Arts and Culture

Poetry Spotlight: Frédérique Dumouchel

You Can’t Grow Roots Where There Lies No Earth

At times of day, I carry worry

Out through the night, there lies no hurry

Boundaries quiver and ceilings dissipate

Walking along, across and apart

You find those of drift and spite

No rhythm dances alone

Even the lonely man knows

Made time unfolds and carries such hold

There lay rivers someone once told

Where flowers erode from dry land alone

One can bury hope within these fairgrounds 

And find the coast of one gone mind

Fingers cave fragile things

Pile and sculpt precious skin

To know the moon is to love the sun

For the good will be if the now is free

Arts and Culture Community

Connected through food

Entangled Eating highlights the connections we weave with our food.

The Entangled Eating exhibition took over the Hive Cafe from April 1 to 8, with performances on April 4. Partnered with the Concordia Food Coalition (CFC), the Faculty of Arts and Science Association (FASA) and ten artists, Entangled Eating shows the inseparable connection between people and food.

The exhibition included two tasty performances, where guests indulged in a meal cooked by one of the artists. The thrumming music from the DJ and the smell of brisket spur the crowd to get in line for the meal.  The artists offer a quick insight into the meaning behind every step of the meal, the ingredients, the recipe and the cooking process before getting back to their station to feed the eager crowd.

Visitors waiting in line for Mika Bosnjak’s food. Photo by Caitlin Dix

Stella Banchan, a mixed-medium artist, shares her struggle to reconnect with food after leaving her family’s organic farm in British Columbia. Sustainability is a foundational belief for Banchan, which has been a struggle since moving to Montreal since she can no longer take part in the growing and cultivation of her own food. Stella has reforged this connection by dumpster diving, working in the food service industry and especially through her art. 

 “Food is so important, and the systems that we participate in, use, create and perpetuate; to grow, feed and share food are really important,” Banchan said. Her paintings depict collages of foods in electric colours and are surrounded with phrases that are deeply personal to the artists, such as “celebratory couscous.” 

For artist Ruba Al Jaoul, food is an act of cultural resistance. “I am Palestinian, from Gaza originally, and I am defying whatever is happening, preserving my culture and doing my best to stop it from being appropriated,” Al Jaoul said.

Al Jaoul is the president of Frigo Vert’s board and has presented her cooking at multiple events. The recipe she shared was passed down from her grandmother. 

Al Jaoul served a delicious eggplant dish, allowing everyone the privilege to taste a piece of Palestinian culture. Her dish was made using only four ingredients, cooked with love, olive oil and dill seeds from her family’s orchard in Palestine, which no longer exists.  “It is one of the recipes I hold near and dear. This recipe is extremely simple, it was born out of necessity,” she said. 

Entangled Eating is a hub for food activists—representatives from the CFC, Fungi Fest, CultivAction, and Ferme Urbaine were there to share their projects and advocate for better food options at Concordia. 

 Entangled Eating’s organizors are critical of Concordia’s sustainability due to its allegiance to the food service provider Aramark, a company they claim is responsible for multiple worker’s rights violations.

It is impossible to leave Entangled Eating without acknowledging one’s relationship with food. Improving that relationship doesn’t have to be complicated. 

Work on display by Caitlin Durbin. Photo by Caitlin Dix

Best said in a statement by Entangled Eating‘s curator, Lumina Kitaura: “There are a lot of different ways to get closer to our food system, and I think it doesn’t have to be a very technical thing, it can be very spiritual; acknowledging where food comes from, thanking the people who produced it, producing it ourselves, making art about it, and sharing with others, it’s all part of the process.”

Arts and Culture Community

Ô Petit Paris wins the long-awaited Public’s Choice Award for the Best Baguette and Best Table Presentation.

Uncovering the intense competition for Montreal’s best baguette 2024.

Since they were kids, brothers Maxime and Bastien Mottier, owners of French bakery Ô Petit Paris in the Plateau Montreal, have always gone to their local bakery in France and bought freshly baked baguettes for family gatherings. By using the same French flour that was used by that beloved bakery, they now aim to share those cherished moments and memories through each batch of baguettes they bake in Montreal.

