Research and creation should go hand in hand

Joan Jonas was a keynote speaker at Re-Create, presented on Nov. 5, co-hosted by Concordia

Research itself is the discovery and presentation of ideas, concepts and theories and it can be said that art shares these functions. What happens when research is accompanied by and connected with artistic/creative practices?

Joan Jonas is said to be a pioneer of video and performance art. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

This concept was discussed at a conference held at Concordia this week. Media Art Histories—an Austrian organization providing a platform for conferences and more about media art—is celebrating its 10th anniversary and from Nov. 4 to Nov. 8 Concordia University, along with UQÀM, hosted their sixth international Media Art Histories conference. The Montreal edition went by the name of Re-Create 2015: Theories, Methods and Practices of Research-Creation in the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology.

“Research-creation,” in a vague sense, is the convergence of artistic and creative practices with research—something that can be said to be an increasingly hot topic in the academic world. According to the press release for Re-Create, it “combines theory and practice by connecting interpretative disciplines (humanities) with creative practices (arts and design).”  This concept was explored in the conference through the use of dialogue, discourse, artwork, presentation and more. Eighty-one researchers from 21 different countries were represented. The conference was made up of three keynote presentations, the Emerging Researchers’ Symposium (presentations, plenaries and more), the “Bridge” session (a discussion), five public presentations and several exhibitions and satellite activities.

According to the information found on Re-Create’s press release, their use of keynote speakers was to “broaden [the] understanding of the different contexts and aspects of research-creation,” from each speaker’s unique backgrounds and presentations. The first of these speakers to present was Joan Jonas on Nov. 5 in Concordia’s Hall building.

The first keynote speech on Nov. 5 in the Hall building. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

One of Jonas’s biggest, most recent projects was an exhibit named They Come to Us without a Word at the United States Pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year—the third project that has been presented at this venue by the MIT List Visual Arts Center. According to her biography on the project’s website, Jonas “is a pioneer of video and performance art, and an acclaimed multimedia artist.” The web page describes Jonas to have been a central figure in ‘60s and ‘70s in the performance art movement, with work that remains relevant for the development of some contemporary art genres. Jonas has been a professor at MIT since 1998 and currently teaches in the Art, Culture, and Technology program within the School of Architecture and Planning.

In her keynote lecture Jonas presented a wide array of the work she produced and performed over the years, highlighting the threads, inspirations and concepts that run through them. The audience was presented with details of what sparked certain projects of hers, her views on props that she recurrently used, what things or experiences draw her personally and more.

Jonas noted some of her inspirations, such as Hilda Doolittle, as well as things that largely influence her work, like travel. For example, she mentioned Japan to be a place that both influenced some of her notable work in the ‘70s as well as the physical structuring of one of her gallery setups later on in her career. She brought up her recurringly presented idea of “inside and outside,” the relation between personal ideas coming from her interacting with what was going on in the world around her, as well as her consistent draw to fairy tales, ghost stories, ritual, mirrors, animals and more.

“It was … not only her engagement with new media at the time or interests in the new media of video, but also her knowledge and passion for research, specifically for art history, poetry, literature, history, and cinema … which allowed [Jonas] to weave together various stories and inspirations,” said Barbara Clausen, the UQÀM respondent, or host, for the lecture.

“When I began my work I studied art history and sculpture, and research, of course, has always … been part of the development and process of anybody studying or making anything. Research … it goes without saying, [is] part of the process,” said Jonas.

And as much as research-creation can entail the utilization of creative or artistic practices for academic research, it can also be linked with the way research serves the creation of artwork as well. “I’m researching all the time … I call it reading, going to the library—I don’t really like to call it research. But it is just an integral part of my work as it is of many people’s work,” said Jonas.

The lecture presented the audience with an overview of Jonas’s work and the ideas and themes it has presented over the years. This allowed for the exploration of a notable artist and media art as a whole, but also inspired thought on the role that research plays in its relationship with artwork. Perhaps now more than ever, the academic world is ready for a more rampant integration of artistic creativity and scholarly research.


To learn more about Media Art Histories visit their website at


The Roaring ‘20s make a comeback at the MMFA

The Museum of Fine Arts pays a glamorous tribute to artists of Montreal’s past, the Beaver Hall Group

The evening started as a crowd—all clad in attire reminiscent of the ‘20s—floated into a blue-lit bar room. The sounds of clinking glasses and the hum of echoed conversations were accompanied by the jumpy jazz coming from the musicians at the end of the room.

This jolly museum-goer could easily pass for a 1920s belle. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

On Oct. 28, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts hosted a ‘20s-themed evening filled with wine, music, artwork and more, which was centred around their new exhibit, 1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group.

Live music echoed through the museum’s archways as guests mingled or made their way up the carpeted marble steps to the exhibit which paid tribute to Montreal’s famous and historic group of artists, the Beaver Hall Group.

A taste of the dancing and nostalgia-ridden atmosphere. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

Showing works spanning from 1920 to 1933, the wall panels explain that the Beaver Hall Group is an “association of some twenty artists and their closest colleagues” that existed between 1920 and 1923 and that, additionally, the Canadian Group of Painters—the next chapter for some of these artists—was founded in 1933. The MMFA boasts this exhibit to be the first major study of this association. This group of Montreal artists represented women and men in equal parts, making them the first association to do so in the country. However, this is only one of the many reasons why the museum is using jazz as a metaphor for their modernity.

The ‘20s are known as the “Jazz age”—jazz is at the very heart of the period. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

The majority of the artists within the group had attended the school of the Art Association of Montreal—which was written to be the precursor to the MMFA itself. This shared training background might contribute to the continuity of style and technique seen throughout most of the exhibit. There is a varied choice of media and notable traits particular to each artist, but there are clear stylistic similarities within the group. However, with media ranging from oil on canvas to sculptures of patinated plaster and bronze and themes of winter landscapes, portraiture, industrial settings and more, the styles and subjects of this exhibit are as various as some of the detailed frames that surround the pieces.

