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Suzanne Caines
From May 9th 2009 to June 13th 2009
Split Pea Soup

Suzanne Caines’ videos bear witness to the difficulty of inhabiting public space; in them, she exposes her disappointments, her ennui, and questions the limits of relational art. Creating situations and engaging in conversations that broach and disrupt particular social conventions, her simple gestures raise many questions about audience expectation and the artist’s role in her community.

Caines uses objects to interact with people and to work her way into their everyday lives. These objects reflect a cultural heritage, are associated with memories, with patterns of thought and action characteristic of a social group. In Split Pea Soup, a video she produced during a residency in Portugal in 2007, Caines stands with the cashier behind the counter of grocery store and attempts, fruitlessly, to serve pea soup to the clientèle.

The artist’s approach is to create situations that have a connection with reality. In the 1960s, "reality was a major preoccupation, with a consequent refashioning of the 'art world,' from the gallery to the museum, from the market to the very concept of art."(1) Such reassessments would appear to be widely accepted now, and artistic interventions in public spaces are no longer the exception, nor do they have any revolutionary import. The art of public intervention and participation still has to find its place among cultural events geared towards entertainment, a context in which audiences are not encouraged to examine their expectations or to familiarize themselves with alternate forms of dissemination and enquiry.

In the gallery, the repetition of the filmed sequence, on two alternating screens, adds to the sense of a breakdown in communication, and of the subject’s isolation. One finds oneself before a document labouring to establish a connection with its audience. Yet Caines sets the spectator in the very space of the encounter, and for that spectator the entire situation becomes the work—and an accomplished one at that. -Marie-Josée Lafortune

(1) Paul Ardenne, Un art contextuel, Paris, Flammarion, 2004.

Suzanne Caines produced this project in within the framework of the Nodar Residency; she would like to thank Mr. Luis Costa for his support.

Suzanne Caines completed her MFA at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London, in 2004. Her work has been shown in solo and group shows in Canada, the United States, and Europe. She has participated in several performance and video festivals, as well as in international residencies.