Walking into Rope+Thread=ism, one can’t help but feel as though one is entering a sort of sanctuary – a reprieve from the beaten track of the everyday and commonplace. Maybe (just maybe) this has something to do with the fact that this IQ Gallery event is being held in Sainte-Brigite de Kildare, but even beyond that it’s easy to sense that something quietly wonderful is going on. The show, a fourteen-day smorgasboard of contemporary art and performance, is an experiment in creative collaboration, community and re-imagining the classic gallery show.
The artworks are set aglow by the soft light that filters through the church’s stained-glass windows. Feature artist K. aTiq’s work is displayed prominently throuout the space, his background in fashion evident in the wearable sculpted rope pieces that are displayed on white mannequins that are lined up in the center of the sanctuary and draw the eye towards the church’s altar. A Montreal-based artist who was born in Afghanistan, aTiq’s multidisplinary talents are well suited for such a diverse project and his colourful installations also incorporate paint, photography and textiles.
Because the curators weren’t allowed to hang anything on the church walls, many of the works have been laid out on the ground, inviting the audience to explore the space and cultivating an immersive experience that makes for active rather than passive viewing. The idea of creating an ‘art experience’ is what lies at the heart of Rope+Thread=ism. For IQ Gallery co-founder Amy Lilien, one of the objectives was to get art out of the “white cube gallery space” and to present a multidisciplinary collaboration that defies categorization in terms of genre or medium.
Rope and thread are featured throughout the installations and artworks, inviting us at every turn to reflect on the titular theme of the show. Visitors enter the space through an angular hallway-like structure made of wood beams and string. Inside, industrial-sized thread spools sit in lines on the floor. At one point in the evening, Lilien explained to the audience that rope and thread are symbolic of the strength that can be found in collectivity and collaboration. As individuals we are fragile threads, but when wound together we become rope.
Performance, dance and music also play a part in the experience, with regular performances occurring throughout the event. On this particular day, we had the pleasure of taking in a modern dance piece called Ricochet. Accompanied by DJ Forage, the piece is an exploration of the tensions that are inherent to living in the past versus living in the present, as well as an expression of the struggle we face when we desire to act but are afraid to do so. The six characters strive throughout the piece to connect, to move and to break free, though each one is bound by his or her own baggage.
One character in particular, beautifully played by Carole Prieur, is literally weighed down by baggage. Prieur’s embodiment of an elderly woman who lives in the past is both enthralling and heartbreaking as she clutches at a myriad of handbags and beseechingly tells the audience over and over of a long lost love: “Je me souviens […] Je me souviens de l’amour, moi […] Tu m’aimais.” DJ Forage’s thoughtful and minimalist accompaniment only served to amplify the performance, the sounds of which ricocheted off the high ceilings and walls of Sainte-Brigide.
Perhaps one of the most stunning pieces in the show was the church itself. Completed in 1880 and located in the Gay Village, the once-Catholic church is now being used for non-religious purposes. My favourite part of the building is the altar: a floor to ceiling spectacle of religious iconography and carnival-style lights which were left behind from a 1940’s movie set. This marriage of a traditional setting with an avant-garde imagination couldn’t suit the show more perfectly, and like the show, it is both delightful and strange.