Having won the best baguette of Montreal prize for the best baguette in 2022 and 2023, the Mottier brothers intend to use the same recipe and flour for this year’s contest. They have made it their mission to represent their home country through this flour, bringing their French touch to Montreal to satisfy their current and future clientele as best they can. 

Baguettes on display at Ô Petit Paris. Photo by Agathe Soldat.

With the help of media outlet Maudits Français and l’Union Française de Montréal, the organizers of the annual best baguette competition selected 11 bakeries to compete in the grand finale that took place on March 14. The results were given the night of, based on the preferences of the jury members and spectators.

Among this year’s finalists, the French bakery Ô Petit Paris sought out both the prize for best baguette, judged by a selected jury, and the Public’s Choice award, which they had never won before. The jury consisted of seven gastronomy professionals: Ronan Ulliac, Geneviève O’Gleman de Savourer, Tommy Dion, Alexis Boulianne, Sophie Ginoux, Arsène Tchesnov and Julien Catala.

On the night of the event, spectators and jury members tasted different breads, baguettes and other creations by the contestants. Spectators voted for their favourite baguette for the Public’s Choice Award. Jury members awarded a selection of prestigious prizes, including the Grand Prix of the Best Baguette in Montreal. 

Louna Fouquet, a French expatriate, said the event is quite important for the French community in Montreal. 

“I think that this kind of event helps the perpetuation of French culture in Montreal because it allows Montrealers to discover our culture,” Fouquet said. “It even allows a lot of French people from Montreal and elsewhere to meet and form a kind of network and create connections between one another.”

Serving as a meeting point for all baked goods lovers, the contest showcased the skill and creativity of Montreal’s bakers and provided a platform for the community to come together and celebrate their shared love for artisanal bread.

With the hope of connecting with their clientele and eventually winning the Public’s Choice Award for their proposed baguettes and other products, Ô Petit Paris gave their best.

“As of today, there is no competition in the rest of the country so, for us, it is still the biggest reward on the market, so it’s a bit like our own World Championships,” Maxime said.

Ô Petit Paris, Best Baguette winner of the 2022 edition, won four prizes this year. The prizes awarded by the public included that of Best Table Presentation and the long-awaited Best Baguette award. As for the ones awarded by jury members, they included Best Special Bread and the second prize for the Best Baguette Grand Prix.

Arts and Culture Community

Fantasy isn’t just for geeks

Book Review: A Curse for True Love.

A Curse for True Love by Stephanie Garber is the last book of the trilogy, Once Upon a Broken Heart, rich in magic and fairytale elements that awakens your inner child. It is part of the many fantasy novels and series that have gained immense popularity recently. 

According to a recent study, 85.6 percent of participants who read gravitate toward fantasy or science fiction, which could explain why fantasy has been gaining massive popularity. Concordia master’s student Dimana Radoeva in the Individualized Program (INDI) and English professor Stephen Yeagen share their extensive fantasy knowledge and dive deep into its structure, role and impact. 

A Curse for True Love was published on Oct. 24, 2023, and concludes the trilogy. The story revolves around Evangeline Fox who is searching for her true love in the Magnificent North. She seems to have finally found it, yet she doesn’t remember much since she woke up in Prince Apollo’s arms, her supposed husband. Evangeline is trying to find out more about her missing memories but Apollo is adamant about keeping her in the dark and to ensure it stays that way, he must kill the series’ beloved character Jacks, the Prince of Hearts. 

The final book started quite slowly since Evangeline was lost trying to remember who she was and what her life had been like before. However, as she discovers the truth and recovers her memories little by little, the pace picks up. I was expecting more plot twists and more drama, and I also believe that the ending seemed too easy. However, it fits into the fairytale concept (spoiler alert!) because it all ends perfectly well; the villain gets his bad ending and the protagonist gets her happily ever after

According to Radoeva, “[fantasy] is inherently a medium that people believe is unrelatable but the core of that is untrue,” since it focuses on human experience and emotions as well as giving life to our biggest desire. Another misconception both pointed out is escapism through fantasy—the belief that reading fantasy is ignoring what is going on in the role is untrue. 

