THIS PERFORMANCE CONTAINS NUDITY
The other day, I watched a man wearing headphones cry on the subway. Maybe it was the music. Every few seconds, the muscles in his face tensed up and he gasped a bit as he breathed. He wasn’t being emotional, but he was living an emotion. He did it right in front of me.
The very first time I saw Christian Messier perform — a tense and focused duel between his breath and a common material—I recall having a feeling similar to when I was watching the man on the subway. The emotion was completely different but I felt the same inner intensity.
Messier’s performances are simple and gripping constructions that communicate with the audience at two levels. The first is visual. Attentive to form and composition, the objects put into action are carefully chosen to operate materially as well as symbolically within the same work. An object may be used for its shape, for what it evokes, and then for its color. It also may be left untouched. As the performance unfolds, what were previously disparate elements begin to connect on various levels and build form via their respective properties. Actions and images produce relationships without becoming a narrative. This leaves the audience suspended in a compelling kind of observation, one that is propelled forward by what the artist refers to as empathy (Einfühlung). This is the second level of communication.
Deeply committed, Messier’s performances provoke—or speak to—the viewer. The feats of endurance, risk and exuberance that are known to punctuate his work generate embodied states that are easily internalized by those watching. As the artist focuses, struggles or lets go, so do we. As such, Messier’s performances are experienced as much as they are viewed. This new work, which will be structured on a playlist of six songs, is no exception.
– Michelle Lacombe
Christian Messier lives and works in Montreal. As a performance artist, he has participated in numerous events in a dozen countries: some of these being the LIVE Biennale (Vancouver), at VIVA ! Art Action (Montréal), the Biennale d’art performatif de Rouyn-Noranda, 7a*11d (Toronto), Manif d’art – La Biennale de Québec and the Rencontre internationale d’art performance de Québec in 2000 and 2002. As a painter, his work has been shown at Œil de poisson (Québec), Galerie Verticale (Laval), Pan ! Peinture, symposium of which he is one of the founders, l’Écart (Rouyn-Noranda) and also at Laroche/Joncas (Montréal), the gallery that represents his work. More recently, he has exhibited at l’Œuvre de l’autre and Lobe (Chicoutimi), Regart (Lévis), Clark (Montréal), and participated in an artist residency at Est-Nord-Est (Saint-Jean-Port-Joli). He also was the author of the Webzine Punctum, which covered the visual arts in Quebec.
Michelle Lacombe (Montreal, QC) has developed a unique body-based art practice since her graduation from Concordia University in 2006. Her work has been show in Canada, the USA and Europe in performance events, exhibitions and colloquiums. Her practice as an artist is paralleled by a strong commitment to supporting alternative models of dissemination and performative practices. She has worked with a number of Montreal artist-run centres including articule and La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse, and is currently the director of VIVA! Art Action, a biennial performance art festival. In addition, she has experience in curating, writing and resisting dominant culture.