Health is an issue for each and every one of us and, as such, has shown up in artistic representations of the body throughout history. We see this concern echoed, for example, in the body assailed by illness and the ravages of epidemics like leprosy or the plague; in the vivisections of anatomy lessons; and in portraits of individuals beset by mental illness. While curative powers were attributed to certain images during the Renaissance, the art of today confronts us with scourges like AIDS and cancer; it gives us a different perspective on the world of contemporary pharmaceuticals; and it places us squarely before a body marked by suffering and, at times, by shame. Biological, neurological and medical knowledge resonate in the works brought together for this exhibition, and show how the borders between art and science are gradually becoming more porous.
Health is an issue for each and every one of us and, as such, has shown up in artistic representations of the body throughout history. We see this concern echoed, for example, in the body assailed by illness and the ravages of epidemics like leprosy or the plague; in the vivisections of anatomy lessons; and in portraits of individuals beset by mental illness. While curative powers were attributed to certain images during the Renaissance, the art of today confronts us with scourges like AIDS and cancer; it gives us a different perspective on the world of contemporary pharmaceuticals; and it places us squarely before a body marked by suffering and, at times, by shame. Biological, neurological and medical knowledge resonate in the works brought together for this exhibition, and show how the borders between art and science are gradually becoming more porous.

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

Petites proses

"Petites proses" - photographic triptych

Artist: Nicole Jolicœur, Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay
Collection of Université du Québec à Montréal - gift of the artist
c. 1998
silver prints on paper
120 x 120 cm each
2003.6.1-3
© Université du Québec à Montréal, Galerie de l’UQAM


Nicole Jolicœur uses photography to bring scientific and artistic ways of thinking up against one another, examining models of representation in the space she establishes for her interrogative strategies. The Petites proses [Short Prose Pieces] series attests to the studies the artist has conducted on hysteria, as 19th-century medicine came to know it and as it has been depicted in photography. Jolicœur is interested in the obsessive investigative activity of the medical world, as manifested in its clinical observation and documentation of wounds appearing, unfailingly, on female bodies. Her works point to the ambivalence and the element of belief associated with the scientific gaze, which thinks that it can adduce photographic proof to establish the iconography of inner turmoil. The triptych presents three busts of women covered with stigmata and markings due to the phenomenon of dermography, which attests to the fragility inscribed on bodies subjected to the ambitions of scientists.

The individual titles of the silver prints are: Petite prose I, Petite prose II and Petite prose III [Short Prose Piece I, Short Prose Piece II and Short P Read More
Nicole Jolicœur uses photography to bring scientific and artistic ways of thinking up against one another, examining models of representation in the space she establishes for her interrogative strategies. The Petites proses [Short Prose Pieces] series attests to the studies the artist has conducted on hysteria, as 19th-century medicine came to know it and as it has been depicted in photography. Jolicœur is interested in the obsessive investigative activity of the medical world, as manifested in its clinical observation and documentation of wounds appearing, unfailingly, on female bodies. Her works point to the ambivalence and the element of belief associated with the scientific gaze, which thinks that it can adduce photographic proof to establish the iconography of inner turmoil. The triptych presents three busts of women covered with stigmata and markings due to the phenomenon of dermography, which attests to the fragility inscribed on bodies subjected to the ambitions of scientists.

The individual titles of the silver prints are: Petite prose I, Petite prose II and Petite prose III [Short Prose Piece I, Short Prose Piece II and Short Prose Piece III].

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

Madeleine’s I/We

It started just like that. I have nothing to say about it, nor can I explain the appearance of the wounds. On two or three occasions, tiny holes formed on the upper parts of my feet and the palms of my hands. On my left side I had a three-centimetre wound that oozed blood and serum. It always happened on Good Friday. It's impossible to explain, I just have no words to describe it. Each time it happens the doctor gets all worked up. He drags out his whole kit to check whether I'm the one making the marks. He's even invented an observation device, a metal plate he attaches to my instep. Set into the middle of this is a watch glass, held in place by string. The whole thing is closed with wax seals. The tiny blister appears just the same. The doctors have come to the conclusion that I am the one who caused it, consciously-or even sometimes unconsciously, they say. They're not at all pleased with having me show them where their science leaves off. They keep looking, listing symptoms, but I keep telling them: no, it's not that.

At the slightest outward sign of what's going on in me, the doctor calls in Read More
Madeleine’s I/We

It started just like that. I have nothing to say about it, nor can I explain the appearance of the wounds. On two or three occasions, tiny holes formed on the upper parts of my feet and the palms of my hands. On my left side I had a three-centimetre wound that oozed blood and serum. It always happened on Good Friday. It's impossible to explain, I just have no words to describe it. Each time it happens the doctor gets all worked up. He drags out his whole kit to check whether I'm the one making the marks. He's even invented an observation device, a metal plate he attaches to my instep. Set into the middle of this is a watch glass, held in place by string. The whole thing is closed with wax seals. The tiny blister appears just the same. The doctors have come to the conclusion that I am the one who caused it, consciously-or even sometimes unconsciously, they say. They're not at all pleased with having me show them where their science leaves off. They keep looking, listing symptoms, but I keep telling them: no, it's not that.

