Canada Council presents
February 20 to June 9, 2019
Thresholds is an experience in transit. It calls to mind the velocity of our urban journeys, small moments in everyday time and space. The installation remakes the internal mechanics of door-opening devices found on old metro cars manufactured for the inauguration of the Montréal metro at the 1967 World Exhibition. The MR-63 car has now been replaced by more modern equipment, but its impact on the collective Montréal imagination is undeniable. Having survived the consumption cycle, the piece now serves to keep this technological memento alive. It is an investigation into possible worlds stemming from the relics of this one.
Whet your appetite for Michel de Broin’s Thresholds with this short video in which de Broin reveals the piece’s backstory and inner workings.
Come in for a visit and interact with the piece. Take a selfie and share it on social media using #Thresholds.
Thresholds is an interactive installation that invites the general public to embark on a journey. It is a crossing that calls to mind the velocity of our urban journeys, small moments in everyday time and space.
Made up of a dozen metro car doors, the work activates in the presence of visitors. It literally holds the doors open for them as they approach and walk through it. The components come from old MR-63 metro cars, whose impact on the collective Montréal imagination is undeniable. The piece serves to keep this technological memento alive. The old cars were retired to a recycling centre, where they were ripped apart and recycled at great cost to the environment. In our consumerist society, technological objects become obsolete at an accelerated pace in a process that depreciates vestiges of the past. The technical development narrative contained in each progression is quickly undermined in disruptive chains of innovation. The parts that are reused after having been idle for some time still hold a treasure trove of, and tell a story about, human inventiveness. Dismantling obsolete mechanisms and giving them new life is fascinating because its dislocation updates human know-how and reveals where it was in terms of progress at a given time.
As visitors approach the installation, the first door opens and invites them inside. In a simultaneous sequence, the other doors give way and then close behind them to follow the movement of bodies through this transitory space. The successive mechanised opening and closing of the doors is synchronized thanks to sensors: anticipating the presence of a passenger, Thresholds sets off a fluid wave of movement triggered by an interactive system. It is a meeting and a convergence of two eras, that of integrated circuits governing the mechanical parts of a bygone one. The mechanism on each sliding door is showcased inside a Plexiglas box, so visitors can see it hard at work as they progress through the doors. Opting for transparency, the installation retains and remakes the internal mechanics of the original devices, highlighting them and reaffirming the innovation lying dormant at the heart of obsolescence.
About the artist
Michel de Broin deepens his cross-disciplinary practice by developing an ever-expanding visual vocabulary. His approach to production explores the intersections of technological, biological and physical systems. Crafting unexpected relationships between waste, productivity, consumption and risk, de Broin challenges the use value and conventional associations of familiar objects and symbols: he infuses them with new meaning and develops new contexts.
His work has been exhibited at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; the Musée d’art contemporain du Val-de-Marne (France); the Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin); the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art (Winnipeg); the Museum Tinguely (Basel); Villa Arson (Nice); Eyebeam (New York City); and the Hessel Museum of Art (New York City). Several museums and public collections have acquired his work, including the National Gallery of Canada; the Art Gallery of Ontario; the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec; the city of Montréal; the FRAC Poitou-Charentes (France); and the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (Germany).
His public art works and commissions include Dendrites (Montréal, 2017); Thresholds (Montréal, 2017); Interlude (Québec City, 2016); Bloom (Calgary, 2015); Possibilities (Mississauga, 2012); Interlace (Changwong, 2012); Majestic (New Orleans, 2011); Revolution (Rennes, 2010); Arc (Montréal, 2009); La maîtresse de la Tour Eiffel (Paris, 2009); Overflow (Toronto, 2008); Encircling (Christchurch, 2006); Shared Propulsion Car (New York City, 2005; Toronto, 2007); Révolutions (Montréal, 2003).
About the curator
Nathalie Bachand writes regularly on the visual and media arts.
She recently curated the group exhibition The Dead Web – La fin, presented at Eastern Bloc, and UN MILLION D’HORIZONS, a 32-exhibition project, for the Accès culture network as part of Montréal’s 375th anniversary celebrations, which took place in the summer of 2017.
She is currently the co-curator of the Espace [IM] Média festival at the Sporobole, centre en art actuel, for which she also writes essays on the relationship between art and science.
Michel de Broin
A woman seen from the back is about to interact with the piece in the Canada Council for the Arts’ Âjagemô Exhibition Space in Ottawa. Photo: Michel de Broin
Michel de Broin
A side view of a woman in the middle of the piece. Photo taken in the Canada Council for the Arts’ Âjagemô Exhibition Space in Ottawa. Photo: Michel de Broin