What about the relationship between humans and territories, their mutual histories and the feeling of territoriality? Are they indicative of our complex, sometimes intimate, relationships to the places we live in, frequent or visit? First text of a two-part series.
Inspired by recent works by Andréanne Godin, I examine aspects of this psyche, often at the heart of the eco-anxiety disorder that many of us experience.
From the territory to Terrestrial
For several years now, Andréanne Godin has been exploring her personal relationship to the land, particularly to the Abitibi forest, once close to her family home. In the installation L’endroit où tu existes encore (2022), a canvas mounted in a hemicycle immersed in darkness comes to life according to a subtle modulation of the lighting designed by Karine Gauthier. The slow passages from a red light to a bluer light, and vice versa, give life to this forest landscape. The subtle emergence of certain details and the gradual fading of others solicit contemplative attention, even contemplation. The work of dry pigments brings to light dusk and dawn, aurora borealis, snowy landscapes and the melting of snow in spring. It also evokes the forest fires that marked the Abitibi region at the beginning of the 20th century, and the ancient geological activity characteristic of this mining region.
Contrary to the usual perspective, the territory is thus shown animated by a history of its own and as an actor in its own right in a dynamic in which humans are involved. The philosopher Bruno Latour suggests to designate by the «Terrestrial» this power to act, which, in the context of the climate crisis, appears to turn against us. Nature is no longer content with a status of scenery, or backstage, to which it has been reduced by notions of progress or modernity, linked in particular to colonialism and the industrial revolution. Andréanne Godin represents here the dynamic power of this agent, today less discreet, even sometimes devastating.
Moreover, in her work, landscape representation is also offered as an accumulation of memories of past experiences and walks, mostly from her childhood, but also from travels or residences. In the exhibition Reconciling your absence was impossible for me (2020), small paintings with singular framing effects, presented with black spruce or birch branches and granite rocks streaked with quartz veins, suggest an intimate embodied look at her native region.
The return to the self at the heart of his work is experienced in a dynamic dialogue with the territory, where the earthiness described above is expressed. As the novelist and essayist Siri Hustvedt points out in her book What Are We? we apprehend the people, objects or places that surround us from multiple simultaneous points of view. We organically inhabit the world as “I” and this perspective is crucial to experience. In return, this openness confronts us with the reality of the world and its power to act, and consequently changes who we are and what we feel. Fragments of a conversation, the titles of Godin’s installations underline this situation of permeable dialogue with the territory. As the very object of his works, from an “objective” third-person point of view, these reciprocal relationships suggest a physicality acting on both sides. Indeed, it is in part this face-to-face relationship, one individual at a time, that constitutes the object of this artist’s exploration, far more than a landscape per se.
In the exhibition À travers les scènes de ta mémoire, she turns this intimate experience into a territory shared with others. For the creation of the work Descriptions of Landscape (2015), she invites people to describe natural sites important to them, which she then transposes into drawings according to her interpretation of these fragmentary, often charged memories. Her work of accumulation and blurring of dry pigment represents the vaporous space of their memories and affects that also marks their experience of place. More than a territory of origin or belonging, nature is explored by Andréanne Godin according to the dynamics of its specificity. It also corresponds to a psychic space, where territoriality is the result of an almost geological sedimentation of intimate and personal experiences, much more than of a property title.