The Power Plant

In/Tension with Michaëlle Sergile & Leila Zelli

DEC 18 2023

“I really enjoy working with archives,” explains Montreal-based Michaëlle Sergile, “because we tend to have—at least at school—a history that we're taught or stories that we're taught, but not necessarily ones that concern us.” “Precisely,” adds fellow artist Leila Zelli, noting that working with these records is integral “to suggest that there are many ways of seeing a single thing.”

For our second French episode (and seventh overall), Sergile and Zelli join curator and educator Diane Gistal for a conversation around the potentials of working with archives, the role of the artist as a historian, and the Montreal art scene at large.

Courtesy Michaëlle Sergile

Courtesy Michaëlle Sergile

Born in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Michaëlle Sergile currently lives and works in Montreal, Canada. Her practice incorporates weaving as a medium to explore the potentials of rewriting of history, addressing the power dynamics between colonizers and colonized as well as the relationship between Black people and their communities. Working predominantly in photography and sculpture, Sergile’s work deconstructs the traditional roles of black women, prevalent notions of cultural identity, and the concept of the “foreigner.”

Sergile has exhibited globally, with solo and group exhibits at institutions like House of Urban Cultures in Dakar, 2022); Hausen Gallery in New York, 2023; the National Museum of Fine Arts in Quebec, 2022-2023); and the Laval House of Arts in Quebec City, 2023. In June 2024, she will be featured in the group exhibition Proof 30 at Gallery 44 in Toronto.

In addition to her extensive exhibition record, Sergile has received various accolades. In 2019, she received the Award for Excellence in Visual Arts and the Jean Pitre and Claude Leclerc Prize from UQÀM as well as the Peter N. Thompson Fellowship from Concordia University. These honours were followed by a grant from the Quebec Research Fund – Society and Culture in 2020. In 2022, she was shortlisted for the Sobey National Recognition Award.

Courtesy Leila Zelli

Courtesy Leila Zelli

Born in Tehran, Iran, Montreal-based Leila Zelli creates digital installations using images, videos, and texts found on the internet and various social media platforms. These works interrogate the ideas of the “other” and “elsewhere,” specifically when applied to the Middle East and its geopolitical environment. In this context, Zelli’s artworks result in sensory experiences that encourage viewers to reflect upon the state of the world, who we deem as “others,” and our greater role in a global community.

Zelli has had her work presented at a number of leading galleries across Canada, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Collection des Arts du Tout-Monde) in 2019; Foire en art contemporain de Québec, 2019; Galerie Bradley Ertaskiran in Montreal, 2020; the Conseil des arts de Montréal, 2019-2020; Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain in Montreal, 2021; and multiple editions of Art Toronto.

Since earning her BFA and MFA in Visual and Media Arts from UQÀM, Zelli has received several significant prizes. In 2021, she was awarded the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Scholarship in Contemporary Art and the Lynne-Cohen Prize by the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) in 2023.

In/Tension, produced by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, is a limited podcast series of intimate, thought-provoking and accessible conversations with emerging, mid-career, and established contemporary visual artists across Canada. In/Tension aims to shed light on the breadth of the Canadian contemporary art scene and provide a platform for diverse artistic voices to dive deep into their creative intentions and facets of their practice.

This project is supported by a Digital Now grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

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