Caroline Monnet is a multidisciplinary artist from Gatineau based in Montreal (Canada). Her work has been presented at the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Haus der Kulturen (Berlin), AXENÉO7 (Gatineau), Arsenal Contemporary NY, the National Gallery of Canada and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. In 2016, she was selected for the prestigious Cinéfondation residency at the Cannes Film Festival in Paris. She recently participated in the Whitney Biennial and the Toronto Art Biennial 2019. Her work is part of many Canadian collections.
At the heart of her practice is the communication of complex ideas about Aboriginal identity and bicultural life through the examination of cultural histories. Her work is often minimalist, yet emotionally charged, and speaks to the complex realities of Aboriginal peoples today. Her works combine the vocabulary of popular and traditional visual cultures with the tropes of modernist abstraction to create unique hybrid forms.
About the artwork
History Shall Speak for Itself is a monumental photographic work consisting of the interweaving of two images: a typically Western black and white archival photo of Indigenous women busy with their domestic chores, versus a contemporary image where we can see women with frontal gazes, dressed in traditional Indigenous European-style clothing, posing in front of the lens. Models include documentary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, Quebec actress Dominique Pétin, costume designer Swaneige Bertrand, artist Catherine Boivin, as well as the artist and her sister. With this work, Monnet physically reunites two distinct modes of representation, alternating strips of images to underline the idea of superimposing information, while suggesting a timeline: past and present coexist in a kind of dance between the foreground and background of the image.
The mural highlights the emergence of a sense of power and self-determination that places Aboriginal women at the forefront of the dominant debates in Canadian society today. By presenting this image in a public space, and on a larger-than-life scale, Monnet invites the viewers to ask themselves who these women are and why they are asking to be seen and heard, echoing a right that has been neglected for too long. Time is also what makes it possible to step back, to perceive things differently, rethink one’s posture and revise History with a capital H – this is also what the work communicates to us.