Introduction to Montreal Mission Intern Nicolas Oligny

Categories: Latest News,MMI 2015 Reflections



I’m Nick. I was born and raised in Montreal. As an artist, my work is mainly interested in the links between different forms of figuration and consciousness (how do we read stick figures differently from a portrait of the Queen) and the constructs that define communities.

My experience with the art world, especially the practice of dissecting socio-cultural constructs, has led to an aversion toward its alienating effects. Artists are tearing down the monuments and their hierarchical meaning yet do not replace them, leaving us on our own when we attempt to relate to one another. How can community be consolidated where culture is divided?

Having grown up in an atheist environment and felt certain shortcomings to a spiritual aversion, I have become interested in some of the more positive facets of spiritual life, notably its propensity to unify various peoples. This notion was consolidated for me in an online interview between Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionary biologist, and George Coyne, Jesuit priest, astronomer, and former director of the Vatican Observatory; Dawkins was divisive in his discourse while Coyne remained more open minded, with thoughts such as “We are all subject to our personal history” and “It’s my firm belief that god deals with each of us in his own way”. Having a different personal history from Dawkins myself, my parent’s bookshelves having been heavily punctuated by Hawkins himself and Stephen Jay Gould, I have experienced firsthand some repercussions of the ideologies Hawkins propounds. Besides, if religiosity can be quantifiably correlated to increased well being by positive psychologists, a thought later pushed by the thinker Alain de Botton, perhaps it oughtn’t be stricken out altogether. Even if one wants to agree with Patton Oswalt and see it as being entirely constructed, this would espouse Dawkins’ very own belief in Plato’s noble lie, that

“We have…the mental equipment to foster our long term selfish interests rather than merely our short term selfish interests. We can see the long term benefits of participating in a ‘conspiracy of doves’, and we can sit down together to discuss ways of making the conspiracy work. We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism – something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world.”


During the course of my internship, I will be examining and re-contextualizing four symbols which evade hierarchical structures and help understand how “different personal histories” create a diverse world with myriad characters and opinions that creates a rich cultural soil whence a better future may arise.

“Memetic truffles grown up from a mulch of decomposing Aeons.”




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