Caroline Monnet is an Algonquin-French contemporary artist based in Montreal. Her body of work includes sculpture, installation, and film. Caroline’s focus is on indigenous identity and bicultural living. She successfully captivates the viewers’ attention with minimalistic elements. This is her way of emphasizing highly complex themes and multifaceted ideas linked to indigenous communities, modern realities, and cultural histories. Caroline tells us that she is always in a stage of experimentation and invention, both for herself and her work. It means that the research process is part of the artist’s ongoing evolution and the end result can never be predictable or dull. No fakery. No fluff. Enjoy!
How do you define the type of art you make?
My work is often minimalistic while emotionally charged and it deals with complex ideas around Indigenous identity and bicultural living through the examination of cultural histories. I’ve made a signature working with industrial materials, combining the vocabulary of popular and traditional visual culture with the tropes of modernist abstraction to create unique hybrid forms.
I’m always in a stage of experimentation and invention, both for myself and for the work.
What have you created or contemplated in recent days?
I’m trying to finish the editing of my first feature film. It’s been difficult to focus during these times and working from a distance with my editor has proven to be challenging for the creative process and to nurture spontaneity. However, I’ve taken advantage of this time for doing heavy research on themes around trauma, resilience, the Indian Act and the aggressive policies of assimilation of First Nations by the Canadian Government. I’ve been watching a lot of archives from the National Film Board of Canada. I’ve been pushing to educate myself as much as possible, focusing on developing critical thinking and planning for projects ahead.
Who never ceases to amaze you and why?
I am extremely thankful, inspired and energized by the indigenous people around the world at the frontline fighting with a fierce determination for a movement that motivates change to heal destructive colonial and abusive patterns that has been simmering.
Can you give us a glimpse of your daily routine and how has it changed in recent months?
For the past five years, I’ve been working on multiple projects simultaneously, one after the other, traveling at least five months out of the year for work and hardly taking any breaks. I was proud of living a full, spontaneous, chaotic life. I actually loved it and was energized by the buzzing of creative projects, collaborations and travels. I was always pushing for more. Obviously, this changed drastically with Covid-19. My schedule cleared up. Travels and exhibitions got cancelled or postponed. I had to shut down my studio, and put production on hold for safety reasons. I’ve decided to move to the family cabin, about three hours out of Montréal, until things clear up in the city. It’s been a good decision as I’ve started practicing self-care, dedicating my days to a strict routine. Getting up early and focusing on the work at hand. I spent this time doing a lot of research for upcoming exhibitions and projects.
As an artist, I am constantly in a stage of producing and showcasing my work. In the past three months, I’ve been doing a lot of organizing, planning, coordinating, and visualizing. This has allowed me the time to focus my energy on things I had been putting aside such as administrative work, updating my website and readings for research material.
What type of memories you hang on to in order to mobilize for what’s ahead? My practice requires that I interact with several people, and although there’s some really good things about this self-reflecting time, I thrive on dialogues, conversations and brainstorming to push my practice. I am hoping we will be able to get back to a somewhat normal functioning system where I’ll be able to sit next to my editor and finish my film, or spend days in the studio with my staff and advance our projects. I’m holding on to the memory of a successful art opening, a film festival where you can present your film in front of an audience. I believe we need to mobilize as the Human race, regardless of our differences, against the destruction of the Earth, because otherwise these types of pandemic are bound to be recurring, and next time might be worse. Indigenous elders have been taking about this for years. It’s time we listen to them and for our political leaders to take meaningful actions. What's too much to sacrifice if we are asked to do so in the name of progress?
This is a hard question. What is Progress? It’s very subjective and can be seen in many different ways. I would never sacrifice freedom of speed in the name of progress. A healing process should include… Transparent and honest communication. Believing in yourself and others. #BeathTheBlues – What do you do to take care of your mental health?
I try to be as active as possible. I’ve realized it’s not always easy to get motivated for work or any other things when you are confined at home, not socializing much and keeping to yourself. But it’s very important to get the blood flowing, even if it’s just a little bit. I try to exercise and move around the house, get outside as much as possible as a way to shift the air and thoughts. I always come back motivated and ready to get things done. I mean, people have been saying this for years. Get moving in order to beat the blues. Your favorite word of the day: Tikow. Which means wave in the anishinaabemowin (Algonquin) language. Closing, can you tell us about one of your projects or collaborations you are proud of and can’t wait to promote live? I’ve been working on a limited-edition publication with Cree graphic designer Sébastien Aubin and his team. This will be the first monograph dedicated to my work and it’s been in the making for the past 4 years. It will include writings from people that played a significant role in the advancement of my art practice by supporting and pushing my work. We’ll be making only fifty copies, with a cover made out of cement. I’ve been working a lot with cement in my sculptural work and it felt appropriate to manifest this book into a collection object. Each edition will also carry an original artwork that is inserted within the book package. It’s an exciting project for me, that I finally found the time to fully focus on it. I’m thrilled to be able to launch it in the next couple of months. Thanks and good luck!
To read more about Caroline visit her website here or to watch her films/videos here.