Born in 1969, Isabelle Hayeur grew up in a small town on Québec’s North Shore. This outlying area was undergoing rapid development at the time. The resulting transformation led Hayeur to feel as if she had lost her bearings, an experience that often accompanies life in the suburbs. This experience was to prove decisive for her work as an artist, as she became increasingly interested in exploring feelings of alienation, uprootedness and disenchantment. She would eventually be diagnosed as having Asperger Syndrome, which made it easier for her to understand her attraction to non-places, no man’s land and marginality.
Isabelle is known for her photographs and her experimental videos. She has also realized public art commissions, several site-specific installations and photography books. Her work is situated within a critical approach to the environment, urban development and to social conditions. Since the late 1990s, she has been probing the territories she goes through to understand how our contemporary civilizations take over and fashion their environments. She is concerned about the evolution of places and communities in the neoliberal sociopolitical context we currently live in. Her artistic approach examines the relations between nature and culture in a world where their (false) opposition is a dominant ideology that still structures our Western societies. When the utility principle comes to prevail over all other values and the economy becomes sovereign, everything gets viewed as a “resource” to strip or a site to occupy. Her artworks seek to show how we take possession of territories and beings so as to adapt them to our needs; this instrumental logic tends to invade all fields of human activity today.
The artist believes it’s important to take a stand, to show, to educate and to denounce, but also to be enchanted, touched and enraptured by the beauty that surrounds us. Her art practice proves to be both political and poetic, with a constant striving to blur the lines in order to highlight the ambivalence of our relation to the world. At once seductive and disquieting, her images awaken in us an ambiguous feeling that reflects our discomfort and reveals the flaws of a dehumanized system. Over the years, the artist has become increasingly interested in citizen resistance and dissent. She invites us to reflect on the social control in our society, how it has become more inflexible and how public authorities have imposed measures that impinge on our freedoms.
Her works have been shown at the National Gallery of Canada, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein in Berlin, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris, Tampa Museum of Art, Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York, Casino Luxembourg Forum d’art contemporain, Today Art Museum in Beijing and Les Rencontres internationales de la photographie à Arles. She has also actively participated in international artists’ residencies, notably at the Rauschenberg Residency, Sitka Center for Arts and Ecology, The Studios of Key West, the International Studio & Curatorial Program ISCP, A Studio in the Woods / Tulane University, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Wall House #2 Groninger Museum, amongst others. She was awarded The Artist of the Year Award in Lanaudière by Le Conseil des arts et lettres du Québec (2022), The Hnatyshyn Foundation mid-career award (2021), The Duke and Duchess of York Prize in Photography (2019) and was a finalist for the Scotiabank Photography Award in 2015.