For his first dedicated solo show in Canada, Montreal based artist Michael Eddy presents various aspects of his recent work, including prints of scenes of contemporary life, intimate videos, and humanoid characters. Titled Je suis1, the exhibition comes together as an eclectic and contrasting installation that defies any hasty or simplistic interpretation.
The exhibition title refers to the slogan of support, “Je suis Charlie,” expressed after the Charlie Hebdo attack, as well as its many subsequent iterations. By eliminating the direct reference to the event, Je suis invites viewers to imagine a new complement to this verbal state, this rallying cry indicative of self-expression in general. From one work to the next, a narrative unfolds that is both coherent and dissonant and that, with a bit of humour and provocation, criticizes the prevalent conservatism and pretention to universality. The images confront each other and together encourage viewers to ask: what is permissible, or simply acceptable, to say, write, or show?
A series of prints on Tyvek paper, printed from matrices cut in found styrofoam, reproduces a visual language inspired by medieval woodcuts and contemporary political cartoons. Through the images shown, Eddy lays the groundwork for reflecting on the freedom of expression in democratic dialogue while also offering a critical reading of neoliberal values and North-American plutocracy. The iconography of the characters and the places illustrated convey various types of discourse: that of the “mononcle”2 sitting at the bar, that of people glued to their computers, surfing the web, those transmitted by the education system and dominant political and media voices, and that of the angry crowd whose dissidence meets police repression.
Two videos complement this body of work, punctuating the space already charged with double meaning. In a more sombre register, evoking snuff movies and the aesthetic of soft porn Infinite cruelty, for nothing and Extremities show disturbing, even upsetting, interactions between various objects. The staging of visceral urges and the expression of the forbidden, of transgression and desire suggest aspects that remain undisclosed, censured, or repressed. A dialogue emerges between the still prints and the moving images, implying that speaking in public operates in parallel with constructing an individual’s identity, the individual developing in tension between that which is openly performed and that which is inhibited and kept out of sight.
Intentionally ambiguous and encouraging a second reading, Je suis calls for non-conformist dialogue. How can we resist the discourse/slogans that paralyze conversation by simplifying ideas to the extreme? Is it possible to make one’s own path through the mob? Addressing sensitive issues, such as academic freedom and the rise of hate speech, Eddy is sarcastic about the prefabricated aspect of certain public exhortations that ultimately boil down to false demonstrations, edifying or not. Also situated throughout the space are sculptures made from recycled chairs and sofas—Armchair Participants, as the artist calls them—reminding of the omnipresent gaze of others, the presence of those who observe passively yet passionately.
translated by Oana Avasilichioaei
 A statement that means both “I am” and “I follow.” – Trans.
 A Quebecism that can be used both as an affectionate nickname for one’s uncle or as a pejorative one for a man who is very traditional, even backward, in his thinking and who likes lewd jokes.
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Michael Eddy is a laureate of the 2019-2022 Fonderie Darling’s Montreal Studios program and receives the generous sponsorship of the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Family Foundation.
Eddy holds a Master in Fine Arts from the Staedelschule Frankfurt (DE) and a BFA Media Arts (minor in Art History) from NSCAD University in Halifax. He participated in many residencies in Canada, Italy, China and Japan. He has been workingin collaboration with Knowles Eddy Knowles (since 2004) and co-organized the HomeShop collective in Beijing (2010-2013). His texts were published in many catalogues and magazines, including Esse arts+opinions.