OPEN STUDIO: ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE
FEB 21 to MARCH 25, 2022
ABOUT THE ARTIST / DOMINIQUE PÉTRIN
Dominique Pétrin is a visual artist living and working in between Montreal and rural Sainte-Adèle, Canada. For the past fifteen years, Dominique Pétrin has been working on installations created in situ, composed of hand silkscreen printed paper, cut, assembled and pasted to the walls in order to create immersive environments. A former member of the petrochemical rock band Les Georges Leningrad from 2000-2007, she also collaborated with renowned artists such as Sophie Calle, Banksy, Pil and Galia Kollectiv and choreographers Antonija Livingstone, Stephen Thompson and Andrew Tay. Her work has been exhibited in many artist-run centers across Canada, at the Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal, Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québecand have been nominated for the prestigious Sobey Art Award 2014.
"Since March 2020, I have been living in the Laurentian forest, a mountainous area that is located on unceded Omàmìwininìwag territory. I have been exploring through performance the use of camouflage elements that are aiming to enshroud my body into nature. I'm intending through a performance of camouflage to express a general discomfort with dominant discourses in environmentalism and current trends in our western society that are aiming to 'reconnect' with nature. Camouflage already presents an ambiguity, as "it is a form of self-world embedding, contains within it both the potential of harmonizing with nature and preparing for its ruin”. The use of camouflage in my research is intentionally ambiguous: it depicts many aspects of camouflage in regards with queerness, ageism and survival through crisis. During my residency, I will create a ghillie suit in order to perform a winter camouflage on a frozen lake."
 Levin, Laura. Embedded Performance. Performing ground: space, camouflage and the art of blending in. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
Background image credit: Paul Litherland
FEBRUARY 28th, 2022 / RESEARCH AND LOCATION
"Over the last decade, I have had amazing opportunities to make art and to be visible in the art world. I was bouncing from one project to another, and it seemed like this visibility would take me everywhere, up until the moment I could not sustain the pace of work it required. In 2018, I found myself empty and tired, on the edge of a burnout. I felt that my practice was endangered and getting redundant, and had lost the energy and light that has been driving me for so long. I had lost my momentum, and felt an overwhelming sense of disposability. As a woman in her mid-forties, this sense of disposability was also manifesting in how I perceived my own body, permeated with an intoxicating view prescribed on the aging body. I could have fought against it, but decided instead to embody this state of disappearance through performance. I felt this was a lead for potential transformation, healing and rejuvenation for my art practice. My research within the spectrum of in/visibility is undoubtedly seeding from the perspective of a cis-white woman, and experienced as a process of taking accountability and responsibility within a society going through a major metamorphosis.
“A reduced sense of visibility does not necessarily constrain experience. Associated with greater empathy and compassion, invisibility directs us toward a more humanitarian view of the larger world. This diminished status can, in fact, sustain and inform—rather than limit—our lives. Going unrecognized can, paradoxically, help us recognize our place in the larger scheme of things”.
Akiko Busch, The Invisibility of Older Women, The Atlantic, February 29th, 2019.
I’m currently working on the second part of my project on camouflage, which is part of my ongoing MFA thesis research. This last week, I have been researching locations around Lac Richer in Sainte-Adèle, where I will be filming a few scenes in which a creature will blend into its environment, in order to emerge in a new form."
Image Credit: Kelsey Pearson
MARCH 10th, 2022 / E-MERGING FORMS
"During the past twelve years, I have been creating large scale installations, produced in situ, and composed of hand silkscreen printed paper, cut, assembled and pasted to the walls in order to create immersive environments. I was interested in the aspects of cognitive science and perception in relationship with the fabric of the interface, and how these interfaces have transformed the modes of representation in our society.Inspired by these ideas, my installations playfully challenged human perception to disturb or reveal representations of a space that doesn’t actually exist but acts as a theatre of the imagination. My process was reinforced by the strategic use of contrasting colours and intricately mixed patterns, which troubles the viewer’s cognition. My work was reflecting on the nature of the interface, as an embedment for conduct, languages, values, worldviews and aesthetics into technological infrastructures that are shaping our perception of our environment. Interestingly, I’m realizing that this specific period in my art practice was already an attempt to camouflage in a hyper visibility mode. The installation was performing as the costume of a Zanni character in Commedia dell’arte, with its dizzying and overwhelming patterns, as a deliberate way to conceal identity.
