BREAKDOWN (2008-2013), a film by Gwenaël Bélanger
Conceived as a follow-up to his photographic project 100, rue Blainville Ouest (2009), Breakdown (2008-2013), a recent work by Gwenaël Bélanger, is an animated 3D short showing in a single take of a house in free-fall, disintegrating along its way, its origin unknown. Since 2002, Bélanger has experimented with the parameters of gravity, among other themes, in order to question the image’s status, its relationship to time, movement, narration, and off-camera. More specifically, the relationship this latter element has with reality; 3D modeling and animation being a demanding process consisting in producing credible situations as realistically as possible. While video and photography are tools that capture reality, the medium chosen here by the artist has only a passing link to the universe he attempts to evoke by creating it from scratch. As techniques increasingly used in the film and advertising industries, 3D modeling and animation create strong images that heighten the imagination while titillating our expectations, although here they are subverted from their anticipated spectacle, since the scene’s climax, the veritable apotheosis of the sequence, is continuously deferred. In effect, contrary to the work Le Tournis (2008) vimeo.com/19762516, where the silent fall of mirrors allowed us to imagine their impact, causing a veritable explosion of the image in a noisy crash, Breakdown allows us to hear the moment of falling, characterized by air friction that causes the progressive disintegration of the house, disappearing without ever reaching the ground.
Having been acquainted with his photo series or videos where the captured event, while seemingly improbable, did in fact take place – I refer here to the piece Le Grand Fatras (2005) s95149927.onlinehome.us/gwen/fatras.shtm, where what could pass as the contents of an apartment (dryer, piano, bicycle, armchair) literally fall from the sky – the artist plays here with the viewer’s gullibility, fooled for a moment before questioning the reality of the scenario: a house in free-fall, traversing a blue sky on an otherwise calm and sunny day. Likely, it would take a formidable storm, a devastating tornado like the one in the opening scene of The Wizard of Oz, for this situation to occur. If the gradual stripping of the image remains plausible, this means a real scenario articulating the step-by-step disintegration of a house due to this potential chain of events was meticulously written. Vast research was conducted, including viewing videos on the experience of gliding, to be able to imagine how mass as imposing as a house would react and move through the air during its fall. Since it is impossible to truly verify the response of this object under these circumstances, the realistic nature of the video rests solely on the ability of the artist to render it. And the results are realistic. Through the use of 3D modeling and animation techniques, Bélanger plays with the notion that the line between reality and fiction is sometimes so thin that in ads or films that use it, we are surely being had.
Text: Anne Marie St-Jean Aubre
Gwenaël Bélanger est né à Rimouski en 1975. Il vit et travaille à Montréal où il est professeur à l’École des arts visuels et médiatiques de l’Université du Québec à Montréal. Il détient un baccalauréat et une maîtrise en arts visuels de l’UQAM. Il a été récipiendaire du prix Pierre-Ayot en 2009. Ses œuvres ont été présentées en solo au Musée régional de Rimouski, au Centre d’exposition Expression de Saint-Hyacinthe, à la Galerie de l'UQAM, chez Optica (Montréal), au Centre des arts actuels Skol (Montréal) et à la galerie Graff (Montréal). Il a également participé à plusieurs expositions collectives dont Photographies à la galerie Division de Montréal, The Hidden Land à la galerie Nettie Horn de Londres, Still Revolution, au Contact Photography Festival de Toronto et à La Triennale québécoise au Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. En 2013, Il expose en solo au Centre Clark (mars) et au Centre VU de Québec (novembre). Il est le récipiendaire du prix Pierre-Ayot (2009) décerné par la Ville de Montréal. Son travail est représenté par la galerie Graff à Montréal et Nettie Horn Gallery, Londres.
Expositions individuelles / Solo Shows
2013 Breakdown, Centre Clark, Montréal
Titre à venir, Centre VU, Québec
Gwenaël Bélanger, Galerie Trepanier Baer, Calgary
2012 Fragments épars, Centre Sagamie, Alma
2011 Broyer du noir + Color Break, Galerie Graff, Montréal
Casser l’image, Galerie d’art Louise-Ruben-Cohen, Université de Moncton, NB
Commissaire: Yann Pocreau
2010 Casser l’image, Musée régional de Rimouski, Rimouski
Olympiade culturelle Vancouver 2010, Ocean Concrete, Granville Island Vancouver (BC)
2009 Casser l’image, Centre Expression, Saint-Hyacinthe