The historic context provides a charismatic quality to the pieces and their backstories. Among them, tales or inspirations drawn from World War I or the group’s “feminization” from being perceived as notably female-dominated at the time. Furthermore, many of the landscapes depicted are of Montreal and other areas in the province of Quebec—such as the Laurentians and Gaspé—with captions containing the comfort of familiar street names—such as St. Denis Street and Sherbrooke Street. Paired with the intrigue of a portrayal of this different time period, the exhibit allows viewers to visit a familiar place in an unfamiliar time through these historic artists.

Visitors peruse the paintings that influenced Montreal’s art scene over the last century. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

The exhibit also holds a variety of aesthetic styles to enjoy. Take for example the simple but colourful landscapes from artists like Sarah Robertson or Prudence Heward’s skillfully executed depictions of lighting or her subjects’ noticeably more pronounced musculatures and skeletal structures. The collection of artwork had more than enough to offer to the perusing guests as they circulated in their feather boas and pearl necklaces. With or without the jazzy, Roaring ‘20s theme, this exhibit is worth taking the time to stroll through—and even if you missed the costume opportunity, it may just be worth it to don the historic attire to go to the gallery any other day, even if that does mean the occasional disconcerted sidelong glance.


1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group is showing at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until Jan. 31.


Turn your next pair of kicks into a work of art

A new Montreal startup—The Flyest Shoe—is here to personally customize your sneakers

We all use fashion to express who we really are—whether it signifies class, personality, emotion or interests. It’s a way to speak to the world through fabric and montage, an explanation of oneself without words. A new Montreal startup called The Flyest Shoe—formed in January 2015—allows this process to go one step further (pun intended).

From left: Quentin, Nicolas Gaume, Mathieu Naillon and Anastasia Domerego. Photo by Lydia Anderson.

The startup was co-founded by Nicolas Gaume, a UQÀM student, and Mathieu Naillon, an HEC student. It is run by five official members accompanied by two main artists—OneTulip and Quentin. The concept behind the company is the personal customization of sneakers—they upgrade your shoes from feet protection to works of art. Freelance or contracted artists are brought in by the crew to hand-paint your kicks, mostly with an acrylic leather paint called Angelus.

You can either bring in your own sneakers or the group commonly orders sneakers such as Nike Air Force One, Nike Air Max, Adidas Superstar and Adidas Stan Smith for their customers. These shoes are primarily ordered in black and white so that they can act as a canvas for the artists to work off of. But rather than just customizing footwear in a generic way, the company offers the benefit of a conversation and an inclusion into the creative process. You can come in with a vague or a specific idea and brainstorm with the team and the artist that will be making your sneakers their canvas, their temporary sketchbook.

Quentin and the team work hard on delivering unique and hand-made designs. Photo by Lydia Anderson.

“You can [already] customize your sneakers but it’s not personal, so everybody can do the same as you. [Here] we are really trying to make something different for each customer,” said Gaume. “It’s a new relationship between the artist, the customers [and] the team. We try to do something more personal,” said Anastasia Domerego, the art director of the startup. Domerego pointed out that big brands aren’t asking you “What would you like? What is your inspiration?” while this is exactly what The Flyest Shoe wants to know.

Your sneaker customization happens in five easy steps: pick a pair, choose a design, review various previews, choose your favourite preview and give your approval on the final product. Your pair of sneakers can be finished in two to four weeks and pricing starts at $200 and may vary depending on the vastness and complexity of design. “If you want to have the pair of your dreams, but not to look like everybody else, go customize your pair. Come to our shop and we will make it different, better and yours … People want to be different and they want to be creators now,” said Gaume.

Gaume hopes that the future of the company will include 10 Montreal-based artists, international orders and two artists on the team who specialize in tailoring. Furthermore, rather than only personalizing a larger brand’s product, they hope to one day produce a brand of shoes of their own.

Whether you’re an artist interested in applying to make someone’s fantasy sneakers a reality, a customer who wants a pair of kicks that will set you apart or someone who wishes to walk the streets wearing artwork, The Flyest Shoe is a startup to keep your eye on.


For more information visit  The Flyest Shoe’s website at


Montreal’s Norman Nawrocki launches AGITATE!

A loop-pedal violin performance and the author’s reading inspired us to pick up a copy of his new book

You’re in a room full of people. There’s a gentle hum of conversation and sporadic sounds of clinking glasses. A small bell begins ringing and voices trail off as people notice the source of the sound: a man—with his back to everyone—pacing along the back wall. The room is silent, anticipation hangs in the air. Then, a collective chuckle resonates in the room as Norman Nawrocki, the man of the evening, stops ringing the bell and turns from the wall to reveal the Groucho glasses on his face. He makes his way to the stage singing, slowly clapping and inviting the audience to repeat his words.

Not how you’d use a violin normally, but Norman Nawrocki didn’t stick to conventional use at his launch either. Photo by Maurice Pressé.

This was only the beginning of Nawrocki’s book launch on Oct. 13 at Casa del Poppolo. AGITATE! Anarchist rants, raps, and poems is his 13th book with illustrations by Montreal artist Mathieu Chartrand. The launch entailed a loop-pedal violin performance and a reading by the author. It was aggressively theatrical but in an awesome and passionate way.

Nawrocki wasn’t afraid to interact with the audience and was neither confined by the stage nor the traditional ways of manipulating a violin. He used drumsticks both on the strings and body of the violin along with an elastic band around the body to pluck along with the strings. With the consistent use of a loop pedal throughout, Nawrocki mixed literature, music, and theatre in his performance. As an artist he shares what he sees, experiences, and processes by harnessing his skills and background as a cabaret performer. His biography boasts no less than 12 other published pieces of writing, multiple sex-show tours, time as a teacher, and a culmination of 50 albums released either solo or with his bands. Eccentric, passionate and rebellious are only a few words to describe the character and style of Montreal’s Norman Nawrocki.