This past week, I have been working on a device that can make me disappear. The challenge was to create something – an envelope, a structure that enables me to merge within the environment. I watched the movie Predator, a 1987 American science fiction action horror film starring Arnold Schwarzennegger. The deadly Predator is a technologically advanced alien who stalks and hunts down a paramilitary rescue team on a mission to save hostages in guerrilla-held territory in a Central-American rainforest. I’m fascinated by the flickering moments where there is a doubt, or anticipation of the presence of otherness embedded into the fibre of the perceived environment. I’m interested in the moment where things appear and disappear, or even when imagination interferes with the optical vision. In the movie Predator, the patterns created with the visual digital FX makes a dynamic moiré pattern that reveals what is hidden.
In that sense, I have always been interested by all Trickster characters like the Zanni, “as the great shape-shifter, not so much because they shift their own body, but that, given the materials of this world, they demonstrate the degree to which the way we have shaped these materials may be altered”. Part of my interest in this research is a desire to blend more fully in the patterns and geometries of dominant forms, to insert into the picture, in order to explore the interstices and gaps within a particular spatial matrix. I find interesting to use these strategies that are ambiguously shifting the figure of predator/pray as ‘tactical identifications’, as described by José Muñoz, which attempt ‘to transform a cultural logic from within’."
 Lewis Hyde, Trickster makes this world: Mischief, myth and art, FSG,1998, p.91
MARCH 21st, 2022 / SPRING FEVER
This week I have partially completed my snow camouflage costume, which allowed me to make some preliminary tests, in order to get ready to film in early April.
I did some tests in the gardens of my friend Bonnie Baxter, where I worked with a photographer and a drone operator, to complete testing on how the costume blends with its environment and how to perfect the camouflage aspects in terms of volume, texture and colour. I’m still unsure how much I would like it to blend – or not with its environment. Do I want to define a body shape, or more likely a mass of snow – partially, or not, or a mix of both? What is revealed and what is hidden to the viewer? If the snow character stands off from the background, how is it to be read: as a deliberate act of imposture that might generate comedic content? Does it imply a 'failure of camouflaging', which intentionally creates a situation of mimicking nature, in mockery of performative white privileged views of becoming one with the environment? Or would it be reminiscient of the costumes from Das Triadische Ballett (1012) by Oskar Schlemmer, through an assimilation of the body into geometric patterns operating as a masquerade in the realm of failure?
After viewing many disturbing YouTube videos on how to make a ghillie suit intended for amateur snipers and hunters, my mind is definitely setting on camouflage worn by a trickster figure that function as a revealing agent, rather than an extracting one. In that sense, I foresee this work as anticipated, or even an assumed act of failure, which will eventually lead to the emerging of a creature of hyper visibility.
From the first test images, the shape of snow is still too much reading as a human body form. It requires more shaping and volume, and should be more a snow pile. It looks too much like a Halloween costume, because of the way I have shaped the under garment on which snowballs and texture are attached. I’m starting to get anxious about the upcoming thaw, that could compromise my initial plans. I better hurry up.
Image credit: Claude Labrèche-Lemay
Das Triadische Ballet image: unknown source
MARCH 28th, 2022 / PERFECT CAMOUFLAGE
During this second week of camouflage testing, I have been working on improving my costume, making it blend more efficiently with its environment. Instead of using machine sewn snowballs as shown in my second post, I figured that using different shapes of fabric, hand stitched and stuffed with fiberfill, conveys a more realistic snow texture. The camouflaging also works better in melting snow conditions, as the snow appears more textured and lumpy. The shape of the costume is slowly morphing from a human figure to a creature, which brings lots of possibilities in the potential meanings for this character.
There are polarized views in performative camouflage, as this form contains within it a visual ambivalence with respect to interiority and exteriority, fitting in and standing out. I would think of using camouflage as a flickering threshold, an unreliable surface obliterating a possibility for nailing down a certainty, or as an agent of confusion in the realm of survival within a normative landscape. In Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others, Sara Ahmed explains how "…sex, gender and sexual orientation are kept in line, often through force, such that any nonalignment produces a queer effect". I see camouflage in this work as a formal way to illustrate this nonalignment agent, whether it happens in normative definitions of sexuality, environment, gender. In that sense, camouflage lines up with Haraway's definition of 'trouble', "…derivative of the thirteen-century French verb meaning ‘to stir’, ‘to make cloudy’, to ‘disturb’ ”. More than ever, “we all live in disturbing times, mixed-up times, troubling and turbid times", that are speaking about our relationship with the environment and non-human livings, as well how we manage life and death within our own species, but also how we forcefully intervene in others.
