Winter’s biggest party hides colorful gems underground
Written by Jocelyn Beaudet and Nathalie Laflamme
While the streets of downtown Montreal are flooded with people – dancing, drinking, socializing and otherwise having a good time, a quieter expression forms, under the concrete where thousands party. Nuit Blanche happens once a year; the metros are open all night, and festivities are thrown all around the city. This is also host to one of the largest art exhibits, spanning the entire ‘underground city’, and beyond. This year, like every other year, I’d opted out of partying all night in favor of tasting the artistic diversity of our local artists. My journey began at metro Places-des-Arts, where the first exhibit that would catch my eye was.
Amidst the sea of people, this brightly lit contraption was colorful, and odd enough to make me double-take. There was something that felt so out of place, and yet belonged exactly where it was. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
No further than a few meters away, there was the sound of endlessly echoing human voices, equally unnerving and yet, strangely reminiscent of whale ‘songs’. The sound came from this dome, made entirely out of speakers. Several microphones hung from the inside, where those who climbed in could speak, sing or hum. Usually, this proximity would cause horrible audio feedback, but for some reason, all that escaped was the strange sounds that caught my attention in the first place. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
As I walked further into places-des-arts, I was greeted by what can only be described as a life-sized version of Lite-Brite. The crowd was having fun organizing the pieces around before moving further into the larger part of the ARTV Studio exhibit. I decided to make a small detour into the exhibit and explore it a bit further. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
There was something oddly enchanting about the whole thing, but I didn’t stay put for very long, and moved on deeper inside. Where someone was painting. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
Now this isn’t something I’ve seen very often in my past attendances of Nuit Blanche. Two artists were painting separate pieces. This was the first I saw in action. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
On my way to the second painter though, I was stopped by this ‘statue’. Although hardly made of earthen materials, it reminded me oddly of a clay statue, and some vague recollections of Indiana Jones. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
And here stood the second painter. Equally as impressive as the one before him. I stood by to watch him paint a little further, and moved out of the ARTV Studio exhibit, and made my way towards Complexe Desjardins after making this small detour. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
There’s always some sort of interesting looped film playing in the hallway of place-des-arts, this in itself isn’t particularly new. But this particular looped animation, reminiscent of older cartoons, made me smile and brought back some fonder memories. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
I took a short break once I was inside Complexe Desjardins, for a bit of coffee and because a crowd was gathering around the fountain at the center. By the fountain though, was this ominous monolith. Admittedly, I wasn’t impressed with it at first and opted out of taking a picture of it. But over the few minutes I stood by it, the looming presence of the exhibit grew on me. I barely had the time to snag a picture before the lights dimmed, and the fountain began ‘misting’. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
Accompanied by some beautiful music in the background, the scene felt almost like a fairy tale, straight out of a live-action Disney movie. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
Predictably, the fountain’s spout shot the water all the way to the shopping mall’s high ceiling. Although nothing out of the ordinary for those familiar with the fountain, the colored lights and music made for a more meaningful experience, almost building the whole thing like a crescendo.
As the presentation ended, I began to make my way out of the mall, and further away from Places-des-Arts. Also predictably, this is where things started becoming a little less interesting. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
A bit past Complexe Guy-Favreau’s underground was a piece of wireframe which, when illuminated and projected to the wall behind, created an interesting perception trick. The exhibit itself though, felt ill-placed and easy to pass by, should its presentation not be underway. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
On the way to the Palais des Congres, in the brightly lit tunnels, was this. The odd combination of geometry and art felt like it spoke out me, almost begged for my attention. With that being said, I’m still unsure as to what exactly it represented. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
As we climbed out of the underground, giant replicas of cigarettes piled together like a campfire stood in my way. I’m sure there was a message to convey here, but I’ve missed the point completely. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
Through another hallway, the projection of walking silhouettes on crumpled paper was on display. With the sounds of a busy crowd playing in the background, the shadows on the paper continued along their merry way, even when the hallway was deserted. For some reason, it felt oddly creepy, like seeing and hearing ghosts in the city’s often silent tunnels. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
In the Palais des Congres now, there danced a strange yarn-clad figure. Not seen in the picture is the headphones protruding from its side. After some time spent fearing ghosts in the city’s underground, I didn’t quite feel comfortable around this exhibit and promptly walked away. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
My trip towards the Eaton Centre from here remained fairly uneventful. Exhibits were plenty, but at this point, I felt disenchanted. When we arrived at the city’s busiest mall, the yearly ‘crowd-sourced’ art exhibit was well underway. As the crowd was encouraged to participate and draw its own art on different-shaped canvases. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
And here, my journey came to an end. After spending three hours mulling over several dozen presentations and exhibits, I was about ready to call it a night.
There were several other exhibits that I’ve seen, but not presented, and these represent my favorites – both good and bad – among the ones that I’d seen this year.
As usual though, the furthest I was from places-des-arts, the less impressed I was with the exhibits themselves. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet
At the end of the day though, the whole thing was a fun experience, and many of the exhibits are still available for art lovers to browse until March 14th. That being said, the exhibits may end up being just as busy as this one in the end. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet.
Concordia took part in Nuit blanche with their event, Crystaline. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme
At the VAV Gallery in the VA building, three artists were given twp square feet of an “interactive film strip” to create pieces that respond to winter in Montreal. This piece was created by Keir MacDonald, and is called Flip-Strip No. 1. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme
“Montréal la belle”, by Audrey Dandenault. This piece is made of silk. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme
Many projections took place inside and outside the gallery. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme
In the MFA gallery, participants were able to try their hand at animations, learning from students as well as professionals, like Concordia professor Erik Goulet. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme
Participants got to try animating with puppets, different colors of sand, and cutout papers. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme
Participants also got to learn to animate with 35 mm film and sharpies from professor Goulet. The animation projects were later projected, and participants got to keep their ribbons. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme