that reflects critically upon contemporary artistic production and curatorial activity sometimes in relation to the recent history of contemporary art. She has curated many exhibitions with Canadian and international artists such as Timelength (2004); Claude Tousignant. 3 paintings, 1 sculpture, 3 spaces (2005); Walid Raad, The Atlas Group (2006); the first exhibition in North American of Harun Farocki’s installations (2007); Silvia Kolbowski. Nothing and Everything (2009), Kent Monkman: My Treaty is With the Crown (2011). She also co-curated Traffic, Conceptual Art in Canada, 1965-1980 (2010-2013). She is the editor of numerous publications and the author of many essays.


Philippe Hamelin

Philippe Hamelin holds a Masters in Fine Arts from Concordia University and a major in Film Studies from Université de Montréal. His work has been shown in art galleries and in numerous festivals in Canada and abroad. In 2015, he was awarded the prize for the best art and experimentation film by the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois and Centre PRIM. He lives in Montreal and teaches at the Université du Québec en Outaouais and the Cégep de l’Outaouais.


Ji-Yoon Han

Ji-Yoon Han holds a master’s degree in French literature (Creative Writing) and is currently completing a doctorate in art history at the Université de Montreal. Her research investigates the concomitance during the 1920s and 30s of the Surrealist’s use of photography and the arrival of a new visual culture founded upon the mass distribution of photographic images. Starting in the fall of 2017, she will be joining the team at the Darling Foundry as curator.


Space Reigns Supreme, by Ji-Yoon Han

Barely distinguishable from the milky-coloured background, a visibly pregnant, irregularly shaped blob wriggles and contracts, its unseeing orifice slowly dilating and pushing out a glimmer of pinkish mother-of-pearl, followed by the beginnings of a rounded form. This protracted spawning culminates with the ejection of a glossy, otherworldly larvae, while not far off, a sort of pod, also white, gradually splits along its length in a long moulting process. In its opening shell lies an oblong fruit—unless it is some sort of bladder, or a chrysalis emerging from its cocoon. Although it remains perfectly still, this organism, clearly in mutation, emits flashes resembling the Northern Lights, as if carrying within itself the shimmering seed of future wings or scales.


The complete essay can be viewed on the exhibition’s page and downloaded in the Texts and Documents section. A printed version is also available at the Gallery.

Liminal Spaces, by Michèle Thériault

The opening of Godard’s Contempt (1963) offers the spectator a triple layering: a tracking shot in which one watches the actual movement of the camera on rails, the cameraman at work, boom operator in tow as they follow their subject, the actress Georgia Moll (playing Francesca), while at the same time the filmmaker recites the opening credits. The shot ends with the camera turned and aimed at the viewer/ camera—the other one, the real one—documenting what we have seen in a still shot. An extremely compact and effective reflexive encounter of a narrative to come: reality and fiction, authorship, speech, image, context, labour and reception.


The complete essay can be viewed on the exhibition’s page and downloaded in the Texts and Documents section. A printed version is also available at the Gallery.


Les amis (à l’infini), 2014-2017

2017-09-01-EllenCarnations-026Les amis (à l’infini), 2014, multichannel version, 2017
Computer generated animation, sound
Video projection: 4 min. 10 sec.

Courtesy of the artist

The artist thanks Jonathan Demers and Vincent Leduc for audio assistance as well as Julie Tremble for animation assistance.

Les amis presents a group of human-like figures dancing frenetically to a repetitive techno beat in an open, horizonless, lime gradient space. Working from memory, Hamelin modelled the bodies and dance moves after a group of close friends. With their simplified forms settling somewhere between genders, the boundaries of the individual and the group are repeatedly breached as they dance, fall down and pick each other up, their torsos twisting at odd angles and swelling, their hair and limbs passing through their own bodies and those around them, as well as disappear altogether into the background. Consumed by the music and their gathering, the friends are fixed in a state of endless, wild abandonment. Unfolding in the non-environment of the colourful surroundings their revelry tips over into disembodiment and disarticulation. A split in the different forms of affectability, the different ways of being moved—movement as manipulation or movement as reaction—, extends out into the gallery as the music bleeds into the visitor’s space.


