André Du Bois’s Les Attracteurs – parcours interactif involves a radical realignment of what public art is or can be. The sculptures that form part of the ensemble are enigmatic, prescient, and have the insignia of an artist whose engagement with nature is the point of departure for a dialogue on culture. The interactive nature– culture flow inherent to Les Attracteurs is something new in the discourse on public art, an emerging connective aesthetic that is increasingly perceived as essential in the urban context, for humans are so often estranged from nature. Les Attracteurs is not object-based “plop art” dropped into a place as a series of 3D visual markers that have no reference to site or context. Instead, Du Bois’s public art displays the same inherent sense of the fragility of life as do his wood assemblage sculptures. There is a sublime collaging of symbols, nature, sound, and space in these works.

Whereas most public art emphasizes distraction or object dominance of the artwork, Du Bois’s work is truly innovative, for he captures the sensibility that enables art to enter into a dialogue with an environment. His work is as much about sound and light interaction as the specifics of the site, and its effects are as much invisible as visible. With great artistic freedom and audacity, Du Bois invents new ways of perceiving space, light, and form in public art. The bridge is always to nature’s own fragility and procreative design. The craft element also emerges in the variability of each of Les Attracteurs’ thirty-six sculptural components.

Located in the Saint-Roch district of Quebec City’s Lower Town, Les Attracteurs brings public art into radical interaction, for here the artist has engaged in a dialogue with ecology while adding a few traces of his classic sense of humour to the art. These sculptures are like space invaders or a strange cluster of hybrid gigantesque insects (originally referred to as Les Capteurs, as they were alien life forms introduced into the park) assembled from cedar wood gathered in the forests of the Bas-Saint-Laurent region. Cast in bronze, a material associated with traditional sculpture, each sculpture is unique, suggesting the impossibility of capturing nature’s infinite variations.

Les Attracteurs – parcours interactif (2015)
Photo: John K. Grande

Some of the sculptures are quietly sited, seemingly at random, in front of the Saint-Roch Church, and others are in Place de l’Université du Québec and in the beautiful public garden named in honour of Jean-Paul L’Allier (1938–2016), mayor of Quebec City from 1989 to 2005. The park is enjoyed by residents of, and visitors to, Quebec City. As public sculpture, Les Attracteurs invokes the reintegration of a human presence within the orchestrated nature design of Quartier Saint-Roch and Parc Jean-Paul-L’Allier. The park is a beautiful regenerative sanctuary in the urban context, a place for people to relax and engage with the variability of nature’s own designs in the urban context. The symmetry of the garden design is contrasted with the chance placement of the sculptural elements.

Du Bois attempts to create art that focuses on permacultural reintegration into the ecosystem and is likewise unobtrusive and user friendly. Despite the restricted space of the park, Du Bois’s exchanges with light and sound elements ultimately encourage visitors’ awareness of the environs. The way Du Bois transforms these urban/natural spaces verges on performance art.

Amid the plants, flowers, and trees, Les Attracteurs generates an acoustic environment using a state-of-the-art connective aesthetics. With their original sound assemblage component designed by René Lussierseventeen of Du Bois’s thirty-six Attracteurs are interactive and reference this site in the district of Quebec City designated for new technologies. The sound compositions are activated as visitors approach a sculpture. The sounds that issue from the sculptures are surprising, involve chance, and conjure a sense of the mystery of nature–culture interchange. We feel that nature itself is a product of human perception in the way Du Bois’s thirty-six sculptures integrate as an ensemble in a response to the Quebec and Bas-Saint-Laurent bio-region.

Du Bois’s dialogue is intimate, without the sense of dominance that so many land artists have of taking over a place. His sensitivity to site and place is remarkably visionary. 

As a cultural component in an urban area, the sculptures, cast at the Atelier du bronze d’Inverness, in Inverness, Quebec, seem camouflaged, nearly invisible, but they nevertheless add a cultural aspect. In the Saint-Roch district, they exist as forms that reaffirm nature as source and provider. Each sculpture is unique, due to the nature of the lost-wax casting process. The variability of each form brings with it a craft aspect that personalizes the look of each element. Du Bois’s project is an incredibly successful integration of an artist’s vision in a public space, for in an age of coastal flooding and global warming, the sculptures are conceived less as objects than as procreative and interactive elements that enhance our awareness of space and of the immutability and phy­sics of place, all this in an age of new media, screen-bred imagery, and disconnected sensibilities.

As a project, Les Attracteurs began in 2010 as a proposal to the Ministry of Culture of Quebec and Quebec City’s “Art et design urbain – Saint-Roch technoculture” competition. Over the following five years, the project had considerable input from architects Diana Cardas and Pascal Gobeil, whose expertise contributed to the completion of this work of public art. The team that worked on Les Attracteurs was short-listed for Les Mérites d’architecture de la Ville de Québec award in 2016.

Du Bois’s dialogue is intimate, without the sense of dominance that so many land artists have of taking over a place. His sensitivity to site and place is remarkably visionary. The sound aspect is effective in its near- invisibility, sound art being one of the most active and vital areas in contemporary art. Lussier’s unique sound collage compositions provide a counterpoint to the physical site and the Les Attracteurs ensemble. This wonderful project, one artist’s response to global realities, was achieved through creative impulse and realized with aesthetic resolve: a new prototype for what public art is and can be!

Les Attracteurs – parcours interactif (2015)