New Troglodytes, by Philippe Blanchard.
This week, Arprim is transformed into a space that at once recalls the dank lair of the caveman, where occupants gathered around the dancing light of the central, life-saving fire, while at the same time conjuring some kind of trippy alt-rave. Philippe Blanchard, the artist behind this transformation, calls the exhibit New Troglodytes, referring to the continuing human fixation, over the millennia, with bright and moving lights.
“I’ve worked as a commercial animator for a long time, as well as having my art practice,” says Blanchard, “and I’ve tried to marry the two through something I’ve referred to as ‘expanded animation,’ taking animation outside of the confines of the screen, and making it more of a participatory experience.”
At the same time, he confesses to something of a preoccupation with our knuckle-dragging ancestors: “I’ve been interested in where our human fascination with moving light comes from, trying to figure out what our fascination with animation or cinema comes from. I’m tracing it back poetically to fire, the earliest form of visual technology, that’s had such an impact on human existence.”
For Blanchard, the exhibit seeks to “bring back some of the magic by focusing on the illusion of animation, and how it’s sort of fundamentally an optical phenomenon. Illusions bring that back, resuscitating how it can be a magical kind of experience.”The resulting installation is filled with intermittent flashes of strobe and high-contrast prints papering the walls, floors and ceiling, so bright that the designs seem to undulate. Similarly bedizened cardboard-constructed stalactites and stalagmites spike the floors and ceiling, so visitors are completely immersed in this slightly disorienting day-glow patterned space.
Blanchard, an Ottawa native, came to Montreal to do a degree in film production at Concordia, then stayed on for a few more years before finally settling in Toronto, where he still lives. He’s exhibited some parts of the present project in various galleries around Toronto, but this is the piece’s first visit to Montreal, and first incarnation in this form.
The work, he admits, can be a little disorienting. “There are strobe lights lighting the room. Most of the time they’re fading, but they can go really fast. It is like being in a space that’s completely changing, that’s changing constantly.”
“I like the idea of creating a space that’s sort of hypnotic and seductive, but also repulsive, and can almost be too much, but I’m not pushing it — it’s not that crazy,” he says. “It’s definitely very visually intense. I’ve never had issues with people — well, I’ve had one person faint once, but he was drunk. Anyhow, there were mitigating circumstances.” ■
Philippe Blanchard’s New Troglodytes is on Jan. 25 – March 2, Arprim (Belgo Building, 372 Ste-Catherine W., #426). Vernissage Jan. 25, 5:30 p.m., free