At the slightest outward sign of what's going on in me, the doctor calls in the photographer, as if he could see it better with his apparatus. […] I have to spend long boring hours posing for them. They've shot hundreds of negatives, all the while classifying them, day after day. They've pinned them up side by side to make a big observation table, which they keep in a place well within sight, so that anyone who wants to consult it can do so. They say that, this way, they've preserved long segments of life. But what do these photographs have to say about me? Sometimes you'd think it was a man [in them], and sometimes a woman. Deep down I couldn't care less, but it's extremely important for them to know who I am. Ma-de-lei-ne: a woman. […]

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

Born in Beauceville, Nicole Jolicœur currently lives in Montréal. She has taught at UQAM’s school of visual and media arts from 1990 to 2007. The artist holds a master’s degree in visual art from Rutgers University (New Jersey, United States). Her work cuts across a number of disciplines, including drawing, photography, video, installation and writing.

Selected exhibitions
2007 Symptômes : État transitoire, Flevoland, salon double déformaté d’Aelab, Pointe-Saint-Charles (Québec) http://www.aelab.com/flevoland/reformat03.html 2005 À visages découverts : Pratiques contemporaines de l’autoportrait, Le 19, Centre régional d’art contemporain, Montbéliard (France) [Philippe Cyroulnik and Bernard Crespin, curators] 2003 Ruses : Nicole Jolicœur et Paul Lacroix, Vu, centre de diffusion et de production de la photographie, Québec (Québec) and Galerie Trois Points, Montréal (Québec) 1999 Lignes de Read More
Born in Beauceville, Nicole Jolicœur currently lives in Montréal. She has taught at UQAM’s school of visual and media arts from 1990 to 2007. The artist holds a master’s degree in visual art from Rutgers University (New Jersey, United States). Her work cuts across a number of disciplines, including drawing, photography, video, installation and writing.

Selected exhibitions
  • 2007 Symptômes : État transitoire, Flevoland, salon double déformaté d’Aelab, Pointe-Saint-Charles (Québec) http://www.aelab.com/flevoland/reformat03.html
  • 2005 À visages découverts : Pratiques contemporaines de l’autoportrait, Le 19, Centre régional d’art contemporain, Montbéliard (France) [Philippe Cyroulnik and Bernard Crespin, curators]
  • 2003 Ruses : Nicole Jolicœur et Paul Lacroix, Vu, centre de diffusion et de production de la photographie, Québec (Québec) and Galerie Trois Points, Montréal (Québec)
  • 1999 Lignes de fuite : Nicole Jolicœur et laura jeanne lefave, La Centrale, Montréal (Québec)
  • Espaces intérieurs : Le corps, la langue, les mots, la peau, Centro de Arte Santa Monica, Barcelona (Spain) and Passage de Retz, Paris (France) [Louise Déry and Nicole Gingras, curators]

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

dermography
Sensitivity of the skin, which momentarily retains the imprints of writing or other marks drawn on it. In the 19th-century, this phenomenon was considered to be a symptom of hysteria.

hysteria
A neurosis diagnosed in 19th-century, characterized by a range of bodily symptoms, some fleeting and others more prolonged. The fleeting symptoms generally manifest in aggravated fashion (convulsions, fits, etc.), while the others take the form of paralysis, muscle contractions, false pregnancies, etc

silver prints
Designates all black and white photographs produced from just before the start of the 20th century. This process made it possible to obtain an image by means of light-sensitive negatives. Digital photography has tended to replace this technique today.

stigmata
Marks left on the skin (by an illness or wound): scars.
dermography
Sensitivity of the skin, which momentarily retains the imprints of writing or other marks drawn on it. In the 19th-century, this phenomenon was considered to be a symptom of hysteria.

hysteria
A neurosis diagnosed in 19th-century, characterized by a range of bodily symptoms, some fleeting and others more prolonged. The fleeting symptoms generally manifest in aggravated fashion (convulsions, fits, etc.), while the others take the form of paralysis, muscle contractions, false pregnancies, etc

silver prints
Designates all black and white photographs produced from just before the start of the 20th century. This process made it possible to obtain an image by means of light-sensitive negatives. Digital photography has tended to replace this technique today.

stigmata
Marks left on the skin (by an illness or wound): scars.

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • demonstrate an understanding of how science and art can be linked;
  • try to explain the state of mind of the artist when she made this art piece.

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