AGITATE! is his newest publication with the majority of its pieces being created by Norman over the past year. Its subject matter approaches a wide range of present day issues, from terrorism to sexism. “[This book offers] new perspectives on a whole lot of different issues that are contemporary, important issues. Perspectives that maybe will help people think their way out of a lot of the confusion that exists out there given all the lies that the media spews, all the lies coming out of the Harper government all the time,” said Nawrocki. “People want things to change and this book is like a primer for a lot of people who want to get active, who want to do things but don’t know where to start or what to do.”

Nawrocki has an overall passion for the medium of the written word and the power it holds, but also believes that the power of access to media dissemination comes with a social responsibility to talk about important things. “I think right now artists in general have a responsibility to talk about all these issues, we can’t wait anymore,” said Nawrocki. “How do you motivate people? How do you win people’s hearts and minds? How do you get people to do things? Poetry for me, and this book, is one means to do that.”

A few places you can pick up a copy of AGITATE! are the Concordia Coop Bookstore, Paragraph Books, or The Word.


Cuban artists celebrated in Montreal exhibit

Galerie Aura is presenting pieces from artists living and working in Cuba

The United States travel embargo against Cuba being lifted isn’t the only notable recent news about the nation to hit Montreal—Art Cuba, an exhibit at Galeria Aura, is having its premiere on Oct. 14 and it’s sure to contain beautiful, engaging images and artwork ranging from the late ‘70s to more recent years.

Adrián Fernández Milanés: “S/T #40” from the series Del ser o el parecer.

Sergio Veranes, who is half-Cuban, is the owner of the display space and opened Galerie Aura in May 2015. The gallery is mainly a contemporary photography exhibit space and, as a successful photographer himself, his experiences contribute to his knowledge, curating abilities, and focus as a gallery owner. “When I wanted to open this gallery I was thinking I was going to do it general, [have] everything, and then I realized that it’s too much for me and also I’m a photographer myself … and I think it’s better that I just concentrate on what I know how to do better,” said Veranes.

For the upcoming exhibit, which according to Veranes will run until approximately mid-December, he curated most of the pieces himself and some are even a part of his personal collection. The pieces, the inspiration, and his choice of artists stem from Veranes’ personal relationship with Cuba and artists he has encountered there. “It’s a reconnection with my lineage … In the past five years I’ve connected [with] people whose work I have liked and I’ve developed [friendships] with some of them,” said Veranes. “There’s no concept behind it, I don’t think I would’ve done any other show that was not a photographic show if it wasn’t because I started this relationship with Cuba in the past five years.”

The exhibit includes sculptures, drawings, paintings and photography from artists who live and work in Cuba. To be sure, Cuba as a country and culture has its own unique traits, feeling, and personality, therefore one thing that makes this exhibit interesting is Veranes’ artistic connections and experience within the country.

“I started going to Cuba and mingling with the artists, especially this friend of mine who knew everybody. So I started spending time with them, learning about Cuba, about how they think, about enjoying the art,” said Veranes.

Carlos Quintana: “Intriga en el solar”

Along with the Cuban flavour that seeps into the pieces, so does the country’s political environment. The environment one creates in and the limitations of that artistic habitat affect how explicitly one can portray a concept. “It’s very interesting because a lot of these guys have something to say politically, [but] probably not very directly because there’s a repression regime … you cannot just say whatever you want,” said Veranes. He then referenced the recent eight-month prison sentence given to the Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado who painted the names “Raul” and “Fidel” on two pigs.

Cuba is also a hot topic when it comes to international politics at the moment, and although the exhibit wasn’t planned because of the travel embargo being lifted, it is complimented by the historical event. “What happened with Obama lately is great because now all the American market can go to Cuba and they can buy from these people, they can help them come out, they can help them do more work—It’s fantastic,” said Veranes.

On Wednesday, Oct. 14, from 5 to 7 p.m. the Art Cuba exhibit will premiere to the public. Galerie Aura is located on Crescent Street, right near the downtown Concordia campus, so whether it’s for a moment after class or for a leisurely hour come and see the beautiful art that Cuba has to offer.


MLK III receives 2015 Humanitarian Award

The Montreal International Black Film Festival’s 11th edition paid tribute to Martin Luther King III

Carrying on the family trade is challenging when your father changed the world. That’s the case for Martin Luther King III—Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest son—whose father was a social activist, eloquent speaker and remarkable leader. In 2012, the Montreal International Black Film Festival created the Humanitarian Award, and this year—the festival’s 11th edition—King received it for his community activism, political leadership, and advocacy for equality and justice.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest son proves that he is more than just the descendant of a legend. Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

On Sept. 29 a press conference was held prior to the launch of the festival which held tribute to King and a screening of the festival’s first film, Sweet Micky for President. Applause echoed throughout the room as King entered with the president and founder of the festival Fabienne Colas.

King began by expressing what an honour it was for him to be there and to be chosen to receive the award. He then added his surprise at being welcomed with applause, a rarity at press conferences in the U.S. The conference covered a range of topics but with each of his answers, King proved that he had an abundance of wisdom to share and exemplified qualities that could make him a remarkable change-maker in our present day.

This year’s edition of the festival coincides with the 50th anniversary year of the march in Selma, Alabama, an event that was organized by King’s father and contributed to the creation of the Voting Rights Act. “While I can’t say I remember all of those details, as I go back and review from a historical perspective and [get] an understanding, more and more I appreciate what my father and his team were able to do and what the United States Congress was able to do, and the president at the time, President Johnson,” said King.

