Dominique Blain Dérive/Drift
Sensitive, powerful, and eminently delicate, Montreal-based artist Dominique Blain’s multi-channel video comprises hundreds of press and amateur images of the sea. Found on the internet and compiled in careful layers, they lift gently like sails in the breeze to reveal scenes of fragile, makeshift boats floating on perilous waters, commemorating the countless migrants fleeing war, poverty, and violence, sailing in search of freedom.
In the catalogue Déplacements/Displacements, from the exhibition of the same name held at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris in 2019, curator Catherine Bédard expounds on Dérive/Drift, stating that the work “plays its cards close to its chest, since it initially presents itself as abstract: moving images of still images studiously interlaid like roof shingles which—cruel irony—are not watertight. Time-images making us feel the dangerous vastness of the sea through a collage of views borrowed from streams of images. Dozens of irregular rectangles form a superb patchwork of grey/ browns lifting here and there like sails in the breeze, their gentle stirring in contrast to the offshore winds.
“This is a particularly disturbing work by Dominique Blain, where the desire to see is rewarded by the embarrassment of having seen. Curious viewers who would like to know what’s hidden by this interlaying, drawn by the surprise effect of the movement of the sheets lifting with a breeze which has nothing of the sea about it, discover migrants in the open sea. They are confronted with the iconography of a current drama they watch on their screens, with more or less attention or indifference. A miniaturized version of the horror lurks behind the surface. Or, more precisely, lurks within the interleaved thickness of a foreground that condenses all the perspectives, bringing the backgrounds, bringing all the horizons to the fore, to the surface of all these little pieces of paper pinned up, gathered, to be eventually dematerialized in the videographic image.
“The very ambiguity of Dérive is the essence of its power. On one hand, these images appear only to disappear in the collective imagination, meaning that the weight of the reality they describe vanishes. On the other hand, together they compose a monument to the memory of hundreds of anonymous people in danger, whose fate we do not know, thus establishing a resistance to the oblivion that is accelerated by the profusion of images in circulation on our screens.”
—Catherine Bédard, “The Sharp-Edged Smoothness of Dominique Blain,” in Catherine Bédard and Ami Barak (eds.), Déplacements/Displacements, exhibition catalogue, Paris: CCC/Skira, 2019 (excerpt)
Curated by Catherine Bédard
Presented by the Ryerson Image Centre in partnership with CONTACT
Dominique Blain (Canadian, b. 1957) lives and works in Montreal. Her multimedia work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Arnolfini Centre for Contemporary Art, Bristol, England (1997); the Musée National des Beaux-Arts de Québec, Canada (1998); the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Canada (2004); and the Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, France (2019). Blain is also known for her public installations at the Grande Bibliothèque, Montreal (2005); the Jardins de Grand-Métis, Quebec (2007); the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (2011); and the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, Montreal (2011). In 2014, she was awarded the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas, Quebec. Blain’s work is held in numerous important public and private collections.