Texte pour l’exposition Sur la trace du renard de Louis Perreault.
Two photographs, one fox (beyond the frame).
Photograph one: a still, wintry scene of leafless vines, whose tangled clarity deepens towards the centre of the composition in near-Baroque intensity. A sheen of snowy powder visually lifts each tendril, highlighting the intermingling of solid tree, scandent tendrils, and cheap chain link, itself elevated by association with this profound density. Here is life, in the suspended animation of deep, silent, northern cold.
Photograph two: a robust, ruderal landscape of green grasses, silver saplings, young milkweed not yet in bloom. Again, the centre of the composition is the anchor for a deepening and darkening of the scene, where the lighter, vertical green that fills the image slips into a narrow wedge of shadow, a verdant corridor so little trodden that leaves still grow along its floor. Yet it has been someone’s way somewhere.
The path here leads, as does every photograph in Louis Perreault’s exquisite series, to the heart of a complex mattering, specific to Montreal but with broader implications. The former Canadian Steel Foundries in Montreal is a vast postindustrial space on the brink of change, as are many such spaces in the early twenty-first century. “Revitalization” – at the hands of politicians eager to leave their mark, and developers in pursuit of their break in the real estate wave – looms. In this perspective, a site like this is only a fallow field, waiting forlorn for the next phase of capitalist instrumentalization. Yet the self-congratulatory discourse of urban revitalization overlooks the ways that such sites are, already, vital. On the former CSF landscape, tough little wildflowers and displaced wheat compete for sunshine and rain. A small number of human inhabitants brave the challenges of Montreal’s weather extremes in exchange for a solitude that is rare on this populous island. Animals of all kinds, including at least one fox, is known to make its home here.
This fox, the fox we never see, is the fox who once crossed paths with Perreault on one of his many ventures into the CSF site. Two beings in one place. But Perreault knew that he was in the fox’s place, that he was the intruder. The great accomplishment of these finely-tuned, astonishingly beautiful photographs is that they bring the viewer to understand how they too are only visitors in this fragile world of vines, humans, and foxes.