Raymond Boisjoly From age to age, as its shape slowly unravelled

Art Gallery of Ontario ⁠ accessible_forward
317 Dundas St W
May 14–Nov 6
    Raymond Boisjoly, From age to age, as its shape slowly unravelled, (detail), 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver

Raymond Boisjoly’s practice is rooted in photography, but his technical experimentations and incisive remediation of archival material produces artworks that push the medium’s boundaries and foster new kinds of encounters. The Vancouver-based artist, of Haida and Quebecois descent, uses imaging technologies to reinterpret and transform film footage, pop culture content, and vernacular objects as he investigates the ways mass media define Indigenous art and artists.

Boisjoly’s photographic installation from age to age, as its shape slowly unravelled… is drawn from the anti-colonial French film Statues Also Die (1953) by Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, and Ghislain Cloquet. The film depicts African sculptures, masks, and artefacts displayed in a French museum, as the narrator discusses the impact of colonization on the creation, dissemination, and interpretation of these objects. The filmmakers’ subversive, anti-colonialist approach prompted the French government to ban the second half of the film until the 1960s. Both the film and from age to age, as its shape slowly unravelled… explicitly respond to ethnographic objects collected and displayed by cultural institutions; however, Boisjoly conceived his work with the gallery space in mind.

Boisjoly reinterprets and transforms the film footage through a creative misuse of an iPod and a scanner: he placed his iPod on a flatbed scanner as the film played from YouTube, and attempted to scan the moving image. Unable to fix the film’s movement, the images record the scanner’s failure. The moving images disrupt the scanner’s function, separating its colour registration and producing pops of digital static that punctuate the morphed, elongated, and disparate mutations of his source content. The imprecise nature of the scans indicate that even the most objective recording devices can receive, register, and transmit content unpredictably. 

Through literal, visual means, Boisjoly’s scanner abstractions continue the distortion of these artefacts from their original context. By calling attention to their own contemporary mode of production, the images emphasize the transmission process that the original artefacts were subjected to: fragments of history registered between screens, which have been enlarged, distended, and marked by dust from the scanning bed, are re-presented as contemporary artworks contextualized within a gallery space. The source material, visually redeployed as an abstraction—an aberrant transmission, a communication breakdown—demands a new kind of artistic, cultural, and philosophical encounter. It encourages the viewer to reconsider how cultural content is transmitted, processed, and received, depending on the context in which they encounter it.

Boisjoly’s disjointed representations are visually and conceptually poetic. His nuanced approach and aesthetically powerful photographic installation is anchored in the medium’s history while bringing to the fore contemporary imaging technologies, processes, and ways of seeing. Boisjoly questions how images are transmitted and received in relation to their historical narratives. His practice highlights the unreliable nature of technology in parallel to the inconsistent nature of Indigenous representation in art and mass media.

from age to age, as its shape slowly unravelled… is on view in the Irina Moore West Gallery. In proximity to the Frum African Gallery, this installation is in conversation with Moridja Kitenge Banza’s, Et La Lumière Fut (And There Was Light). The paintings of this Canadian Congolese artist seek to re-sacralize African masks, which lost their power when they were removed from their geographical and spiritual contexts.

Curated by Julie Crooks and Sophie Hackett

Presented by the Art Gallery of Ontario

Raymond Boisjoly is an Indigenous artist of Haida and Québécois descent who lives and works in Vancouver. He received a BFA from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (2006) and an MFA from the University of British Columbia (2008). Boisjoly was a recipient of the VIVA Award (2016), presented by the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation for the Visual Arts, Vancouver. He has received numerous solo exhibitions and has been exhibited internationally. Boisjoly is Assistant Professor, Simon Fraser University School for the Contemporary Arts.