On the installation The Time it Takes | Le Temps qu’il faut (2014 – 2019) by Anne Ramsden presented at Occurrence. Espace d’art et d’essai contemporains (Montréal), March 14 – April 20, 2019.
With this recent video installation, consisting of three video projections with sound, filmed in the Morgan Arboretum, Anne Ramsden returns to her long-standing interest in museums and collections.
Part of McGill University’s Macdonald Campus, located on the western tip of the island of Montreal, this urban ecological reserve is home to 17 collections of native and acclimatized trees and shrubs, as well as a variety of habitats, both fallow and working farmland, typical of the Montreal region. In the video, Anne Ramsden shows us the site in a sequence of still shots featuring its collections and their respective characteristics throughout the seasons, from spring to fall.
Each of the segments, taken with a still camera fixed to a tripod, in a frontal shot and almost always at the same height, takes up the modalities of museum presentation, isolating everyday objects in a display case, particularly in a traditional museology. Moreover, Anne Ramsden insists here on the arboretum project as a whole, as a system of value and discursive practice, rather than on each of the species placed before the lens. Details of the footage, including identification labels, a garden arch, and benches, continually remind us of the deliberate development of this natural site as an object of conservation and knowledge-related research, as well as a place of contemplation, delight, and leisure.
On the other hand, the soundtrack disrupts this idyllic vision of Nature with various unusual noises testifying to the daily activity around the arboretum. Indeed, the sounds of train trumpets, airplane engines or highway traffic the rustling of leaves in the wind, the songs of birds and the buzzing of insects more usual in the context. The video installation thus opens up the sanctuary of the arboretum and underlines the threshold delimiting the profane space of our everyday activities from a natural environment preserving an “original relationship” with the world. In this, Anne Ramsden’s aesthetic proposal avoids a picturesque praise of the natural beauties of the site, and instead questions the philosophy and ethics underlying the conception of the Arboretum as a park and as a nature reserve, testifying to a singular museological view. This historical representation reduces Nature to an object of contemplation or a subject of knowledge, to the detriment of highlighting a holistic intangible heritage, anchored in a mutual reciprocity and dependence between species, plants, animals and humans.
In the context of the current ecological crisis, these small pieces of protected territory seem like little Robinson islands and meager lifelines to ensure a habitable Earth in the long term. In this sense, Anne Ramsden’s installation inscribes at the very heart of the break with the natural world that founds them, the need for an ethic of reconciliation with the living, taking into account the close dependency links that bind us to it and not leaving nature at the mercy of our unbridled and greedy consumption.