Photo: Alexandre St-Onge

Translation: Simon Brown

Prepared with the assistance of Hanss Lujan Torres (Curatorial Intern, 2019)

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

For Jet du bas dit AA l’eau guet avec l’invisible, Alexandre St-Onge has arranged the Gallery as a site for a multi-week experiment. Performing within the Gallery’s central wall at fixed times over the course of the month and joined periodically by guest collaborators, the results of these obscured dialogues and performances are transmitted or deposited within exhibition spaces in the form of text, sculptural interventions, sound, and video. By displacing the performing body and shifting and reinvesting in the Gallery’s overall architecture, St-Onge puts into motion an experimental process that defers arriving at any one result, favouring instead a long foray following the sense of uncertainty that initiated the experiment.

As is apparent from the title of this project, writing and the reception of text is a key part of St-Onge’s practice. Among the resources here is a set of key words authored by St-Onge. These parallel notes present various angles and an expanded vocabulary for you to consider and engage with the processes underlying the project.

In addition to St-Onge’s voice you’ll also find guiding questions co-authored by the Gallery’s 2019 curatorial intern, Hanss Lujan Torres and Robin Simpson, Public Programs and Education Coordinator. Composed in advance of the project, these questions depart from a highly speculative position. They are, simply said, written before the fact. Pragmatic exercises in dialogue with St-Onge’s definition of the term, they imagine the possible effects of the project on the visitor. You are now, if visiting the Gallery, also in the position of being before the project. This is to say you are present within it, available to enter into a dialogue with it as well as the anterior thoughts and questions found below, the result of an anticipative and imagined visit.


Alexandre St-Onge

Alexandre St-Onge is an interdisciplinary artist, a sonic performer and a musician/improviser (bass, voice and electronics). Philosophiae doctor (PhD) in art (UQAM, 2015), he is fascinated by creativity as a pragmatic approach to the ungraspable and he has published over twenty works including NommeBeurre µ La lubrification du verbe Les vies innombrables des Tie Wraps (Grillage Absolu), Créatures hermétiques dans mon char bb des otages inaperçus (Archée/Grillage Absolu), Nude de chose de même (Le laps), VUEIEN (Errant Bodies Press), Semblances (Avatar), viorupeeeeihean (Oral) and Kasi Naigo (squintfuckerpress) amongst others. He founded squintfuckerpress with Christof Migone and he is creating with collectives and artists such as : Émilie Mouchous, Simon Brown, Et Sans, K.A.N.T.N.A.G.A.N.O., Klaxon Gueule, L’Ensemble SuperMusique, Pink Saliva, Obsolète, mineminemine, Shalabi Effect, Les esprits frappeurs and undo. As a composer he has worked for interdisciplinary company kondition pluriel, as well as composing for artists such as Marie Brassard, Karine Denault, Lynda Gaudreau, Line Nault, Jérémie Niel, Maryse Poulin and Mariko Tanabe.




The sonic body

Transformation of the performative body via its own sonic mediations is ubiquitous in this project, where the conversion of organic source material into sound waves gives rise to entities that are fully independent from their origin. For example, the voice escapes from the body, and, in the process, becomes a new sonic body able to express ungraspability by obscuring an original source that, in any case, has always already moved on to other things. The voice articulates the undecidability of the body as it emerges from the body while also moving away from it, hovering just out of reach to act as an intermediary between the interiority and exteriority of this same body. The voice thus already embodies a transitional process that can be amplified through recording and processing technologies. Indeed, the recorded voice is no longer emerging from an organic body; it is now the result of electrical transmission, rather than the vibration of vocal cords. In this sense, technological mediation makes possible the translation of recorded information, and, in so doing, stages the re-embodiment of this information into a new, inorganic body of sound.


Jet du bas dit AA l’eau guet avec l’invisible embodies a set of structures and devices that I qualify as being psychedelic, as they focus specifically on the effects brought about by our transformative and hallucinatory relationships to things. Seeing as causes, origins and internal structuring principles are more often than not enigmatic and ungraspable, it is preferable to work from tangible relationships between things, rather than attempt to grasp their essence. Favouring relationship over essence implies transformative processes that ensure a certain hospitality to becoming. Mourning and accepting the death of the origin enables emancipation from both the self, and that which lies beyond the mind. Structures and devices operate here in manner much more akin to magical thinking than rational thinking, in that they are inclined towards pragmatic knowledge stemming from the effects they produce, and from the efficiency of these effects as effects.