The reality, Radoeva said, is that fantasy “has helped to be more engaged in social and political,” since it draws inspiration from real social and political issues. A Curse for True Love makes you think how dangerous love can make someone and how far some will go to get what they want. Evangeline choices are taken away from her when Apollo erases her memories because he knows she is in love with Jacks. Apollo’s actions opens the door for further discuss on its ethicality which is what Yeagen believes to be fantasy’s strength; it has the effect of making people argue and discuss it time and again.

Yeagen explained that fantasy is a broad genre, so its structure and purpose are not one-size-fits-all and vary from one fantasy novel to the next. He also said that, “fantasy is the scientific technology that is being considered as history.” In other words, it is the historical version of science fiction, it bases itself on history rather than science. Most of the time, fantasy novels draw inspiration from the Middle Ages or other periods for things such as fashion, food, hairstyle and more. 

Additionally, Yeagen said the plot structure that is the most recognized and popular is the hero going on a quest with a goal in mind, such as retreating a magical object or even some sort of power which is the structure in A Curse for True Love. Though, Evangeline is searching not for any literal object but for her memories and her true love. However, Yeagan said fantasy is very a vast genre and this is only one of the many plot structures in fantasy. 

A Curse for True Love contains a common trope: the morally grey character. Yeagen said that, “Morally grey characters are good characterization,” adding that a well-written character is not black or white but is always grey somehow. In Jacks, (spoiler alert!) one of the love interest, is the perfect example of a morally grey character. His goals are to open the Valory and find his one true love and he seems to only care for what would benefit him. However, while he might seem to be cold and selfish, he does care just not in a traditional way. 

Garber kept the traditional aspect of a fairytale with a villain and a love interest, she doesn’t stick to the one-dimensional characters but instead layers them to add depth and complexity. She also confuses readers by hiding the villain in a charming suit and radiant smile.

What I found very interesting is this story’s fantasy elements, especially in world-building. The Magnificent North is a place filled with magical food, clothes, and objects, as well as curses, ballads that come true, enchantments, happily ever afters and a moral lesson. The whole place is perfectly perfect, like a Hallmark movie with snow that never melts and pastry that never perishes. 

Yeager said : “[world-building] should always further the story that you’re telling.”

Garber also wrote another series prior to Once Upon a Broken Heart called Caraval. It is set in the same world, but before the events of Once Upon a Broken Heart. In Caraval, the Prince of Hearts serves as an important side character and we get to discover more about his curse and story. 

Arts and Culture Community

For Whom the Bells Toll

Reminiscing on simpler times, Suzanne Ohana remembers the cold snap that sifted into her boutique with every swing of the door as waves of fiancées and bridesmaids filed in, eagerly awaiting their dream dress fitting. Today, those same doors appear welded shut, of use only to the shop’s owner, the rare journalist and the even rarer client. 

Until a few years ago, spring brought the prosperity and hopes of wedding season to Plaza St-Hubert, the city’s hub for bridal services. Such hope has turned to despair and uncertainty, as Montreal business owners who once felt blessed to be part of a thriving commercial district now feel trapped within it. They are struggling to justify the ends to their means as the wedding industry is seeing a structural transition. 

For over 30 years, Ohana has owned La Mère Des Mariées Suzanne Couture, a bridal boutique at Plaza St-Hubert. As a Moroccan immigrant, she moved to Montreal 50 years ago, owning several stores throughout her time in Canada, using her business ventures to make a name for herself in a foreign land. Now in her seventies, Ohana sold all her businesses except for La Mère Des Mariées, which she is desperately trying to rid herself of despite her attachment to the place. 

“I’m going to be honest. If my merchandise was not already paid off, I would have left a long time ago. Never would I stay here,” Ohana said. With over $2 million worth of products to sell and little to no customers, the boutique owner feels stuck, saying: “Even if I cut everything down to half-price, no one would come, and I would rather burn every dress I have than sell them cheap”. 

Ohana is one of many Plaza St-Hubert tenants who are feeling the pressures related to the shift in the wedding industry. For over 50 years, Montreal’s home for bridal services has been a staple of the city’s commercial and cultural heritage. Though it now offers a wide array of entertainment and culinary attractions, bridal boutiques, shoe stores, tailors and haberdasheries litter the kilometer-long strip that is home to over 400 businesses. 

