Critical Proximity: Critical Distance

After the Deluge: Jean-Yves Vigneau
July 15 – August 6, 1994

a response to the exhibition by A. F. Kiendl

In his installation After the Deluge, Quebec sculptor Jean-Yves Vigneau uses found objects to create a tableau which asks the viewer to consider spatial and temporal relationships. By asking one to consider their place, geographically and historically, Vigneau shows how the act of framing or positioning can have ramifications in one’s perception.

By using common objects from everyday life, he also shares personal reflections on one’s place in Natural History and geological time. To accomplish this he uses daily fluctuations in Earth and Sea, such as low and high tide, as metaphors for terrestrial fluctuations on a grander scale. He places found objects in a context which metaphorically increases their meaning.

Vigneau sees the low tide as a place in transition, a place that is neither Earth nor Sea, a place which will be completely changed. Vigneau asks the viewer to see herself in the context of these terrestrial undulations. This is perhaps the predominant theme in Vigneau’s work.

The theme of an individual’s relative place in the grand scale of time and space appears in several of his video pieces which often begin with a broad panoramic view of a landscape ( an immediate positioning). One video features the electronic images of a maritime point-finding navigation device, and a pair of copulating lobsters (which Vigneau promptly ate after videotaping).

It is a poetic notion of the (ir)relevance of contemporary problems in light of history and the future on a millennial scale which permeates Vigneau’s work. This differentiates his work from much of contemporary, especially political art. Yet it shares with some contemporary discourse, in a way, if not a revision of history, then at least a critical consideration of history. This contemplation of one’s place in a space-time continuum does include a future, and therefore Vigneau’s meditations are optimistic. Vigneau points out that the operative word in After the Deluge is after.

After the Deluge is a reference to the Biblical story of Noah and the flood. The installation includes an assemblage of wood marked with graphite and chalk which appears, alternately, as a boat and a bird (the Ark and Dove in Noah’s tale). All of Vigneau’s assemblages share this multiplicity of connotations. He builds with objects, like words, a visual poetry.

Vigneau has combined two previous installations (Marée Basse (Low Tide) and After the Deluge) into one installation especially for the space at Ace Art. The installations illustrate a maritime landscape including flotsam and jetsam, sea creatures, buoys and outlines of land. All the objects are manufactured from the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life, old woks appear as rocks poking through the surface of the water, an old fire sprinkler becomes a buoy, iron pellets are welded together to form seaweed, a rope cast in iron could be a watersnake or a rope. At either end of the gallery are points of light, which define opposite horizons and again bring to mind diurnal cycles. One, a light bulb in a bell jar, represents a lighthouse, more or less literally, at the other end of the gallery is a video monitor which shows a video of ocean waves, a clue to the viewer of what can be seen in the corrugated metal mounted horizontally on the tripods before the monitor.

The tripods which support every object in the installation raise awareness of the horizon line in relation to the viewer. Vigneau wants the viewer to question his place in relation to these objects, to think about their place in relation to everything else. It reminds one of the tricks in perspective which allow an object which appears close to really be far away and vice versa. The sculptural element of a metal “telescope” is another clue to the viewer to think about this. Vigneau’s interest in the horizon not only refers again to the level of tide, but also hints at art historical notions of perspective and the tradition of landscape painting. There is a formalist element especially to the large objects such as the boat mounted on the thin metal legs, which creates a study of the balance of shape and forms.

There is an abstract property to the sculptures, changing nebulous elements shift in shape, image and location as the viewer moves about the gallery. This is appropriate, as Vigneau calls Art “the difference between reality and what you can remember.”


A. F. Kiendl is an artist living in Winnipeg.