Michel Goulet

Un signe de la main, Works 1990 to 1996
May 1 - July 6, 1997

Liste des œuvres de l'exposition
Curriculum Vitae

Goulet's exhibition at the Centre international d'art contemporain de Montréal, titled Un signe de la main, is his first showing in Montreal since 1990. it brings together twelve works, seven of which are brand new; the five others — Horizon et perspectives fuyantes, Profils/exils, R.E.A.C.H., La règle de Newton, and Le clair et l'obscur — have been shown in Paris, Laval, New York, and Toronto.

The sculptures are divided into two groups: serial works with truly "diverse objects," combined with fifty funnels, sixteen garbage cans, forty radio antennas, sixteen gear wheels, and twelve suitcases; and constructions in patinated steel that are simulacra of tools or pieces of furniture — false objects. In both cases, nothing is ever quite right in this world. Everything is recognizable, but transformed, Contradictory paradoxical. "Assembled in a particular order," as Maurice Denis might say. For his part, Goulet says, "It is between order and disorder. It is a new order. . ."

These modest artifacts, subjected to "unexpected rapprochements (to paraphrase the title of one of Goulet's older works), are put to a re-examination that reveals things quite different from their original functions, that lends them an imagination, fantasies. This leads to an accommodation between viewer and objects that infringes on all standardized models, on any ready-made responses. And it leads to a certain perplexity: it is difficult to feel any certainty when faced with a ladder that climbs to an impasse, a wheel that takes the angle of the first obstacle it faces, a lamp and a box that destroy each other, a tablecloth and chairs that obviate a table — to say nothing of the series of identical objects that dream out loud, talking freely of their repressions and desires to anyone whose look insists on it.

The tools are gradualy transformed into imaginary objects, and it would be a waste of time to try to classify them according to their previous functions. One would need other inventories, more open, more complex, more accommodating, more inventive... And Goulet is an expert on inventories, preferring them to inventions; he made them practically a profession of faith in the early eighties: "The art that discovers renounces the priority of invention (images, fantasies, random placements). Instead, it connects with private and collective memory. It tends toward the inventory of cultural attainments (constructions and behaviours) that allow for description rather than illustration, ornamentation, attraction, etc." Even though, through what is for him a customary reversal of situation, it is by drawing up inventories — often utopian ones, it is true — that the sculptor becomes an inventor.

It was in the same period that Goulet wrote, "Above all, I love to place materials. To organize materials, ideas, one beside the other, and then link them. To take two elements and set them one on the other, compare them, add them together. I never tire of trying to perceive materials, people, and things. To see what limits one might finally reach." And more recently, this forewarning: "Starting in 1983, with Fac-similé, I decided that the viewers, whoever they are, should never feel empty looking at my work, but that they could arrive before it with big suitcases full of all their experience and take the time, through this experience, to look at what someone else has done."

Today, Goulet still has the same attitude: at once skeptical, smiling, and open. This means that for viewers, the corvée begun with Sans toit/sans tog the collective work made in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli in 1984, is not over: part of the responsibility for form and content still falls to them. At times, it is as if one were viewing reconstructions by a utopian archaeologist who knew nothing about the function of these artifacts and arranged them solely on the basis of their shape. And so there are many excavations to undertake, and they are within the grasp of anyone who believes that a (good) sculpture can have more than one idea at a time.

Translation: Kathe Roth