Though the street’s prosperity strongly relies on the wedding industry, across the last 20 years, St-Hubert’s Société de Développement Commercial brought the plaza’s vacancy rate down to 3 per cent from a previous 15 per cent high according to the association’s executive director Mike Parente, establishing it as one of Montreal’s premier commercial areas. 

Regardless, medium- to high-end suppliers of wedding goods and services around the city are confused, as they have seen a dramatic drop in customer interaction and sales. 

According to Statistics Quebec, the number of couples getting married in the province is similar to, if not higher than, pre-pandemic numbers. 

Thomas Fresco, a Concordia University alumni, has been planning his wedding since February and came across many unplanned setbacks. According to him and his fiancée, most services, such as bouquets, pastries, and even make-up and hair, increase in price solely due to the nature of their celebration. 

“It’s ridiculous. Everyone’s trying to make extra money because of inflation. Like for [my fiancée’s] hair, she finally found a place that was cheap for the bride; it was $300,” Fresco said. “If I tell them it’s for my birthday, it’s $70, but as soon as they hear “wedding,” they jack up the price.”

Due to such increases in service prices, couples are looking for cheaper alternatives wherever they can, turning towards Amazon and other online outlets for discounts. Within the last decade, businesses of all industries have faced the threat of e-commerce, as customers can now purchase medium-high quality goods for less, which is especially threatening to small business owners within the St-Hubert plaza as the average Canadian wedding costs $30 thousand, and consumers are chasing convenient online discounts over local markets. 

“They [customers] only come to us to get their measurements taken. Or they only come to take pictures because they want the same dress but cheaper online. Others [owners] take them because they’re dumb, but not me,” Ohana shared. 

Customers are starting to feel the owners’ frustration seep through their service. A group of teenagers from the West Island were taken aback by how rude certain owners were to potential customers upon their visit for prom dresses. They shared that some owners immediately brushed them off or rushed them out of their shops since no parent with the means to pay for the dresses accompanied them. 

George Nader, owner of the Noces Royales bridal boutique, tries not to transfer his frustrations onto his clients as he understands their predicament. He states that in this day and age, consumers will do what they must to stay afloat and carry on. He instead criticizes the city for its lack of support, as he believes it taxes small businesses disproportionately compared to conglomerates. 

“We get tax increases; that’s how the government shows their support,” he said. “$2000 in city taxes is too much for a small business.”

Mayor Valérie Plante announced this January that, through its Petite et Moyenne Entreprise Montréal initiative, the city would invest $36.7 million in small businesses and their support networks.  

To promote business within the plaza, Mayor Plante and Mike Parente hosted a press conference on April 9 announcing that between July 4 and Aug. 25, a stretch of the plaza will be pedestrian-only to make the street more accessible. 

Though the initiative is promising for the local community, business owners such as Ohana and Nader have lost faith in the city. Business owners across the strip are adapting to the shifting market on their own by selling lower-quality products, pandering to different styles of merchandise and cutting staff. 

Back when the wind blew customers through her doors in droves, Suzanne Ohana recognized the value of Plaza St-Hubert as a cultural and economic anchor and saw a future within the community. These days, she sees no advantage to settling into the plaza, as inflated taxes cut new business owners at the knee, and the wedding industry drawbacks outweigh the benefits of a communal market, regardless of the plaza’s resilience and commercial success. 

“The city does nothing at all for us; they do absolutely nothing. They just want to touch our taxes,” Ohana said. “I do not have any employees. We used to be five saleswomen and two seamstresses working all day, but now I am all alone, and business is going very badly.”

Arts and Culture

Quebec government tuition hikes put Italian cultural hub at risk

Concordia’s Cineforum Italiano is grappling with budget cuts.

Concordia’s Department of Classics, Modern Languages, and Linguistics put out for the second year the Cineforum Italiano, a series of film screenings peppered throughout the semester followed by discussions of gender and sexuality in Italian film. 

The most recent on Feb. 23 was a screening of Una Giornata Particolare, attended by a small but dedicated group. The story tells of the friendship between a housewife and a gay man in fascist Italy. While everyone in their apartment block attends the historic meeting between Mussolini and Hitler, the two grow close despite stark political differences. The man is taken away by military police at the end of the day, leaving the housewife to continue living a dull life, forever changed. 