  • The tension between looseness of the friends’ movements and the overall control and closure of the animation even as it runs ad infinitum.
  • The unstable limits of the body. How through the suspension of certain rules in the animation process flesh among the friends is no longer an outer barrier that defines the individual.
Jungle, 2013-2017; Camouflage bureaucratique (prédateur), 2013

2017-09-01-EllenCarnations-101Jungle, 2013, ambient version, 2017
Printed vinyl

Courtesy of the artist

2017-09-01-EllenCarnations-099Camouflage bureaucratique (prédateur), 2013
Computer generated animation
LCD screen: 6 min. 01 sec.

Courtesy of the artist

As the titles suggest, both Camouflage bureaucratique (prédateur) and Jungle reference states of similitude and assimilation where the distinction between object and background is obscured. Borrowing patterns used in security envelopes to inhibit reading the document within, Hamelin reworks this dense graphic into an environment that serves another form of concealment. Qualified as a jungle, the pattern becomes a thick, impassable expanse. Floating or pacing in front is a polyhedron form sharing the same pattern across its various faces. Matching its surroundings and taking on some animal qualities as a “predator”, the object as organism evokes Surrealist social theorist Roger Caillois’s thoughts on mimicry. For Caillois, camouflage is not exclusively evidence of evolutionary adaptation and strategies for survival, it can also signal an abandonment of representation and the absorption of individualized life into the surrounding environment. This disordering of distinction and play on similitude is key to Hamelin’s oeuvre, inviting viewers to attempt to trace the boundaries between the real and the constructed and the animate and static.


  • Compare the act of distinguishing the hidden or lurking form in Camouflage bureaucratique (prédateur) to the observation of the organisms on display in Vivariums.
  • Think about states of passivity and of giving into the influence of the environment in relation to the installation and the space of the gallery.
Vivariums, 2017

2017-09-01-EllenCarnations-025Vivariums, 2017
Computer generated animations
LCD screens: 5 min.; 48 min. 36 sec.; 10 min.; 22 min. 05 sec.

Courtesy of the artist

The artist thanks the Canada Council for the Arts, Phil Hawes, Oisin Burns, Tim Sutton, Stan Swiercz and the Centre for Digital Arts, Concordia University as well as Julie Tremble for animation assistance.

Approximating the viewing experience at a natural history museum, zoo or aquarium, Vivariums presents four monitors embedded in a narrow, freestanding wall. Two monitors display an animated organism mimicking and condensing a life process. One contracts and relaxes as it issues a glimmering complement. The crepe-like skin or casing of another oblong form splits open to reveal a pulsing, multi-coloured form within. Running up to thirty minutes long these extended animations of birthing and molting are accompanied by two other near static animations of forms that offer little evidence of life or movement. With all four organism suspended against a monochromatic background and the monitors set inside the wall, the structure takes on the characteristics of a vessel, a container and a shared environment. Yet, this is a tenuous space for capture and categorization where on one side the animated process of change and reproduction lend the forms an animal-like presence, while on the opposite side a pair of near immobile forms appear more like images than organisms.


  • Note the reflection in the newly emerged form. What is revealed? Does the surrounding environment in the reflection corresponded to the space of the gallery? If this image is the dwelling or habitat of the organism that how does your understanding of the creature and its process change?
  • Consider the extended viewing time necessary to watch the processes of birthing or molting, or, conversely, the stillness of the resting or immobile forms. At what point do you engage in a mode of observation tailored to art and media and when do you draw on a form of watching similar to when observing an animal in captivity?
Sci Fi Haïkus, 2012-

2017-09-01-EllenCarnations-088Point de fuite, 2017
Computer generated animation, video, sound
Video projection: 5 min. 24 sec.

Courtesy of the artist

The artist thanks the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and Julie Tremble for animation assistance.

2017-09-01-EllenCarnations-076Expiration, 2017
Computer generated animation, video, sound
Video projection: 3 min. 42 sec.

Courtesy of the artist

The artist thanks the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and Julie Tremble for animation assistance.

