Have you ever realized you’ve gotten lost walking or biking around Montreal’s countless little streets? Did you then try to visualize yourself on the map? Perhaps you were successful. But have you truly found yourself on the map? Studio Beluga hopes you find the answer to this question during their latest exhibition, Progression.
Studio Beluga was founded in 2009 with the goal of advancing the creative practices of emerging artists. Initially, the studio invited young artists to do a four month residency, working on any art form or subject of their choosing and then converting the studio into a gallery space to showcase their final products. Alina Maizel, a Concordia alumna, is one of the founders and directors of the studio. “It exists as a collective of people who love art, both artists and art amateurs, and we all just work together,” she said. Previously, Studio Beluga had locations in St. Henri and Mile End, but recently she, along with the other founders, many of whom are also Concordia alumni, wanted the studio to no longer have a physical location, focusing instead on pop-up events. “Instead of being restricted by the physical venue, [we felt that] we could really challenge people’s conventional idea of what an art gallery is by bringing them to outside spaces and saying: this is an art gallery,” Maizel explained.
The theme of the exhibition is the urban environment and it will be an attempt at mapping it, using cartography and conceptually examining what a map means. “Curatorially, it would be most fascinating to take that concept all the way through and have the exhibit outside on the streets. Further even, instead of having it on the streets, which is what a map usually outlines, we decided to put it in the inverse of what a map outlines, which is the alley, the part of the city that is not mapped,” Maizel said.
Exhibiting his work in the alley is Montreal artist and poet Cam Novak. A year ago, Novak was running a courier service which put him in close connection with the city of Montreal’s map, an essential tool for dispatching and delivery. “I had a map of Montreal over my desk that I would use to help dispatch my couriers … it was this weird ‘I hate you but I love you’. So I took it down off my wall and drew on it and it was like a fuck you to the map,” said Novak, adding “you [the map] were dictating what you wanted to me, my whole career, and now I am dictating you… it felt right.”
While Novak’s relationship to the Montreal map is still turbulent, the year spent preparing for the Progression exhibit has introduced a new fascination with issues of identity, particularly his own.This evolution of his art was the inspiration behind a five-foot high installation of a giant head with parts of the map embedded in it, which he has prepared for the exhibit.
“Instead of saying fuck you to the city, I am acknowledging that it has been an intrinsic part of who I am as an individual, and it has built who I am. And hence, progression,” Novak explained.
Along with Novak, Montreal-based FredC and French artist Joanathan Bessaci will be showcasing their work at the exhibition that will be held in the garden behind 16 St. Viateur West, the alleyway entrance.
Progression will take place for one day only on Sept. 7, from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Admission is free.