This film screening and many before it have been gathering places for Italian in Montreal. At the Cineforum, attendees converse in English, French and Italian alike. However, due to tuition hikes and budget cuts, the future of the initiative has become uncertain. 

Starting off last year with three winter screenings, the event’s popularity led to three more showings this fall term, and finally six this winter term. 

Cineforum Italiano has a distinctly Italian air. Most of the attendees come from Italian backgrounds, some with Italian parents and some first generation immigrants themselves. But due to the stagnating immigration rates from Italy and the passage of time, these Italian spaces are few and far between.

Lorena Serragli, a retiree with Italian parents, first took an Italian cinema class to reconnect with her roots, then began attending the screenings. She said that Italians in Montreal used to be concentrated in the east, but as the second generation grew up, they dispersed. 

“I don’t find there’s an area now that’s really remained predominantly Italian,” Serragli said.  

Due to this decentralization of the Italian community, many attendees only speak Italian and interact with Italian culture during the Cineforum Italiano. 

“I don’t really interact with the Italian community,” Serragli said. “My parents, my aunts have passed on and the cousins that I have now, we all interact in English. We’re all more Canadian than Italian. And so it just felt kind of nice. It’ll put me back in that atmosphere and that culture and that mode.”

Though it started out as an educational initiative about film, it also serves as a hub for the Italians of Montreal and is one of many small events in the city that keeps Italian culture alive. 

Additionally, Concordia university itself is a gathering place for second and third generation Italians. Through the university’s Italian language program, it is drawing in Canadians and Americans with Italian ancestry in order to connect with their heritage. 

As a teaching assistant, Meneghin has seen many students get engaged through Concordia’s Italian program and related initiatives. 

“I notice a lot of Italian surnames. The successors of those immigrants or those people that scattered all around the city, they kind of congregate here,” Meneghin said.

The film screenings and the Italian program welcome Italians and non-Italians alike. However, the film screenings are at risk of being another casualty of budget cuts born from tuition hikes. Since they are free, they rely entirely on the departmental budget, and they might not be able to continue, according to Elena Benelli, the director of the Italian program, due to an almost eight per cent cut to the university budget.

“I don’t think universities give enough space, resources and importance to the humanities in general,” Benelli said. “I think that the humanities have their place in this world.”

Arts and Culture News

Poetry Spotlight: Jessica Wood

Body On The Battlefield 

if a man is loud, his head is quiet. 

he yells, to check the echo of a mostly empty skull. 

if a man is quiet, he has heard too much noise. 

it’s loud in his head, but bless him, he keeps it in there. 

my father tells us innocence is a finite resource. 

when it goes away, it doesn’t come back, so you protect it. 

I think that’s why he likes to walk our dog. 

play fetch. 

that innocence will always come back. 

my father was around when we were growing up. 

as long as we lived, he didn’t go anywhere we couldn’t go. 

anywhere he couldn’t protect us. 

he was there, silent and unmoving

like the sky when you wish to fly a kite.

my father tells us the innocence won’t come back. 

my mother tells us how he knows. 

she reads us the stenographer’s report of the noises he’s heard. 

a woman born of yelling men, my mother tells us 

if a man is loud, his head is quiet. 

he yells, to check the echo of a mostly empty skull. 

if a man is quiet, he has heard too much noise. 

it’s loud in his head, but bless him, he keeps it in there. 

silent and unmoving, 

like the walls of the house that you run inside 

when the lightning storm starts,

and you thank god for the walls 

and for the wind that wouldn’t carry your kite after all.

Arts and Culture

This week’s opportunities for fine arts students

Check out these upcoming opportunities for emerging artists, including callouts, job listings, networking events and more!


Espace Loulou (185 de Louvain O. #402) will be exhibiting the work of Marie Bilodeau and Kali Catterall in a show called Bodies without organs. The vernissage will be held on April 12 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

From March 23 through April 20, Espace Maurice (916 Ontario St. #320) will be hosting their final exhibition of the year, entitled The Triumph of a Lonely Place. The show was curated by gallerist Marie Ségolène C. Brault and features the surreal work of Genevieve Goffman. Learn more about the show at the gallery’s website.

Be sure to check out the VAV gallery’s current exhibition, entitled Komorebi, on view from April 1 through April 12. The title is a Japanese word that, according to the gallery’s recent promotional post on Instagram, “embodies the very essence of nature’s tender embrace.” 

