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

15 minutes d’insubordination

10 multifaceted interventions carried out over the course of a year in the pharmaceutical department of the Montreal General Hospital (4 internentions shown: discrete Interventions, Badges and Stories, Ouvrez-moi - Help Yourself, the Calendar). Various supports

Caroline Boileau
Galerie de l'UQAM

© Caroline Boileau


Caroline Boileau is interested in the motif of the body and looks at the idea of public health in relation to popular beliefs and brief anecdotes that she collects. Her project 15 minutes d’insubordination [15 minutes of insubordination] consists of a series of interventions that she carried out during breaks from her work as a technician in the pharmaceutical department of the Montreal General Hospital. The project took a year to complete, but the idea for it goes back to 1998.

Taking her work environment as raw material, the artist looked around to see if she could see things differently, in the process photographing specific actions, recycling waste, collecting souvenirs, coordinating activities and recruiting accomplices from among her colleagues. The "15 minutes of insubordination" accumulated, forming weeks in which the artist discovered a community with a rhythm all its own. Boileau infiltrated the highly regulated and organized system of a hospital pharmacy, making her process of experimentation the focus of her work.

The titles of the individual interventions are as follows: Read More
Caroline Boileau is interested in the motif of the body and looks at the idea of public health in relation to popular beliefs and brief anecdotes that she collects. Her project 15 minutes d’insubordination [15 minutes of insubordination] consists of a series of interventions that she carried out during breaks from her work as a technician in the pharmaceutical department of the Montreal General Hospital. The project took a year to complete, but the idea for it goes back to 1998.

Taking her work environment as raw material, the artist looked around to see if she could see things differently, in the process photographing specific actions, recycling waste, collecting souvenirs, coordinating activities and recruiting accomplices from among her colleagues. The "15 minutes of insubordination" accumulated, forming weeks in which the artist discovered a community with a rhythm all its own. Boileau infiltrated the highly regulated and organized system of a hospital pharmacy, making her process of experimentation the focus of her work.

The titles of the individual interventions are as follows: Interventions discrètes [Discrete Interventions]; Des macarons et des histoires [Badges and Stories]; Ouvrez-moi - Help Yourself and Le calendrier [The Calendar].

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

Interventions discrètes [Discrete Interventions]

photographed interventions on various supports

I have always collected medical toys. Among them were small plastic figures like doctors and nurses complete with hospital beds, stretchers and wheelchairs. Then there were all those sets of medical instruments tucked away in tiny plastic medicine kits made with curious kids in mind. During my work breaks I used these toys to develop and document scenarios I set in my work space, in the midst of its own tools and medicines. At first glance, the photographs I took of these scenes seem quite ordinary-that is, until you stop and look at the details, at those playful scenes receding discreetly, like images in facing mirrors, in a place already overloaded with meaning.

Find the mistake.

.- Caroline Boileau
Interventions discrètes [Discrete Interventions]

photographed interventions on various supports

I have always collected medical toys. Among them were small plastic figures like doctors and nurses complete with hospital beds, stretchers and wheelchairs. Then there were all those sets of medical instruments tucked away in tiny plastic medicine kits made with curious kids in mind. During my work breaks I used these toys to develop and document scenarios I set in my work space, in the midst of its own tools and medicines. At first glance, the photographs I took of these scenes seem quite ordinary-that is, until you stop and look at the details, at those playful scenes receding discreetly, like images in facing mirrors, in a place already overloaded with meaning.

Find the mistake.

