BGL, Rapides et dangereux [Fast and Dangerous] (2005), motorcycle and video documentary on digital video disk (DVD), 7:36 minutes. Purchased 2007. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo © National Gallery of Canada
The artists’ collective BGL has been chosen to represent Canada at the 2015 Venice Biennale, one of the world’s most prestigious art events.
Comprised of Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère and Nicolas Laverdière, BGL is a Québécois trio that has been working together for almost 20 years. During that time, they’ve created and presented a number of imaginative works that break away from the traditional framework in which art is typically experienced, often surprising spectators in the process.
Some of their more notable pieces include An Adult's Toy (2003) which consists of an upturned ATV riddled with arrows as if it were a hunted animal; and the 2005 performance and video, Rapides et dangereux [Fast and Dangerous], in which the group—dressed as an Olympic luge team on roller blades—pushed a decommissioned motorcycle through the streets of Quebec City. In Artistique Feeling II (2008), a work presented at the National Gallery of Canada, BGL dropped $20,000 in bills from a raised skyjack onto the gallery floor.
As the selection committee of contemporary art experts noted in its statement, “BGL’s installations and performances are obliquely political, but are carried out with a humour that is characteristically Canadian.” Indeed, that sometimes self-deprecating humour was apparent during a recent conversation with one of BGL’s members, Jasmin Bilodeau.
Recounting the moment that he learned of BGL’s selection for Venice, Bilodeau admits that he first thought the National Gallery of Canada—which organizes Canada’s participation in the Biennale—was calling because one of BGL’s works in the NGC’s collection had broken. On a more serious note, he says that being selected to represent Canada in Venice is both an honour and a dream, adding that BGL is looking forward to the challenge of doing something “magic” for the exhibition.
Marc Mayer, Director and CEO of the National Gallery, is equally excited for BGL, whom he describes as having recently come into their own as an aesthetic force to be reckoned with. “I’m convinced that international audiences will be as enthusiastic about their work as Canadians have become,” says Mayer.
That growing international interest in BGL’s work was a draw for the selection committee, as was the trio’s approach to making art. “Usually an artist is working in his or her studio alone, and when the work is ready, the work is shown,” says Marie Fraser, a Professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal and curator for next year’s Venice project. But BGL’s artistic practice is a decidedly collaborative one, which sees the trio testing ideas and pitching them back and forth to each other. While this type of collaborative activity is increasingly popular within the art world today, artist collectives are also “very important in Canada historically,” notes Fraser, citing such renowned collectives as General Idea by way of example. It’s a vision of Canadian art that BGL represents very well, she adds.
BGL’s exhibition will be presented from 9 May to 22 November 2015 in the Canada Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale.
Robyn Jeffrey is a writer and editor based in Wakefield, Quebec.
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