A Rose is a Rose is a Rose : Sylvie Cotton

Fortner Anderson
October 12

Sylvie Cotton concluded her series of interventions at the Viva festival with a reading of text devised from one of her many one-day artist residencies, which have taken place in the homes of her friends and acquaintances. The text she read for the capacity crowd on Saturday night listed in alphabetical order all the names in the Montreal telephone book which signify something in the French language. These could be objects like Perron (exterior steps leading to the entrance of a building) or Marteau (hammer), or states of being like Léveillé (the awakened) or compounds like Beaulieu or Beaupré (pretty place and pretty field).

One common trope in contemporary art practice explores a re-ordering or re-rationalizing of commonplace or a generally overlooked logic of social life. Presenting objects or situations or information within a new context, the artist can reveal concealed aspects of social or conceptual constructions and so, hopefully, deepen our our understanding of the generally opaque world we live in.

For this minimalist performance, Cotton presented her long list from a podium in front a large screen that had been installed for two of the later performances. Enunciating clearly with a refined accent and no gestures, other than the movement needed to turn the pages of her book, her presentation had the air of a university lecture.

Such a compendium of names necessarily reduced the ethnic and cultural diversity of the population enumerated in the telephone book. Though the list contained some cognate names such as Cotton, Royal or Rose, these were few and far between. Instead the list led our focus toward a historical portrait of the Quebec francophone population and a further visioning of how language imprints itself in the body of the social.

Sylvie Cotton also presented four other actions during the festival which will be covered in another posting.