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The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal celebrates its fiftieth anniversary with exhibitions
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, 300 incandescent light bulbs, voltage controllers, computer, wiring, heart rate sensors and metal sculpture, 1/1 3 x 10 x 10 m (variable dimensions according to exhibition venue). Anonymous gift. Collection of the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal Shown here: Fábrica La Constancia, Plataforma, Puebla, México, 2008. Photo: Alejandro Biazquez, courtesy the artist.

MONTREAL.- Starting tomorrow, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal will be presenting three new exhibitions specially planned to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. Visitors from all over will be able to see and appreciate, in The Grace of a Gesture, 200 iconic pieces from the Collection that have been donated to the MAC since it was founded; enjoy a memorable experience in Pulse Room, a vast, interactive installation by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer that detects visitors’ heart rate and converts it into flashes of light; and encounter, for the first time in North America, the poetic videographic works of Australian artist Angelica Mesiti. This group of exhibitions will be on view at the MAC until September 7, 2014.

“The act of giving creates a social bond and an obligation to reciprocate on the part of the recipient,” writes John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in his introduction to The Grace of a Gesture. This exhibition, which celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of Canada’s premier museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art, demonstrates the Musée’s desire to reciprocate the community’s gracious gesture that led to its founding. For it was through the initiative of some forty artists, ten collectors, three galleries and one foundation that the MAC came into being in 1964. Their initial donation of one hundred or so works has yielded tremendous benefit: today the Musée Collection includes 3,500 works (out of a total 7,800 in its holdings) that were generously offered by more than 800 donors—a wonderful asset for a Collection now considered an invaluable part of our collective heritage!

Two gracious gestures to celebrate: creating and donating To celebrate this high point in the Musée’s history and evolution, the exhibition pays fitting, twofold tribute to two gracious gestures: that of donating and that of creating. While the MAC regularly features works received as gifts in its exhibitions devoted to the Collection, The Grace of a Gesture is made up entirely of around 200 works that have been donated over its fifty-year history.

This truly multidisciplinary event will reveal the countless connections between the selected works and the main trends that have influenced art in recent decades. Visitors will be able to discover, or enjoy rediscovering, pieces created by artists from all disciplines, generations and origins. Laid out in five galleries, in the Sculpture Garden and on the roof are works by such names as Charles Daudelin, Paul-Émile Borduas, Alfred Pellan, Jean-Paul Riopelle, David Altmejd, Nicolas Baier, Geneviève Cadieux, Pierre Dorion, Betty Goodwin, Pascal Grandmaison, Kent Monkman, Irene F. Whittome, Louise Bourgeois, Anselm Kiefer, Nam June Paik, Giuseppe Penone, Antoni Tàpies and Laurent Grasso.

For her first solo exhibition in North America, Australian artist Angelica Mesiti presents two works revolving around the theme of music. The video installation citizens Band (2012) offers a subtle, poignant portrait of the musical culture of four immigrants: two in Australia and two in France. Filmed by an attentive camera, the performances of a Cameroonian, an Algerian, a Mongolian and a Sudanese capture our attention with their dignity and the uncommon richness of the faraway worlds they bring us. One after the other, they introduce us to: a traditional technique of water drumming performed by women, songs that have come out of rai music, throat singing accompanied by horse-head fiddle and a demonstration of a great whistling tradition—all executed in various ordinary public places, from a public swimming pool and the Paris metro to the streets of Australia. Citizens Band is an ode to those who, even in exile, manage not only to keep up their connection with their culture, but also to share it with others.

The video projection prepared piano for Movers (haussmann) (2012) shows two movers, loaded down with a piano, making their way up a spiral staircase in a Parisian apartment building. Quite unexpectedly, the two men are making avant-garde music, since the instrument has been “prepared” in the manner of composer John Cage, with objects hammering the strings so that the movements of the piano, as it is slowly lifted, produce dissonant and percussive sounds. Projected vertically, the video emphasizes the piano’s perilous climb, while its improvised, unpredictable music is analogous to the laborious efforts of the men as they proceed. Mesiti’s work highlights the grace and invention of everyday working life.

Montrealers will finally have an opportunity to see Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s pulse room here in their city, which is also the Mexican-born artist’s adopted home. This masterpiece of relational, interactive art, created in 2006, was presented at the Venice Biennale in 2007. In this vast installation, the heart rate of visitors, captured and transmitted by a computerized system, is turned into pulses of light in some 300 light bulbs suspended from the ceiling. Minimalist music and cybernetics research also played a part in the artist’s development of this spectacular, sparkling work in which the beat of each visitor’s heart is added to that of thousands of others to produce a memorable experience.

The viewer experience is central to the approach of this electronic and multidisciplinary artist, who develops interactive installations that are at the intersection of architecture, sculpture and performance. Trained in physical chemistry, a master of shadow and light, Lozano-Hemmer creates platforms based on public participation, making use of technologies such as robotics, electronic surveillance and telematic networks.

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