This led into his thoughts on present day issues of race and violence and whether or not there has been progress since the Selma march. The Charleston shooting was brought up and King said that the victims’ families’ responses were the catalyst for change. “They came in the spirit of forgiveness and love and said that hate is not going to win, love is going to win. And as a result, a tectonic shift occurred around the nation … All I’m saying is that although we’ve gone backward to some degree, we’re constantly making strides,” King said.

King provided insight on everything from Pope Francis’s recent visit to the U.S. to present-day Islamophobia. He also shared a glance at what it’s like to live with his father’s legacy. “I try not to look at it as a burden, but to look at it more as a blessing. Would I have loved to have had Dad home more? Absolutely. I mean, Dad did not spend a large quantity of time with us but it was the quality of time that was remarkable,” he said. “And at some point, I guess, I began to understand, and my siblings, that … he sort of belonged to the world. We would’ve liked to have had him more for us, but what he was doing was so, so important, in terms of bringing about social change in our nation and in our world.”

His respect and love for his father were evident, especially as he expressed the desire to live his own life with a similar approach. “I think we’ve got to find a way in the world to lift up the good, that is what [I always hope to] be able to do, to bring out the good,” he said. “My dad had a lot of people around who worked with him, and what he focused on was the good and extracting the good out of everyone. If you were hypothetically 90 per cent bad, he didn’t deal with the 90 per cent but he focused on the 10 per cent good and tried to extract the best to make all of us better.”

His passion for what could be his life’s work and the continuation of his father’s legacy really emerged when The Concordian sat down with King. The conversation included what his ultimate goals were, which he wanted to accomplish with the help of his father’s name. “My dad and mom basically talked about the eradication of what my father defined as the triple evils, and he defined them as the evil of poverty, the evil of racism and the evil of militarism and violence. So in a sense, if there was a way to minimize and reduce those triple evils I believe we would have a better world. That’s a life mission, it’s not a mission that will happen in a couple years,” said King.

His perception of the triple evils in today’s society include his belief that in the next 20 years strides can be made to eradicate poverty. Furthermore, although the issue of race is still real he thinks racism may ultimately resolve itself. He also sees a problem with society’s craving for violence and hopes that society can move away from that. If he is able to contribute to that shift—the move away from aggression—he said that he would be partially fulfilled in his calling.

King said that more generally in his life he first preferred to stay behind the scenes but was propelled to the forefront—or as Colas said during the press conference, he became “the one that is carrying the torch to keep the legacy of the King family alive.” Yet, although his father’s legendary status may often overshadow him, King—especially as the recipient of the Montreal Black Film Festival’s 2015 Humanitarian Award—shows himself to be an individual that stands on his own as a change-maker and leader. The King family has a clear place in history but it’s evident that they may very well write themselves into our future history books in a positive way as well.
For more coverage of the MIBFF visit


From words on a page to a voice in our ears

“Writers Read at Concordia” kicks off its 2015-2016 season, making reading a shared experience

A skillfully designed sentence can make words jump off of a page, haunt your mind for days or even continuously inspire you. A whole other dimension is added to such a literary experience when you hear those words coming from the mouth of the one who put them on the page in the first place.

Jordan Tannahill read from Theatre of the Unimpressed on Sept. 22. Photo by Lydia Anderson.

The “Writers Read at Concordia” series has kicked off its 2015-2016 chapter with readings by Jordan Tannahill and Mary Ruefle. The rich contrast between the style of delivery and the authors themselves in the first two events alone are setting up this year’s series to be an exciting one.

The first reading, given by Tannahill, took place on Sept. 22 in the VAV gallery. With the fading evening light of René-Lévesque boulevard coming through the windows, the night was started by Sina Queyras, a senior lecturer in the department of English at Concordia. She gave an overview of the intention of 2015-2016’s “Writers Read.”

“We’ll look closely at how reading series across North America operate, both in contemporary media and historically,” said Queyras. “We’ll look at how poets and writers present their work, how they select it, who reads what with whom to whom.” She then added that the series will finish with a compelling three-day literary festival.

She continued by introducing Tannahill—an author and artist who is largely a playwright but can also add “theatre director” and “filmmaker” to his CV. He presented an excerpt from his book, Theatre of the Unimpressed. This is not a piece of fiction, but rather a work—with a foundation of 100 interviews he conducted with artists, critics, theatregoers, etc.—which explores his views on theatre, what may be hindering it and what it means to produce quality work onstage.

Tannahill said that the passage he chose had “some fun personal anecdotes and … some colour that gave both a kind of sense of who [he is] maybe a little bit as an artist but also some of the things that [he is] thinking about at least in terms of why theatre is relevant.”

The audience travelled with the author as he engaged in conversation about theatre with colourful characters from multiple walks of life, ranging from an orgy partner to a seasoned theatregoer. But observing the author himself, in his black t-shirt, ripped jeans and Vans in all of his fast-talking glory added a whole new dimension to the image of the narrator and the personality behind the words themselves.

Mary Ruefle read her audience new—sometimes unpublished—work. Photo by Kelsey Litwin.

Mary Ruefle presented an entirely different personality and style at her reading on Sept. 25 on the seventh floor of the Hall building. In comparison, she was clad in a white-collar shirt and navy blazer, peering over her red-framed glasses, and she filled the room with pauses and soothing tones. Ruefle, a seasoned and accomplished poet, began her reading with a piece that wasn’t her own, a poem called “The Secret Name,” by W. S. Graham. After the first poem introduced the audience to the steady-paced, melodic voice that they were to hear for the rest of the 20-minute reading, Ruefle began going through the loose stack of papers she was holding in her hands—her own poems.

According to Ruefle, the majority of the work she presented was newly published material. She said that most of the pieces have never appeared in book form and that it is a habit of her’s to read new work, however some pieces hadn’t even been published yet. Therefore, the audience wasn’t just listening to her latest collection, but rather to pieces that were recently in various journals, if not brand new material.

