Culture  Tension between said and unsaid

Reflections on MOMENTA’s “Bienniale de l’image”

MOMENTA presents ‘Biennale de l’image,’ a meditation on the art of photography and film curated by Ami Barak. The exhibit aims to support “Canadian artists by bringing to light the relevance, diversity, and quality of their work, and by presenting it within an international context.” Ultimately, it asks its visitors, “What does the image stand for?”

The exhibit seemed to deconstruct the deceptive preconception many have surrounding the authenticity of an image by questioning its meaning. Perhaps the answer lies in the apparent paradox that floats around the authenticity of a photograph. How will a person apply their knowledge to an image in order to align its meanings to their beliefs? This seems to be the “tension between ‘the said’ and ‘the unsaid’” that the exhibit’s curator, Ami Barak, intimates. The unsaid seems to be the subtleties of an image. Photographs plainly depict distorted colors and the image itself, but do we hear the sounds in the atmosphere and the thoughts of the people within these images? Barak touched upon this in her introduction to the exhibit, saying, “These artists intercede between the state of things and their possible interpretations. They are the ‘whistleblowers.” They prefer to transfigure reality into art rather than simply replicate.

These whistleblowers are determined to produce a tangible differentiation between art and reality by using allegories as intermediaries. Their images speak of the world in different ways, but still manage to sidestep strict depictions of “the real,” thereby creatively communicating their beliefs. A creative element might transfigure and translate one’s ‘unsaid’ experiences for another while serving as a ‘whistle,’ or a call for attention. Furthermore, these artists, as put by Barak, seem to ‘prefer transfiguration to replication.’ A couple of the exhibit’s key pieces invoked the following motifs: the different sensational and mental experiences of perspective and seeing the past as a ghost.

These whistleblowers are determined to produce a tangible differentiation between art and reality by using allegories as intermediaries.

One moving image explores different sensations and mental experiences surrounding scope and perspective by stimulating our sense of sound, proportions, and movement. Switching between shots of a shadow and a murmuring sound, film appeared to be rolled in the background, followed by a sped-up view of it that seemed like a blur. The moving image took us between the different perspectives of the piece of film. In doing so, it challenges the viewer to distinguish between proportions by measuring and comparing against the flash of lost memory. The artist seems to ask the viewer to blur the still images that connect the jumps in time that we cannot physically see, while registering empirical measurements of space.

This mysterious ‘in between’ seems to be explored in ghost-like recollections. One image in particular seems to encapsulate the intense pride and emotion of empowerment. It is a close-up of Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial with his finger pointed forward, making a cogent point. A vignette on the photo’s corners backdrops the image, centering King. The photo is printed in black and white, recalling a time before color saturated images, recalling a less vivid but still painful past. The powerful image stands out as a moment of clarity in a fascinating photo exhibit.

Running from September 7 until October 15, the MOMENTA | Biennale will be featured at the VOX and UQAM campus alongside some independent galleries throughout Montreal.