An online review of the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain’s newest exhibit
With Festival du Voyageur around the corner, the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain is using Sasha Phipps’ and Guillaume Boudrias-Plouffe’s cheeky look at les hommes forts (the strong men) to put us in the right mood. Part folklore mythology revisited, part humorous interpretation of the romanticized woodsmen of the past, the exhibit Bûcheux seconde main… (Second hand Sloggers…) is fun and full of homocentric illusions.
Both Phipps and Boudrias-Plouffe place themselves in their art, which helps bring the humour of the situation to light. They are both, in looks and in practice, not the definition of the strong woodsmen. Therefore, Boudrias-Plouffe’s real-time video attempt to chop down a tree, or rather saw it down, is pricelessly awkward, albeit very relatable. Phipps, on the other hand, offers oil paintings of himself in underwear in front of a very woodsy Canadian setting. His smooth torso and his slightly effeminate pose speak of metro more than hardy woodsman. But that might be an unfair understanding of the woodsmen, as Bûcheux seconde main… is a collection of art that raises questions about the modern man in contrast to the folklorish strong man of the woods. There are many elements in the installation that pay homage to the historical strongman, all the while poking fun at the obviously mythical hardy man of a past era. The effect is that it raises questions for those who romanticize the husky “real men” that make up our ideals of Canadian settlers. The homocentric, or rather man-centric, is all but blatant in the reality of that period in time. For example, one piece is historical footage shown in a loop of a rousing game of spider. For those who don’t know this game, this is where, for entertainment, two men hold on to each other’s belts so their faces can stay near their crotches or asses, depending on your style, while other men watch and cheer you on. Subtle homoerotic behaviour it is not.
They even pay homage to man’s emotional companion: the dog. Again, a not-so-subtle hint to the fact that men often found ways to supplement what they’re looking for in the absence of women. In fact, women are completely absent from this art exhibit. The show is about strong men. All the pieces work together and separately to create a cheeky and honest exploration of what it means to be a strong man in Canada. A topic sure to please many gay men.
Bûcheux seconde main… runs from Jan. 10 to Feb. 28, 2014 at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain. For more information visit www.ccfm.mb.ca.
–Eric Plamondon is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer