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Art intervention at Place des Arts: When critique invites itself into real estate

by Christine Beaudoin June 6, 2021
Art intervention at Place des Arts: When critique invites itself into real estate

Concordia students produce art interventions criticizing real estate in Montreal, encouraging the public to discuss housing issues.

An art intervention was staged on the Maestria Condominiums’ sales office in Place des Arts on Saturday, May 30. A group of four Concordia students and their professor were behind it.

Known as the Shock Value Collective, Thomas Heinrich, Gabriel Townsend Darriau, Christine White and Madelyn Capozzi, along with their professor, Marie-Sophie Banville, hope to stimulate discussions about an issue that Montrealers know all too well: the housing crisis.

Last week’s art intervention, led by Heinrich, is the first of four that will occur throughout the summer. These research projects are the culmination of the first iteration of Excess and the City, a course given by the Anti-Speculation desk of the Office of Rules and Norms at Concordia. 

Heinrich’s intervention, Concrete Capital, projected images onto the luxury condominium project, located on a small yet highly valued piece of land.

Folks taking advantage of the end of the curfew in Montreal walked by the projection, some curiously lifting their heads to see what the buzz was about. Passerbys read “700 000 000” on several images — the projected cost of Maestria’s luxury housing project. 

The zeros in the million dollar figure were sometimes replaced with the Google Street View screenshots of the piece of land over the last two decades; showing how little it has physically changed. 

Heinrich views critiquing real estate through art as a “very unusual” way of approaching the subject. He explains that students who study financial real estate are normally those who wish to become developers, or simply, “financially savvy.”

Maestria, who’s major investors include the Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ (Quebec Workers Federation), also happens to be the largest real estate development to have set foot in Quartier des Spectacles, according to a press release from 2019.

Along with investing $700 million in luxury condominium projects, the Quebec Workers Federation recently boasted about investing in social housing projects. But in comparison, the Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ told The Concordian only a total of $116 million was spent towards building and renovating 6,091 low- and middle-income household units across the province.

The Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ said in a statement to The Concordian that they knew nothing about the art intervention, nor were they approached by the collective.

In fact, it was not the Shock Value Collective’s intention to shame Maestria, and by extension, the Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ. According to Heinrich, those who participate in these projects work within “what they believe is right.” 

Their goal is rather to invite “regular people” to ask the following question: Why is there a growing housing crisis in Montreal?

The students’ professor, Banville, believes that not understanding why the housing crisis is happening adds a “layer of anxiety” to those affected by it.

The artist’s role in answering these questions, according to Banville, is by “making the issue visible, more understandable, and being able to feel [it].” 

With that in mind, Banville has faith that the projects put together by the Shock Value Collective have the power to engage the audience on an emotional level.

Photograph by Christine Beaudoin

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