Étude de cas

Case study

Enseigner des airs aux oiseaux

Teaching old birds new songs

Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

La machine qui enseignait des airs aux oiseaux

La machine qui enseignait des airs aux oiseaux

La machine qui enseignait des airs aux oiseaux

La machine qui enseignait des airs aux oiseaux








La machine qui enseignait des airs aux oiseaux was presented at Montreal’s Musée d'art contemporain (MAC) from February 10 to April 25, 2021.

Curated by Mark Lanctôt and François LeTourneux, the exhibition gathered the work of 34 Greater Montreal artists around a broad theme: how the body can be taught by making. How do bodies learn through repetitive movement? Are these learnings and movements languages in their own right? The works explore these questions, evoking and enacting the transfer of knowledge and affect through language that is embodied, rather than written.


La machine qui enseignait des airs aux oiseaux

Mark Lanctôt and François LeTourneux

Mark Lanctôt, François LeTourneux and Krista Lynes

Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

9 × 12 in. 6 × 9 in. (booklet)

Number of pages
288, 44 (booklet)

Production notes
Soft cover, multiple paper stocks, multiple inserts


© Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2020






Lectures insert


Opening of artwork section

Back cover

A catalogue without images

The exhibition featured 34 artists: Vikky Alexander, Trevor Baird, Thomas Bégin, Simon Belleau, Scott Benesiinaabandan, Sandeep Bhagwati, Jacques Bilodeau, Rosika Desnoyers, Mara Eagle, Surabhi Ghosh, Carla Hemlock, Kristan Horton, Sheena Hoszko, Isuma, Kelly Jazvac, Suzanne Kite, Moridja Kitenge Banza, Karen Kraven, Marlon Kroll, Nicolas Lachance, Yen-Chao Lin, Anne Low, Luanne Martineau, Manuel Mathieu, N.E. Thing Co., Jérôme Nadeau, Isabelle Pauwels, Guillaume Adjutor Provost, Walter Scott, Erin Shirreff, Eve Tagny, Samuel Walker, Nico Williams, and Thea Yabut. 

The challenge involved creating a catalogue for such a large and diverse group that does justice to each artist’s contribution. Further, a “catalogue without images” had to be designed and created while the works were still in production. Each artist was allocated four pages—one page of text and three pages of full-bleed images—to ensure equal representation while providing a structure to support the many different paper stocks the book required. The curators’ software, SketchUp, provided a clear picture of the works and their location so that we could accurately plan the exhibition’s photographic documentation—a crucial step to ensure images could be harmoniously integrated into the layout as soon as they were produced.

Table of contents




Lectures insert

Artwork section

A material language

The exhibition title refers to the serinette, a small mechanical barrel organ used to teach birds tunes, an aristocratic amusement in 18th-century Europe. The leitmotif of bodily learning through repetition is further embedded in the physicality of the catalogue: a rhythm is transmitted to the reader’s hands through the regular changes in the paper and marked by inserts featuring short texts by nine authors. Through its material language, the catalogue questions the primacy of sight as a sense for apprehending and interpreting the world. The relationship to representation is also explored through books within the book (the “Readings” inserts), fake books within the book (the curators’ texts and Krista Lynes’ essay), and facsimiles within the book (the texts gathered by Raymond Boisjoly in the “Facsimile” booklet). These structural strategies give the book its daring, uncanonical form.

Opening of the translations section

Facsimilés booklet




Editorial design

Raphaël Daudelin

Graphic design

Raphaël Daudelin


Production coordinator

Marjolaine Labelle

Publishing oversight

Chantal Charbonneau

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