This past weekend, I went to Lac Richer where I’m intending to film with a drone. Unfortunately, the thaw is making the lake too dangerous to shoot on, so I decided to film in a frozen swamp area that is safer to walk on. It will work better to film in melting conditions, as my snow texture is more reminiscent of an early spring snow, than a winter wonderland fluff fantasy. Since there is still at least 3 feet of snow in some areas, I couldn’t even walk outside the designated trails. I had to figure out this week a way to cover my snowshoes and include them in the costume.
[i] Ahmed, Sara. “Chapter 2: Sexual Orientation.” Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham: Duke UP, 2006, p 83.
[ii] Haraway, Donna J. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. 2016,
Photos by Joshua Sherrett
APRIL 22nd, 2022 / POSSIBLE OUTCOMES PART 1
After multiples tests, I finally came out with a final version of the costume that is blending well with the early Spring snow landscape. During the first weekend of April, I planned to film some drone footage in order to rehearse the different takes to be filmed, but also to figure out the right angles, drone trajectory and height for each scene. I had to practice walking in snowshoes with limited vision, and to understand the right pace and the movement appropriate for the snow character in action. There are scenes when the creature is slowly morphing and merging into their environment, so I had to figure out how to create a movement that successfully blends the character with the background. I decided to film in slow motion, in order to focus on the moment where the in/visibility states are shifting. The drone operator and I went to an abandoned go-karting place to practice drone filming without constraint from trees, to ease our ways in trying multiple versions of each scene. We would then watch the footage in our car, and redo the scene until we found the right drone position.
On day one of final shooting, we filmed breath-taking shots on the lake. I was surprised to see how the images were otherworldly and timeless, and revealed something introspective about the character, whilst losing a sense of individuality. It resonates with the thoughts of Roger Caillois on camouflage, when he states that “mimicry is an act that causes disturbance in space observance and the deconstruction of distance between viewer, subject and background, a flattening of space… For Caillois, this kind of invisibility (from the point of view of the concealed) describes a desire to assimilate, disappear, and become one with the contiguous setting, loosening individual borderlines, in a pantheistic dream of mergence into nature”.
This passage resonates deeply with the nature of the snow character:
Space seems to be a devouring force. Space pursues them, encircles them, and digests them in a gigantic phagocytosis. It ends by replacing them. Then the body separates itself from thought, the individual breaks the boundary of his skin and occupies the other side of his senses. He tries to look at himself from any point whatever in space. He feels himself becoming space, dark space where things cannot be put. He is similar, not similar to something, but just similar. And he invents space of which he is “the convulsive possession”. All these expressions shed light on a single process: depersonalisation by assimilation to space (Caillois (1935) 1984:30).
 Zohar, Ayelet, ”Strategies of Camouflage: Depersonalization, Schizoanalysis and Contemporary Photography” edited by Ian Buchanan (Anthology Editor), Lorna Collins (Anthology Editor)
Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Visual Art, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014. P.174.
Photo and video credit: Joshua Sherrett
APRIL 22nd, 2022 / POSSIBLE OUTCOMES PART 2
As I’m moving in the editing phase of this project, many questions are rising. After a first look at the footage, I’m realizing the project will require a huge amount of post-production and colour processing, in order to get the snow character to come in and out of camouflage more efficiently. I’m looking forward to work in VFX, as a way to push further my practice, which has been rooted in analogue modes of playing with diversion and mimicry, and to figure out how to integrate it with the heavy materiality of my practice. Will this material become a movie, a video, a book or an installation? Does it have a soundtrack? I’m envisioning music as a main component, as past practices are slowly emerging into a new art form.
From the circumstances of life I was brought in, I can make art from the perspective of simulacrum. I would think the phenomena of camouflage and the clandestine can enlighten our experience of space and the question of personal presence in the real world. I’m hoping to be able to realize in a near future that this work helped me to figure out a different way of being the world.
I would like to acknowledge the support of my dear friends in this uncertain period of transformation and rejuvenation, as well as my MFA colleagues. Thank you to Joshua Sherrett for the incredible technical and artistic support in the early development stages of this project, Bonnie Baxter, Michel Beaudry, Paul Litherland, Kelsey Pearson, Claude Labrèche-Lemay, Pierre de Montalte, Alexis O’Hara, Atom Cianfarani and Éric Simon for their advice. I would also like to express my gratitude to the amazing staff at Struts & Faucet, for their precious help and openness thorough this residency.
Photo and video credit: Joshua Sherrett
THE ART OF DISAPPEARING
- Naomi Shihab Nye
When they say Don’t I know you? say no.
When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
If they say we should get together.
say why? It’s not that you don’t love them any more.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished. When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.
Walk around feeling like a leaf. Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.