Sylvie Lacerte, Artistic Director – Time and Things

38th Edition of the Symposium international d’art contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul

Theme for the 2020 Edition

Time and Thing

While exhibitions are conceived with ideas, imagination and recollections, with will or determination, with more or less manifest intentions and great or small utopias and a sum of propositions and a variety of artistic postures, they are always only ever constructed with space and a good tempo. The right distance between things and time[1] allotted to their reception, which is necessary for them to be understood, appear to be two fundamental qualities which enter into the elaboration of an exhibition [or a symposium] of contemporary art. Jean-Claude Rochefort, Ruines et météores, 2004.[2]

Time and Things paraphrases Michel Foucault’s book Les mots et les choses (published in English as The Order of Things) which, fifty-four years after its publication, in 1966, remains as relevant as it always was. In this foundational text, the philosopher and historian Foucault developed a precept on the origin of historical periods in the West, from the Renaissance to today. He proposed that historical periods do not carve up into sharp and completed sections in a chronological timeline, that eras do not end abruptly, but rather that they overlap, like a temporal palimpsest, giving rise to a gradual transition unfolding over a period of fifty to one hundred years.

Like Les mots et les choses, Time and Things could vividly evoke the intertwining of genres and disciplines today in the visual arts and the dilation of time. For example, in the early twentieth century two concurrent avant-garde movements existed side by side, each following its parallel path in a sometimes porous manner: the “Duchampians” (the ready-mades, Dada, Surrealists, etc.), the ancestors of contemporary artists; and the moderns (Cézanne and Picasso, and right up to Jackson Pollock and the Automatists in Quebec). This overlapping is a perfect illustration of what Foucault spoke about in his book: two concurrent tendencies overlapping within the same historical period. From the early twentieth century until today, artists have followed their respective itineraries by dissenting from or associating with currents, media, disciplines and aesthetics.

We are currently living through a transitional period in the history of art. Artistic canons are being transformed as never before, in ways involving digital and non-Western practices. Artistic practices are hybridising and criss-crossing or appropriating one another, not without friction and ontological concerns.

Why not transpose Foucault’s model to non-Western cultures? We could extrapolate Foucault’s definition and include in it the time and things of the artistic practices of diverse cultures around the world, including the cultures of First Nations peoples in the Americas.

Art is a work of time, on time. The expression time-based media defines video, film, performance, the spoken word, media and digital art, the stage arts and ephemeral art. In the more “concrete” and enduring arts, such as painting, drawing, sculpture and installation, the creative process, up to the completed work, is also a question of time. Time is a rare and finite commodity. Tempus fugit, time flies: we hurry to meet deadlines and the schedules of a hectic and frantic life. A life in which the conflict between public and private is never ceasing and in which death constantly lies in wait; a life in which illnesses keep vigil despite scientific progress. We are becoming chronophobes, fearing that we will not have enough time to accomplish everything, to do things, to not forget, to be able to observe the next generation, which could save the world from its foretold disasters.

For this final year of my mandate as artistic director, why not merge contemporary art currents and disciplines? Why not plan on playing with time and things in a way in which artists, in dialogue with visitors, devise this crossover of historical periods and art objects through the work in progress symbolised by the Symposium?

In this 2020 edition, we will pay tribute to the memory of Jean-Claude Rochefort, an art critic, art dealer and artist who died tragically ten years ago, in 2010. Born in Saint-Hilarion, Jean-Claude was the author of a doctoral dissertation entitled Ruines et météores, which attested to his love for and attachment to the Charlevoix region, but also to his passion for art off the beaten path. In this immense, rigorous and poetic work he demonstrated that art can move mountains and the landscape, introduced into the hollow of the Charlevoix Crater. His work reinterpreted four hundred million years through a journey across contemporary art, with the help of the time and things of art and nature.

Every visual and media art discipline is welcome. Here are some topics and objects (things) which could, among others, be a part of the project:

  1. Could time and things take us back to the Cabinet of curiosities, whatever the historical periods or cultures involved?

– “Physical” versions;

– 3.0 or digital versions.

  1. Time and things, understood as a reference to the everyday, which too often slips away from us between our fingers.

– We accumulate things, but we never have enough time, or we waste time.

  1. Invent a model for an ontology of art, inclusive of all cultures, with a view to the creation of new canons.

– Discuss and untangle these concepts: artistic and cultural hybridisation and appropriation.

  1. Illustrate what a palimpsest of different historical periods in art could be.- Literally or metaphorically create layers or strata representing different historical eras in art, but from a twenty-first-century perspective
  1. Use visual or textual archives as the material for the creation of a narrative thread. Archives are the things and essence of the memory of time.

Sylvie Lacerte, Ph.D.

Artistic Director, SIACBSP

3 September 2019

[1] My emphasis.

[2] Jean-Claude Rochefort, Ruines et météores, vol. 1, doctoral dissertation (Montreal: Université du Québec à Montréal, 2004), 81.


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.