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La valse à 5 temps presented at Art Mur Montréal, Canada.

If you were to write a recipe for Patrick Bérubé’s practice, the ingredients would range from the ordinary to the slightly grotesque – wood, bird food and florescent lights, glass, pedestals and lint rollers, piles of National Geographic, cigarettes and taxidermy. However, even his use of the grotesque preys on the familiar and everyday.

Bérubé works with photography, installation, sculpture and public-art, but no matter the medium, he employs humour and sagacity. He uses simplicity to point out complexity. His art straddles binaries and can trigger a hesitant laugh that is both amused and concerned. By appropriating daily references, he destabilizes reality. He renders the ordinary unique and transforms the familiar into the strange.

Take for instance, Incidence (2011, 2013). On an empty floor, a toy container ship appears to be beached. Up close a context emerges; the replaced wooden floor panels sway like the waves of the sea. Unlike how Hans Haacke drew our attention to the floor of the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1993 when he fractured the marble floor and displayed it in chunks, Incidence quietly asks us to notice the floor. We expect the ground to be solid and stable and when it is not, we are unnerved. As Carole King sang on her 1971 album Tapestry, we feel the earth move under our feet. This is what Bérubé intends.

With La Valse à 5 Temps (2014) at Art Mûr, Bérubé references the rare waltz that is written in 5/4, rather than 3/4, time. Found sounds from the internet pulse through five gallery rooms. Old illustrations and prints hang on the walls, like pages of a worn encyclopedia. In the first room (the waiting room), Reissiger’s Weber’s Last Waltz plays. It evokes a dreamy state and we expect the music and the images to carry us along. Then, a harsh beep in the second room (the conference room) jolts our attention and a closer inspection of the wall hangings reveals that the images portray moments of lewd and excess.

In both works, Bérubé challenges the viewer’s ordinary expectations. His aim is to create waves; to jar, interrupt, and to gently scare. In the wake of a small and seemingly innocent toy ship, or in a chain of gallery rooms energized by conflicting sounds, we are left to wonder what’s next? Will the sky come tumbling down?

Text by Sasha Gora