Improvisation — as a method for action-based grasping of contingent becoming — is crucial to this project, focused as it is on exploring the heuristic potential of an improvised creative process whose primary goal is to allow us to observe the as yet unknown conceptual entities that might emerge from it. Improvisation necessarily raises issues that are pragmatic in nature, as it concretely puts the transformative agency of an action to the test. Pragmatism focuses on an experimental practice of becoming that operates by trial and error, and that can be reviewed and modified progressively, in order to better accommodate the indeterminacy of that which transpires. An improvised process opens a door onto the unpredictability of becoming, whereas the improviser themself is constantly grasped by this becoming, before they themself are able to grasp it. The pragmatic translation of these emerging contingencies via the act of improvisation thus allows the improviser to discover possibilities beyond or below their intentions, while generating material that takes on a new agency, separate from and independent of the improviser themself.


The idea of invisibility speaks to many elements present in the project’s structures and devices. Most obviously, we are confronted with the invisibility of performances hidden from us inside a wall that both separates and connects the different gallery spaces. The only exception to this invisibility is a partial point of access via video projections that, by isolating a small visual fragment of activity taking place within the wall, amplify the fact that “being” is not necessarily “being seen”. Indeed, things do exist, independent of whether they are perceived or not. The fact that we are unaware of a given thing or event has no bearing on whether the thing actually exists, or whether the event has actually taken place. Many phenomena elude our perception, and the act of considering these unperceived things is in itself a promise of hospitality. Jet du bas dit AA l’eau guet avec l’invisible indeed aims to accommodate the many spectres that live beneath this particular shroud of mourning, notably through the performative body’s ghostlike reincarnation in the form of a sonic body.


The textual and poetic approaches used in the project challenge the possibilities of how a code (performative, sonic, computational, etc.) can deterritorialize linguistic protocols in order to generate a new poetic idiom, one that moves away from natural language and follows its own rules. These rules often deviate from those stipulated by the normative grammars of French or English, for example. The hermetic mode of writing this implies follows in the tradition of sound poetry and concrete poetry, where the poem — a reality unto itself — can be independent of meaning or express undecidability between the spoken and written word. This mode of writing also makes use of various forms of technical mediation that enable the generation of new linguistic forms: handwriting and typography, as well as computational and other technological means of recording and processing language.


The processes involved in the realization of Jet du bas dit AA l’eau guet avec l’invisible give rise to an accumulation of traces over the initial three-week creation period, while the last week is dedicated to the exhibition of these traces. Traces amplify a mourning for the origin, both through its erasure, and its survival via differentiation. By entering into the interplay of difference, the trace embodies a form of relationship to the other that cannot be conflated with sameness, encompassing as it does a difference that isn’t reducible to the unicity that typifies this same sameness. This difference in and of itself presupposes the impossibility of any systematic unification or totalization that might allow for a distinction between the same and the other, or indeed between the natural and the artificial. The trace, as such, generates difference and expresses the ungraspable nature of the always already transformed origin that itself ensures hospitality towards that which can and does transpire.


Translation points to the ungraspable nature of origin while at the same time producing differences through repetition. That which results from translation embodies a transformation of the original that no longer corresponds to it, all while ensuring the original’s survival by maintaining its ungraspability. The necessary paradox of translation indeed stems from this impossibility of faithfully transposing the original. Translation re-embodies the original in a mode that is unknown to the original — this is why a translation must always conceal its origin, even though this origin survives precisely by way of the mutation that translation instigates in the process of foregrounding its own becoming. Despite everything that exists within the space between the original and the translated end-result, translation embodies intangibility, and, by extension, that which cannot be shown. Translation is thus both relational and transformative.

The technological structures and devices used in the project are also translators, recording and transforming as they do information stemming from the performative actions carried out. These structures and devices are indeed designed to be machines of translating emergence capable of establishing a relationship with the ungraspable while also allowing access to otherwise inaccessible information, for example, sounds that are inaudible without recording or amplification technology. However, it is also during the recording process of information generated by the performative body that these machines transform, and indeed erase the organic body via its translation into digital data, electrical signals and sound waves.

Transformative Relationships


Jet du bas dit AA l’eau guet avec l’invisible involves a process of transformation enabled by various relationships between elements, strangers influencing each other toward mutual modification. This is why the collaborative aspect of the project is important and if the chosen collaborators share affinities with the sound artist or have inspired him in the realization of his area of experimentation, they only meet indirectly, separated by this wall that constitutes a relational interface for all the strange(r) forces at work within this apparatus. This wall simultaneously keeps apart and brings together, in such a way that a dialogue with the invisible gives rise to transformative relationships fully open to the potentialities of becoming.

Below are the biographies of each collaborator composed in the third person, followed by a poetic commentary on their work by St-Onge.

