Artist: Elisabeth Perrault
Exhibition title: Ces petites morts domestiques
Venue: Projet Pangée, Montreal, Canada
Date: April 29 – June 5, 2021
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Projet Pangée, Montreal
Montreal, April 27 2021 — Snakes shed their skin up to four times a year, to allow for both growth and protection. While common, there is something eerie and astounding that happens when a skin slips off. The translucent dried-up shell holds the sinuous shape and verve of its past life, with intricate imprints replicating the large scutes of the belly and the small diamond-shaped scales that cover the rest of the snake’s body and face. This biological but also symbolic process, evocative of the inevitability of transience, death, and renewal, informs several important feminist fibre-based practices, like those of Eva Hesse, Jana Sterbak and Kiki Smith, to name a few.
Following and enriching this lineage is the deeply sensitive and poetic practice of Montreal-based artist Elisabeth Perrault (b. 1996, Joliette, Canada). Her solo exhibition titled Ces petites morts domestiques, like the moulting of snakes, speaks of the skin as a marker of memory and time, and as a carrier of experience. Appearing at the surface of Perrault’s life-size pieces – the mattress, the reclining body, and the awaiting skin – are dried up bouquets that she handpicked in the countryside and pressed last Summer. For Perrault, the repetitive motifs of the flowers are suggestive of monotony and solitude, sensations that can be so overwhelming they halt the body into inaction, where it becomes a tapestry, witnessing the passage of time.
Both serpents and flowers are symbolic of the cyclic nature of our world, shedding, wilting, growing, blooming, healing, and renewing at specific points in their lives, or at specific times of the year. As part of this looping, each of Perrault’s birthdays marks the occasion to prepare for her own transition. In a yearly ritual, the artist creates a skin shaped to her body, which she leaves aside, revealing the new layer of self that formed beneath while no one was watching. A process which bears the question, where will this new body* go?