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Geneviève Chevalier, Bord d'attaque / Bord de fuite - Leading Edge / Trailing Edge, 2018.
Image tirée du carnet. Impression jet d'encre sur papier coton, 43,18 X 60,96 cm.
| Still from the booklet. Inkjet printing on cotton
paper, 43,18 X 60,96 cm. Avec l'aimable permission de l'artiste | Courtesy of the artist

Geneviève Chevalier
From November 10th 2018 to December 15th 2018
Bord d’attaque/ Bord de fuite

Opening, Saturday, November 10, 2018 - 3PM to 6PM

Saturday with the Family: November 17 and December 15, 2018

Since the publication of J.J. Audubon’s Birds of America in 1838, bird populations have constantly decreased, for some to the point of extinction. They are now but paper memories and preserved bodies in natural history museums. Artist Geneviève Chevalier tracked one species that has acclimatized and adjusted remarkably well to climate change. The “fou de Bassan,” or Northern Gannet, chose to make its home on craggy cliffs of Bonaventure island, where its colony of 100,000 individuals faces some reproductive issues, and on Bass Rock, off the coast of Scotland, which has a more prosperous population. The Gannet succeeds where many other species have great difficulty enduring the impact of climate variations on food and water and air temperatures. Chevalier observed these specimens in their habitat and met with scholars in Quebec and Scotland. What she learned is reconstituted in a video diptych and artist book, the titles of which conjure a world of aeronautics.

This Anthropocene era, in which man has become the most powerful of disruptive geological forces, has ushered in the Sixth Extinction event. The previous one, in the Cretaceous period, had, among other things, eradicated the dinosaurs. But the most devastating, dubbed the Great Dying, took place at the end of the Permian period; it resembled the current one in that it, too, was due to climate changes. Humanity had no part to play in that extinction, which stretched over a long period. But today the problem is exponential. The artist observes its collateral damage on the seabirds. The impact of current civilizations on wild flora and fauna also requires adjustments in how extinct species are collected. Now even animals impacted by oil spills are worthy of conservation, according to Bob McGowan, curator of bird collections at Edinburgh, as he confides with the artist in a section of her book, an essential counterpoint to the film. What was the cause of death for these bodies meticulously labelled and preserved in environmentally controlled chambers? Chevalier’s film prompts as many questions as it provides answers. The remains still have something to say, despite their silence. The film, too, is overcome with silence, the loop coming full circle, though not quite the same. Experts’ voices start to fade, subtly reflecting the difficulty in being heard, an auditory attrition of ecosystems, an extinction that devastates animal populations. More than ever then, Bass Rock, which dominates the view in Leading Edge/ Trailing Edge, takes the appearance of a fortification, a bastion of resistence, an outcrop of stability in this environmental debacle.

Author: Bénédicte Ramade

Bénédicte Ramade is an art historian specialized in ecological questions. She is currently conducting research on the anthropocenization of knowledge and art practices. She is an independent curator and art critic and a lecturer at Université de Montréal.

Public conversation at OPTICA, Saturday, December 1st, 3 pm to 4:30 pm between Geneviève Chevalier, Bénédicte Ramade (Université de Montréal) and Kyle Elliott (McGill University).



RICHARD, Camille (2019). « Geneviève Chevalier : Bord d’attaque/ Bord de fuite », Espace art actuel. no. 122, spring-summer, pp. 83-84.

MAVRIKAKIS, Nicolas. «Sur le radar : la nature des chose au Centre Optica», Le Devoir, December 14, 2018.

MAVRIKAKIS, Nicolas. «Les arts visuels sous le signe de l’engagement», Le Devoir, August, 25 and 26, 2018.

Geneviève Chevalier was a CALQ artist-in-residence at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, in 2017, the context in which the work was produced. Her work has been exhibited at the Musée régional de Rimouski, the Symposium de Baie-Saint-Paul, the Musée de Lachine, La Chambre Blanche at Manif d’art 7, and the Thames Art Gallery, Ontario. She lives and works in Eastman, Quebec.