Thomas Bégin

As a multidisciplinary artist Thomas Bégin’s sculptural and sound work is focused on the physical properties of information and the re-appropriation of various technical objects.

Recent works take the form of installations built from disused audio-visual equipment, recuperated musical instruments and electronic hardware. As “sound synthesizers,” his apparatuses permit the simultaneous production of sounds and noises, but also the organization of these sounds within dynamic structures emerging directly from the physical comportment of the materials from which they are built. Bégin’s current research explores the different possibilities of sound composition by way of assemblage and techniques specific to sculpture.

Thomas Bégin

ok but if
   knife sink S
here the A welcomes
      me tarpless

Simon Brown

Simon Brown (1979) is a poet and artist from the traditional territory of the Peskotomuhkati Nation (southwestern New Brunswick) currently based in rural Québec (Ndakinna). His French and English texts have been presented in interdisciplinary artworks, collaborative performances and books, and via platforms such as Lemon Hound, Estuaire, Le Sabord, Vallum, Poetry Is Dead, Watts, and the Blasted Tree. As a translator, he has adapted texts by Erin Robinsong, Maude Pilon, Angela Carr, Danielle LaFrance and Jacob Wren, among others. His collections and artist’s books have been published in Québec, Canada and France by Vanloo, Moult, Le laps, squint press, and Paper Pusher. Simon is interested in the tension between public and private language, and how this tension shapes and mishapes realities, sometimes upholding structures of power, sometimes undermining them.

Simon Brown

siamese osmoses IT
                               your bendy unshape
                                  black handle cove unwinding
constance of forenoon leaving spell when I leave

Anne-F Jacques

Anne-F Jacques is a sound artist based in Montreal, Canada. She is interested in amplification, oblique interactions between materials and construction of various contraptions and idiosyncratic systems. Her particular focus is on low technology, trivial objects and unpolished sounds. She has presented several sound installations and live performances in South and North America, Europe and Japan. Anne-F is also involved with Crustacés Tapes, a postal sound distribution project.

Anne-F Jacques

motory things
idiosyncratic ipsosers
they minnow on
                         and die

David Jhave Johnston

David Jhave Johnston is a digital-poet focused on combinatorial poetics and multimedia poetry. In 2017, he conceived and coded ReRites: a durational artificial-intelligence human-machine writing experiment. In the spring of 2019, Anteism Press will publish the results of that research as a twelve-volume set of poetry books with ten accompanying essays. His theoretical work Aesthetic Animism: Digital Poetry’s Ontological Implications (MIT Press, 2016) won the N. Katherine Hayles Award. Since 1999, he has intentionally published many interactive language-art works online (not on paper) at

David Jhave Johnston

a number three germinal
after the effect
drives on as Denver boots not
mixtures of verbs
      ending      a world 5

Manon Labrecque

Manon Labrecque has a degree in contemporary dance and visual arts. Since 1991, she has created videos [single-channel and installations], performances, drawings, photographs and kinetic and sound installations.

Her creative work has its roots in the body, in physical sensations and movement. She is interested in both the external and internal spaces of the body… in the relationship between the physical and psychological…and in the embodiment of the poetic.

The concept of duality, double, life and death, materialization and dematerialization, gravitation and levitation… and the transformation processes are recurrent elements in her artistic work.

Manon Labrecque

as born meat
pores bodies
        skin bread gong
behind counters giving up
             on tics to saw off

David Tomas


David Tomas is an artist and writer. His production in the visual arts has its roots in a post-1970s critique of conceptual art’s disciplinary infrastructure. For the last forty years, Tomas’ work has explored the nature and functions of different forms of knowledge that are produced at the interface of the history of contemporary art, the history and anthropology of media and the cultures and transcultures of imaging technologies. His most recent body of work investigates the nature, function and derivative forms of different configurations of knowledge that are visually deployed in service of the auction house’s primary objective, which is to sell something to the highest bidder.

David Tomas

          in the
       closing it concept


Dissorientation and making sense

How do you make sense of your surroundings? St-Onge has allotted three different senses or sensibilities to the Gallery’s spaces: sound, vision, and text. He has obscured the performing bodies, yet each space is filled with transmissions from these performances.

Are you being invited into a process of disorientation?

Where do your senses draw you?

As you move around do you need to abandon some senses and privilege others?

Space and the body

By inhabiting the central wall, St-Onge literally embodies the Gallery. Think of the wall as a nervous system sending out signals, an organ processing and circulating material, a mouth-like chamber where sound is formed, or a skin or casing.

How do you consider your role as a visitor in relation to an absent, hidden or surrogate body?

