The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada 21 Sep 2019 - 05 Jan 2020
Vincent Meessen, Video still of Ultramarine, 2018.Video and textile installation with sound, 42 min, 46 sec. Courtesy the artist.
Belgian artist Vincent Meessen often works collaboratively, drawing on the combined knowledge of collectives to conceive exhibitions and projects that investigate the construction of colonial modernity and its impact on contemporary experience.
Blues Klair is developed around the newly commissioned immersive film installation Ultramarine, which focuses on a mesmerizing spoken word performance of the self-exiled African-American poet Gylan Kain, whose performances in the late 1960s were a primary influence on the development of rap. Accompanying music is improvised by Belgian jazz drummer and percussionist Lander Gyselinck. In relation to notions of errantry, the blues of exile, belonging and the poetic power of the word, Meessen’s exhibition also excavates the archive of Patrick Straram, an exiled French Lettrist, jazz and film critic, who immigrated to Montreal in the mid 1950s. There, he maintained vigorous exchanges with figures of the French avant-garde and worked on his unfinished literary project “Blues Clair”. The exhibition links the emancipatory nature of these histories to the 1969 occupation of Sir George Williams University in Montreal (now Concordia University) by West Indian students, which marked the struggle for equality of Black and Caribbean people in Canada.
In the blue layered textile structure that frames Ultramarine and multiple references throughout, the colour blue is the chromatic, historical and discursive filter through which Blues Klair is experienced. It is an alternative way to read history through color, ultramarine referring all at once to a pigment, overseas territories, trade, colonial and slave routes.
Vincent Meessen (born 1971 in Baltimore, USA) lives and works in Brussels, Belgium. He represented Belgium at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015). Solo exhibitions include Printemps de Septembre, Toulouse (2018); Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris (2018); BOZAR, Brussels (2017); Kunsthalle Basel (2015); KIOSK, Ghent (2013) and MUAC, Mexico City (2013–14). Meessen has also recently participated in group exhibitions at Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart (2018) and Taipei Biennale (2016). His films have been shown in museums including Kiasma (Helsinki); MUMOK (Vienna); Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid) and Lincoln Center (New York), and in film festivals including IFFR (Rotterdam); IDFA (Amsterdam); Image Forum Festival (Tokyo) and FESPACO (Ouagadougou). Vincent Meessen is founding member of Jubilee, platform for artistic research and production.