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Gilles Tarabiscuite

Art historian by training (specializing in the history of collections in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, more precisely, on cabinets of curiosities), Gilles Tarabiscuité has worked for several years in the world of contemporary art (International Center of Contemporary Art of Montreal, Galerie du Centre in Saint-Lambert). His photographs have won several awards (Tokyo International Foto Awards 2017, Monochrome Awards 2017, PHOTO Magazine Competition 2017, etc.). Tarabiscuité lives and works in Montreal. He teaches multimedia and photography at Cégep Marie-Victorin in the graphic design department.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you.

Art historian by training (specializing in the history of collections in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, more precisely, on cabinets of curiosities), I have worked for several years in the world of contemporary art and this background has had and still have influence on my work. In short, I am largely influenced by the history of art.

I am interested in the process of production and manufacture of the photographic image. My projects consist of photographic series representing the different stages of making an image-fiction. My work lies at the crossroads of several major trends in the history of photography: I practice the factual recording of the real (documentary photography approaching Straight Photography and the Neue Sachlichkeit), which I then integrate into a composite image (image-fiction). The results remain anchored in reality while constituting imitations of pure photography. In short, I divert so-called objective photographic elements toward a “tarabiscoté,” creating visually plausible results that capture the real in order to recreate an image that can be perceived as a “trace of what has been.”

What is the most challenging part of being an artist?

The most challenging part of being an artist is, in my opinion, accumulating what I call “Art Miles”. By that, I mean accumulating exhibitions, artist’ residencies and so on. You can do the most creative and original work in the world, if you do not have many Art Miles, the contemporary art system does not value your work. If you did not study in a well-known art school or do not have connections in the milieu, you have to do a lot of commercial canvassing to be able to break through. In her book “L’art contemporain” (« Que sais-je ? » n° 2671), Anne Cauquelin writes the following :

It is the exhibition process that gives the meaning: “ Here is the world of the contemporary art “. The network displays its own message, so the public consumes the network and the network consumes itself. It is a process of self-consumption, and autoexhibition.

I find her book relevant to understand the contemporary art world.

Name artists you’d like to be compared to.

I don’t think I deserve to be compared to any artists, especially the well-knowns. Regarding photography, I appreciate the work of Jeff Wall, Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky, Philip-Lorca di Corcia, Sandy Scoglund, Joel Sternfeld, Ursula Sprecher & Andi Cortellini, Paolo Ventura, Julie Blackmon, Alex Prager, Joel Peter Witkin… All of them share a common characteristic: photography for them is an elaborate stage production. And for all of them, photography remains confined to the frame. While I really admire what they do, this latter aspect is what haunts me: how to break the frame of the photography picture, how to get out of the frame? Whithout falling completely into strictly formal abstraction or pure plastician photography, this is what I’m trying to explore with my work while keeping some aspects of the realistic photography.

How would you describe the art scene in your area?

To avoid commonplaces about the art scene in Montreal I prefer to cite a 2010 study by the Observatoire de la culture et des communications du Québec (OCCQ) about the visual art scene in Montreal. Here are the mainlines :

In 2010, there are approximately 3,632 professional visual arts artists in Quebec, 60% of whom are women and 40% are men. The age distribution indicates that under-35s make up only 12% of the total number of visual artists. A substantial proportion of visual arts artists in Quebec (45%) works on the Island of Montreal.

Interestingly, painting is still the most profitable discipline for merchants, accounting for 69% of the total amount of sales.

Then come the sculptures, which generate 14% of the sum of the sales and, then, the works on paper, that is 12%.

In general, the study notice a weak tradition of marketing and commercializing, insecure jobs, administrative knowledge deficits, and a difficult transition from graduation to the start of a career. Finally, last fact worthy of mention : only 5% of artists have a net creative income of $ 20,000 (canadian dollars) or more. In short, visual art in Montreal is certainly no gold mine.

What’s the best art tip you’ve ever received?

These ones, from Moritz Neumüller (a Barcelona-based curator, educator and writer in the field of Photography and New Media. He has worked for institutions such as MoMA New York, La Fábrica Madrid and PhotoIreland Festival) :

1. Some projects do not translate well into an online image gallery. If your project has a conceptual twist, or is quite dependent on contextual explanations, this could be

the reason that it was not considered. 2. Your statement was not straight to the point or poignant. If you think this could be your case, please have a look at tutorials, workshop and courses that help to write good artist / project statements.

3. Art is not a competition. Try to question yourself if what you are doing is really strong enough, in terms of imagery and content.

What are your future plans as an artist?

I’m passionate about photography and visual art. I just wish I could do this fulltime. I also have the project of opening an artist-run centre in my backyard for showing works of emerging artists. I own in Montreal what we call a ‘hangar’ in a ‘ruelle’ (alley) which is not used at all. I plan to convert it into a non-profit gallery. The little building has two storeys and is covered with climbing plants (ivy). The openings would take place directly in the ‘ruelle’, I think it would be very convivial. I will make an announcement in your magazine the day we’re ready to launch it...