Open Calls

ESSE, a Montreal-based arts and opinions magazine, has put out an open call for papers for their next issue, “Plastics.” Writers are encouraged to consider how artists are thinking about plastic and its impact through their work. The deadline for abstract submissions is Sept. 1. Learn more about the theme and the guidelines here.


Vidéographe, an artist centre that is dedicated to the dissemination of experimental film and the moving image arts, is now hiring a sales and festivals coordinator. This position involves assisting the team develop distribution strategies, managing submission platforms and more. Deadline to apply is April 15. Learn more about the requirements for the role here

Concordia’s Leonard and Bina Ellen gallery is looking for part-time gallery attendants. As part of the university’s work-study program, bilingual students who are enrolled in the Faculty of Fine Arts are welcome to apply. There is no deadline to apply, but it is first come, first serve. Read the guidelines here.

The FoFA gallery is hiring summer gallery attendants for bilingual students in the work-study program. The gallery is particularly interested in candidates who have a strong interest in anti-racist and anti-oppressive ways of working. The application deadline is April 15, so be sure to check here for the guidelines.

Arts and Culture News

Spicy new thrift store in Pointe-Claire

Friperie Spice Daddy in Pointe-Claire adds a new twist to second-hand shopping.

Gian “John” Carlo Pengue, 43, has always had a passion for clothes. Having been involved in the fashion industry most of his life, he developed a keen eye for interesting items. 

In the early 2000s, he worked for his family’s lingerie business that manufactured their own clothes in the East of Montreal. His family sold their line at ‘Marché Aux Puce flea market’ in St-Eustache during the summer time. 

Constantly being surrounded by interesting and unique items, Pengue quickly gained a special eye for collectibles: “I would go explore the second-hand goods,” he said.

Once Pengue realized that he could sell these collectables and make a profit from them, an idea sparked. He started selling the items he found while working at the flea market and sold them on sites like kijiji or market place. 

He then started working at a recycling company, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, and would collect furniture, amongst other goods. “That’s when it really changed for me,” he said. 

He collected these unique pieces and continued to sell them online. Multiple storage rooms and his parents’ garage were filled to the brim.

Around the same time, eight years ago, Pengue recalls being approached by his former business partner Marcello telling him: “Hey John, why don’t you come sell these antiques at my store in Pointe-Claire?”

They combined their mutual love for collectibles and fashion to create a thrift store; Tricky Ink. This was the first store Pengue ever opened. 

He started to lean off the antiques and collectibles and focus more on fashion and second hand clothing, since combining the two businesses. “Thank you to my ex business partner,” he says. 

Pengue sold Tricky Ink last year, but it still exists today in Pointe-Claire. Not only does he own Second Chance, his family’s antique store in Hudson, he is also now the owner of  spicedaddymtl, a thrift store opened on Dec. 1 in the heart of the Pointe-Claire village. 

You can walk around the village, grab an ice cream or some food, do a little thrifting and make a day out of it. 

Pengue’s welcoming environment makes the shopping experience worthwhile. Expect to be greeted with a “Hello friend!” or “Hello human!” as you walk in. He says his shop brings the proper amount of spice to the business.

“I like looking good. I like expressing my personality through fashion,” he added. “I love finding unique pieces. I love looking different.” 

This is apparent through his careful selection of the pieces placed on the racks. When walking around his shop, sifting through the different tops, pants and jackets, it’s impossible to not grab something interesting. 

Pengue gets a personal supply filled with unique items from the 80s, 90s and early to mid 2000s, as well as more recent pieces, which he labels on his yellow tags. Need a belt? A hat, perhaps? You can get all the items you want and a complete outfit costs around $15. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop!

He added his own touch by putting a skatepark in the basement of his place. It’s currently under construction, but will soon be available to the public. You can skate with Pengue too! “I’m going to put up a cool sign in the front so people know about it,” he says while standing at the front of his store by the window. 

Pengue describes the store as loose, comfortable and chaotic. He enjoys riding his skateboard inside the shop, making videos for his Instagram account, or making his customers participate in silly games and giving them free knick-knacks. If you know how to do a cartwheel, show him and you’ll get a free vintage Beanie Boo just because. What’s not to love? 

