Isabelle Hayeur is a digital image artist recognized for her large-sized photographic montages, her videos, and her site-specific installations, in which she highlights urban blights and sprawl, among a number of industrial society's pitfalls.
Hayeur's childhood in the Montreal suburb of Bois-des-Filion has had a lasting impact on her artistic practice. As in many peripheral towns in Quebec, and more generally in the industrialized world, the landscape there has been subject to perpetual transformation. In her works, she is interested in the state of those territories, altered as they are by the array of technology at humanity’s disposal. Such powerful technical means reconstruct landscapes and, through a feedback effect, fashion human identity in turn. Effecting a reversal of the technocratic ideology
driving these processes, Isabelle Hayeur uses digital imaging technologies and puts together new landscapes made from pictures of the above-mentioned territories. If the resulting image feels as familiar as the environments surrounding us, the process on the other hand reveals the flaws inherent in our ways of dwelling in the world, by questioning industrial society's subjugation of territories to their needs.
Isabelle Hayeur's works have been widely shown, including many major public shows, such as the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts (USA), the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (Berlin, Germany), the Tampa Museum of Art (USA) and Akbank Sanat (Istanbul, Turkey). She has also participated in numerous artist residencies. In 2006, a first retrospective exhibition was devoted to Hayeur by the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and Oakville Galleries. Featuring a monograph, this exhibition has been shown in the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Alberta. That same year, she took part in the Arles Rencontres internationales de la photographie (France) in the context of its Découverte prize.
Flow, Isabelle Hayeur, HD video, (10:45 minutes), 2013
Uprooted, Isabelle Hayeur, HD video, (10:45 minutes), 2012
Her works are to be found in some twenty collections, including those of the National Gallery of Canada, the Fonds national d'art contemporain (Paris, France), 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 (Chicago, USA).
Isabelle Hayeur Artist Statement
Through my work, I have been investigating the ways in which we invest in and occupy space to gain a deeper understanding of landscape states in order to comprehend our society’s relationship to its environment. Landscape representations are attitudes of awareness; our interpretations of them and their spatial compositions bring us new visions of the world and ourselves.
The spaces in which we live show clear evidence of the rapid pace and multiplicity of changes that have occurred over the past century. Our natural, rural and urban environments have undergone dramatic upheavals, particularly in the past 30 to 40 years. The current landscape is a coming together of radically different and often contradictory spaces. For us, this ever-more fragmented territory has become familiar and we often traverse it without awareness. Indeed, the fragmentation of the landscape closely parallels the compartmentalization of our activities and time.
The highly mediatized world in which we live surrounds us with abstract spaces and manufactured environments. Our perceptions are inhabited by aspects of a technical culture that transforms, condenses and re-directs them toward a world that is increasingly constructed and orchestrated. A new space is gradually being engineered, one that is inextricably confounding reality and fiction.
We have the privilege of constructing our world to unprecedented lengths by acting on our surroundings and intervening in the course of events as never before. It is thus particularly important that we assume responsibility for the landscapes we create and the worlds we imagine. These are the reflections that have informed my work over the past several years.
My artistic practice has primarily revolved around video and photography. From 1997 to 2001, I belonged to Perte de signal, a collective dedicated to emerging media artists, of which I was a founding member.
Early works dealt with built landscapes and the transformations undergone by "nature" sites with photographic series such as Uncertain landscapes (1998 - 2002) and the video Vertige (2000). From 2003 to 2008, I took a more definite political stance in many of my photographic series, with themes such as the critique of the notion of progress, of the tradesman's mentality ruling our society, of social inequality and gentrification.
My work also began to be more site-specific with reflections on my environmental and urban concerns. Like my photographic work, these works played with an impression of reality; they seemed to extend the architectural space they occupied, inserted as trompe-l'œil in their environments. In 2004, I created a video installation entitled Issue within the old Des Carrières incinerator in Montreal. I developed Fire with Fire for the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad. This work simulated a fire in a historic building in downtown Vancouver. In 2012, the public art program of Denver International Airport commissioned a video work: the result was Rising, an installation simulating an infinite elevator lobby.
In 2008, I started exploring waterways and documenting submerged environments of all kinds, especially in altered sites. I made several shooting trips throughout North America, including to a Staten Island boat cemetery, the Everglades and the Louisiana bayous.
In 2009, I returned to video, exploring the possibilities offered by High Definition technology. I created Losing Ground, a critique of global urban sprawl and the resulting erosion and homogenization of the countryside. With its negation of city history, of geographic particularities, and thus of cultural memory, this standardized urbanization imposes its amnesia, individualistic lifestyle, and jarring presence onto nature. Filmed in Quartier DIX30 in Brossard, the biggest lifestyle center in Canada, the video sounds out recently man-made territories to decipher humanity’s relationships with the environment. It confronts us with the dizzying spectacle of our diminishing local references, as they give way to cultural stereotypes, now become universal through globalization.
Recent technological changes have transformed natural and rural environments, to the point of producing uniform, ever-more polluted environments in their stead. Uprooted probes these territories fashioned by humanity, deciphering his relationship to his environment and thereby questioning his ways of being. This video explores the peripheries of some North American cities, strangely alike in that none of them feels like somewhere. Their excessive width, standardization and shapelessness generate a sense of uneasiness. Urban upheavals can turn the most familiar locale into an unrecognizable, anonymous, even forbidding place. On this blank slate, local memory is forever erased.
Residence, Uncertain Landscapes Series, inkjet print, (91.44 x 396.24cm), 2000
Nadia, Model Home Series, inkjet print, (109.22 x 157.48cm), 2004
Chemical Coast 02, Underworlds Series,inkjet print, (129.54 x 182.88cm), 2011