Although both their genres, styles and personalities differed, both Tannahill and Ruefle had similar things to say about the importance of literature readings.

“I love listening to readings because I get a sense of what compelled the writer to write the work in the first place,” said Tannahill. “Having even just the way that they read, their enthusiasm, or sometimes lack thereof, for their own work really comes across. And the nuances, even just certain turns of phrase in their mouths, for me, illuminates the way that the text was intended … to be read initially.”

“Writing and reading is a very private practice …  it’s kind of a hermetic exercise actually, as a writer at least, and to actually be able to share that with a room of people … both as a reader and as a writer … can be a really profound experience,” Tannahill added.

Ruefle echoed similar sentiments. “For me, the importance of reading poetry in front of an audience is [that] it’s a shared space in the air where you’re able to hear aspects of poetry that many people are unable to access reading it on a page,” Ruefle said. “I think to actually hear it hanging in the ether can illuminate a poem, or a poet’s work in many cases, in ways that make it that much more accessible to the student, the listener, the reader.”

If these musings on the advantages of hearing a piece read aloud by the author are not enough to make you the one fidgeting eagerly in the front row at the next instalment of the series, then perhaps the long list of successful authors visiting our humble educational institution will be. The next authors to come read for us include Major Jackson, Paula Meehan, Dina Del Bucchia with Daniel Zomparelli and Roxane Gay, to name a few.

Add a new dimension to your next literary experience; buy some new pages to sink your metaphorical teeth into—and get them signed—or take advantage of the opportunity to be in conversation with a successful creator who surely has the capacity to inspire, impart wisdom and share insights.

The next “Writers Read at Concordia” event will feature Major Jackson and take place on Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. in the EV building’s York Amphitheatre.


The man who wrote himself into art history

Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery is a new doc about one of the best forgers of this century.

At what point do we appreciate art simply for beauty’s sake? Do ethics, fame, and art’s hierarchy of worth only come into play because of the immense monetary values that are allotted to pieces in the art world? These are some of the tantalizing questions that are raised by the new documentary directed by Arne Birkenstock, Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery.

Wolfgang Beltracchi: the man, the forger, the genius. Photo still from Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery.

We largely recognize art as prestigious when it’s displayed in the context of a collection or museum space. The art world has experts who dictate if a piece is authentic, and we trust their verdict when we appreciate the piece as more significant than another. But if those experts are fooled, and we are still appreciating it in the same way, does the evil of forgery lie only in its deception? Some would say it is a practice that harms the original artist, art history itself, or artistic value altogether.

The film follows Wolfgang Beltracchi, a man who, along with his wife, fooled the art world with his forgeries for nearly 40 years. Beltracchi’s method was to get inside a historic painter’s head and create works in their style—never completely copying a preexisting piece but presenting a new one as the artist’s original work, often filling holes in art history. The audience learns the entirety of Beltracchi’s story and observes his process as he creates various pieces throughout the film. Watching him work, it cannot be argued that his technique is not masterful and that as an artist he isn’t immensely talented. However, a tension that is sustained throughout the film is whether or not the respect evoked by his artistry should be resisted, in the face of the laws he has broken.

Beltracchi is described in an unflattering light by some of the art collectors and auctioneers that are interviewed. However, his light-heartedness, self-confidence, and positive attitude humanize him throughout the film. You see the love that his family and friends have for him, as well as the sweet, romantic relationship that he manages to sustain with his wife. His charm and openness hardly make him seem like your everyday criminal. Furthermore, although Beltracchi’s practice was against the law, we never really see him apologize for his actions. If anything, we see him accepting his, then, impending prison time with a chuckle and a smile.

As we dwell in a society that increasingly glorifies remix culture, is the deception inherent to forgery Beltracchi’s only misstep? In his mind, he created new versions of pre-existing successes. For example, he says in the movie, “if Max Ernst was first—and he was—then I adapted it, maybe made it better than the original. Maybe my forest is even more beautiful. Better, if you want to evaluate it. Because I’m adding to his.”

It is a documentary that will make you question what you appreciate art for—is it the monetary value, the authenticity, the artist’s status, or maybe its place in history? I urge you—if only for its quality of inspiring thought on ethics and the moral implications of forging artwork—not to miss the chance to immerse yourself in this movie.

You can catch Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery at Cinema du Parc when it opens on Sept. 25. The film is in German with English subtitles.


The stories that sweetened our summer

As we bid farewell to the summer, here are five books we read while on vacation


  1. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill (By Lydia Anderson)


Maybe it was because I read it lying underneath trees and blue skies on grassy knolls, but Lullabies for Little Criminals, by Montreal’s own Heather O’Neill, was a book that surpassed the rest of the reads on my summer book list. Little did I know how fitting it would be to read this novel when I first returned to Montreal—most of the novel takes place in this fair city. The book is written from the perspective of Baby, starting from her 12th birthday, and follows her as she navigates her youth with a heroin-addicted father. Not well-off to say the least, the two bounce around apartments as Baby grows more knowledgeable about street life with each passing chapter. Baby’s is a perspective that maintains some innocence and remnants of a childlike worldview, but also introduces readers to the realities of her rougher situation. From foster homes to becoming involved with a pimp, the readers follow Baby as she navigates her reality and speculates about what she’s experiencing. O’Neill’s ability to embody tainted innocence was impressive and prevented me from leaving the book out of my hands for too long. The weather still allows for some reading on a nearby grassy knoll, but not for long, so grab a copy of this novel and enjoy it as much as I did.


  1. You Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery by Mamrie Hart (By Marco Saveriano)

When I look back at my summer, the first things that come to mind are STIs, hallucinogenic drugs, and endless drunken nights. No, I didn’t spend the last few months on shrooms, getting drunk, and having sex with strangers—my loss, I know—but I did read all about it in Mamrie Hart’s You Deserve A Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery.
In a world where it seems like every YouTuber has a book deal, it’s hard not to write them all off, but Mamrie Hart is an exception. Anyone who watches Hart’s videos (notably, her “You Deserve A Drink” series) knows that she has great comedic timing and a gift for coming up with perfect puns—as well as being a master mixologist. I had no doubts that her book would be equally as hilarious.

