Winter Garden, explores historical structures built for uprooting, possessing, and colonizing plants from around the world. When illuminated using hand-held lights, the constructions’ shadowy underbellies are revealed.
First built in 19th century Europe, winter gardens were large-scale structures made from cast-iron and plate glass to house collections of exotic foliage. These indoor gardens produced a fantasy bubble in which desirable tropical climates could be re-created within Europe, serving as a testament to the power and wealth of those with the means to possess them.
By drawing on the colonial origins of winter gardens, Mere Phantoms connect contemporary migration, displacement and housing struggles with a historical lineage of systemic dispossession of plants, animals, and humans. Where is the line between a desire to belong and a desire to possess? Who is granted the privilege of access to a home, and on what terms? In Winter Garden, Mere Phantoms uses the delicacy of paper to reflect on the crude politics of spaces built to house living things.
Presented by Hamilton Artist Inc. Hamilton, Ontario March 30 - May 11 2019
Photo Credit : Ahmet Boyanci
Essay : Tara Bursey
Copy Editing Avril McMeekin
Read the essay on the exhibition here
In 2018 Mere Phantoms created Shadows without Borders, a mobile interactive shadow installation that travelled to refugee camps, squats and settlements in Athens and Istanbul. Mere Phantoms worked with the children and families in these communities through a series of interactive workshops and performances.
The work created collectively during this journey alongside work created by Mere Phantoms artists has now been transformed into an interactive exhibition.
The project was developed by fostering relationships with local partners in Istanbul and Athens. Maya Ersan, (born and raised in Istanbul) has been working on projects in the region for many years, this connection provided a starting point for developing the network needed for this project.
For Shadows Without Borders Mere Phantoms created a travelling shadow installation that moved from one location to the next, providing a platform for shadow play in each community it visited. The installation consisted of: a 12 x 12’ shadow projection tent; an installation of intricate paper cutouts; a set of battery-operated shadow lamps; a battery-operated sound system; and the materials for making paper cutouts. Their low-tech, compact, and rechargeable nature made these tools ideal for bringing the experience of shadow play to communities with limited access to info-structure.
During the first phase of the project in 2018, Shadows Without Boarders spent three to five days in each community. During the day participants took part in an open paper-cutting workshop. The artists provided the tools, materials, and guidance needed to create paper cutouts. In the evenings participants were invited to gather within the tent to bring these paper cutouts to life in shadow.
This project is humble in its ambitions. It does not endeavour to document or record or even solicit personal stories. Instead it offers a creative play space in which humour, sadness, joy, and creativity can be expressed. It offers a momentary pause from daily life in a temporary home. Ultimately this piece is about play. Participants were invited to pick up a shadow lamp, make a paper cutout, and immerse themselves in this ephemeral world of shadow and light.
We would like to thank our partners Khora (Athens), Project Elea (Athens), Atta Festival (Istanbul) and Al-Farah SGDD (Istanbul).
We would also like to thank Extension Concepts for the meticulous construction of the shadow tent.
Images by Leila Shifteh and Harun Yasin Tuna.
This is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program. With this $35M investment, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.
Creating a cutout shadow set for Rufus Wainwright’s All These Poses Anniversary Tour was one of those “full”circle” moments. We used to listen to Rufus back in art school working till 3 in the morning in the studios, dreaming up the projects that have now become real.
The set will be traveling around the world for the next year. You can follow the tour on Instagram with the hashtag #alltheseposestour
Interactive Shadow installation we created in collaboration with students from two local high schools in Val-d’or , Quebec. The exhibition following the workshops at schools took place at Centre d'exposition de Val-d'Or.
May 12 - July 21st 2018
Inspired by the Hieronymus Bosch painting of the same name, this is an experience of the city as rendered in darkness. In this immersive journey, viewers are guided by shadow projections and sound cues to bring a procession of dreamscapes to life. With specially designed light wands, spectators move from a lush tropical jungle to an urban maze of concrete, cables and characters. The cityscape appears as shadows on the wall, becoming an abstraction even as its physical essence is laid bare.
Mere Phantoms takes 16th century notions of heaven and hell and welds them to a modern inquiry. This urban maze: is it fantasy or nightmare? Decide for yourself as you experience the magic via light and paper. This is illusionism at its finest—refined down to a beautiful binary of black and white."
music & sound by Christian Carrière
Come Out and Play Winnipeg took place at Art City in Winnipeg as an interactive cinematic experience composed entirely of light, shadow, and intricate paper sculptures. Working with the amazing staff and participants of Art City we created and installed “sets” of paper cut-outs each evening for a week. In an informal workshop environment, we introduced participants to techniques of paper cutting, model making, and shadow projection. With the help of a vintage boom box with a mic, the participants improvised stories to the paper works we had created together earlier.