.- Caroline Boileau

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

Photographed interventions on various supports,

Caroline Boileau
2005 - 2006
© Caroline Boileau


500 coloured badges

I drew on this stock of photographic interventions for images I could put into circulation in the hospital. I’d pick an image and use it to make a badge, which I’d then pin to my smock. I’d go on working as usual. I’d offer a badge to everyone who stopped to look at mine-but only in exchange for a story. Why do you do this job? Could you describe a work-related moment or event that you often think about? These stories were initially whispered in my ear, for we were always rushed and couldn’t stop for more than a few seconds… I transcribed the stories during my breaks, trying to recall the words that were used, as well as the tones of voice and facial expressions. But I really liked the shape of the words on paper. So I asked people to write their stories down for me, using a form designed for this purpose. The stories slowly began to pile up, and the badges went on circulating throughout the various hospital departments, from the pharmacy all the way to the intensive care unit in surgery.
500 coloured badges

I drew on this stock of photographic interventions for images I could put into circulation in the hospital. I’d pick an image and use it to make a badge, which I’d then pin to my smock. I’d go on working as usual. I’d offer a badge to everyone who stopped to look at mine-but only in exchange for a story. Why do you do this job? Could you describe a work-related moment or event that you often think about? These stories were initially whispered in my ear, for we were always rushed and couldn’t stop for more than a few seconds… I transcribed the stories during my breaks, trying to recall the words that were used, as well as the tones of voice and facial expressions. But I really liked the shape of the words on paper. So I asked people to write their stories down for me, using a form designed for this purpose. The stories slowly began to pile up, and the badges went on circulating throughout the various hospital departments, from the pharmacy all the way to the intensive care unit in surgery.

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

500 coloured badges

Caroline Boileau
2005 - 2006
© Caroline Boileau


an intervention carried out with pharmacy employees, involving a homemade photo kit: a converted plastic medical case, a disposable camera, bilingual instructions and a digital colour photograph

installation: digital photographs, acrylic magnifying boxes, sheet magnifier, foam board

I suggested that my colleagues take part in a number of "pharma-ludic" studies, asking them, for example, to photograph the insides of their medicine cabinets at home. I passed around a photo kit. The home pharmacy is an intimate and secretive space, one that retains traces of bumps and collisions, of (acknowledged or unacknowledged) problems, of somatic wishes and desires. But what do you put in a home medicine cabinet when you work in a hospital pharmacy? I digitized each photograph I got back, reduced it and inserted it into a tiny magnifying box. The boxes were then assembled into a grid on a sheet of foam board and displayed using a sheet magnifier. These tiny light boxes had to be observed from very close up; the images were unclear, imprecise; secrets had been well kept and intimacy preserved.
an intervention carried out with pharmacy employees, involving a homemade photo kit: a converted plastic medical case, a disposable camera, bilingual instructions and a digital colour photograph

installation: digital photographs, acrylic magnifying boxes, sheet magnifier, foam board

I suggested that my colleagues take part in a number of "pharma-ludic" studies, asking them, for example, to photograph the insides of their medicine cabinets at home. I passed around a photo kit. The home pharmacy is an intimate and secretive space, one that retains traces of bumps and collisions, of (acknowledged or unacknowledged) problems, of somatic wishes and desires. But what do you put in a home medicine cabinet when you work in a hospital pharmacy? I digitized each photograph I got back, reduced it and inserted it into a tiny magnifying box. The boxes were then assembled into a grid on a sheet of foam board and displayed using a sheet magnifier. These tiny light boxes had to be observed from very close up; the images were unclear, imprecise; secrets had been well kept and intimacy preserved.

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

An intervention carried out with pharmacy employees, involving a homemade photo kit: a converted plastic medical case, a disposable camera, bilingual instructions and a digital colour photograph installation: digital photographs, acrylic magnifying boxes, sheet magnifier, foam board

Caroline Boileau
2005 - 2006
© Caroline Boileau


digital prints on matte photographic paper, 10 months out of part of a year

100 x 32.5 cm each

I designed a calendar on which each month represented the total number of days I spent in a department where the work, humanly speaking, is very hard. I’m referring to the surgical intensive care unit. I made overlays with daily reports copied onto transparent sheets, which became harder to decipher as the number of days increased. I could hardly make out the few words I managed to read, since they were codes, abbreviations of the names of medicines that resembled lines in a drawing. This was a doubly technical process involving, on the one hand, carefully recording lists of patients’ bedside medication (noting concentrations, flow rates, release times, etc.) and, on the other hand, digitizing each page of each report for each month. Strangely enough, by the end of the process the digital drawings had taken on the colours of bruises. I say strangely because the colours did not represent an aesthetic choice, but were the composite product of the colour of the original page and computer digitizing.
digital prints on matte photographic paper, 10 months out of part of a year

