Canadassimo, Canadian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015

An Installation by the BGL art collective for the Canada Pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, 2015; Marie Fraser, Guest Curator; organized by the National Gallery of Canada. In this presentation at Giardini di Castello, the collective composed of Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère, Nicolas Laverdière invites visitors to live an amazing adventure in the Canada Pavilion.

Canadassimo benefits from the support of the Royal Bank of Canada, official sponsor, Aimia main sponsor and the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. Thanks to several million dollars made available by the Royal Bank of Canada, the Canadassimo installation of the collective BGL will invite the viewer to ” live an amazing adventure “. The prestigious Canada Pavilion, inaugurated in 1958 in the Castello Gardens, will undergo a complete metamorphosis, with a structure of scaffolding that will stretch outwards.

Ever since Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère and Nicolas Laverdière met at Laval University in Québec some 20 years ago, they have become enfants terriblesof Canadian art. Through the use of a wide range of often recycled materials, BGL favors a witty and critical approach towards consumerism.

As often happens with the works of BGL, “Canadassim” or lightens the conventional boundaries of artistic experience. Partly hidden by scaffolding, which give the impression of an exhibition still under construction, the Canada Pavilion has become a gigantic immersive installation. By completely transforming the space, BGL took advantage of the architecture of the building to create an unusual path through a world of products, objects and materials in which art approaches the world of consumerism and economics.

Visitors enter the pavilion through a local mini market with its shelves stocked with canned food and household products. This strange and chaotic place is followed by a living space under renovation that leads to an atelier full of objects of all kinds, especially hundreds of cans covered with dripping paint. From this space, climbing a staircase, you access the scaffolding covered by a terrace that protrudes from the Pavilion, creating a panoramic point on the Gardens. Here visitors are invited to introduce coins into a maze of eaves that runs through the large windows of the building. This gesture highlights the economic aspect of Canadassimo and the complex links between inside and outside, between the structure of the Pavilion and the architectural elements of the installation.

Canadassimo, which gives the impression of being still under installation, offers a strange excursion that begins outside the pavilion with the scaffolding that partially obscures its facade. Beneath this platform is the entrance to a small neighbourhood convenience store like many across Quebec.

A convenience store…
This typically chaotic and shabby convenience store sells tinned goods and other household essentials.

… a living space…
The next room is a somewhat more organized living space that is evidently the preserve of a recycling enthusiast…

… a studio…
… followed by a studio crowded with countless objects of all kinds, including tin cans covered in drips of paint.

… and an outdoor balcony.
This bizarre living/working domain leads to an outdoor balcony, a rest area that extends the pavilion and offers a view overlooking the Giardini. Constructed almost entirely out of recycled materials and objects, Canadassimo exposes the excess to which North American society is prone as well as the eccentric character of a tinkerer/junk collector who recycles everything.

From the second floor balcony, visitors are invited to drop coins into a maze of channels and hear them trickling down all the way to the first floor and see them land between the plexiglass panels.

Canadassimo creates a sort of materialistic frenzy. When we visited the pavilion for the first time, impressed by its human-scale architecture, which does not entirely correspond to its role as an exhibition space, and from its position in the Biennale Gardens. Integrating the space with a labyrinthine installation and playing with the environment by adding an external extension and letting visitors enter a minimarket in the Gardens, as if to access the art you had to go through a service area.

BGL’s works often embody a direct relationship with matter and necessity, in the urgent need to reclaim material conditions. Created almost entirely with recycled materials, Canadassimo conveys a sense of excess to which contemporary society is subject, but also evokes the eccentric figure of the artist who collects everything and more. The numerous references to Canadian culture and North American lifestyles, as well as the enlargement that significantly increases the surface of the pavilion with its unfinished appearance, raise doubts in the minds of visitors, inviting also to reflect on the context of a representation national.

Often described as provocative and critical, BGL’s practice employs humour and extravagance to explore the world of objects, while simultaneously raising social and political issues related to nature, contemporary lifestyles, economics and the art system. As well as sculptures and performances, the collective’s works include huge installations that plunge spectators into unexpected situations, prompting them to question their own behaviour and to revise their view of reality.

Canadassimo offers a strange path through the Canada Pavilion, which has been completely transformed. Beneath the scaffolding that partially obscures the building’s façade—creating the impression that the exhibition is still under construction—is the entrance to a dépanneur, one of the small neighbourhood convenience stores found across Quebec that sell tinned goods and other household essentials. Beyond this typically chaotic and shabby shop is a loft-like living space: though far more organized, this area is evidently the preserve of a recycling enthusiast. Next comes what BGL has dubbed ‘the studio,’ a place crowded with countless objects of all kinds, including stacks of tin cans covered with dribbles of paint. Having made their way through this bizarre living/working domain, spectators can relax for a while on a terrace that offers a marvellous view over the Giardini.

BGL has often worked on the topic of accident and catastrophe. With Canadassimo you will not make direct reference to this aspect, but when you access through the grocery store you will perfectly perceive the fact that something has already happened.

BGL never offer lessons on social and political issues. Their work develops from the world around them, transmitting the contradictory and simple beauty of things. They suggest no solution: BGLs work with what you can see.