As shadows moved across the walls of Art City, strange and surreal stories emerged from the imaginations of the young participants!
The performance we created for Phenomena 2015 was a first step in a new body of work that uses mobile lights travelling through choreographed space to create a series of vignettes. This piece later became Garden of Earthly Delights, an interactive shadow performance borrowing its title from Hieronymus Bosch’s 16th century painting.
Uncommon Shadows was an urban intervention created for One Architecture Week in Plovdiv Bulgaria. Responding to a theme proposed by the festival curators, Mere Phantoms created an interactive shadow box inside an abandoned gas station right at the Maritsa River bank. Lit from within the space, the façade of the gas station transformed into a projection box.
Mere Phantoms collaborated with local collective GG sisters in creating a series of interactive workshops that took place at the location.
100 Miles Around Us was created during a residency in the spring of 2015 at a high school in the Sherbrooke region in rural Quebec. Maya Ersan and Jaimie Robson shared their creative process and techniques with Secondary V students. The result was an installation consisting of delicate 3D paper cut-outs created by Mere Phantoms and the students, evoking rural, urban and fantastical environments. Visitors were invited to bring the work to life by casting shadows on the walls with special lights made by Mere Phantoms. A soundscape for this exhibition, which took the rural landscape as its inspiration, was assembled by Christian Carrière.
Located at a short distance from our studio, for Nuit Blanche 2015 we were featured in Monastiraki's gallery window. As a way of sharing our work that had been traveling internationally, we were invited to show a selection of our paper cut-out "sets" from recent installations in Turkey (Oyuna Gel // Come out and Play, Istanbul Biennial, 2013) and Denmark (Three Cities: Prayer/Protest, Brandts Museum, 2014). Each night, as the sun went down the window at Monastiraki came alive in a play of shadow and light for the month of February.
Ich war dort – Montréal meets Graz was a design showcase curated by Anne Thomas and Pierre Laramée for the City of Montreal Design Bureau.
We were invited by the City of Montreal Design Bureau to exhibit the Montreal portion from our exhibition Three Cities; Prayer / Protest. Our interactive shadow installation featuring emblematic Montreal buildings and moments was part of this exhibition featuring Montreal design talent.
We spent 6 weeks at Alexandre Galt High School in Lennoxville during April and May 2015 developing an interactive shadow installation in collaboration with a group of grade 11 students. This project gave us the opportunity to breakdown and share the conceptual and technical building blocks our creative process within a pedagogical context.
Supported by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications, the exhibition resulting from this process will be shown at the Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke from September to December of 2015.
Three Cities: Prayer & Protest is a shadow-based installation that investigates sites of tension, controversy, and contrast within three contemporary cosmopolitan environments. Inspired by recent events in three cities the artists have lived and worked in (Istanbul, Montreal and Vancouver) the exhibition explores notions of prayer & protest as communal expressions of personal hope, desire, demand and outrage.
Each ‘city’ becomes a palimpsest in which layers of social, cultural, economic, and political differences come into dialogue. Made from intricately cut paper sculptures, each city is presented as as "island". These islands are explored by the viewer with the use of mobile lights created for the installation. As the viewer moves through the space, the miniature paper imagery comes alive. Large scale shadows fill the gallery walls and the viewer, who was initially towering over the fragile paper cities, is now surrounded by layers of giant shadow.
Following the first exhibition of this work at the Brandts Museum in Denmark, Three Cities was shown at:
Maison de la culture Notre Dame de Grace, Montréal, QC, September 9 - Nov13 2016,
Maison de la Culture Ahuntsic, Montréal, QC, December 5 2016 - January 10 2017,
Grunt Gallery, Vancouver, BC January 12 - March 10 2017
Come Out and Play (2013) takes its cue from the protests and political events that have been taking place in Istanbul since the summer of 2013. The sense of community that has flourished among the protestors during the course of these events points to the power of communication, improvisation, humour, and play as tools for political dissent. The word play (oyun in Turkish) is at the centre of the investigation for this particular work. The word was infamously used in an election campaign slogan of Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdoğan: ‘Oyuna Gelme’ is a Turkish idiom that means ‘don’t partake in the game/ploy, don’t let yourself be tricked’, but literally translates as ‘don’t come to play’. The Prime Minister employed the phrase during the Gezi protests to give the underlying message: ‘the protests taking place across the country are a Western conspiracy against sovereign Turkey, so don’t be fooled’.
