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By Anaïs-Aimée Rafaelsen February 15, 2022

Of Roses [how to embody the layers of time]

The 2021 edition of the Momenta Biennale features a series of installations by fifty-one artists.This year’s theme is nature interpreted through the six senses. In this visual analysis, I will be analyzing Eve Tagny’s installation Of Roses [how to embody the layers of time], which is  exhibited at Galerie de l’UQAM.

Rather than opting to take up less room with her installation and thus making it seem more full, Tagny decides to use up all the space she can so that the viewer can better take in every aspect of her piece. Once we are done walking around, it is easier for us to decipher the meaning of her work, which I will address shortly. As for the materials used, Tagny experimented with cameras, different fabrics such as rose dyed silk and cotton, archival prints, rice paper prints, silkscreen on cotton, plaster beeswax and soil, clay, marble and roses. They all work together to create a magical world filled with hurt and sorrow. I particularly like her use of videos and text. It allows the viewer to better understand where Tagny is coming from even without knowing her cultural background.

In her project, Tagny uses colour, texture and smell to fully immerse the viewer into her world. Instead of limiting herself to using only sight to express herself, Tagny also uses scent to amplify the viewer’s overall experience. We walk in and are greeted by the lovely scent of roses, effectively tricking us into thinking we are about to be transported into a fairytale. This is not the case, though, and Tagny’s use of colour and texture tells us this. The contrast between the dark rough soil spilling onto the ground and the soft pastel silk and cotton fabrics is quite jarring for the viewer. It disturbs and confuses us. The contrast between the soft petals and the sharp thorns on the roses serve the same purpose. Suddenly, we no longer feel like we are in a beautiful, magical garden. Furthermore, the composition of this project is very well thought-out. Choosing to scatter different fragments of her work around allows the viewer to take time to truly reflect on the issue at hand: colonialism.

Of Roses [how to embody the layers of time] is a complex piece that uses a variety of mixed media, physical space, texture, smell and colour to detail Tagny’s personal experiences with the intersection of colonialism and horticultural practices. Being a Tiohtià:ke/Montreal-based artist gives her an opportunity to raise awareness about how her culture’s relationship with nature has been exploited and simultaneously repressed. It forces us, the viewer, to take a step back and evaluate how we might have contributed to this issue. She uses roses as a metaphor for her experiences growing up as an Indigenous woman of colour. Although they are pretty to look at, they are painful to remember due to the racial oppression she and her people experienced.

Tagny’s installation being featured at Galerie de l’UQAM is definitely ironic considering UQAM is located on stolen Indigenous land. In a way, it’s even more powerful because it  proves her point about how colonizers pick and choose what parts of Indigenous culture they  like, discarding what they deem to be  “improper’’. This is not a critique of UQAM, but rather  the Canadian government that claims it is giving back to the Indigenous population, but  goes on to do the bare minimum to ensure any actually meaningful reparations are made.


Photographs of Eva Tagny"s Of Roses [how to embody the layers of time], 2021 installation, by author.

About the author

Anaïs-Aimée Rafaelsen is a first year Visual Arts student at Dawson College. Her work is heavily inspired by the fairy tales she read in her childhood. Through her art, she creates magical worlds in which she addresses somewhat dark subject matter through the lens of magical, carefree beings.

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