We will witness a sort of conflict. But what BGL likes most about the pavilion is that it doesn’t look like an exhibition space, and they like to work in this type of situation. They particularly appreciated the building’s uncommon serpentine shape, which they nicknamed ” the shrimp “, because when you access it you cannot see all the space at first glance. Furthermore, the Canadian pavilion is rather small compared to its direct neighbors, Germany and England: it is the size of a country cottage and the BGL have found this human scale interesting and stimulating.

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The BGL work with ordinary and everyday materials, with useless objects that make up their works by overlapping each other. Inevitably, the complete installation will evoke, among other things, the context in which its own basic materials were found.

That said, the Biennale remains an international event, so some visitors will find the work exotic while others may identify themselves. Perhaps some people will discover, on the first or second floor, a kind of universality.

The BGL work with the way things appear, without compromise, always with a sense of instinctive fun. In this sense, their participation could represent a significant contribution to the collective effort that the 56th Venice Biennale proposes.

The BGL art collective is established in Quebec City, Canada.Often described as provocative and critical, BGL’s practice employs humour and extravagance to explore social and political issues related to the world of objects, humanity’s relationship to nature, contemporary lifestyles, economics and the art system.

Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère et Nicolas Laverdière, young artists of the BGL collective, born in 1972-3, will transform the Canadian pavilion with a scaffolding structure that inside, enriched with numerous unusual objects, will also extend outside.

Over the past decade, BGL’s installations, sculptures and performances have received particular critical attention. With the use of often recycled materials – wood, plasterboard, cardboard and objects of different origins – BGL criticizes consumer society by ironically transforming everyday objects into works of art.

The provocative and critical aspect of the artistic practice of the BGL collective that resorts to humor and extravagance “to explore the world of objects and simultaneously raise social and political issues related to nature, the modern lifestyle, the economy and the art system.

Together with the sculptures and performances, the collective’s gigantic installations throw visitors headlong into unexpected situations, encouraging them to question their own behavior and change the way they observe reality.

Canadassimo, below the scaffolding, which partially obscures the facade of the building giving the impression that the exhibition is still in progress, there will be the entrance of a dépanneur, the neighborhood convenience store, spread throughout Quebec, which sells canned food and essential products for domestic use. Behind this typically chaotic and worn shop there is a living space similar to a loft which, although more organized, clearly presents itself as the reserve for a recycling enthusiast. Next to it will be placed what the collective BGL has nicknamed “the study”, a space crowded with countless objects of all types, including piled tin cans covered with poured paint. After walking through this bizarre living / working space, visitors can relax on the terrace with a wonderful view of the Gardens.

Canadian Pavilion
Canada’s representation at La Biennale di Venezia started in 1952. The Canada Pavilion in the Giardini di Castelli was inaugurated in 1958. The National Gallery of Canada organises Canada’s representation at La Biennale di Venezia and it is the only visual arts exhibition in the world to which Canada sends an official representation.

Canada has been participating in the Venice Biennale for more than sixty years and with the installation Canadassimo, the collective BGL invites the spectator to live an amazing adventure. The Canada Pavilion opened in 1958 in the Giardini, it will undergo a complete metamorphosis with a scaffolding structure that stretch outward enriched by a multitude of unusual objects.

The BGL collective was chosen by a scientific committee that brought together contemporary art curators from the four corners of Canada. Marie Phrase r, the curator of the Pavilion is a professor of Art History and Museology at the University of Québec in Montréal and former curator at the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Montréal and has repeatedly presented the works of the BGL collective both in Canada and in Europe.

The representation of Canada in Venice is sponsored by the National Gallery of Canada in the person of its director Marc Mayer and benefits from the support of the Royal Bank of Canada, official sponsor, Aimia main sponsor and theNational Gallery of Canada Foundation.

Venice Biennale 2015
The 2015 Art Biennale closes a sort of trilogy that began with the exhibition curated by Bice Curiger in 2011, Illuminations , and continued with the Encyclopedic Palace of Massimiliano Gioni (2013). With All The World’s Futures , La Biennale continues its research on useful references for making aesthetic judgments on contemporary art, a “critical” issue after the end of the avant-garde and “non-art” art.

Through the exhibition curated by Okwui Enwezor, La Biennale returns to observe the relationship between art and the development of human, social and political reality, in the pressing of external forces and phenomena: the ways in which, that is, the tensions of the external world solicit the sensitivities, the vital and expressive energies of the artists, their desires, the motions of the soul (their inner song ).

La Biennale di Venezia was founded in 1895. Paolo Baratta has been its President since 2008, and before that from 1998 to 2001. La Biennale, who stands at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends, organizes exhibitions, festivals and researches in all its specific sectors: Arts (1895), Architecture (1980), Cinema (1932), Dance (1999), Music (1930), and Theatre (1934). Its activities are documented at the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC) that recently has been completely renovated.

The relationship with the local community has been strengthened through Educational activities and guided visits, with the participation of a growing number of schools from the Veneto region and beyond. This spreads the creativity on the new generation (3,000 teachers and 30,000 pupils involved in 2014). These activities have been supported by the Venice Chamber of Commerce. A cooperation with Universities and research institutes making special tours and stays at the exhibitions has also been established. In the three years from 2012-2014, 227 universities (79 Italian and 148 international) have joined the Biennale Sessions project.

In all sectors there have been more research and production opportunities addressed to the younger generation of artists, directly in contact with renowned teachers; this has become more systematic and continuous through the international project Biennale College, now running in the Dance, Theatre, Music, and Cinema sections.