You Deserve A Drink flawlessly captured Hart’s voice and shared stories so outrageous that if it were anyone else, I would have assumed they were exaggerating. Even though I was tucked away in my basement, curled up in a ball with her book, I felt like I was right there with Hart on spring break at a gay nudist resort, or when she accidentally set her coat on fire—twice—while tripping on shrooms at a Flaming Lips concert. The best part is that Hart never seems like she’s trying too hard. She’s authentically funny, which made for one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a while. After restraining myself from reading this book cover to cover in one night, I definitely deserved a drink.


  1. Paper Towns by John Green (By: Alex DiMeglio)

While vacationing in Paris I decided to pop my John Green cherry and give Paper Towns a read. The coming-of-age novel follows Quentin “Q” Jacobsen as he spends his last days of high school searching for the love of his life Margo Roth Spiegelman when she goes missing after a night of debauchery.
​Whether I was reading the book on the sands of Saint-Tropez or at a café in Paris, I always managed to forget my surroundings and fall for the witty writing and engrossing mystery, which frustrated me to the point where I just kept on reading because I craved the answers to all the ridiculous questions brought about by the novel. This novel was bought from the ‘young adult’ section, but should be required reading for all of our inner-teenagers that we still cling to, because youth reminds us that we are alive and we should be embracing such a precious gift, as opposed to complaining about it day in and day out. This novel managed to transform an unlikeable main character into a likeable one because his tireless pursuit taught him a valuable lesson. Our life is like a novel—what sort of things can you do to make others want to read it? A truly remarkable read from start to finish, full of humour, passion, romance, a few surprises and enough cheese to remind you that the word impossible shouldn’t exist in our vocabularies.


  1. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins (By: Jessica Romera)

Despite it being nearly 400 pages, I devoured Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get The Blues in a matter of days during my summer break. I was away in Europe for about a month which meant lots of trains, planes and bus rides, so a ridiculous amount of time for reading. I had never read anything by Robbins before, but now my bookshelf is spilling over with more of his novels. This is the story of Sissy Hankshaw, a stunning girl growing up in small-town America. She embodies most of the feminine ideal—Sissy appears to be nearly perfect, except for the fact that she has gigantic oversized thumbs. While she sees these thumbs as a gift, everyone else around her sees them as a grotesque deformity. This prompts her to pick up hitchhiking and she ends up crisscrossing the country. She eventually finds herself on a ranch run exclusively by cowgirls and Robbins weaves Sissy’s narrative into theirs. He uses satire unapologetically while tackling larger social issues predominant during that time, like feminism, free love, experimental drug use and cultural identity (the book was published in 1976). Robbins’ style is easy to digest and ridiculously fun to read—he’s crude, but not unecessarily gross. He uses a ton of vivid descriptors to paint his scenes, but his words are not gratuitously flowery and redundant. If you’re looking for a funny, yet smart read for an upcoming trip, I recommend you give Even Cowgirls Get The Blues a shot.


  1.  Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert (By Elijah Bukreev)

Longing for more after falling in love with the prose and style of Madame Bovary, I found myself reading Gustave Flaubert’s Sentimental Education. Like the main character, I was a young student living in Paris—it was during the last month of my exchange. I found the novel in a second-hand bookstore. It was brand new, probably bought by a high schooler for a French class, never read, and discarded as soon as the year was over. And now it was mine. I read it all over the city, sometimes in the very places that were being described.

As with Madame Bovary, which, as far as film adaptations go, has been somewhat misunderstood, it is acutely caricatural, with vibrant characterizations. If in Bovary Flaubert was mostly concerned with deromanticizing typically romantic characters, in Education he was drawing a portrait of the social and political life of his time, the mid-19th century, through the story of a young bourgeois man’s absurd infatuation with an older, married woman, which lasts for decades. Reading it now, in France, it is surprising to see that many things have remained the same.

One of the most poignant passages is the detailed description of a revolution, each step being thoroughly documented. The events unfolded unexpectedly and with shocking speed. Many speeches covered in the novel are things that are still being said today, and there is such recognizable dissatisfaction with the government in the air that many of Flaubert’s points still stand in today’s political landscape.


Vatican City is lending MTL the Sistine Chapel

The Palais des congrès de Montréal is exhibiting Michelangelo’s work close enough for you to admire in a new way

Are you craving adventure, culture, and artwork? Any chance you have $1,000 saved up in that student piggy bank of yours? That’s about the amount of money an airplane ticket costs to fly to Rome, Italy. If you happen to have this pocket change jingling around in your jeans, then why not take the trip? This Roman holiday of yours will surely be filled with gelato, history, and cobblestone streets, but, no doubt, it will also include a visit to the Sistine Chapel to see Michelangelo’s handiwork with your own eyes.

But for those of you with student loans, budgets, and a lack of dispensable time to allot to a Roman holiday—stop fretting. You too have the chance to see Michelangelo’s awe-inspiring craftsmanship up close. Right now at le Palais des congrès de Montréal, and until Oct. 12, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition is bringing all of the heavenly artistry—in more ways than one—to our city for you to admire.

Main Exhibit Room: The start of your journey through the main exhibition space. Photo by Lydia Anderson.

The reproductions displayed were made from images captured by Erich Lessing right after the extensive restoration work that was conducted on the chapel in the 1980s and ‘90s.

