• L'équipe du MAJ

Week 8 – When Art Moves Us

Mis à jour : mai 12

Theme of the week: empathy

Empathy is being able to put oneself in someone else's shoes and to sincerely feel their emotions. Empathy is thus intimately linked to compassion, which is the ability to be sensitive to the suffering of others. Empathy creates a bond, connects us to the Other. It is therefore one of the most important aspects of our relationship with art.


Empathy can build bridges between people who are geographically, socially and culturally distant. It can change the world, and so can art. Whether musical, visual or literary, works of art exert an incredible power over people: they delight their brains. Art is part of the process of intellectual independence and emotional construction, but also of self-questioning, and thus, ultimately, of developing empathy.


Which artwork from the MAJ collection evokes empathy for me? Spontaneously, I think of the piece titled A Story, by Serbian-Canadian artist Milutin Gubash. We presented this artwork in 2012 as part of the exhibition Dead Ringer, and we have recently acquired it.


Milutin Gubash, A Story, 2012. © Milutin Gubash


In his work, Gubash weaves personal history with Serbia’s political history and artistic evolution, in a tangle of true and false that highlights universal reflections and questions.

The meaningful installation A Story comprises of three distinct elements: the reproduction of a 1954 newspaper article, a three-legged table and a video featuring the curator of the exhibition, who becomes part of the artwork.


Milutin Gubash, A Story, 2012. © Milutin Gubash


Created in 2012 specifically for the exhibition presented at the MAJ (curated by Marie-Claude Landry, then Curator of Contemporary Art), the artwork explores a tragedy that deeply marked the history of the artist's family. Empathy becomes a character in itself as the curator, now witness, comments critically on the circumstances of the alleged suicide of the artist's grandfather, as reported in this newspaper article. The questions are numerous:


Did he really take his own life?


Why did he commit suicide just a week before his wife and three daughters left Yugoslavia to finally join him in the United States?


Knowing that the Yugoslavian community widely and severely condemns suicide, why would his grave have been adorned with such an imposing stone?


The protagonist echoes all these unanswered questions, propelling us as spectators into the heart of this never-elucidated family tragedy.

The artist plays with the codes of reality TV and documentaries by exacerbating the dramatic aspect of the video: tight framing, close-up shots and theatrical lighting characterize the composition.


Even if the mystery surrounding the nebulous circumstances of his grandfather's disappearance will never be solved, the generosity of the artist – and the curator – awakens our empathy and allows us to share their incomprehension in the face of the tragic fate of a hurt family.


➔ The webpage of our Milutin Gubash exhibition presented in 2012, accompanied by a magnificent publication available in the museum shop.


➔ Milutin Gubash was recently awarded the prestigious Louis-Comtois prize for a mid-career artist in Montreal’s contemporary art scene (see Éric Clément's article in La Presse).


➔ An important solo exhibition of the artist is currently quarantined at Musée d'art contemporain des Laurentides (MAC LAU). You can visit it virtually here, immerse yourself in the exhibition's sound work and leaf through the accompanying booklet (written by none other than Marie-Claude Landry!) on the MAC LAU website.


This article was written by Nathalie Galego, Assistant Curator of Collections, Musée d'art de Joliette.

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