by Sunena V MajuSep 07, 2022
The shared disproportionate relationship between humans and nature has been a worrisome subject-matter for not just a few selected but many creative minds. The fraught connection of the two frequently leads to the production of abstract works that hinge towards a didactic discourse. On the flip side, if the artist could string the two together in a more poetic style and less with an instructive lens, it could reveal the lost harmony with an emotive touch. Only to let the viewers be a participant rather than being an observer of this lyrical narration. The performative-photographs, sculpture and videos of the Canada-based artist, Alexis Cousineau, is an exploration of the environment with a touch of human sensitivity that allows the audience to see themselves in the works. For Cousineau, the physical landscape is an extension of the human form, only to be seen as the two mutually inclusive entities.
The artist documents his performances done in the absence of an audience that demand stringent concentration. Since the response from the audience is impossible, it gives the artist an opportunity to be mindful of his body in the spatial-temporal setting that informs each of the bodily moves. The end result is an invitation for the viewers to immerse themselves in the works. In an interview with STIR, Cousineau talks about the presence of the body as an omnipresent motif in the large network of nature, “Body and nature are materials in this collaborative conversation. Through performance, photography, digital arts and video, I explore the relationships between humans and their environment. My performative approach focuses on physically experiencing the external environment.”
The sculptural installations by the artist is a careful convergence of the selected few materials that would allow him to recall the performative aspect of the environment. For instance, in the series Mirages, Cousineau affirms, “I printed the collages on golden leatherette that I crumpled with my body afterward. The final materiality of the works refers to the light of the desert and its heat, by the golden reflectivity of the medium, and to the rocks that make up the ground, by the texture obtained with the pleating.” These two materials were particularly selected since they closely interacted with the body of the artist. He adds, “I always try to get as close as possible to a marriage between performative-photographic documentation and echo of the natural.” This in a way becomes a lyrical chord of connectivity between the two only to enrich their beauty and prowess.
To offer a deeper understanding of oneness and togetherness, Cousineau walks us through the making of the work Immutable, “I first collected pieces of the cliff to powder them and make a colouring paste. I got enough of it after almost 10 hours of work. I then coated my body with it and struck a pose on the cliff. Once the documentation was done, I printed the photos on porous paper which was then placed on the cliff to print the shape. A varnish has been added to the work to allow it to keep its shape. When the varnish dried, I sprinkled the dust of the cliff on it. The result is a two-dimensional work in which the body and nature have left their mark.”
Although Cousineau puts his body into performance to retrace the harmony connecting humans and nature, he uses performative tools too such as a large glass lens or a mirror to enhance the natural beauty of the landscape be it water current or the sky. With the work Under the Current, the artist says, “I had the glass lens made by a glassmaker. I needed this tool in order to feel and measure the force of the waterfalls. This time I printed the documentation of my performances on flexible, translucent plastic. The last step was to burn the plastic so that it ripples and creates bubbles. The final materiality evokes the water of cascades.”
Even if Cousineau attempts to reassess the symbiotic relationship between the elements of nature, he is aware of the near impossibility to do so in certain circumstances. To give an example, in the series Synchronize he sways to the rhythm of the wind in the hay, however, inevitably, fell a step back to achieve a sense of perfection. Towards the end of the conversation, Cousineau asserts, “I want to enhance nature through a process of revealing its beauty and strength. The physical discourses that I have with it allow us to better feel the links that unite us. I try to make accessible the poetry that emerges from this dialogue and, thus perhaps, to get some to reconsider the importance of this connection.”