The exhibit begins as you walk towards the first room clutching what seems to be a strange, thin, black remote. This is the object that will be the gateway for your ears to hear the extensive, informative audio tour awaiting you. A melodic sounding voice begins to speak as you hold the device against your ear—you’ve started a private tour where you set the pace and the amount of information you wish to ingest. You turn into the first room: a room with unfortunate-coloured backdrops, a single television looping a video, displays of written information, and images. This is merely the prologue—the setup, if you will—to inform you about whose work you’ll soon be greatly appreciating.

It is when you turn left, however, that you are blown away by the display space. Surrounding you, while black backdrops embody the darkness of a chapel, are 33 images. The metal supports and barriers in the room are reminiscent of the scaffolding used to paint a ceiling. This space makes up nearly the entire exhibit with images on all walls as well as on the ceiling at the centre of the room.

“The Prophet Ezekiel:” rich colour was revived with the restoration of the chapel. Photo by Lydia Anderson.

The audio guide tells you to begin the tour by walking through the Genesis cycle in the centre aisle of the space. For this portion, the first nine images, your sights are set to the heavens as each image is displayed above you. This gives you an idea of what it would be like to see the Sistine Chapel in the flesh—observation from below, a neck craned upwards. Reproductions are much more magnified to show you all the intricate, beautiful details of each image. After this central aisle, the exhibit-goer tours in a clockwise direction, observing on the walls the images of the prophets and Sybils, the lineage of Christ, and the corner paintings.

The ambience in the exhibit room is calming and meditative. Operatic voices and smooth, classical instruments serenade each observer as they peruse. Each individual is swept into their own world as their ears are connected to a wealth of knowledge, observation, and history. Consistent with a common church environment, the emphasis is on silent contemplation rather than rambunctious discussion. This is more than just an exhibit, it is an opportunity for a calm moment of appreciation—a chance to leisurely soak in the sophisticated artistry of a talented historical figure.

The audio guide provides information on who the images’ subjects are and what the historical context is, while also pointing out the technical details of composition, lighting, etc. Furthermore, the guide brings up which aspects or subjects of the image have much speculation and interpretation around them, as well as thoughts on motivations behind Michelangelo’s stylistic choices.

The speculation around these artistic, creative choices can enlighten you to the depth of meaning within the image, as well as Michelangelo’s character itself. For example, the audio accompaniment to image 21, “Judith and Holofernes,” states the following: “If we consider the severed head of Holofernes, we can see similarities with the physiognomy of Michelangelo himself. It is indeed a portrait of the artist. Michelangelo’s aim was to convey the immense sacrifice that painting the Sistine Chapel represented for him. He repeatedly stylized the task as martyrdom. He wrote in a letter to his father in 1509, ‘I am greatly afflicted and living in heavy physical privation, have no friends and want none.’”

“The Ancestors of Christ – Salmon:” Archways and framing were also captured in the reproduction. Photo by Lydia Anderson.

After circulating the room, you turn to the left, leaving the main exhibit space. This is where you find the final piece displayed separately from the other 33 images. The voice in your ear informs you that “The Last Judgement” is located at the altar wall in the chapel and is made up of 390 separate characters. It was made from 1536-1541 over 25 years after the ceiling frescoes were finished. There’s no question why this piece has been allotted its own display area when you observe the immense amount of detail and content held within this single image. It is a fitting finale to the fragments of the exquisite masterpiece that you have just soaked in.

Simply appreciating the paintings from this close is, in itself, enough. Being able to see intricacies and effort put into just one small corner of an entire ceiling is enough to inspire awe. Each piece of the ceiling’s puzzle can stand as a meticulously crafted treasure in its own right. Whether you’re craving a taste of Italy, a dose of inspiration, or a quiet moment to appreciate the beauty that humans can produce, this exhibition is exactly what you need.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition has been at the Palais des congrès since July 10 and will continue until Oct 12. The student price is $15.53.


*The Concordian was provided with false information regarding Susanne Koenig’s title, this information has been removed from this article. We regret the error.


Don’t be blind to a great new piece of Canadian cinema

This feature-length film’s impactful narrative and cinematic execution are worth your attention

On Sept. 5, the Canadian film Borealis premiered as part of the Montreal World Film Festival at Cinema Quartier Latin.

The race against time starts after this visit to the optometrist. Photo still from movie.

The movie follows Jonah, a man plagued by both a gambling addiction and past tragedy, as he attempts to aid and reconnect with his teenage daughter, Aurora. Aurora is a pot fiend who is distant and estranged from her father, but the dyed-hair teenager only has a month before an eye condition will render her completely blind. In an attempt to get Aurora to see the glory of the northern lights before she loses her vision, while also running away from a hefty gambling debt, Jonah takes her on a road trip from Winnipeg to Churchill, Manitoba. The film holds both a race against time and a flight from a violent bookie who is determined to get what he is owed by Jonah.

As all good stories should, the film reveals truths and aspects of the human experience, and the struggles that come with navigating relationships and inner battles. It is a narrative about vices and reacting to the tragedies, hardships, and curveballs that life throws at every one of us.

Jonas Chernick and Joey King bring to life a father-daughter relationship that holds tensions, hurt, and a push-and-pull struggle that is all too common and relatable to many teenage-parent relationships.

When asked about the process of cultivating a relationship with his co-star, Joey King, Chernick explained that once he met King in person, the bond was almost instantaneous. From teaching her to play cards to rolling fake joints for the film, Chernick was able to bond before the two set off to create the film’s impactful father-daughter dynamic.

The screenplay was largely written by Chernick, who plays the role of Jonah in the film.

At the beginning of this movie’s inception, Sean Garrity, the director, pitched an idea to Chernick and the ending of that pitch was powerful enough that it convinced him that the story needed to be told. This was a unique project where Chernick was able to start with an ending and work backwards to craft the story and develop the characters, swimming against his usual creative current. When asked about his choice to set the story in Winnipeg, his hometown, or Canada on a wider scale, Chernick expressed that he is a big fan of Canadian cinema and that to him, as a Canadian, it was a natural choice.

