Séripop: the art of failure

Scene staples Séripop present their first gallery exhibit in Montreal since 2009 this week. Here’s what they had to say about it.

Séripop has long been a fixture of the graphic side of Montreal’s music scene, with collaborators Chloe Lum and Yannick Desranleau creating some its most compelling art and images since they started working together in 2002 (as well as playing in the now-defunct noise project AIDS Wolf). While a lot of past work is still up for grabs at various print and poster sales, it’s been over three years since they presented major work in local galleries.

For The Options That Are Offered To Us: The Least Likely/The Most Tolerable, their current installation in Belgo’s artist-run Galerie B-312, the artists actually had to build partial walls to make the piece work. While the work was first mounted at Calgary’s TRUCK gallery last summer, they went through a painstaking process of fitting and gluing the trippy, brightly printed paper panels that line the floor and one wall to fit the contours and dimensions of the present gallery space, followed by a rolling paper installation that Lum describes as “almost like a bed-sheet that’s pushed back.”

“We kind of know what we’re doing right now. Almost. The dimensions in here are weird, the walls are at weird angles,” Lum tells me.

“You have to react to every room differently, because every room is different,” says Desranleau. “So we kind of had to do architectural planning for this place. It wasn’t done as a site-specific thing, but you kind of always have to think about that.”

“When we did this piece in Calgary, we didn’t even know that the waves were going to work,” Lum continues. “We’ve had things that didn’t pan out. Thankfully in places where the stakes were pretty low. That’s one of the good things about artist-run centres, and kind of the point of them I think, is to be almost more of a workshop than a gallery space, even if they are presented as galleries.”

“We like to underline ambiguities, but also things that are not perfect,” they kind of tell me together, supplying missed words and finishing each other’s sentences. Talking in the studio’s back space, the two artists quickly fall into the cadences of those who have spent a long time working and living together, complete with sentence co-production:
YD, laughing: We’re pretty ambivalent people.
CL: Our work is often about ambivalence.
YD: Or failure.
CL: Like, entropy.
YD: Things that don’t work. We often present things that fail.
CL: But I feel like failure is a really interesting thing in visual art, that doesn’t really get exploited a lot. Because to take risks, is to risk to fail. So if you’re never failing, it’s because you’re not taking any risks. You’re just staying in the known. I’d say that failure and ephemerality are probably our two biggest interests.

The Options That Are Offered To Us: The Least Likely/The Most Tolerable is itself highly ephemeral — not only in that it’s a temporary installation that will be dismantled at the show’s end, but also in its construction. Séripop has effectively wallpapered the gallery’s floor, a structure unlikely to hold up in the wake of a few hundred pairs of snowy, slushy boot treads. “They are paper structures on the floor,” says Lum, “and they often degrade throughout the course of the show. Or when we do more structural pieces, the weight of the piece will, like, shift over time and pieces will crush down on each other.”

Séripop’s installation takes up the larger part of the gallery space, but, like most shows at B-312, the gallery will also feature a video projection as a separate but complementary exhibit. In the side room, video and multimedia artists Joel Taylor and Patricia Middleton present La nuit dernière/Last Night, a looped single-screen projection that also speaks to the themes of ephemerality or temporariness.

Art, like life, is fleeting. Catch it while you can. ■

The Options That Are Offered To Us: The Least Likely/The Most Tolerable is on display through Feb. 9. Vernissage Jan. 10 Galerie B-312 (Belgo Building, 372 Ste-Catherine W., #403), 5 p.m., free

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