Encounter of the third kind

    Thursday, March 7, 2002 to Saturday, April 20, 2002

    • Friday, March 8, 2002
    Rencontre du 3e type (Encounter of the Third Kind) is a collection of wearable objects Corine Lemieux has produced for people in her social circle over the last year; technically, it is an ever-evolving project that should never end. A close encounter of the third kind is an actual sighting of a non-terrestrial life form. The fourth kind, where there is physical contact, is an even rarer occurrence. Yet these experiences can take place among fellow human beings. Today, many of us live in the perplexing situation of being both estranged from and part of the mass. As a result, a certain frustration arises when we see ourselves in others because our singularity is threatened by that very recognition. This identity-limbo we maintain through our involvement with different groups, whether they are composed of artists, queers or punks, etc., indicates our profound need to be communal and convivial, despite our resilience to assimilate. Lemieux's sculptures, mostly masks and prosthetic devices, are outlandish hybrids of Lemieux herself, her partner Massimo, and all of her closest friends. Each of their faces is reproduced from moulds the artist makes, preserves, and constantly re-uses. She transforms the masks into diverse objects, making her studio resemble a sort of degenerate chain factory. After gluing a beard on one mask with hair she obtained from Massimo's chest, or making a double-chin for Olivier, she then sends her models out into public; doing so, she makes her circle of friends flagrantly alien. This is an encounter of the third kind. The performative act of wearing each other's masks in public involves the broader community in a rapport that is strange and difficult, and one that rarely amounts to encounters of the fourth kind. Hybridity: what used to be an artist's most beautiful metaphor is becoming a scary physical reality. It seems that everything "ugly" or "abnormal" in the human form may soon be "corrected" through DNA manipulation, and the Other will slowly brink on extinction. In contrast, Lemieux tries to articulate the importance of making powerful connections with and as Others, despite the global trend toward homogenisation. What a fascinating clan they are, Corine and her friends, when pretending they are half-men or monsters in public. Perhaps the project of hybridization can be true to itself only through art, as artists choose, by their own free will, to become that indescribable person of the third kind. Maybe we find our community by acknowledging our alterity. In Steven Speilberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the protagonist Roy asks: "Have you ever looked at something and it's crazy and then you looked at it in another way and it's not crazy at all?..." This may be, by more sophisticated means, Corine's point. Stefan St-Laurent