Cyprien Gaillard’s Nightlife at the MAC
Contemporary art meets 3D
Montréal, March 4, 2020 – The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) is thrilled to exhibit, for the first time in Canada, a new major acquisition from its collection: the 3D video work Nightlife (2015) by French artist Cyprien Gaillard, recipient of the Prix Marcel‑Duchamp. Nightlife, an immersive technological work that rises to the level of cinematic production, is a stunningly beautiful film. Shot entirely at night over a two-year period in Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Berlin, it tells a story of revolution, resistance, and resilience. In fact, the MAC has taken advantage of the presentation of Nightlife to acquire a high-quality 4K projector, a first for the institution and a rare event in the museum world. From March 5 to May 3, visitors are invited to have a sensory and aesthetic experience of stunning beauty by immersing themselves in an artwork that has been acclaimed everywhere it has been shown to date.
“I’m very proud that we are able to present MAC visitors with this important work by Cyprien Gaillard for the first time, especially as we are the only museum in North America holding an edition in its collection,” noted John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator of the MAC. “It’s a work with such extremely rich content that it can, and should, be seen several times to grasp all of its meaning.”
Nightlife: A unique visit experience
The public can expect a particularly different and unusual museum experience. Provided with 3D glasses, visitors take a psychedelic trip as they view perfectly breathtaking images accompanied by reggae music by musician Alton Ellis, one of the most expressive voices in the history of Jamaican music. Two versions of his song Blackman’s World are played on a loop, with the resigned refrain “I was born a loser” transformed into the declaration “I was born a winner.”
With every viewing, visitors are likely to find new layers of interpretation, as all the images shown connote historical or social events and provoke reflection on the relationship between humans and their natural environment. The power of this immersive work stems from its ability to connect History and Nature, by repositioning us in our power relations with respect to those two elements.
« A ballet without humans »
Nightlife is a 3D film depicting the remnants of colonial history still visible in our contemporary landscape in four acts. Both poetic and historical, the narrative thread begins at the foot of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where the sculpture was partially destroyed in a 1970 bombing orchestrated by the militant political group known as the Weather Underground. We are then transported to Los Angeles and shown a curious nocturnal dance of the city’s lush vegetation of exotic plants that were imported there for the 1932 Olympics. The film’s third segment is a slow, dazzling elevation through the air: using a drone, the artist offers us a unique view of a fireworks display at Berlin’s Olympiastadion, the site of the 1936 Olympics. The camera finally descends towards a full-grown oak tree that was gifted to the famous African-American Olympian Jesse Owens during the Berlin games and subsequently planted at the high school in Cleveland where he trained. The film’s subject matter is linked together and flows along to the endlessly refashioned refrain, “I was born a loser / I was born a winner.”
“Since my teens, I’ve wanted to choreograph a ballet without humans,” Gaillard has said, referring to Nightlife. His process is rooted in a visual archaeology based on the erosion of physical forms, social meaning and the historical gaze. With a keen interest in ruins, he focuses on the heritage and future of architecture, and the recurring nature of time.
The exhibition is presented as part of the series Pictures for an Exhibition.
Cyprien Gaillard was born in Paris, and he lives and works in Berlin. The recipient of a number of prestigious awards, including the Prix Marcel-Duchamp in 2010, he is one of the outstanding artists of his generation. He has had solo exhibitions in a number of internationally renowned institutions, including the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), MoMA PS1 (New York), the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi (Milan), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Kunsthalle Basel (Basel), Schinkel Pavillon (Berlin), and the Museum für Moderne Kunst (Zollamt, Frankfurt am Main).
The exhibition is curated by Marie-Eve Beaupré, Curator of the MAC Collection.
Free of charge for MAC members
Visitors may become MAC members for $80 for a four-year membership. Access to the exhibitions is free and unlimited for members.
The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is a provincially owned corporation funded by the ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec. It receives additional funding from the Government of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts.
Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal
Located in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal makes today’s art a vital part of Montréal and Québec life. For more than fifty years, this vibrant museum has brought together local and international artists, their works and an ever-growing public. It is also a place of discovery, offering visitors experiences that are continually changing and new, and often unexpected and stirring. The MAC presents temporary exhibitions devoted to outstanding and relevant current artists who provide their own particular insight into our society, as well as exhibitions of works drawn from the museum’s extensive collection. These may feature any and every form of expression: digital and sound works, installations, paintings, sculptures, ephemeral pieces, and more. In addition to its wide range of educational activities familiarizing the general public with contemporary art, the MAC organizes unique artistic performances and festive events. It is a window onto a myriad of avant-garde expressions that extend the reach of art throughout the city and beyond.
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