Based on ideas suggested in a visit to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese garden in Vancouver, for their first commissioned performance in Canada, French artists Hervé and Maillet brought a humble object into the gallery — a gongshi — a form redolent of or somehow manifest as a ‘scholar’s stone’, a repository of information and knowledge. Traditionally gongshi are not very big, you can transport them easily. They are not made by man, but by natural elements, yet they can appear artificial, and at the same time sum up the passing of time and the actions of nature. They could be considered to resemble the wandering of the mind.
Hervé and Maillet are currently investigating different forms of preservation through water, in literature, cinema, and in archaeological remains. Historic objects soaked in water are often completely unspoiled; decay only setting in once removed from this source. In science-fiction films, the idea is the same, where whole civilizations are ‘preserved’ because they are under water, such as the people of Atlantis in Warlords of Atlantis (Kevin Connor, 1978). In contemporary times people gather to benefit from the life-sustaining qualities of thermal waters, here in British Columbia at places like Ainsworth or Radium Hot Springs.
For their presentation at the Contemporary Art Gallery Hervé and Maillet introduced a contemporary signifier of such potential to the gallery, a reverse osmosis machine, an object used to filter and desalinate sea water on ships or to concentrate maple syrup during its production process. It provided the central and metaphorical focal point for a performance weaving together local histories and traditions of west coast Canada with the ongoing propositions of their practice — the promotion and circulation of knowledge, and its possible transference between disciplines.
The performance was generated through an intensive few days of rehearsals leading up to the actual event with Hervé and Maillet working closely with a team of CAG volunteers and local participants who performed and assisted in presenting the work to the visitors and audience. In writing a script, Scholar’s Rock brought together history, popular culture, literature and various facts in the style of a guided tour; a series of short lectures delivered to visitors to the gallery. Their method of working combines that of investigation and inventory, intersecting personal commentary and scientific discourse. Mixing fact with fiction, parallel explorations, deductions, and digressions created a sequence of intertwining stories centred on the presence of their gongshi, the filtration machine.
Generously supported by Institut Français and the Consulat général de France à Vancouver, and presented with PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.