100 x 32.5 cm each

I designed a calendar on which each month represented the total number of days I spent in a department where the work, humanly speaking, is very hard. I’m referring to the surgical intensive care unit. I made overlays with daily reports copied onto transparent sheets, which became harder to decipher as the number of days increased. I could hardly make out the few words I managed to read, since they were codes, abbreviations of the names of medicines that resembled lines in a drawing. This was a doubly technical process involving, on the one hand, carefully recording lists of patients’ bedside medication (noting concentrations, flow rates, release times, etc.) and, on the other hand, digitizing each page of each report for each month. Strangely enough, by the end of the process the digital drawings had taken on the colours of bruises. I say strangely because the colours did not represent an aesthetic choice, but were the composite product of the colour of the original page and computer digitizing.

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

Digital prints on matt photographic paper, 10 months out of part of a year

Caroline Boileau
2005 - 2006
© Caroline Boileau


Caroline Boileau lives and works in Montréal. She holds a bachelor’s degree in visual art from UQAM and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in the Open Media program of the Visual Arts Department of Montreal’s Concordia University. Her work reflects a pervasive interest in the medical and pharmaceutical world, which translates into a multidisciplinary practice combining drawing, video, installation, intervention and performance.

selected exhibitions
2006 Mémoires sauvées du vent, 3e Impérial, Granby (Québec) 2004 La table du corps, Maison de la culture Côte-des-Neiges, Montréal (Québec) 2003 Carnets de voyages \ Diarios de viaje \ Travel Logs, Sala 1, Centro Cultural Antiguo Instituto, Gijón (Spain) 1999 Ce que tu me racontes, ce que je te cache, Galerie B-312, Montréal (Québec)
Caroline Boileau lives and works in Montréal. She holds a bachelor’s degree in visual art from UQAM and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in the Open Media program of the Visual Arts Department of Montreal’s Concordia University. Her work reflects a pervasive interest in the medical and pharmaceutical world, which translates into a multidisciplinary practice combining drawing, video, installation, intervention and performance.

selected exhibitions
  • 2006 Mémoires sauvées du vent, 3e Impérial, Granby (Québec)
  • 2004 La table du corps, Maison de la culture Côte-des-Neiges, Montréal (Québec)
  • 2003 Carnets de voyages \ Diarios de viaje \ Travel Logs, Sala 1, Centro Cultural Antiguo Instituto, Gijón (Spain)
  • 1999 Ce que tu me racontes, ce que je te cache, Galerie B-312, Montréal (Québec)

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

artistic intervention
An art activity that takes place in a non-art venue, and that grows out of the most concrete types of environments. From performance and the concept of the site-specific, intervention borrows the idea of a singular experience which the artist only partially controls.

public health
Refers to the study of the physiological and psychic determinants of the health of a population, as well as to actions meant to fight and prevent illness. Various Canadian public health departments have launched initiatives covering areas relating, among other things, to physical activity, nutrition, pandemics, environmental health, the blood distribution system, tobacco use and vaccination.
artistic intervention
An art activity that takes place in a non-art venue, and that grows out of the most concrete types of environments. From performance and the concept of the site-specific, intervention borrows the idea of a singular experience which the artist only partially controls.

public health
Refers to the study of the physiological and psychic determinants of the health of a population, as well as to actions meant to fight and prevent illness. Various Canadian public health departments have launched initiatives covering areas relating, among other things, to physical activity, nutrition, pandemics, environmental health, the blood distribution system, tobacco use and vaccination.

© 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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