Quebec artist Philippe Allard is well known for his monumental architectural interventions, produced in the public spaces of many cities, including Montreal, Lyon, Quebec City, Marrakesh, and Ponta Delgada, as well as for installations created from poor materials enhanced through artistic reuse.
Responding to the crisis in recycling and residual materials management that has gripped Quebec in recent years, the Musée d’art de Joliette invited Philippe Allard to invest all spaces at the museum, from exhibition halls to public areas and architectural structures, with a new body of work to be developed from residual plastic materials. The visitors are invited to track the works through the venue, often in unfamiliar places, and to observe the artist’s infiltration of the institution.
The project intends to prompt reflection on the overconsumption of plastic, particularly in relation to food. It is fully in line with Allard’s long-standing interest in architecture, city planning, and environmental issues.
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HDPE-19 : Outdoor intervention, August 15, 2020, to April 18, 2021
Infiltrations : Indoor Intervention, October 3, 2020, to April 18, 2021
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Philippe Allard, HDPE-19 (detail), Musée d’art de Joliette, 2020
Philippe Allard lives and works in Montreal. He holds a Bachelor’s in graphic design from Université du Québec à Montréal. His work has been the subject of both solo and group shows in Canada, France, Portugal, Morocco, and South Korea. Among the exhibitions, we mention those presented at articule, ATOLL art actuel, Fonderie Darling, and Confederation Centre of the Arts (Charlottetown). He recently completed a special project with Centre DARE-DARE. Wholly dedicated to site-specific interventions, he has been commissioned to produce many public and private works. Together with Justin Duchesneau , he won the commission for Montreal’s Place des Arts in 2009, receiving the AGAC’s public prize for their installation Courtepointe, in 2014, and authored the permanent public art work Le Joyau Royal et le Mile Doré for the City of Montreal’s public art office. Six of his public art works were produced in the framework of the Art and Architecture Integration Policy. His work can be found in the collections of the Cirque du Soleil and of the Musée d’art contemporain de Baie-St-Paul. In August 2019, we was part of the international publication 100 Sculptors of Tomorrow (Thames & Hudson).
Curatorial Text —
Industry’s transformation of the environment is a predominant theme in Philippe Allard’s practice. For the past several years, the Montreal artist’s choice of materials has reflected his interest in people’s consumer habits. Equally inspired by nature and its degradation, he encourages viewers to consider the proximity between human-made and natural worlds. His installations act as metaphors for the dilemma of our modern existence. Without being didactic, many of them make us reflect on the environmental impact of our behaviour.
Allard often begins his projects by collecting so-called “poor” or everyday materials from his immediate environment. As part of his urban gleaning process, he meets a variety of people who subsequently inform the development of his work. Although his projects promote environmental awareness, it is primarily a material’s physical properties and formal potential that interests him. Above all, Allard seeks to create unexpected experiences that will spark viewers’ imaginations, therefore, presenting his monumental projects in situ, whether outdoors or in public buildings, is fundamental to his process. For example, De plastique et d’espoir [Of Plastic and Hope] (2007), an installation in the atrium of Montreal’s Eaton Centre, used 65,000 reclaimed water bottles. Highlighting the material’s light-filtering properties, Allard created a suspended piece that addressed the issue of water consumption and the commodification of an essential, life-giving raw material, while also evoking the idea of plastic bottles drifting in the ocean. Allard is also well known for his collaborative projects with Justin Duchesneau (2012-2014). Using milk crates as their primary building material, the duo produced architectural forms that bewildered passersby and altered their relationship to this repurposed everyday object. The impact of their projects lies in their composition, which is based on the accumulation and repetition of simple units—water bottles, windshield washer fluid jugs, milk crates, wood pallets—that create imposing structures whose massive scale helps us consider the effects of our overconsumption and the pollution it creates. This same tactic will be used for Allard’s architectural intervention at the Musée d’art de Joliette.
PEHD-19 [HDPE-19] is an installation made of recycled plastic that was reclaimed from a sorting centre. A proliferation of multi-coloured discs—reminiscent of the rainbow symbol on social media and in public spaces that appeared during the coronavirus pandemic—dot the museum’s façade. The discs are composed of thousands of tiny plastic particles that are combined to form a dense but light-filtering material. Their accumulation reminds us of how this widely used material is now omnipresent in the environment. Interpreted in the context of current events, PEHD-19 will spread out to different sites across the city of Joliette, like a viral wave of infection, until August 2021.
For many years, Philippe Allard’s projects have focused on the presence of plastic in every facet of our lives, and in large part have grown out of his experiences and observations of daily life. Noticing the plastic containers piling up in his recycling bin, Allard wondered if the COVID-19 pandemic might have a significant impact on our current recycling crisis and the production of residual materials. Will the recent lockdown and the growing use of disposable gloves, masks, bags, and containers have a lasting effect on our consumer habits, to the point of exacerbating the environmental crisis? PEHD-19 helps us reflect on the overlapping effects of the environmental and health crises. It reminds us that human beings do not exist in a vacuum and that sometimes, we may not realize the consequences of our actions until it’s too late. Knowing that microplastics are present in our water and in the environment, and that humans ingest them every day, we must now seriously question their long-term effects on the planet and on our health. Will this pandemic make us forget the recent strides we’ve made in response to the environmental crisis?