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

colour video on Betacam videotape. French, 30 min

Colour video on Betacam videotape

French, 30 min

Video excerpt 4 min 28 s

To see the video please follow this link.

Chantal DuPont
Collection of Université du Québec à Montréal - gift of the artist
c. 2000
© Université du Québec à Montréal, Galerie de l’UQAM


Self-representation is a frequent theme in Chantal duPont’s work. Du front tout le tour de la tête [Headstrong] takes us on a journey in which the body of the artist, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, undergoes manifold transformations stemming from her radiotherapy. Video has enabled the artist to exteriorize her sufferings and, by the same token, to share what is commonly hidden under a wig and kept in the sphere of the personal and intimate. While affirming her anxieties, duPont turns the concept of the tragic on its head by daring to take her own denuded cranium as a pretext for playful exploration. With complete lucidity, the artist shares her experience of her illness with us, bringing us face to face with a host of dualities: the worlds of strength and weakness; of humour and suffering; of courage and fear; of life and death… The photographs of Toujours plus haut [Always Higher] grew out of this video piece. Intimate to a degree that is almost taboo, they show us that the body depicted in them is not simply “subjected to” the machine of medical science and knowledge, but also freed by the liberating power of art.

The individual title Read More
Self-representation is a frequent theme in Chantal duPont’s work. Du front tout le tour de la tête [Headstrong] takes us on a journey in which the body of the artist, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, undergoes manifold transformations stemming from her radiotherapy. Video has enabled the artist to exteriorize her sufferings and, by the same token, to share what is commonly hidden under a wig and kept in the sphere of the personal and intimate. While affirming her anxieties, duPont turns the concept of the tragic on its head by daring to take her own denuded cranium as a pretext for playful exploration. With complete lucidity, the artist shares her experience of her illness with us, bringing us face to face with a host of dualities: the worlds of strength and weakness; of humour and suffering; of courage and fear; of life and death… The photographs of Toujours plus haut [Always Higher] grew out of this video piece. Intimate to a degree that is almost taboo, they show us that the body depicted in them is not simply “subjected to” the machine of medical science and knowledge, but also freed by the liberating power of art.

The individual titles of the digital prints are as follows: Toujours plus haut: une lampe, une chaise [Always Higher: a Lamp, a Chair]; Toujours plus haut: un cactus, un melon [Always Higher: a Cactus, a Melon]; Toujours plus haut: un « A », une clémentine [Always Higher: an “A”, a Clementine]; Toujours plus haut: des galets, une boule [Always Higher: a Pebble, a Ball].

To see an excerpt from the videos please follow this link.

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

Everything changed for me, got turned upside down, the moment I was diagnosed with cancer; I immediately imagined myself sitting in the prisoner’s dock, facing an irreversible verdict. This experience made me acutely aware of the importance of taking charge of my destiny. Of course the fact of knowing, of being cognizant of the gravity of my state of health, altered my perception of time.

As an artist, I preferred acting to being acted upon. I filmed my head in all its states for close to nine months. Instead of waiting for my hair to fall out, I grabbed hold of it and, blowing on my fingers the way you would blow someone a kiss, laid my head bare. This became a ritual, one that took the form of a gift, a work to be shared with the public.

In my video, I use nature as a space for transformation and poetry. I compensate for my lack of hair by adornments that are taken from nature and that mark the passage of the seasons. Faced with a rapid acceleration in the transformations my body underwent under the impact of various "shock treatments," I opted to accentuate these metamorphoses by putting on all sorts of masks. My body became material for cr Read More
Everything changed for me, got turned upside down, the moment I was diagnosed with cancer; I immediately imagined myself sitting in the prisoner’s dock, facing an irreversible verdict. This experience made me acutely aware of the importance of taking charge of my destiny. Of course the fact of knowing, of being cognizant of the gravity of my state of health, altered my perception of time.

As an artist, I preferred acting to being acted upon. I filmed my head in all its states for close to nine months. Instead of waiting for my hair to fall out, I grabbed hold of it and, blowing on my fingers the way you would blow someone a kiss, laid my head bare. This became a ritual, one that took the form of a gift, a work to be shared with the public.

In my video, I use nature as a space for transformation and poetry. I compensate for my lack of hair by adornments that are taken from nature and that mark the passage of the seasons. Faced with a rapid acceleration in the transformations my body underwent under the impact of various "shock treatments," I opted to accentuate these metamorphoses by putting on all sorts of masks. My body became material for creative work, and my head a playground.

© La Revue du REIQS

Chantal duPont was born in Montréal and holds a master’s degree in art education from Concordia University, as well as a PhD in art education from the Université de Montréal. She has taught at the school of visual and media arts of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) since 1985. The artist has garnered numerous prizes for her work Du front tout le tour de la tête. More recently, she won the 2005 Bell Canada Award in Video Art.

selected exhibitions
2002 Cité des ondes, 5e Manifestation Internationale vidéo et art électronique, Montréal (Québec) 2001 Trames horizontales / Défilement vertical: La vidéo d’art récente au Canada, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Québec (Québec) 2000 Du front tout le tour de la tête, Galerie Graff, Montréal (Québec)
Chantal duPont was born in Montréal and holds a master’s degree in art education from Concordia University, as well as a PhD in art education from the Université de Montréal. She has taught at the school of visual and media arts of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) since 1985. The artist has garnered numerous prizes for her work Du front tout le tour de la tête. More recently, she won the 2005 Bell Canada Award in Video Art.

selected exhibitions
  • 2002 Cité des ondes, 5e Manifestation Internationale vidéo et art électronique, Montréal (Québec)
  • 2001 Trames horizontales / Défilement vertical: La vidéo d’art récente au Canada, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Québec (Québec)
  • 2000 Du front tout le tour de la tête, Galerie Graff, Montréal (Québec)

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

breast cancer
This illness, which originates in the milk-producing cells, is the most common type of cancer among women. Estimates place the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer in Canada in 2006 at 22,300. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a recent illness: discussions of cancer can be found in Egyptian papyri going back 4,000 years, and Hippocrates gave the name to malignant tumours over 1,500 years ago. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age; thus there were relatively few deaths from cancer as long as life expectancy remained low.

radiotherapy
The use of ionizing radiation to treat disease. In the case of cancer, radiotherapy consists in administering doses of radiation sufficient to kill the cancerous cells without damaging too many of the healthy cells.

self-representation
Portrait of an artist made by himself/herself. The self-portrait has been recognized as a genre since the Renaissance, a period in which the concept of individuality became a real point of interest. This type of represe Read More
breast cancer
This illness, which originates in the milk-producing cells, is the most common type of cancer among women. Estimates place the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer in Canada in 2006 at 22,300. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a recent illness: discussions of cancer can be found in Egyptian papyri going back 4,000 years, and Hippocrates gave the name to malignant tumours over 1,500 years ago. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age; thus there were relatively few deaths from cancer as long as life expectancy remained low.

radiotherapy
The use of ionizing radiation to treat disease. In the case of cancer, radiotherapy consists in administering doses of radiation sufficient to kill the cancerous cells without damaging too many of the healthy cells.

self-representation
Portrait of an artist made by himself/herself. The self-portrait has been recognized as a genre since the Renaissance, a period in which the concept of individuality became a real point of interest. This type of representation leads to the production of reflexive images in which the artist explores his/her own face.

© 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 video.

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