2017-09-01-EllenCarnations-064Translation, 2012
Computer generated animation, video, sound
Video projection: 2 min. 24 sec.

Courtesy of the artist

The artist thanks Julie Tremble for animation assistance.

Following a rhythmic editing sequence, each “haiku” juxtaposes high-definition animation of rectangular prisms moving in space with ‘poor’ or amateur-like video vignettes taken by Hamelin. Privileging neither the silent, minimal animations nor the footage with environmental or diegetic sound, the sequences are brought together through an alternating pulse of hard edits. Unfolding in turns, these interruptions incite varying degrees of suspense and anxiety, as in the case of Point de fuite where the abstract choreography of two forms in space is punctuated by footage looking out from inside a train as it hurtles down an arrow straight track in a winter landscape or, as in Translation, by the grating chatter of an aviary in the Jardin des Plantes, Paris. While following the same structure, Expiration relieves some of the tension, permitting a quieter, formal study that switches between close-up footage of a torso breathing and, again, two white forms meeting in space. In all three works interruption eventually gives way to interlacing and simultaneity yields to synchronization, as the two geometric forms meet and fuse into a single mass and the audio associated with the real footage extends into the animated realm.


  • The comparative viewing of the real and non-real, of the place-based sequences and the placeless animations, of the fixed camera in the world and the camera-less views of the forms in space.
  • The distribution, scale and rhythm of the projections within the gallery. How the installation of the works extrapolates the geometric and temporal qualities that make up each video.
Scène 2 (découpage), 2014-2017

2017-09-01-EllenCarnations-050Scène 2 (découpage), 2014-2017
Computer generated animation, video, sound
Video projections: 5 min. 08 sec.

Courtesy of the artist

The artist thanks Julie Tremble for animation assistance.

Scène 2 refers to Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 film, Le Mépris. Adapted from Alberto Moravia’s novel Il Disprezzo, Godard’s film narrates and tracks the deterioration and end a woman’s love (Brigitte Bardot) for her husband (Michel Piccoli), an author and scriptwriter working on an adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey for an American producer. Here Hamelin models his animation around the second scene in the film where a naked Bardot lying in bed next to her clothed husband itemizes parts of her body from her feet to her face, surveying his satisfaction of each point along the way. In Hamelin’s animation a large cluster of meat rests on a white plush surface. Set to a soundtrack collaging Georges Delerue’s music score from the film, the shape is explored through the same sequence of camera shots that tracked Bardot’s body. In the original film, Bardot’s self-reflexive parsing out and objectification of her body is overlaid with red, blue and yellow filters, which Hamelin accordingly adopts for his sequence. Once the zenith of a radical modernist abstraction as issued from the Soviet avant-garde—think Rodchenko’s 1921 triptych, Pure Red Color, Pure Yellow Color, Pure Blue Color—the monochrome and its variations on the other side of the Second World War was soon coded American and capitalist, this neatly summarized by Barnett Newman’s Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue series from 1966 to 1970. While Godard attends to these forms of political and aesthetic alienation in his film, Hamelin locates a more surreal angle from which to return to the paradigmatic scene, following Bardot’s play with objecthood to its absolute base. Presented without the dialogue from the film and awash in music imbued with pathos, the mute mound takes on a presence that is not-quite human. Hamelin’s experiment walks a thin line, risking either an augmentation of the sexism that Bardot looks to subvert or proposing an exit altogether from any easy measure of the human subject. In the gallery projections alternate between a study of the mound and footage of the surface of water as taken from a boat, a reference to the closing scene of Moravia’s book where the screenwriter by the sea has a vision of his lover as he first knew her.


  • Compare the alternating projections as distributed in the gallery with Scene 2 to the contrasting edits and overall installation that make up the three works in the Sci Fi Haïkus What sort of effects do they have on the viewing experience? Do they solicit particular feelings? Suggest a narrative?
  • The marbled meat texture of the mound is drawn from photographs of real meat. Think about how the real is introduced into the constructed image. What does the real bring with it? Does it prompt affect in a way that is different or unavailable in the experience of viewing computer-generated imagery?