Art Matters is the yearly opportunity for Concordia’s art students to pull their creative juices together and show off their work in some of Montreal’s hottest venues. The city-wide event is the only one of its kind in Canada, being solely student-run.
It’s a great feat in and of itself because of the way students must organize themselves to find venues and funding. This festival adds some of the most pertinent skills and knowledge to our art education, such as proposal writing, applying for grants and promoting our work. Along the way, they gain experience as curators, exhibiting artists, technicians, publicists and the list goes on.
This year’s organizers, Celia Sidarous Perrin and Jim Verbug, really elevated the quality of the fest by taking special attention to details, such as creating e-mail invites to vernissages and using some of the city’s best locations.
Taking part in a show featured in this art festival can be a pretty thrilling experience. I was especially excited to be a part of the festival because of the opportunity to show an experimental work that criticizes the hypocrisy of war, alongside other strong politically-themed art works.
I had the chance to screen one of my own video works, Jus Ad Bellum, in ‘Friendly Fire’, a multidisciplinary show curated by Ed Janzen and Joshua Barnt. It highlighted some of the school’s most activist art.
“I’m interested in art that deals with environmental issues and politics, and so I joined Art Matters as a curator,” explained Barnt. “And Ed Janzen [FASA’s president] wanted to organize a show that dealt with Canadian foreign policy and militarism. So, we decided to work together and organize an exhibition that would feature such works.”
Barnt said it was his first impression upon joining Concordia’s art department that made him want to create a show dealing with activist issues. “When I first entered Concordia, I felt there was negativity surrounding political art, yet that kind of work is important and a lot of student art contains these themes. I wanted to put together a show that would showcase that work,” added Barnt. When asked why he had his heart set on producing a politically-themed exhibition, Janzen explained: “Anything I do will always be informed by my political background. It would be dishonest of me to create anything else!”
Janzen came up with the name ‘Friendly Fire’ based on the concept that we belong to a culture that’s obsessed with progress – a culture that accomplishes many great feats but also creates a great many problems. “As artists, we can become critically aware of these dilemmas and share our reactions to them,” said Barnt.
It’s rare to see a show that mixes together such diverse media as photography, painting, video, sculpture, performance and music, to name just a few. According to Barnt, the concept behind the works was more important than the medium. Although they didn’t set out to do so, they were pleased to have organized an exhibition that included such a rich array of media.
“It’s pleasing to gain the experience of putting together works that aren’t mine, and help these artists display their art professionally,” said Barnt, explaining why he had chosen to curate a show as opposed to be featured in one.
Both Barnt and I agreed that the best part aspect of displaying art is always the vernissage. This opening in particular was attended by roughly 300 people: students, kids, parents and random folks all looking for a good time in the name of art. With a live blues grassroots band to perk up the vibe – even inspiring some dancing! – and beer and snacks to satisfy our other, more primal urges, the gallery felt more like an awesome celebration than a mere vernissage.
If you haven’t yet had the chance to see any art matters shows, be sure to check out one of their vernissages for a crazy fun time.
The festival will continue until March 17 and the full program is available on-line at http://artmatters.concordia.ca