Seripop: Underground Scene to High Art

by Sarah Davidson

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The first time I saw Seripop, they were screaming primal yelps at me above a sweaty sea of Montreal scenesters. That’s not strictly true. On that occasion I was watching AIDS Wolf, the noise music side project of dynamic duo Chloe Lum and Yannick Desranleau, who were also making art under the name Seripop. The first time I saw the work of Seripop, it was as gig posters, plastered around Montreal in the summer of 2006. 
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A friend at the time was fond of liberating those posters from their posts, and I remember the walls of his room were a psychedelic display of Seripop’s print-making prowess. The rest of the apartment was as messy as most Montreal millennials’ (although we weren’t called millenials yet), which is to say, a total mess. The aesthetic I associate with that summer, with AIDS Wolf, and with the underground music and art scene they represented, was similar.  I can sum it up as this: layers of insanely over-the top textiles gleaned from thrift store racks, and the art of Paper Rad

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Seripop’s music posters were mind-bending, filled with layers of blazing color and graphics that often verged on the grotesque. Seripop, which stands for ‘Serigraph Populaire’, is a reference to screenprint, which the artists still employ as part of their practice.
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Having moved away from posters, Seripop now define themselves as installation artists. I found this out at the Quebec triennial two years ago, where they had filled a room with a paper-based work. Since then they’ve filled rooms with paper all over the country, even making it into Leah Sandals’s list of top “artworks on paper” of the year. I caught up with the artists earlier this month as Access Gallery, where they were giving an artist talk after the opening their show, ‘Vexations’, at the gallery. The entire artist talk is up online as a video, courtesy of Access Gallery.

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According to Seripop, their work still stems from the urban situation of Montreal.  The entropy of architecture, and the ideals it meant to embody, was a major talking point: in a city where crumbling infrastructure, decaying modernist architectural, and wild gentrification run rampant, their works on paper respond in kind, slowly breaking apart along with the city.

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At Access, they talked about creating installations on and in conversation with condemned buildings.  Noting the abysmal living conditions in what was essentially a slum, Desranleau characterized their relationship to the gentrification of the city as increasingly ambivalent.  In more than one recent piece, Seripop have papered the walls and also floor of a gallery space, allowing visitors to walk on and partly peel it apart over the course of the show.

I’ve collected some photos from the artist talk below, and Vexations runs until March 8 at Access Gallery.

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