Isabelle Hayeur : Solastalgia


Isabelle Hayeur : Solastalgia
Nov 19, 2015 – Jan 23, 2016

Robischon Gallery offers its second solo exhibition of Canadian artist Isabelle Hayeur’s powerfully poetic and environmentally provocative video installation. With intent to illuminate both environmental and human rights issues, Hayeur’s photography and video works typically shed light on contentious, ongoing societal debates such as the consequences of gentrifying city infrastructures or the aftermath of watery disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. In her previously exhibited video at Robischon Gallery entitled Flow, the viewer entered a vast and comforting, pristine natural world – though eventually, as is signature for the artist, a kind of submersion takes place where environments shift to those which are purposefully disorienting followed by hyper-focused images of industry at work. 

Also known for bravely projecting her videos in unusual or even forbidding venues such as long-abandoned industrial sites, Hayeur has endured calls to ban her work for its political content. One such site-specific video entitled Fire with Fire, which incited protests, utilized projections of flame in an abandoned building as a way to call attention to social inequities of urban decay. Each night that the artist’s piece was projected firefighters consequently discovered that they had been unnecessarily summoned to a fake fire. It was an enthralling, if provocative and passionate work intended to sincerely communicate through symbol that something larger was amiss within the city.

Presented in this current exhibition, the artist’s new and many layered Solastalgia video evolved as a response to the concept created by the Australian environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht. The concept, termed solastalgia, defines a feeling of unease tied to the upheavals and mutations experienced due to environmental changes.  This universal feeling or condition of homesickness felt when still at home, or when familiar surroundings have been altered or grown strange, can perhaps be further described as a loss of bearings – a concept which marries well with Hayeur’s identifiable visual vocabulary.  The artist’s recognized technique of filming just below or at the surface of water, as in her previously shown video entitled Flow makes visible, within its defined environmentally charged footage, a kind of disequilibrium or imbalance.  In Solastalgia, the sensation is heightened yet gracefully interwoven with variations; from the specificity of a seemingly active flooding of a home’s interior to a painterly treatment of far off silhouetted figures in boats.  Such haunting imagery within the video measures both the distress and the dream while the artist creates a sense of “holding reality in suspension” by positioning imagery of a human presence, side by side with Nature’s inevitable potential.  As in all of her series, Isabelle Hayeur reveals her dedication toward illuminating, through artistic means, the reflection and influence of humankind on earth, as it continues to affect the planet with its rising world population and industrial, technological, societal appetites.  In keeping, Hayeur’s Solastalgia is a deeply layered and complex work, intended to not only spark a dialogue surrounding ongoing environmental concerns, but at its core, through the experiential vehicle of video, Hayeur means to inhabit the personal along the way.

With both a BFA and MFA from Univesité du Québec á Montréal, Isabelle Hayeur’s work has been widely exhibited in numerous international museums, galleries and film festivals including: Today Art Museum, Beijing, the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée d'art Contemporain de Montréal, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein in Berlin, the Tampa Museum of Art, Akbank Sanat in Istanbul and Kassell Documentary Film and Video Festival. A retrospective exhibition was devoted to Hayeur by the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and Oakville Galleries. Featuring a monograph, her “Flow” exhibition has been shown in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Alberta. She took part in the Arles Rencontres internationales de la photographie’s Découverte Prize. A recipient of fellowships, awards and residencies, Hayeur’s works are part of many permanent collections such as:  the National Gallery of Canada, the Fonds national d'art contemporain in Paris, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. In 2012, Denver’s public art program at Denver International Airport commissioned a Hayeur video entitled Rising, a projection of an illusory and seemingly endless airport hallway at the Jeppesen Terminal located on the fifth level.