Friday, January 22, 2016 at 5 PM

Artist Talk
Moderated by Carsten Quell (in English, French and German)

Friday, January 22, 2016 at 5:30 PM

Exhibition Dates
Co-presented by Le Labo and the Goethe-Institut Toronto

January 22 – March 18, 2016

Goethe-Institut Toronto
100 University Ave, North Tower, 2nd floor
Toronto ON
M5J 1V6

Gallery hours:
Tuesday 1pm – 6pm;
Wednesday & Thursday 3pm – 7:30pm;
Saturday 9:30am – 1:30pm

Here are few exercises that may help you better appreciate this exhibition

“Monologues” by artist, Francis Montillaud

 Text by Guylaine Tousignant 

Imagine yourselves in a hotel room in France. Someone knocks at the door.

Toc. Toc. Toc. Toc. Toc. Toc. Toc. Toc.

No. Lets start over.

Imagine yourself here, meaning where you are right now. You are who you are, whatever it means to exist, you are where you are, wherever or whatever this place may be, and you are reading this text whose main purpose is to introduce you to an artwork, the artist who created it and their way of thinking.

In this case, the text discusses an artwork called Monologues and the artiste is named Francis Montillaud. You are maybe at the opening for his show and the artiste is possibly in the room. Or, maybe you are reading this text out of context, which is not a bad idea either, because it may pique your curiosity to discover more about this artist’s work.

Maybe you’ll stop reading right now because you still haven’t learned anything about the work of art (except its title) or the artist (except their name), or about their way of thinking. In the short term, you may not have learned anything.

So let’s start again:

  • It’s for you.
  • What is it?

I don’t know. I don’t know myself. I don’t want it.

During the course of  your life, you’ve learned a language or maybe several languages. You were shown how to use it in many different ways such as reading this text, to write, to create, to analyze this artist’s artwork and to communicate in numerous social contexts.

Here is an example of an exchange in a social context. You can witness this totally normal and real interaction interpreted by characters that are completely normal, or instead via the busts the people present in this installation. You can also amuse yourself by filling in the bullet points below, in German, as a first exercise to better understand this artwork. You can be creative:

French English German
  • Bonjour.
  • Bonjour monsieur.
  • Bonjour mademoiselle.
  • Entrez, s’il-vous-plaît.
  • Est-ce que vous allez bien?
  • Non, je ne vais pas très bien.
  • Good morning.
  • Good morning Mr.
  • Good morning Ms.
  • Please. Come in.
  • Are you all right?
  • No, I’m not very well.
  • Ha ha ha ha ha!
  • _________________.
  • _________________.
  • _________________.
  • _________________.
  • _________________?
  • _________________.
  • _________________!

In general, humans beings are polite and they follow the social norms they’ve learned throughout their lives. They therefore act accordingly in a public environment. For example, when we are looking for the washroom in a hotel or a restaurant and we want to ask where it is clearly or without awkwardness, we could totally have this type of common conversation with a perfect stranger, who seemingly has, because of the way they are dressed or their posture, access to the information we are searching for . Once again, you could observe this totally real but trivial interaction, interpreted by totally normal people, or again, by the busts that are part of the artist’s installation:

  • Where are the washroom, please?
  • The washroom, the toilet?
  • The washrooms, where are they?
  • The washrooms are there. They are over there.
  • Really?
  • Yes, really they are there.

But words, as you know, are not the only unique factor involved to determine an efficient interaction. We are expressive with our bodies, often theatrical even. We use the tone of our voice, our facial expressions, getures and body language to communicate with one another. At times, our own body betrays us. For example, we can say the word “yes” while, at the same time, our mouth communicates hesitation and a firme « No » with the shake of our head.

So now, lets take a second look at the first table and examine the interaction from this point of view. In this second exercise, you can amuse yourself by deconstructing this very simple discussion and by imaging the voices and bodies that accompany it. Be creative:


Text Tone Body Face/Mask/Torso
  • Good morning.
  • Good morning Mr.
  • Good morning Ms.
  • Please, come in.
  • Are you all right?
  • No, I’m not very well.
  • Ha ha ha ha ha!


Now, you can compare your understanding to that of the artist. As you can see, he is an excellent observer of human body language in its’ natural environme and he would probably love it if you could made a face at him right about now.

Therefore, imagine yourself here, meaning where you are right now. You are who you are, whatever it means to exist and you are where you are, wherever this place may be, and you have finished reading a text, whose main purpose was to introduce you to an artwork, the artist who created it and his unique way of thinking

You have completed all the exercises, you have appreciated the artist’s work, and you have made a face at him but then suddenly, you have the impression of feeling, being and behaving like a strange human being. You are actually a rebellious human being.

It’s at this very moment that we will ask you to mold your facial expression to keep it that way.

No, really, lets it again.

  • No conversation
  • What a brilliant idea!

About the exhibition:

By means of an arrangement of sound clip excerpts drawn from a language lesson, Francis Montillaud has constructs in his work Monologues, a video story featuring a set of characters who are skillfully debating one another and giving particular attention to the distortion of the meaning of common expressions. In setting the stage for a place where the mechanics of the theatre come up against the conventions of the museum, Montillaud has created a bridge between the mocking of self-image, the malfunctioning of the video and the caricature of statue busts.
More information about the installation here.

About the artist:
Francis Montillaud lives and works in Montreal. His creations have been displayed in a number of artist run centres and events in Quebec, across Canada and in France. His work fluctuates between installation, sculpture and video. His decompartmentalization of the visual and performing arts enables him to conceive works that feature different ways of representing the human figure, whether they be absurd, ironic, or simply humorous.

About the moderator:
Carsten Quell (Ottawa) was born and educated in Berlin and has lived in Montreal, Brussels and Toronto. He studied linguistics at Berlin’s Free University, at McGill University and completed a PhD at the University of Toronto in 2000. Since 2002, he has worked for the Government of Canada in the department of Official Languages. He is the Director of Policy and Legislation at the Official Languages Centre of Excellence at the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada.