Colère (2020.014) [Anger (2020.014)], 2021, Metal filling cabinet, acrylic paint, soundtrack, 38 x 38 x 130 cm

In an interview with Pierre Restany from 1969, Arman described himself as a “landscaper of consumer society” who was interested in the endless cycle of production, consumption, and destruction, about which he hoped to spark a deeper reflection by making it visible. The violin, silenced by fire, suggests that when objects are perceived in terms of the duration of their material life, they are all equal. Music, however, is eternal. In this piece we hear, among others, the excerpt Colères from a work in four movements titled Empreintes by the composer Pierre Henry, written especially in honour of Arman’s work.

Music credits:

Pierre Henry, Empreintes (dédié à la mémoire d’Arman), 2010. Excerpt from the movement Colères, 4’05. With the kind permission of Pierre Henry.

Eugène Ysaÿe, Sonata for Solo Violin No.2 in A Major, Op. 27 ‘A Jacques Thi- baud’: I. Obsession (Prélude. Poco vivace), 1923, 2’42. Performed by: Kerson Leong, album Ysaÿe: Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, 2021. With the kind permission of Kerson Leong.

On October 7, 2020, at 3:38 p.m., Julie Alary Lavallée, Collections Curator, sent Chloé Desjardins a description of object 2020.014.

The object I chose has not yet officially joined the MAJ collection. It is the work Colère (1970) by the French/American artist Arman (1928–2005). As we are currently in the process of acquiring the work, Colère is now in the Museum’s storage area awaiting a change of ownership. The work comes from the collection of an individual who lives in Montreal. I don’t know if I can mention the name of the owner in question, so I will be vague about this person’s identity.

No one has really seen the work yet, except for those involved in the external acquisition committee and the MAJ technicians. The transaction should be finalized within the next four months (it is currently early October 2020). I chose this work because it marks my entry into my new position as curator of collections at the MAJ three weeks ago.

It was the first work on which I had to perform research. For me, it represents a return to art-history movements that I had the pleasure of studying while working toward my bachelor’s degree in art history years ago. As my more recent career in the art world has been focused on contemporary art, this rediscovery of great periods of creativity offers a real breath of fresh air but requires me to dig deep into my memory.

Colère takes the form of a transparent prism filled with acrylic in which a violin, partially burned, and a severed bow, also consumed by fire, are fixed. A few burnt pieces are detached and arranged around the main element. The presentation of the violin might be subtly reminiscent of a museum display case, but the pieces of violin scattered around the main structure form a far-from-conventional splintered composition. The work measures 67.5 x 28.8 x 8.1 cm and is extremely heavy.

I also chose this work because the process behind its making seems particularly interesting, as does its formal relationship revealing a critique of the lifecycle of objects in consumer society. In fact, Arman’s works are of great relevance today because of their resonance with the current era, which is rather critical of the perverse effects of industrialization and overconsumption on the environment. At the time the work was made, musical instruments, although associated with high culture, were increasingly produced on an industrial scale and no longer shaped by hand. Their lifecycle, like that of other industrial products, could not escape their production, consumption, and destruction. In other words, high culture was no longer being sacred and became, in the artist’s eyes just something ready to be thrown away.

Arman, Colère [Anger], 1970, Burned violin and acrylic, 67,5 x 28,8 x 8,1 cm

Collection of Musée d’art de Joliette. Gift of Roy L. Heenan, o.c. 2020.014