INHALE EXILE PT1 (THE BREAK) with Gareth James

Ongoing archive on the culture of tobacco, May 21 – July 16, 2016

L’ESCALIER is proud to present Inhale Exile, a curatorial project by the art group Knowles Eddy Knowles. Inhale Exile presents a selection of the artists’ ongoing archive on the culture of tobacco and invites the participation of a number of artists whose work has touched on the motif.

“(…) I think smoke has had its hay day so by by. In the end I don’t think allowing smoking extends creativity and conversation. The late 60s and early 70s were generally easy going – the economy was good, once the Vietnam war ended, even better – people felt free and optimistic and risk taking, playing with context and deconstruction was the order of the day.”
– David Askevold in email correspondence, June 26th, 2006

We first started to formulate a curatorial project around tobacco in 2006. Over the ensuing years, while the idea became the engine for a series of sculptures, performances and texts, the overall curatorial project became one of those endeavours that seemed, at least institutionally speaking, questionable. Starting much earlier, but reaching a head during this era, smoking bans also swept across the world. It seemed the “hay day” [sic] that Askevold spoke of, was over. But what else was over? And what would arise in its place?

Going back, cigarettes have occupied a complicated space of both liberal attitudes and meticulous design through its modern history. Our own interest in this paradox initially began from seeing how institutions (like NSCAD, where we came together, and which Askevold was responding about) roughly simultaneously regulated both academically and in terms of smoking, as we absorbed stories about the golden days. But aside from biopolitical ironies, which populate this project, smoking can be seen as one of the great design conflicts of the globe. Mediating and creating cultures in potent ways across its rise and fall, smoking has spawned an array of novel spaces, objects and rituals: from ashtrays to smoking huts, from doctor’s kudos in glossy ads to graphic medical imagery on packages, from icon of freedom to mark of addiction.

This overall project includes the mingling of documentation and artifacts showing tobacco’s changing societal role with a number of new works by contemporary artists who have already dealt with these and related issues in their work. Their pieces investigate the contradictory dispositions this tiny object has articulated along the tides of its fame. Obviously, we each have our own take on tobacco. Science and culture inform these. This project is no matter of lamentation or comic revisiting. The problematic notion of a large, generic exhibition in a public museum, which Inhale Exile performs, seeming not to pass judgment on its topic, is something we hold onto rather than streamline for feasibility. The question of Inhale Exile’s own historical authority and global ambition is central to the design of this project, and the reason we seek to foreground mediation and fragmentation through the process.

– Knowles Eddy Knowles

This iteration, subtitled “the break,” consists of two parts: an installation in the space of L’escalier, and a screenings of video works punctuating the run of the exhibition. The smoke break and the discourses and speech acts (rumours, counter-histories) produced there are understood as aesthetic potentialities of smoking culture. In institutional contexts, these breaks have engendered reconfigurations of time and space, the sharing of informal comments or opinions, private thoughts in public.

The first part of the exhibition at L’escalier runs between May 21 and July 16, 2016 with subsequent iterations planned for later in the year.

“The break” includes works by: Sean Lynch, Leisure (Susannah Wesley, Meredith Carruthers), Michael Fernandes, Gareth James, Roger Quallen, Alessandro Rolandi, Lawrence Weiner*, Philip Guston*, Richard Prince*, Lee Lozano*, Claire Fontaine*, Hans Haacke*, David Hammons*

Screenings will include videos by: Nina Koennemann, Lee Kit, Erik Blinderman, Steve Carr, Tamara Henderson, Knowles Eddy Knowles, Daniel Olson, Michael Fernandes, James Benning, Gerard Courant, Chantal Akerman


2272 Panet, Montréal, Québec
514 528-1152 / 514 662-3348
Opening: Saturday 21 mai 2016, 3pm-6pm
Gallery Hours: by appointment


Photo: Le chien qui fume, (2007). Still. Gareth James.