The artistic journey of Caroline Monnet, a multidisciplinary Anishinaabe, French, and Canadian artist based in Montreal, has been nothing short of dynamic and compelling. In recent years, her diverse portfolio has garnered attention, from completing a feature film in 2021 to participating in 11 exhibitions in 2023, including four solo shows. Notably, her artwork graced the cover of “An Indigenous Present (2023),” edited by artist Jeffrey Gibson, reflecting the resonance of her work in contemporary Indigenous art. Caroline Monnet: Navigating Artistic Terrain Beyond Boundaries
From Film to Multifaceted Artistry
Monnet, who is self-trained, ventured into filmmaking with her debut work, “IKWÉ,” in 2009. This experimental “fiction-documentary” explored themes of memory, oral traditions, and Indigenous knowledge systems. Subsequent projects delved into the hybridity of identity, her bi-cultural existence, and the enduring impacts of colonization in North America.
However, Monnet soon sought ways to move beyond the traditional film model’s passive audience engagement. This led her to explore diverse avenues, transforming her film works into tangible and imagined environments. The transition into video installation, sculpture, and other mediums became an organic evolution, each medium opening up new possibilities in a snowball effect.
Exploring Space, Physicality, and Urgency
Moving from film festivals to installation and object-making prompted Monnet to consider space, physicality, and immediacy. This shift allowed her to experiment with urgency and engage more actively with her creations. Although she values these new forms of expression, Monnet remains committed to filmmaking, with ongoing projects demonstrating her deep connection to this art form.
Collaboration and Community
Monnet’s collaborative spirit in filmmaking extends into her studio practice and exhibition-making. Acknowledging the expertise of collaborators, she ensures their contributions are highlighted in her shows. Whether crafting architectural structures or intricate designs inspired by Indigenous storytelling technologies, Monnet values collaboration to bring her visions to life.
Sculptural Projects: Bridging Heritage and Modernity
In her sculptural projects, Monnet combines visual elements from her Anishinaabe and French heritages, pop culture, and Modernist abstraction. In her solo exhibition “HOLDING UP THE SKY,” she explores Indigenous storytelling through motifs like birchbark biting, transforming ancestral designs into a dynamic, evolving language on the computer.
One notable project addressing the housing crisis in Indigenous communities uses geometric repetition to evoke maps, digital codes, and mark-making, grounding the work in cultural practices while envisioning future realities.
Navigating Inclusion in the Art World
As Indigenous voices gain more recognition in mainstream institutions, Monnet cautiously observes the shift. While acknowledging progress, she highlights the importance of Indigenous inclusion in shaping the narrative. Reflecting on the broader North American context, Monnet emphasizes the need for Indigenous representation, stating, “North America has been built on our backs — it’s normal that we should get a place at the table.”
Caroline Monnet’s artistic journey is a testament to her ability to traverse diverse mediums, bridging cultural legacies with contemporary expressions. Her work stands as a vibrant contribution to the evolving landscape of Indigenous art, prompting meaningful conversations and inviting viewers to explore new avenues of understanding.
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