The Art of Simulacra

Fascinated by the suggestive power of the familiar, Daniel Corbeil ceaselessly examines things and beings. He reveals an array of referents within them while gleefully weaving analogic connections in his installations and photographs between the living and the technological, the natural and the artificial, the large and the small.

Hence the flying, zoomorphic objects, like the Balénoptère, the Hydrozoaire, or the Animalcule, presented as technological products modelled on nature. Hence, also, the importance of the idea of landscape, which, through the practice of modelling and plays on scale, shows how easy it is to confuse the real with its representation. Appearances are misleading, but not necessarily untruthful; through simulations that augment and transpose the possibilities of the real by mimicking its attributes, Corbeil’s many technical devices — flying objects, areal views, scientific labs, architectural models — multiply the readings of the world on which they are based.

Wishing to testify to the accelerating, human-generated transformations of the environment that have preoccupied him in recent years, the artist borrowed from the world of environmental sciences and eco-technological architecture.

Thus, Laboratoire climatique alludes to scientific modelling procedures and makes playful use of unusual, heat- and humidity-sensitive materials to reproduce the greenhouse effect on landscape models. Corbeil also imagines future responses – as dystopian as they are utopian – to environmental disruptions by proposing such fictional architectures as Cité laboratoire. The installations deploy an array of perplexing technical devices (green towers, aquaculture, water recycling, energy self-sufficiency) to suggest how technology may help ensure human survival in a deteriorated environment. The artist thus uses a variety of means to confront us with simulations that test our supposed “sense of reality” and afford us a glimpse of the many possible interpretations.

Beyond the simulation, Corbeil strives also to reveal the underlying artifice, which he makes manifest through a kind of theatricalization that questions the referentiality of that which is presented. It is in this sense that Daniel Corbeil’s various productions – flying machines, landscapes, or scientific devices – constitute as many forms to express an art of simulacra.

Jean-Philippe Beaulieu