Montreal’s hidden secret After a month of living and feeling the effervescence of Montréal, something inside me needed to know more about this city and its history. I immediately was attracted to the title of this exhibition : Scandale! Vice, crime et moralité à Montréal, 1940-1960, hosted in the Centre d’histoire de Montréal, a former fire station in the old port district. I found the building’s architecture authentic and its location interesting as it is placed in the middle of a square; rare in the orthogonal organization of Montréal. To my great surprise, I discovered a “city of pleasures” with exuberant nightlife, whose reputation for partying was first established during prohibition in the US. As the exhibition progressed, I explored the damage of alcohol, the power of prostitution, and the Montreal police force’s role in the moralization movement. In fact, the entire exhibition is based on interviews with a variety of characters; ranging from nightlife hosts of the era to Concordia history professors who all give their unique perspective on this time period. I think making an exhibition attractive based on interview film is a challenge. On one hand there is nothing more effective to put you in the middle of the action than someone giving a personal account of what’s happened. On the other hand, creating a real experience for the spectator with only a succession of screens can prove difficult. The mise en scène is smart because we are led through different atmospheres referring to records and the progression in time. I began the exhibition watching interviews in a cabaret bar, and from there I went through sort of secret passage and back shops before ending up in a police office. I felt the scenography was slightly over the top and at times the atmosphere was overbearing, for example, some cabaret decorations like the plastic pink ceilings or the interrogation lamps appeared very fake. However, the setting fit the context for this period.
Itinerant gallery Some of my boyfriend’s friends created this organization a few years ago called Centerfold and I ended up at their ninth event and enjoyed a private visit – private because we showed up so late that the event was over, but thanks to my friend’s talent we had the entire space for the two of us and the opportunity to talk with the curators about their project ! Centerfold describes itself as a “series of pop-up art exhibits with a vision of supporting the local art scene”. The goal is simple, enable artists to earn money through donations made at the door. Furthermore, the spectators’ participation is very important, because in exchange for the donation we received a small ballot, where we were asked to write down our three favorite pieces. At the end, the entirety of the donations are re-distributed to the artists according to the percentage of votes they received. I thought it was very interesting that the spectators play a real role in the exhibition proceedings. Also, the fact of asking “who is your favorite ?” made us read the names attentively and compare and talk about them. It made the act of visiting much more intense. Despite the small number of pieces, the mediums were extremely rich, including photography, metal prints, oil paints, and projection. As it is a “pop up exhibit” the location changes for every event. This ninth edition was hosted in the center of young entrepreneurs Nuwrk, based on blvd St Laurent. The single room was small and I felt for some pieces a lack of space to fully highlight them. I suppose hosting Centerfold at different places sometimes unaccustomed to display art exhibitions must be a challenge at every new event.
Identity The topic of the first peoples is very important in the history of North America, though I didn’t hear a lot about it in the past three months of living in Montreal as a tourist, as it is not something Canada is necessarily proud about. So I decided to go and find more information myself and I discovered the permanent exhibition at the McCORD Museum called “Wearing our identity. The first people collection” which explores the complex heritage of the first peoples of Canada. Although the exhibition aims to showcase how much the first peoples’ identity is intrinsically linked to their dress, I felt there was a lack of information about the pieces displayed. The spectator can understand in the videos and paragraphs on the walls that, beyond its main purpose of protection, the clothes give immediate information about the nation, age, gender, status or remarkable achievements of the individual wearing it. But I felt frustrated to not have access to it for each individual piece. In fact, the data linked to the pieces themselves are large and unclear, leaving the spectator alone to contemplate the meaning of the garment. This lack might just be from a poorly developed scenography because I don’t think the museum misses information since the exhibition is produced by private donations and in close collaboration with an aboriginal advisory committee. Moreover, every single object is contained in a glass box which reflects the light a lot and damages the act of contemplation. Despite this, it was very enjoyable to observe the handmade and traditional dresses and how creative the contemporary aboriginal culture is. So, I would still recommend this exhibition as a first sight of first peoples’ culture – and also just to please the eyes – but I would suggest going to check out other sources in order to understand it further. One source I enjoyed was this website cataloguing sixteen places showcasing the aboriginal culture in Quebec. Among them, I would recommend the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa which presents a huge resource of historic information accessible on their website. The lay-out is not very esthetic but very organized and helpful to understand the complexity of first peoples’ History.
The beauty of a rickety Montreal I have been living in the «Plateau”, one of the touristic parts of Montreal known for its charming and colorful streets and its rich history. “Regard inédit sur mon quartier” put together around fifty photographs by Daniel Heïkalo, a Canadian photographer who grew up in “The Village”, a neighborhood nearby the «Plateau». The exhibition is all about the place and it narrates the story of a former Montreal without hot water and built by its inhabitants themselves with the available materials around. This vernacular architecture evolved through the time and resulted in the current image of Montreal’s streets : a sober and harmoniously proportioned architecture. In fact, the buildings that we love to photograph with the metallic stairs and little balconies are directly inspired by what these people created a hundred years ago. The photographs are an homage to an authentic Montreal before being damaged by the phenomena of globalization and also to the people who dedicated themselves to bring the streets to life. I loved reading the artist’s little notes on the side of the pieces describing the buildings; how they stand today or his feelings about them. Daniel Heïkalo expresses the feelings of a little boy walking from alleys to backyards and marveling at new discoveries. As an inhabitant of these alleys I felt the magic exuding from these historic places where I walk every day. Finally, the exhibition is hosted in the “Éco-musée du fier du monde” a former art-déco swimming pool remodeled into a museum. Also, this museum showcases a permanent exhibition about the working-class population evolving in this same neighborhood from the 1920’ to today, giving even more sense to the Heïkalo photographs.
Articles de blog portant sur des expositions artistiques à Montréal