Since the mid-1990s, Jean-Pierre Gauthier has created kinetic sculptures and installations whose inventiveness derives from the metaphorical power he attaches to the found objects that populate his work. He plays with these objects masterfully, in the same way he would play with musical instruments and components for capturing sound. Sound is essential, moreover, in his practice, which also encompasses performance, improvisation and composition. The Musée devoted a first critical survey to Gauthier in 2007; it also owns three of his works: two kinetic wall pieces⎯Marqueur d’incertitude (L’Araignée) and Marqueur d’incertitude (La Coquerelle), 2006⎯and the sculpture/musical installation Battements et papillons, 2006. In this last piece, a solitary piano reacts to visitors’ presence and starts to play for them, generating an immediate effect of surprise and wonder. Despite its shiny covering, the instrument is laid bare for us, revealing the wiring, cables and mechanisms that allow it to play and control its performance.

It is clearly of paramount importance for the Musée to bring strong works into its Collection, works that attest to the emergence and mastery of practices conducted outside the traditional disciplines. Jean-Pierre Gauthier’s original, relevant, hybrid approach offers a dazzling synthesis of visual, kinetic and sound art.

Orchestre à géométrie variable, 2013−2014, is a kinetic, immersive sound installation that was presented last fall at Montréal’s Galerie B-312. A definite highlight of the 2014 art season, this ambitious work filled the gallery space with a stunning array of sculptural and wall elements. It comprises nineteen compositions with succinct titles that reflect a unique musical inspiration. Some examples: Parfum d’Orient, Triste Soliste, Quasirock, Rush & Roule, Désynchronicité, Cymbales, all prompted by different styles of music. The work could be compared to a 3D drawing or a new musical language. The overall structure is based on a methodically regulated setup, a rationalized tangle of audio cables, electronic and mechanical components, and loudspeakers. Jean-Pierre Gauthier has truly transformed his way of working with programming tools and thus created sound compositions with this new, purposely programmable orchestra.

The acquisition of this major work was made possible by the Canada Council for the Arts’ Acquisition Grants program.

Josée Bélisle