Sylvie Lacerte, Artistic Director Art and Politics
Photo Jules Cloutier Lacerte
Historian of art and museums, Sylvie Lacerte is the author of La médiation de l’art contemporain (2007), taken from her doctoral thesis. She was the co-organizer with Nathalie Bondil, Director and Head Curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts of La Balade pour la Paix: An Open-Air Museum, an immense public art exhibition on Sherbrooke Street in 2017. Independent curator, art critic, lecturer, author and teacher (UQAM, McGill University and Laval University), Sylvie Lacerte has held various other positions such as artistic director of Spirale magazine and as a visual arts specialist for the Quebec Government in its policy of integrating art into architecture.
We are very happy to welcome you to the 2018 Art and Politics edition of the 36th International Symposium of Contemporary Art of Baie-Saint-Paul. Throughout its existence, the event has been presented repeatedly while remaining faithful to its identity and leitmotif, that of bringing art to the public, which at the beginning, was an audacious stance. In the early 1980s, making artists work in front of the public was not easy, for either the artists or the public or the contemporary art milieu. In 1982, at the height of the postmodern era, art discourse often took precedence over the art itself. Discourse that at times was hermetic. Making creative people work in front of visitors was seen as a heresy. Some detractors criticized the Symposium for caging the artists to perform like dogs in a zoo or circus. Time has passed; the discourse and the art practices have changed particularly with the arrival of cultural mediation, reaching us in a wave from France. Straightaway, one began taking the viewer into account. Later with the introduction of digital and interactive works that require the contribution of “manipulators,” viewers became “participants.” This said, one must not forget to mention that several art movements in the 1960s and 1970s were concerned with an exchange between the public and the artworks in which the creative processes became as important as the resulting work if not more so.
The philosopher Bernard Stiegler stated the following: “Art is political: aesthetics is political and the political is aesthetic.” This notion dates back to Antiquity and remains even more incisive today. The 2018 International Symposium of Contemporary Art will be a response to the G7 Summit, another type of symposium, which will be held a short distance from Baie-Saint-Paul. This is no ordinary situation. At the G7, it is a matter of, among other things, “the advancement of gender equality, the fight against climate change and the promotion of respect for diversity and inclusion.” What will one really remember about this a few weeks later? Are today’s most powerful Heads of State really ready to engage in resolving these major issues?
The situation and political dynamics in the world have completely changed since the fall of the Berlin wall, the events in Tiananmen Square, the attacks of September 11, 2001, and closer to us, since the laborious and painful process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and the reception of refugees. We are the quasi-powerless witnesses to the upheavals and armed conflicts to which many regions of the planet are subjected. Nation-States need to be redefined, theocracies and repressive regimes are taking over the geopolitical scene, but resistance is already being expressed. The globalised and relocated economy has completely transformed the labour market and (over)consumption, unrestrained capitalism rules, accentuating the gap between the rich and the poor. The United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union (Brexit) produces political and economic uncertainty in Europe and for refugees. The election of Donald Trump’s in the U.S.A. makes us fear the worst, encouraging fake news, lies and the rise of populism. What will happen to the Paris Accord now that the U.S.A. and its climate sceptics have withdrawn from it? Terrorism and the radicalization of young people are happening increasingly closer to us. This is no longer a distant phenomenon that doesn’t concern us. How do we grasp a new version of the world without falling into the paranoia that propaganda is stirring up?
Artists have the capacity to imagine ways of getting out of this very real chaos, and the key to helping us emerge from the stagnation. They possess clear-sightedness and intuitive-ness that few of us have. For the younger generations, cynicism no longer seems an option. While we are brooding, without minimizing the situation that the world is now in, could we not, naively perhaps, bring “imagination to those in power”? I adopted this slogan from May ’68 in the call for projects for the 2018 Symposium. It has been used recently for the Nuits des Idées (Night of Ideas) at UQAM.
We are delighted to present the artists who have been selected for the 2018 edition of the ISCABSP. They are of diverse origins and work in multiple mediums, materials and disciplines. These artists, each in his or her way, are engaged in this year’s proposed theme. I know that they have in common this impetus to share their ways of working and thinking about their art with the visitors. I am convinced that they have audacious surprises in store for us with their art projects. Although the concept of the Symposium itself requires working in front of the public, this “method” is still unusual for the majority of artists. In a group dynamics, the Symposium often gives rise to fruitful exchanges among the artists themselves and brings about very enriching discussions with the public. This enables, among other things, the demystifying of art making. This approach of mediating between the art’s creation and the public’s reception of it represents in itself a resolutely political gesture.
In parallel with the Symposium, we are offering a series of fascinating activities, such as artists’ presentations, concerning the projects they are working on during the month of August, invited artists’ talks in which they speak about the political process of their practice, screenings of films, performances, a paper given by the winner of the Jean-Claude-Rochefort Prize and surprise-entertainment at the close of the Symposium that will leave no one indifferent!!
Welcome to Art and Politics at the Symposium, have a good time and a great visit, and I hope you have many captivating exchanges!
Sylvie Lacerte, Ph.D.
 In particular, The Banquet by Plato (banquet: symposion in Greek and symposium in Latin)