« How are we to speak of these 'common things', how to track them down rather, how to flush them out, wrest them from the dross in which they remain mired, how to give them a meaning, a tongue, to let them, finally, speak of what is, of what we are.
What's needed perhaps is finally to found our own anthropology, one that will speak about us, will look in ourselves for what for so long we've been pillaging from others. Not the exotic anymore, but the endotic."
Georges Perec, L'infra-ordinaire, 1989
For over 40 years, Liz Magor has been interrogating the 'infra-ordinary', the humble and mundane in everyday life, our society's compulsion to acquire, accumulate then forget, and our
intimate relationship with objects. To discover her work is to enter a silent world peopled by familiar objects that appear to carry the eloquence of their experience, the patina of
wear and the mark of a recent past. "Appear", because her sculptural research lies precisely at the meeting-point between the real - with obsolete objects from day-to-day life - and
the simulated, the illusionism of objects painstakingly elaborated in a mimetic relationship. Cast objects like towels, clothing and dishes are found in close proximity to real things
such as cigarettes, beer and liquor bottles, creating confusion between manufactured and studio production. In the subsequent distrust of our senses there is a chance to reorient the
relationship of things to each other and ultimately to ourselves.
Her sculptures seem to spring into being by their shape and identified function, before confusion sets in as we find ourselves face to face with frozen interiors, parties abandoned for
all time, animals, clothes and soft toys turned to stone. A cross between contemporary still lifes and memento mori, her sculptures speak of obsolescence and death - that of the objects
and our own. They also play on the register of absence and reminiscence, by sketching out possible histories and identities for the objects' former owners, their era and social class.
Her vocabulary thus conjures up notions of difference, identity, mental conditioning and even anthropological questions.
From this allegorical domesticity explored by the artist, there emanates desire, lack, dependence (with "addictive" substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, chocolate and snack foods),
the search for comfort or protection, and the pursuit of pageantry, as well as wear, neglect and abandonment. In this way, the spectre of our relationship with the world of objects and
their affective familiarity is displayed in her work.
Liz Magor's singular oeuvre subverts the conceptual requirements of minimalism (serial work, use of non-traditional materials and abstract forms, deepening of notions of repetition and
variation), through the ordinariness of her subjects, the refinement and sensuality of her work with materials, and the symbolic and emotional charge of the objects chosen.
Her attention to the ravages of time and signs of wear, and the preciosity of the "repairs" made to the objects - at variance with our compulsive appetite for the new and unalterable -
also situates her within the tradition of care ethics. Developed in feminist circles, this current of thought anchored in the social and political sphere prioritises attentiveness to
vulnerability and the act of caring over the process of domination and conquest that characterises Western society.
Occupying 1 200 sqm of the MAMAC and comprising some 40 works produced between 1989 and 2017, this retrospective is an opportunity to get the measure of Magor's unique proposition and
will offer a contemporary perspective on the museum's collections, based on the practice of diverting and appropriating the real.
Born in 1948 in Canada, Liz Magor lives and works in Vancouver. She is regarded as one of the foremost artists on the Canadian and international art scenes.
The exhibition at MAMAC was conceived in close collaboration with the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, the Kunstverein in Hamburg and realized in partnership with the Musée d'art
contemporain de Montréal and Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver.
Curated : Hélène Guenin, avec le concours de Laura Pippi-Détrey
The exhibition was conceived in close collaboration with :
le Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst à Zurich et le Kunstverein à Hambourg, et réalisée en partenariat avec le Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal et la Galerie d'art contemporain de Vancouver :
Individuals guided tours on saturday at 3 p.m. in French and at 4 p.m. in English
Individual price: €6 (free for under-13s)
- Guide of the exhibition
- Booklet games for children
- Press kit