Catherine Plaisance


Artist’s statement                                                                            Catherine Plaisance


My artistic practice is characterized mainly by experimentation with the aesthetics of disaster. I focus on creating landscapes of dystopic events that cause a break in the normal pattern of life. They may involve individual tragedies, accidents or even true disasters, making us consider the inherent fragility of our lives. Historically, art has constantly exploited the mutual opposites of attraction and repulsion, like having a conscious and deliberate intention to imagine being in danger and watch oneself react. By exploring the conditions for an aesthetics of disaster, I significantly broaden my scope, and seek to investigate, avert, expose, outmatch and, always, transform the catastrophic real. This subject has become a feature of my practice as a result of a combination of significant events and experiences, as well as a concern for the environment.


One of the main ways I have found to evoke disastrous events is through using miniatures, which provide a very tangible means of representing reality, while at the same time reference the codes of childhood. Their reduced scale thrusts us into the realm of fairy tales and fantasy, and has the capacity to elicit “responses” much greater than their physical size warrants. Since it echoes the particular emotions invoked by toys, what follows is an experience akin to the joy of children reinventing the world through its reproduction on a small scale—one they can relate to. In a certain way, referencing childhood gives me the necessary distance to be able to deal with complicated, ambiguous subjects.


My work also involves a second distancing mechanism, which consists of the photographic and video transcription of these disastrous worlds that have been created in miniature. We have all seen pictures of disasters: our time is awash in images of tragedy and catastrophe of every kind. Are there really more accidents and cataclysms than in the past, or is it just that we have increasingly wider access to such images? Social media and mobile communication devices now offer everyone the opportunity to show the events unfolding before our eyes in real time. This new form of journalism has certainly influenced our perception of news and events. There are two conflicting viewpoints in terms of the public reception of such images. Some believe that our constant bombardment with pictures of disaster trivializes them, tending to overload us and make us insensitive to the misfortunes of others. For others, the horrific images made available through the media enable us to grasp the extent of a tragedy and, by doing so, get through the post-traumatic shock related to the event, whether it directly concerns us or not. I would like my work to spark consideration of such issues.