Tour the art installations in Montreal’s public spaces

Enjoying “End of Broadcast,” part of the collaborative exhibit Common Space? at the Quartier des Spectacles. Photo by Emmanuel Campeau.

The Quartier des spectacles presents an outdoor exhibit called Common Space?

The Quartier des spectacles, in collaboration with MUTEK and the National Film Board, pushes people to get out and interact with art with Common Space? a collaborative exhibit between Montreal and various European cities that offers eight works from 13 international and local artists. The Concordian took a night guided tour of the exhibit.

Enjoying “End of Broadcast,” part of the collaborative exhibit Common Space? at the Quartier des Spectacles. Photo by Emmanuel Campeau.
Enjoying “End of Broadcast,” part of the collaborative exhibit Common Space? at the Quartier des Spectacles. Photo by Emmanuel Campeau.

The two tour guides for the evening were Louis-Richard Tremblay, producer at the NFB, and Katharina Meissner, coordinator for MUTEK at the BAnQ (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec). “Half of the projects are about technology as a new public space and our relation to it. The other would be more about objects that populate the city and the way we live and react to these objects,” said Tremblay as he led viewers through the themes of Common Space?. “Artists from Montreal were paired with artists from overseas, none of them knowing each other,” said Tremblay. “One of the Human Future projects’ intents was to have [artists] come together with the local community.”

“Forgot Your Password?”

Near the main entrance of the BANQ, a video projection of hundreds of passwords and usernames are displayed on a wall. A collective group of hackers, the D33Ds Company, hacked personal information from Yahoo Voices users in the summer of 2012. The video projection is a 30-minute loop showing only 12,000 of the 450,000 passwords hacked that summer. “This is a lesson about carefully choosing your password,” said Tremblay. ”Although no visitor has seen theirs on the wall yet.”

“We’re All Friends Here”

A quick walk and you stop in front of another video projected on a building, but this time the artist, Sam Meech, is there contemplating his own work. The video shows all kinds of messages, symbols and colours knitted out of wool that resulted from interviews Meech did with people living in the district. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people—business owners, tourists, people from [an] art organization, strippers, police, protesters in order to tell the story of people living in the area,” said Meech.

The other piece of art that involves knitting was made in collaboration with local knitting artist Marilène Gaudet. The piece is a single Bell phone booth that projects recordings of the voices of people that Meech talked to. Inside the booth, you can choose to either listen to these voices or record your own message. “It is a very intimate experience, whereas most public art [installations] are very public,” said Meech. To accompany the phone booth, a video projected on a building uses the voices of the interviewed people to show knitting sound waves.

“Unintended Emissions”

Close to the St. Laurent metro station, an interactive video that tracks viewers’ cell phones is projected—any cell phone produces emissions that can be captured by third parties. A machine captures and uses information from people’s cellphones to create an interactive map. This map shows barely five per cent of what can be tracked by the machine. “Showing more than this is illegal and we would get sued,” Meissner said.

“Îles invisibles”

A few steps and you’re standing next to a pole with network instructions and symbols. “What Sebastien Pierre built is a device which is an off-net network. It allows you to connect to information, to other people, while being protected from the Internet,” said Tremblay. “He used this technology to tell a story within a city, using 16 sites with graffiti code numbers that allow you to enter the system. You can then follow the story of Ismari, a girl living in this neighborhood in 1959 who disappears into the future. She communicates with us through that technology and tells the story of that neighborhood through time. “

“A Side Man 5000 Adventure”

A little bit more walking and one finds himself near the Goethe Institute building. In front of your eyes, the oldest electric drum machine, the Wurlitzer Side Man 5000, is filmed with zooming and panning techniques as the machine’s noises set the rhythm of the projection. Inside the Goethe Institute, a T.V. screen plays a video of Nelly-Ève Rajotte playing on the machine. “She acts like a host in a T.V. show, explaining and playing around with the machine,” said Tremblay.


“Molysmocène means the era of garbage,” said Tremblay. Displayed in front of you is a colourful stop-motion animation made of random objects. “Michel de Broin worked a full day with a group of kids ages eight to 12 and asked them to bring objects which he used for the projection we see now,” said Tremblay. “He is questioning how we relate to what we leave behind, to how we consume objects.”

Molysmocène is by Canadian artist Michel de Broin. Photo by Emmanuel Campeau.
Molysmocène is by Canadian artist Michel de Broin. Photo by Emmanuel Campeau.

“End of Broadcast”

In front of the Place des Arts, a big screen is divided into large strips of colour. When someone walks or moves in front of the screen, a sensor picks up this movement and makes the sound and image in front of them glitch into one out of six free T.V. channels. “It is about disconnecting ourselves from the continuous flow of information,” said Tremblay.

“Poème Mécanique”

The visit ends inside Place des Arts, as you stop under a big metal ring. Inside, 840 tiny mirror disks move all at once, making a clicking sound that quickly becomes delicate music. Tobias Ebsen, the artist behind this piece, was present at the time of our visit. “What I find interesting about being in this public space is that if you stay quiet and concentrate on the sound, you tune into it and after a while you shut yourself out of the environment you were in,” Ebsen said.

Free French guided tour on Oct.15 with projections beginning at 7 p.m. The exhibition ends on Oct. 18.

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