RaphaĆ«lle de Groot   The Burden of Objects

January 1, 2009 - April 26, 2009

From January to May 2009 the Southern Alberta Art Gallery hosted Montréal artist Raphaëlle de Groot for an open-ended project investigating objects, the instability of any meanings they embody and the burden endured in their accumulation. 

Self-reflexive and collaborative, the project included participation by art students from the University of Lethbridge and the public-at-large in a series of exercises to gather and transform a stockpile of objects that one no longer has space for physically and psychologically.  By embracing these “residual” items – the unwanted, unseen, rejected other – through collective exercises of gathering, selecting, sorting, dismantling, reassembling and displaying, de Groot shifts our attention, and actively engages the public in a reexamination of art, life and the human condition. 

The focus of the project was not to recycle, re-use or produce predetermined forms from these materials, but to reconsider the stock of elements gathered as a representation and as a playing field that can act as a common ground for collective action/interaction. Generating a performative chain of operations around this stock, the artist investigates the choices and actions that surface through “negativity” (what they discard), instead of “positivity” (what they hold on to). By exploiting this conceptual inversion, she opens a metaphorical ground to investigate the ambivalent position of the discarded and the act of letting go.  At the same time, she examines what it means for these objects, the accretion of a community, to be recontextualized and appropriated into an artistic practice.  Moreover, what does it mean for de Groot to now bear the burden of these objects personally?

Vital to de Groot’s practice is an understanding of the project as open-ended and process-oriented. There are few parameters or expectations opting instead to favour intuition, listening and becoming acutely receptive to the objects and the unanticipated actions and interactions they undergo.   Exercises to trigger this shift in attention range from data collecting, context analysis and networking to intervention, performance, video and installation.  Far from predetermined, the outcome of each activity will help to shape the next course of action.

Given the open-ended nature of the project a more traditional form of exhibition was not executed.  In it’s place, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery created an Open Studio to serve as a site where the artist met and interacted with her students and the community. There, people were able to observe and converse about her practice and the artistic process as it developed with local groups and/or contributed to the project directly by bringing in material.

Raphaëlle de Groot was born in 1974 in Montreal (Canada) where she lives and works. Her work has been the subject of several solo exhibitions in Canada and abroad, the most recent being Chantiers (Le Quartier, Quimper, France, 2008), Il volto interiore (Galleria Z2O – Sara Zanin, Rome, Italy, 2007) and Raphaëlle de Groot. En exercice (Galerie de l’UQAM, Montréal, 2006). She has participated in many group shows, including the landmark exhibition Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed (The Québec Triennial 2008, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal). De Groot has often worked in the framework of artist residencies most recently in Italy between 2002 and 2004 at the Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto (Biella), where she carried out a project with workers in a textile factory.

Raphaëlle de Groot holds Master’s degree in visual and media arts from the Université du Québec à Montréal. She has received several grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. In 2006, she was awarded the Pierre-Ayot Prix d’excellence by the City of Montreal and in 2008 she was a finalist for the 2008 Sobey Art Award.

Organized by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in partnership with the University of Lethbridge and curated by Ryan Doherty.  Funding assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the City of Lethbridge and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.

« Back to Exhibition Archives