Julie Roch-Cuerrier Interview
by Hannah Nussbaum
An exploration of history, erasure, and the vulnerability of the printed image, Canadian artist and curator Julie Roch-Cuerrier’s work provokes questions about the art historical cycle of image making and unmaking over time, and how this process defines the history of art, our environment, and our very bodies. Her works begs the question: what is left when something turns to dust? How can something destined to deteriorate hold on to an essence? What is an essence, in the absence of a fully fleshed object or image?
With her practice as a central element, Roch-Cuerrier has curated an exhibition at Mile Ex Gallery Never Apart, titled “Water.” The exhibition brings together three women: herself, Marie Segolene, and Tess Roby. In dialogue with one another, each artist presents a conceptual project that examines water – both as substance and as analogy. Together they produce an exhibit that addresses temporality, borders, and edges. Her own work figures heavily in the show. Carefully curated across two rooms is her ongoing research project, “It meant the World,” an installation developed around an erased National Geographic Atlas. The erased atlas stands at the front and center of the installation; around it, the installation proposes various re-constitutions of the original atlas. Its pigment is sanded and collected into bags. It is re-articulated as ink on canvas. A video installation and sculpture draw out something more ephemeral from the central atlas, simultaneously mirroring its color and visual simplicity.
Here we had a chance to chat with Julie Roch-Cuerrier as an artist and as a curator, and what it means to occupy both of those roles.
Flanelle : Your practice began with erasure; can you talk about the first impulse that led you to sand the pigment off the surface of an atlas?
Julie : It all started with a National Geographic Atlas that belonged to my family. Over the course of 2 years, I developed a research project around it. I sanded off the surface of maps in the atlas to create ink made out of the collected pigments, using the process of erasure to look back at the history of printmaking and cartography. The erased maps of the atlas question the vulnerability of the printed image.
Can you tell me a little bit about your process – do you know what your final concept will be while you work?
In developing new works, I am looking for ways to seek the very essence of things, to distill ideas to analyze the way we perceive them. The incentive behind the work is always very clear from the beginning, the process is about finding the right way to materialize the idea. With the Atlas project, I wanted to go back to the essence of that book. Every new piece in that body of work is a different proposition of the original Atlas, each time represented in a further object or idea that express what I have found. There is always a narrative embedded in the process.
Your objects and installations are especially aesthetically unified – how would you describe this aesthetic?
My practice isn’t restricted to a specific medium. I’m working with elements, creating installations that combine sculpture and video, with an interest in print medias. The aesthetic is quite minimalist. There is a precision to my work: in the execution but also in the meaning. I
have a very pared down way of working; there is something poetic in the simplicity of the gesture.
You curated the show at Never Apart – do you think the act of curating itself can be part of an artistic practice or investigation? What is it like to curate a show that your own work is in?
I think the act of curating plays an essential role in an artist’s practice. As an artist-curator you have more control over the conditions of the work’s reception. I see curation as an important part of my investigations; curating allows you to put your work in perspective, to contextualizing it in relation to other artist’s work and challenge it’s meaning.
Do you think the concepts behind your objects and installations change and evolve depending on the nature of the exhibition in which they are situated? For example in this past exhibit at Never Apart, did your work take on new readings next to the work of Marie Ségolène and Tess Roby?
An artwork is always dependent on its context; the act of curation creates new ways for artworks to exist in the world. The exhibit at Never Apart looked into the twofold nature, as substance and metaphor, of water. I think the changing nature of water is an interesting territory, which opened up to a larger context of reflection that brings together art and environment. I felt my work took on new readings in relation to nature and to ideas of landscape.
Is there a thread between your practice and your own presentation – your fashion choices for instance?
I described the aesthetic of my work as quite minimalist and pared down; I think that reflects in the way I dress as well.
Do you have any other curatorial projects coming up?
The last part of my job as a curator for the exhibit at Never Apart is to make the exhibition catalogue, which will be published and launched in September. This is a really exciting part of the project as it will be a good opportunity to go into more details about the curation of the show and each artist’s practice. Another exciting project we have is to tour the exhibition in Europe in the winter.
Where do you envision your practice going in the next year?
I was really lucky over the last year to have the opportunity to exhibit my work internationally and to participate in a few European competitions. After focusing mostly on the curating aspect of my practice, I’m looking forward to spending more time in the studio next year and start on anew body of work.
The exhibition remains up at Never Apart until October 1st.