Aurora embodies what it is to be a broken, yet stubborn, teenager. However, her character’s dynamic quality emerges from her unfortunate past and the tragedy progressing in her present. She entices sympathy out of each theatre-goer as one witnesses her vision gradually slip away. It’s a condition that is hard to watch anyone go through, no less a young person with so much of the world left to see. Furthermore, the damaging realities of battling addiction are also portrayed as viewers observe Jonah’s struggle against the hold the game of cards has on him throughout the film.

The narrative’s themes of redemption and reconciliation leave hope reverberating around the room after the film has reached its end. With both skillful cinematic execution and a narrative that much can be drawn from, Borealis is worth considering for your next movie night.


The Darling Foundry bares all for 13th-year celebration

An annual fundraiser for the contemporary art space gave guests a taste of their studio display style

On Thursday, Aug. 27, the Darling Foundry celebrated its thirteenth anniversary with their annual fundraising event. What is now a hub for contemporary art in Old-Montréal was previously an industrial building owned by the Darling brothers and used as a part of their metal fabrication company. The foundry was abandoned for 10 years before the Quartier Ephémère moved in to create a visual arts arts centre out of the venue. Some of the buildings that make up the Darling Foundry were built as far back as 1888 and additional buildings were built in the early 1900s. The venue is now refurbished historical architecture, an innovative reutilization of space.

Outside the Darling Foundry. Photo by Lydia Anderson.

The purpose of this recharged infrastructure, as it is used now, is to “support the creation, the production, and the dissemination of visual arts by emerging artists,” said Caroline Andrieux, founder and artistic director of Quartier Éphémère and the Darling Foundry. “In the studios we want to help emerging artists to build up their careers and to give them trust in what they’re doing.”

More than that, Quartier Ephémère has saved a historical site for the city that would have otherwise been demolished. The building is well-maintained yet still retains a vintage essence, a testament in itself to creativity: an architectural remix.

“For me it’s very important to join the past and the future. I like to be suspended in the middle,” Andrieux explained. “I like this idea that I’m rooted in some very important history and architecture, but I’m looking far away.”

At the beginning of the evening, fundraising guests were escorted into the venue by the sounds of DJ Gayance, as she performed in la Place Publique just outside the building. They were then met with wine and other beverages as servers simultaneously circled the room with delicacies prepared by Hubert Marsolais and Claude Pelletier, two chefs from Le Serpent. The food and drinks were accompanied by musical performances by both Quatuor Boozini and Martin Téreault.

The cocktail portion of the evening was held within the building, where two exhibitions were on display for guests to peruse. In the main gallery, where the welcoming remarks and musical performances took place, Lieven de Boeck’s Let us be us, again and again, and always was on display. The subsequent gallery held Hajra Waheed’s Asylum in the Sea. In addition, guests had the opportunity to explore the studios of the building, where both local and international artists-in-residence had their spaces open for visual consumption.

Seeing the artists is an integral part of the Darling Foundry according to Caroline Andrieux. “While you see work being created you understand more the art that is presented. You know the process of the artist.” In addition, Andrieux hopes that the presentation of studio spaces will break the barrier between audience and artist. To her, artists are mythicized by the proliferated idea that they are a separate, or special, breed of people. Therefore, she hopes the studio tours and the nature of the creator’s environment will allow for a “demystification of ‘the artist.’”

Marc-André Casavant performing. Photo by Lydia Anderson.

One such artist is Karen Kraven, who works in a studio sponsored by Dale and Nick Tedeschi. “It’s a studio that’s about five times bigger than I’ve ever had or been able to afford,” Kraven said. “That alone makes a big difference, because I make a lot of sculpture and I can work on multiple projects at once.”

Sarah Greig, both a Concordia graduate and current professor in Concordia’s Fine Arts department, has also utilized a studio in the Darling Foundry for about two and a half years. “The major project that I’m working on is an intervention for the Darling,” said Greig. “I’m basically trying to insert into the space to change the dynamic.”

The spaces, for which artists have to apply, provide a platform and environment where they can grow in their craft and produce work with less stress than if they were renting a studio on their own. However, a studio at the Darling Foundry also means constantly having your work open for guests to see.

“It’s independent but at the same time it’s a very public studio space,” said Greig. “You’re always in presentation. You’re always making work and then thinking about how the public is going to see it.”

Even in their mandate the Darling Foundry admits to the inherent difficulties of this style of studio display. However, they also state that “the effect of daily exposure by the public to artists and their works can be profound and poetic.” Greig recognizes this about the venue and makes the best out of the opportunity. “I knew before I came in all the strengths and weaknesses of this place, so I really engaged with the strengths of it.”

DJ Gayance @ la Place Publique. Photo by Lydia Anderson.

The connection between artist and audience in physical space is not the only connection that the Darling Foundry hopes to attain. “We really want people to speak to each other and art is a good way to start the conversation,” said Andrieux. She explained that they want art’s mediating qualities to attract community; they had this in mind when they developed their exterior public space.

Marc-André Casavant finished off the cocktail portion of the evening with a reminder that performance art has an ability to be disconcertingly strange. Nervous laughs echoed through the audience as Casavant did nothing less than undress, clip his toenails on a woman’s back, sing in his underwear, expose his bare ass and take possessions from the audience throughout his piece. Despite that, the audience soon recovered and continued on to float through the venue and enjoy the DJs that performed in la Place Publique for the rest of the evening.

Whether it’s historical architecture that makes you tick, face time with artists, or contemporary art exhibits, the Darling Foundry has more than enough to offer as a venue. Mirador, by Le collectif Acapulco, is set to open on Sept. 24 along with multiple other exhibitions. Surely, it is a space worth exploring in the city—the revamping of antique space and movement towards community connection through artwork is not only enjoyable, it’s admirable.


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