The March 14 2007
Website launch Wednesday, March 14, 2007
« Verano » (« Summer » in Spanish) is a web art project by Isabelle Bernier.
It was started in 2005-2006 during the artist's residency at the Centro Multimedia of the Centro Nacional de las Artes, Mexico City. Isabelle Bernier is now completing the project thanks to a residency at Agence TOPO, Montreal.
Verano was inspired by a 1937 painting by Mexican painter « El Corcito » (1892-1964). It represents a couple of Mexican workers, dressed for winter, looking at the window of a luxury clothing store in downtown Mexico City. Inside the window are three blonde, fair-skinned mannequins wearing swimming suits in a seashore display. The painting addresses issues such as class and socioeconomic inequalities, racism, advertizing, the cultural impact of American models and Hollywood films, etc.
The web site Verano also reflects on these issues. Structurally and visually, it is a parody, an imitation of a fashion clothing web site. Indeed, in most sections, viewers may feel they are visiting the site of a jeans company called « Verano », but the seduction and slickness essential to such fashion sites are disrupted in various ways. One central element is a fiction story inserted throughout the site in the form of comic strip « speech balloons ». These balloons present excerpts from a character's diary, or blog. The narrator is a fictional Montreal artist invited to Mexico City to create a web piece on the theme of « Verano », the painting by El Corcito. The artist-narrator may not be a particularly engaging or likeable person but he does question himself_ up to certain limits. The site Verano refers in several ways to contemporary advertizing, its biases, its dubious seduction and incredibly artificial constructions. Another example can be found on the homepage (the 2nd page after the language options): if you roll your mouse on the sitting lady's hat, you'll see in the window a series of adds photographed in Mexico City, all showing fair-skinned people (quite different from « normal » Mexicans) enjoying new technology. Far from being the exception, these adds are typical of advertizing in today's Mexico, suggesting that the situation hasn't changed that much since El Corcito painted his work in 1937.
About Isabelle Bernier
Isabelle Bernier lives in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Her work, mostly installation- and web-based, has been presented in Canada, Uruguay, Cuba and the United States. In 2005-2006 she did an artist residency in Mexico City at the Centro Multimedia of the Centro Nacional de las Artes, thanks to a grant from the Quebec Council for the Arts and Literature (CALQ) and the Mexican National Fund for the Arts and Culture (FONCA). At the end of 2003, her installation Valeurs et investissements ('Values and Investments') was exhibited at La Chambre Blanche (Quebec City) as part of the 25th-anniversary activities of the gallery. This multilingual installation (in Arabic, Hebrew, French, Mohawk, English, Jula, etc.) stages fictional artists who reflect on various subjects - such as the power of art and the cost of freedom of expression.
Her work is concerned with the interaction between the 'private' lives of individuals and the sociopolitical, economic and cultural context in which they live. It also has a literary component: I write fictional narratives that are central to most of my pieces. These narratives are usually presented in several languages: e.g. French, Mohawk, Mi'kmaq, Arabic, English, Jula, Moore, etc. Translations form an integral part of the work and frequently underline its political dimension. They reflect my interest in communication between cultures, beyond differences or conflicts.
Whether it be in an installation or in a web piece (www.isabellebernier.ca), her work stages elliptic, incomplete stories, inviting the viewers to read between the lines. Some themes may reappear in different pieces, including power relations, violence and repression, but also humour, friendship and love torments.
Isabelle Bernier has completed Verano with the help of Agence TOPO, an artist run center from Montreal dedicated to the creation and dissemination of artistic websites and other new media productions. It stands also as a distributor of new media works on cd and dvd. http://www.AgenceTOPO.qc.ca