Sylvie Lacerte, Artistic Director Art, Architecture, Landscape and Environment

Art, Architecture, Landscape and Environment

Over the last fifty years, many artists opened painting, sculpture, and film to the architectural space around them, and during the same period many architects became involved in visual art. Sometimes a collaboration, sometimes a competition, this encounter is now a primary site of image-making and space-shaping in our cultural economy. Only in part is the importance of this conjunction due to the increased prominence of art museums; it involves the identity of many other institutions, as corporations and governments turn to the art-architecture connection in order to attract business and to brand cities with art centres, festivals, and the like. Often where art and architecture converge is also where questions about new materials, technologies, and media come into focus.[1]


The Symposium’s move in 2018 to the École Thomas-Tremblay was a decisive turning point in the evolution of this now essential event in Quebec’s artistic landscape. For its 37th edition, the ISCABSP is putting forward the theme Art, Architecture, Landscape and Environment, which is naturally positioned as a follow-up to the issues addressed in the previous edition: Art and Politics. It is important to be consistent in weaving the Ariadne’s thread connecting these editions, which have the same artistic director. Already, at the outset of my mandate, I foresaw the issues of Art, Architecture, Landscape and Environment taking shape. The main idea was to provide artists with an opportunity to take over the Symposium’s new home, with the primary goal of creating in situ artworks. This constitutes an artistic, political and social gesture and impetus in the Baie-Saint-Paul community. It will not be the first time that artists have invested public space with artworks specific to a site. But putting together a collective objective while respecting individual artistic practices is a particularly stimulating challenge and adventure. It is an adventure removed from the commissions of the “art and architecture complex” closely tied to the capitalist society in which we operate. This theme can undeniably illustrate the way power is represented, depending on the context specified by the sponsor.


These disciplines have worked together in Quebec since 1961, with the creation of the Politique d’embellissement or beautification policy of the Ministry of Public Works and Procurement, headed at the time by René Lévesque. Since the implantation in 1981 of the Politique d’intégration des arts à l’architecture et à l’environnement des édifices gouvernementaux et publics du Québec (the policy for incorporating art into the architecture and surroundings of government and public buildings in Quebec, or the “1% policy”), we must admit that this heritage from the Quiet Revolution is still little known by the people of Quebec and often poorly regarded by many artists.


Recently, the media have devoted attention to architecture and its moorings in landscape and the community, giving a clear signal that civil society must now take into account the importance of architecture of quality. This architecture provides the framework for an improved quality of life and sustainable development. It is something in the air today, a part of the zeitgeist. Similar newfound awareness is taking place elsewhere in the world. This conversation, in the 2019 edition, is for the artists an opportunity to be grasped in order to further essential thinking about society’s future. Ours is not an institutional project but rather a collective action which will leave traces and make it possible to invent a new “art in public space” paradigm, whether that space be urban or rural.


For the 2019 edition, post G7, it will be inspiring to go against the grain of present-day public art policies in order to “de-officialise” them, like the anarchitecture that the artist Gordon Matta-Clark created in the 1970s, always conceived on the razor’s edge between art and architecture and drawing on socio-historical thinking on these two forms, often in tension with one another.


The issues and challenges of this “construction site” will be considerable: the artists will subscribe to a collegial manner of working while preserving their individual conceptual and aesthetic identities. They will need to take into account not only the building in which they will prepare to get down to work, but also the environment of Baie-Saint-Paul, its quite singular geography and topography at the foot of the mountains and on the river’s shore, nestled in the Charlevoix astrobleme, a crater caused by a meteorite 400 million years ago. The artists will also be steeped in the history of this “village of landscape art” from the early twentieth century and the diverse communities who frequent and live in it today.


Today, the question of the environment is crucial. The Paris Agreement, rejected by the government of the United States; our oceans, now the planet’s garbage bins; the discussions around the electrification of mass and individual transportation; and the desire to end our dependency on fossil fuels are issues which have become a part of some artistic practices. This theme represents an opportunity to think about art in the environment more globally in order to express the flagrant problems with which we are confronted today. We might then think of erecting a laboratory of building and land art 3.0 (built, natural, social, historic, artistic, technological) for the 2019 edition of the Baie-Saint-Paul Symposium.


Sylvie Lacerte, Ph.D.

Artistic director, ISCABSP

26 January 2019

[1] Hal Foster, The Art and Architecture Complex (London: Verso, 2011), vii.

Photo Jules Cloutier Lacerte


A historian of art and museums, Sylvie Lacerte is the author of La médiation de l’artcontemporain (2007), which draws on her doctoral dissertation. With Nathalie Bondil, director and chief curator of the MMFA, she was co-curator of La Balade pour la Paix in 2017. An independent curator, art critic, lecturer, author and instructor (UQAM, McGill and Université Laval), Sylvie Lacerte has occupied a variety of positions, including visual arts specialist for the government of Quebec’s policy of integrating artworks in architectural projects. The 2019 edition of the Symposium is her second as artistic director.