Knowing the wall’s place in the project, how does its new presence reorient your understanding of the Gallery’s architecture?

How does your ability to wander throughout the gallery compare with St-Onge’s enclosure within the wall? Does this affect your movement?

Forms of dialogue

In one room texts overflow across monitors and out from under the wall. St-Onge’s exchanges with his collaborators are central to his project, yet how do you dialogue with these transmissions?

Where does your voice enter when responding to the illegible?

Is there a hallucinatory element: do you add, hear, or understand things that are not there?

How is your body involved in making or performing language? Consider how even as language breaks down, text continues to carry and provoke sound.

Encounters with memory

Leaving traces throughout the duration of his project St-Onge has arranged the Gallery as a mnemonic or memorial space.

How might you use memory as a compass, as a tool for orientation?

Can you easily differentiate between the live, in process elements and past developments?

Do you draw on approximation, on memories of past spaces or experiences to navigate the Gallery?

The experimental process

In the spirit of experimentation, St-Onge works within a set of proposed limits. Consider the conditions adopted to make room for improvisation and the emergence of unexpected results.

When do you find yourself within the limits of the experiment? At its edges? Or outside looking in?

Is there room for failure?
What happens when you allow failure to become a part of your experience?

What is an experimental form of viewing or visiting?

Supplementary Resources


Bailey, Derek. Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music. New York: Da Capo Press, 1993.

Benjamin, Walter. “The Task of the Translator.” In Illuminations, 69-82. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968.

Debaise, Didier. Vie et expérimentation: Peirce, James, Dewey. Paris: Librairie philosophique J. Vrin, 2007.

Debaise, Didier and Isabelle Stengers. Gestes spéculatifs. Paris: Les presses de reel, 2015.

Deleuze, Gilles. Empiricism and Subjectivity. Translated by Constantin V. Boundas. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.

— — — — –. Difference and Repetition. New York : Columbia University Press, 1994.

Derrida, Jacques. Margins of Philosophy. Translated by Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Dewey, John. Art as Experience. New York: Penguin, 1934.

Gingras, Nicole, ed. S : ON: Le son dans l’art contemporain canadien/Sound in contemporary Canadian art. Montreal: Éditions Artextes, 2003.

LaBelle, Brandon and Christof Migone. Writing Aloud: The Sonics of Language. Los Angeles: Errant Bodies Press, 2001.

Langer, Susanne. Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art. New York: Scribner, 1953.

— — — — –. Problems of Art: Ten Philosophical Lectures. New York: Scribner, 1957.

— — — — –. Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art. Cambridge: Harvard University Press,  1969.

Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002.

— — — — –. A Shock to Thought: Expressions after Deleuze & Guattari. London: Routledge, 2002.

Migone, Christof. Sonic Somatic: Performances of the Unsound Body. Los Angeles: Errant Bodies Press, 2012.

Ratté, Michel. L’expressivité de l’oubli: essai sur le sentiment et la forme dans la musique de la modernité. Bruxelles: La Lettre volée, 1999.

Saladin, Matthieu. L’expérience de l’expérimentation. Dijon: Presse du réel, 2015.

Shaviro, Steven. Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.

Stengers, Isabelle. In Catastrophic Times. Translated by Andrew Goffey. Meson Press : Lüneburg, Germany, 2015. PDF

Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. New York: Macmillan, 1929.

Selected publications by the artist

NommeBeurre µ La lubrification du verbe Les vies innombrables des Tie Wraps. Montreal : Grillage Absolu, 2018.

Créatures hermétiques dans mon char BB des otages inaperçus. Montreal: Grillage Absolu, 2018.

Cône En Tête C Ça KC L’arme Chaude De L’ivresse. Montreal: Grillage Absolu, 2017.

soureoeur arrière sosururoeour. Montreal: éditions squint press, 2017.

Semblances. Québec: Avatar, 2016.

Nude de chose de même. Montreal: Le laps, 2016.

VUEIEN. Berlin: Errant Bodies Records, 2015.

Kasi naigo. Monteal: squintfuckerpress, 2001.

Selected discography

BTEBETB. Oral, 2016.

Lise G. Oral, 2015.

Occulter. 2014.

viorupeeeeihean. Oral, 2013.

Ailleurs. &records, 2012.

Aimer la concrescence. Absence of Wax, 2012.

Entités. Oral, 2010.

Joseph Carey Merrick. Oral, 2007.

Image / Négation. Alien8 Recordings, 1999.

L’amitié ou les rumeurs insoutenables du désir. squintfuckerpress, 2005.

Mon animal est possible. Alien8 Recordings, 2007.