Beyond the walls of Montreal’s prestigious Museum of Fine Arts there is another art scene that lives in small, obsolete areas of the city. Spread out across the Mile End and the Plateau are gallery spaces hidden in random, industrialized buildings, waiting to be discovered and explored. Such is the case of Diagonale, a gallery located on Gaspé Ave., and which is currently harbouring Monstrosities, yet another artistic endeavour showcasing the work of Concordia students.
Monstrosities consists of a selection of works by undergraduate students completing their major in fibre and material practices, one of the lesser known studio programs in the fine arts department at Concordia. As the exhibit’s descriptor so quaintly puts it, “the artists deal with notions that tie textile and the body together, exploring the relationship that exists between the two and how they contrast and complement each other.” The result is a combination that will provoke both nausea and utter astonishment.
Body Of Consent, one of the easiest pieces to spot upon walking into the exhibit, is the work of artist Véronique Tremblay. What at first will earnestly remind viewers of a set of genitalia disembodied in limp pieces, is actually meticulously thought out. As audiences approach the piece they realize that on this pink, shiny fabric, the author has printed thousands of words that could typically be related to sexual encounters, be they one night stands or full-on relationships. Words linger on textile, reminding viewers of the consequences and weight that come with this burlesque illustration of these fundamental body parts.
The most impressive and notoriously nauseating piece in the exhibit is, without a doubt, Untitled by Cardy Lai. Using what appears to be strands of thick woollen string drenched in coffee, the artist realistically makes viewers want to gag by creating an accurate depiction of fecal matter. Although some question the artistic value of such a piece, it does play a more traditional artistic role phenomenally well: it effectively recreates reality. In fact, the depiction is so well executed that viewers will squirm, cringe and even turn away if they are the more sensitive type. Stomachs will certainly churn as audiences will have no trouble imagining the texture and stench to accompany this piece.
Other works also stand out in the exhibit, though less scandalously. Stephanie E.M. Coleman’s Maladjusted, an impressive piece of lingerie, plays with transparency and symbolism. As for Mask: Bestialiska, by Benita Whyte, this last piece is a combination of sculptural endeavours and video presentation. The piece has this particularly monstrous touch to it, as the video reveals a subject slowly and meticulously removing a mask in a movement to reveal her face.
Notions of freedom and liberty are perhaps unintentionally evoked by the gallery’s setup, as the shadows on the wall remind us of birds flying off into the horizon.
There is some criticism to be had in regards to the curatorial style of the exhibit. Considering the symbolic value of their work it would have been nice if the artists had provided some sort of descriptor to further enlighten their audience on the creative process that accompanied their work. This is because with understanding comes fascination. After all, it’s a fundamental rule of human nature: horrify us and we simply won’t know how to look away.
Monstrosities will be running until March 23 at Diagonale Centre d’arts, 5455 Gaspé Ave. local 203. Admission is free and the gallery is open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday.