The Power Plant

Blues Klair

Vincent Meessen

Past Exhibition

Sep 20 2019 – Jan 05 2020

Vincent Meessen, Blues Klair

Vincent Meessen, Blues Klair, 2019. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2019. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.


SUPPORT DONORS

Jacques Bernier & Lynn Bilodeau

Organized and circulated by the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University with the support of Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec


GUEST CURATOR

MICHÈLE THÉRIAULT

ASSISTANT CURATOR:

JUSTINE KOHLEAL

Developed around the newly-commissioned immersive film installation Ultramarine, this exhibition proposes a re-exploration of history through archives, music and film.

Blues Klair is developed around the newly commissioned immersive film installation Ultramarine, which focuses on a mesmerizing spoken word performance of the self-exiled African-American poet Gylan Kain, whose performances in the late 1960s were a primary influence on the development of rap. Accompanying music is improvised by Belgian jazz drummer and percussionist Lander Gyselinck. In relation to notions of errantry, the blues of exile, belonging and the poetic power of the word, Meessen’s exhibition also excavates the archive of Patrick Straram, an exiled French Lettrist, jazz and film critic, who immigrated to Montreal in the mid 1950s. There, he maintained vigorous exchanges with figures of the French avant-garde and worked on his unfinished literary project “Blues Clair”. The exhibition links the emancipatory nature of these histories to the 1969 occupation of Sir George Williams University in Montreal (now Concordia University) by West Indian students, which marked the struggle for equality of Black and Caribbean people in Canada.

In the blue layered textile structure -designed with Diane Steverlynck- that frames Ultramarine and multiple references throughout, the colour blue is the chromatic, historical and discursive filter through which Blues Klair is experienced. It is an alternative way to read history through color, ultramarine referring all at once to a pigment, overseas territories, trade, colonial and slave routes.

Vincent Meessen, Blues Klair, 2019. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2019. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Vincent Meessen, Blues Klair, 2019. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2019. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Vincent Meessen, Video still of Ultramarine, 2018. Video and textile installation with sound, 42 min. 46 sec. Courtesy the artist.

Vincent Meessen, Blues Klair, 2019. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2019. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Vincent Meessen, Blues Klair, 2019. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2019. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Vincent Meessen, Blues Klair, 2019. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2019. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Vincent Meessen, Blues Klair, 2019. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2019. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Vincent Meessen, Blues Klair, 2019. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2019. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Vincent Meessen, Blues Klair, 2019. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2019. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Vincent Meessen, Video still of Ultramarine, 2018. Video and textile installation with sound, 42 min. 46 sec. Courtesy the artist.

LEARN MORE

Watch Vincent Meessen's In Conversation with David Austin here

Watch Vincent Meessen's Interview with The Power Plant here

FALL 2019 PROGRAM GUIDE

Click here to read more about The Power Plant's Fall 2019 exhibitions and programming for the season!

Screenshot 2022-11-27 at 5.55.55 PM.png

READING ROOM

Our reading list helps expand on ideas and themes of The Power Plant's exhibitions. Visit the gallery to view Vincent Meessen's selection.

Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex and Security in Sixties Montreal – by David Austin

The Other Country / L'autre pays – by Vincent Meessen (Editor)

What Color is the Sacred? – by Michael Taussig

The Empire Within: Postcolonial Thought and Political Activism in Sixties Montreal – by Sean Mills

About the Artist


Vincent Meessen

Vincent Meessen was born in Baltimore, USA, in 1971, and lives and works in Brussels. His artistic work is woven from a constellation of actors, gestures, and signs that maintain a polemical and sensible relation to the writing of history and the westernization of imaginaries. He decenters and multiplies gazes and perspectives to explore the variety of ways in which colonial modernity has impacted the fabric of contemporary subjectivities.

Vincent Meessen. Photo by Wali Issa Lee