The title of this artwork functions as a reverse call to action: do come out and play! Come out and Play also points the participatory nature of the work. With all the tools and materials provided, audience members are invited to add their own stories and reflections to the installation by editing and adding to existing content and reshaping the piece throughout the duration of exhibition. By actively playing with the work, the audience re-imagines and re-creates miniature paper cutouts that become giant shadows of their own desire and imagination.
This interactive shadow installation was designed to engage young audiences during the opening night gala for the Reel 2 Real festival. Inspired by intergalactic adventures and visualizations of outer space, the installation contributed to the overall ambiance and creative learning experience offered by the festival. Festival visitors were invited to contribute 3D paper cut-outs to the installation and to animate the piece using Mere Phantoms hand held light wands.
Suspended Narratives was a series of site specific installations built with large scale audience participation. Each presentation of Suspended Narratives took place over one or two nights and was informed by the history and architecture of each venue. The exhibition was presented at the following venues and dates:
McCord Museum, Montreal, Nuit Blanche, March 2 2013
In Montreal, drawing on imagery found in the McCord Museum’s archives we created a series of intricate paper replicas of buildings. These were assembled into vignettes and layered with small, localized video projections. Working in collaboration with Navid Navab and Christian Carrière the installation was paired with a light-activated audio composition. The audio tracks associated with each vignette became activated as participants approached the piece with hand-held lights. The result was an interactive cinematic experience that referenced moments from the Montreal’s history that impacted the city’s urban landscape.
Royal BC Museum, Victoria, BC, Jan 27 2013,
The Royal BC Museum’s First Peoples Gallery was a most extraordinary space for Mere Phantoms’ installation, “Suspended Narratives”. Performance artist Peter Morin joined us for this event, adding deer-hide cut outs to the cumulative paper installation. A very special thank you to the totems who inhabit the gallery for sharing the space with us.
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, BC, Jan 20 & Feb 1 2013,
In October 2012 we were invited to take part in a two-week residency at the Topological Media Lab in Montreal. During this time we worked on a series of experiments in shadow, projection, mapping and responsive technologies. The resulting work combined a light-responsive sound-scape with mapped projections and live performance. The research culminated in a public performance in the Hexagram black box.
Credits : Xin-wei Sha, Micheal Montenerro, Navid Navab and Jerome de la Pierre.
Mere Phantoms’ Shadow Box project is a mobile shadow installation designed for outdoor festivals and events. Housed within a white walled event-tent this installation offers an interior interactive play space filled with illuminated paper cutouts. The exterior of the tent becomes a two sided rear-projection screen filled with the shadows cast from inside. Shadow Box - A City of Lanterns was created for the 2012 Illuminares Lantern Festival at Trout Lake Park and was animated throughout the evening by visitors of all ages.
Credits : Paul Bennett - audio
Montreal in Shadow was Mere Phantoms’ first large-scale interactive shadow installation. The project drew on traditions of shadow puppetry and projection to create sense of awe and wonder, and to offer a sense of agency to the visitors who entered the space. We invited visitors to interact with the work by adding paper cutouts to the existing installation, and by using hand-held lights to cast shadows from these cutouts onto the gallery walls. What began as an experiment in working with light and shadow in its simplest form became an ongoing exploration that continues to drive our artistic practice.
Credits : Chris Carrière and Frank O'Connor
From time to time Mere Phantoms collaborates with musicians and other artists for performances and special events. Kouk Là was an audio-visual collaboration between Mere Phantoms and musicians Lucas Moore (clarinet) and Jean-Phillipe Reny (oud). Kouk Là was a performance featuring a series of live collages layering the performers shadows with a range of analog and digital projections that unfold in real time.
Anamnesis was an illuminated paper installation that portrayed a muted city that had shrunk in size. The title refers to the Jungian use of the term Anamnesis where the focused remembrance of past personal events is key to understanding oneself. Housed in a gallery window, the installation became the sight of a shadow play performed during Ramadan. A group of Turkish artists from various practices were invited create a shadow performance based on the centuries old tradition of Ramadan shadow plays. The performance weaved together traces of memory embedded in the city; memory that had otherwise become erased, enforced, archived denied through the practices of recording history. In this crowd of memories, Anamnesis was a story that emerged from a performance using light and shadow. None of the invited artists had seen a shadow play in their lives.
Credits: Alev Ersan, Ahmet Dogu Ipek, Kadir Akkara, Senem Sinem
Photo Credit : Senem Sinem