Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Strange Case of Mathieu Beausejour

Beausejour arrived in St. John's the night of a giant snow storm. We had arranged for him to be picked up at the airport but decided that there was no way any flight would be landing in the middle of a blizzard, so the person appointed to pick him up (after some discussion) elected not to go.

As it turned out, of course, Beausejour did indeed arrive in Newfoundland that night and had to take a taxi into downtown St. John's, much to the surprise of everyone involved in his welcoming committee.

A Montreal artist, Beausejour has made his name from engaging with political and artistic history from a decidedly anarchist viewpoint. That is to say, he likes to fuck shit up. His art practice generally consists of traveling to a destination, doing research about the given area, and making an installation or performance specific to that particular place in a gallery or in public space. He is also well known for his installation and performance work involving the destruction of money.

In any event, the morning after he arrived, I found myself in his company, putting up posters for a talk he was giving that night at Eastern Edge with LETS Barter Network spokesperson Lori Heath. He was somewhat surprised to learn of the burgeoning NL nationalism plaguing the province, a symptom of a larger inferiority complex that Beausejour, born and raised in Quebec, could totally relate to. He told me that he had recently been taken to task in Quebec for too often titling his work in English. He said that there was this perception of him amongst the younger generation in Quebec as an artist who had turned his back on his own culture, despite the fact that he has never hidden his desire to destroy the state, let alone support nationalist propaganda bullshit.

He said that for his project in St. John's he was interested in stories about some of the prominent statues and/or memorials in the city. He was interested in learning what was going on behind the scenes while a statue of say, John Cabot was being made. It seemed along the lines of his previous work: an engagement with the un-official culture and history of a place or a thing as opposed to the state defined story. It sounded great. I was pretty excited about the whole thing since I have a similar pre-occupation in my own work. I was looking forward to seeing what came out of his few days here.

Guess what? He didn't get anywhere. The few contacts he had here dried up mysteriously. Anyone who had the sort of information he was interested in were suddenly turned off by him, even though he had made contact with these people about the project months before and they had encouraged him to come to St. John's. He went back to Montreal completely empty-handed except perhaps for the knowledge that Newfoundlanders' openness and generosity to strangers is a shade over-stated.

Sorry Mathieu.


Blogger Steve Topping said...

Are you serious?
I can understand it would be hard to pull of his idea of the project because there doesn't seem to be much in the way institutional monuments in StJohn's but no cooperation? To much of a real threat is what can be assumed by that. Maybe he realized this and backed out.

FYI I bump into him on my street after he got back and didn't mention troubles but said he had met excelent people.

2:22 a.m.  
Anonymous Joseph B'ys said...

"Anyone who had the sort of information he was interested in were suddenly turned off by him...."

doesn't this kind of explain it?

9:04 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't buy Newfoundland nationalism aka " the revolution" do you? Is this before of after the Canada Council Grant applications are sent in? It's all a living satire. Nobody really believes it. It's a living in the land of what if, and makes for good theatre now and then. It's the kind of edge that people lean on because they live a country where their art is actually legal. It's a little like a fake tattoo.

12:05 a.m.  
Anonymous chubby said...

there's a great deal that's fake about it though i'm not sure if nobody really believes it.

12:12 a.m.  
Blogger Steve Topping said...

Who is buying into nationalism? (A12:05)

11:34 a.m.  
Anonymous funnybusiness said...

someone comes and wants to present 2 sides to a story and mostly the community vs government or authority and is shut down...what's that about and who does it thwart?
bring stuff up, question shit, that's what arts about right?

1:37 a.m.  
Anonymous michelle said...

hey steve when are ya coming back?

1:38 a.m.  
Blogger Steve Topping said...

Hello Michelle,

I am planing on heading out in mid June but maybe earlier but I am going to visit my sister in the rockies first!

I will call soon.


8:50 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

strange case indeed, but will the sea capture pamela anderson

6:01 p.m.  

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