EXCAVATIONS
2005 - 2008
Urban sprawl is the dominant model in North America, but it is well established in other parts of the world as well, generating landscapes that are surprisingly similar. These generic territories reflect the unprecedented standardization of our lifestyles and are indicative of the trend towards homogenized cultures and experiences. Today there is a generalized shift from the distinctive and local to the uniform and global. Urban sprawl contrasts sharply with the city of the past, which resulted from sedimentary processes, embodying a collective memory. Modern sprawl allows only for limited and singular connections that do not help build community, but instead encourage individualism and social fragmentation.

Any new development starts with the reworking and levelling of the land. The work is usually carried out in total ignorance of local dynamics, proceeding as if by “erasure.” The sites are stripped of their geographic particularities and cultural memory until they are finally reduced to a sort of zero state. Often, even the topsoil is trucked away to be sold. When the bulldozers depart, they leave nothing behind but a desolate and sterile plain, an almost lunar landscape. It is deserts that we leave behind us. The levelling process results in the loss of the meaning of the lands, and of our ability to renew our own collective imaginations.

The term “excavation” can refer to work in construction, road building or drilling, as well as archaeology. In this series I have in some ways sought to unify these different meanings. The montages result from a union of landscapes which seemed to me to have opposite or contradictory significations. I worked with conservation sites rich in natural and human history, then with disturbed sites and their forms of disappearances. The works contain new housing developments combined with Unesco World Heritage sites. I also combined fossiliferous sites with various landscapes shaped by economic needs, such as garbage dumps and mines. These landscapes blend fairly naturally; their disturbed and stripped aspects make them similar. Indeed, some construction sites are powerfully suggestive of natural deserts. In a number of montages, the difference of scale causes the gaze to slide from one part of the image to another, making the compositions visually unstable. The shift from a monumental scale to a much smaller scale also disturbs hierarchy: that which seemed immense and immutable becomes vulnerable and that which was insignificant becomes important. In these works two visions stand opposed : one a retrospective approach, and one that is more prospective but less concerned with permanency.