Pengue prioritizes letting people do their thing, all while he does his. “I don’t sell, I serve,” he said. “I want people to come here, make a good friend, get some good clothing, have a chuckle and some fun with a good human,” Pengue said. “That’s the goal at Spice Daddy.”

Arts and Culture Exhibit

Wandering eyes behind the mask

Shary Boyle is a Toronto-based artist whose imaginative approach cultivates her unique world-building abilities. The fantasy worlds that Boyle fashions through painting and sculpture are unsettling and sophisticated, surreal and theatrical. Boyle provokes the curious minds of the visitors through her multimedia and multi-dimensional works. She invites us all to discover our inner imaginative self. Her exhibition Vesselling is now on view at the Patel Brown Gallery.

Curator and writer Anaïs Castro’s accompanying exhibition text explains that Vesselling, at its core, refers to “the act of holding space for a vulnerable community, a safe and contained environment to share and reflect on complex or difficult realities.” Boyle conjures this notion through her unique craftsmanship, complexity and world-making to guide the audience’s experience. The works within the exhibition creates a space that invites the viewers to take a journey to a mystical reality, in which the materiality, their nature and their relation to reality is being challenged.  

Upon entering the gallery space, a long podium displays several sculptures that are shaped and entangled in twisted forms. The podium provides the viewers with the ability to walk around the sculptures to explore each angle of their disproportionate bodies. 

A two-coloured sculpture is placed in the center of the podium, displaying two pot-shaped bodies entwined in a close and intimate embrace. The larger, dark figure spreads its legs, inviting the smaller, white figure to fill the space between them. The figures constitute an abstract, continuous shape—their relationship is dynamic and romantic. 

“Dysfunctional ceramic vessels serve as metaphors for human connection and receptacles for human values—contained forms that embody the complex processes of personal, and societal, relationships,” Castro explained. 

The series of paintings that hang around the periphery of the gallery space is entitled Grafters. The collection seems to represent As a collective, it seems as if all the paintings are frozen moments of a mystical puppet show or a ritualistic ceremony that can be compared to  theater plays, television shows or everyday chores that we witness in our surroundings. Traditional painting canvases display figures with ceramic masks covering their faces. Some paintings incorporate everyday objects such as ribbon, hair, jewelry, buttons and so forth.

These paintings play with reality and imagination, bringing up curious, mystical,  dreamy and metamorphic narrative within different visual frames. The ceramic masks, on one hand, function to prevent the viewers from seeing who is underneath. This may prompt the viewers to curiously look closer to see the set of eyes behind the mask. On the other hand, the masks give the paintings a sense of liveliness as if they are emerging out of the painting to confront the viewers with their tangible presence in our world. In Castro’s words, paintings in Grafters series “function within the logic of a double-performance.”  

In one of the paintings, titled The florist, Boyle depicts a mysterious space with the main figure in the center holding two flowers—Anthurium and pink Gladiolus. Even though the ceramic mask covering the florist’s face emphasizes the ambiguity of the work, the irises penetrate through the mask and follow you, establishing the figure’s presence in the moment. The flowers, along with the smooth painting technique and the decoration of the upper part of the painting, offers a soft and feminine setting. In contrast to the softness of the work, there is a hidden violence that is projected via the appearance of a knife.

Vesselling will be on view at Patel Brown from Feb. 29 to April 20.

Arts and Culture

SpokenWeb lab’s Poetry in Memory project harnesses creativity and recollection

Dr. Jason Camlot’s team captures the essence of verse recitals, weaving creativity and nostalgia into every recording.

The brain works in mysterious ways. It will sometimes get rid of crucial information, such as important notions for a test, but will vividly retain details about an ordinary day that took place a decade ago. Poems, lullabies and nursery rhymes seem to be a part of this second category—the brain likes to store them somewhere safe, and though you may not give these verses a thought for a long time, they will still be there, intact, in case you ever summon them. This phenomenon is what the team from the SpokenWeb lab dissects in its Poetry in Memory project. 

The team set up a pop-up booth in the CJ building atrium on March 25 to gain some visibility and publicize their project, as well as to collect data. The project consists in interacting with people in various locations and getting them to recite a poem, a nursery rhyme or any other type of verses purely out of memory. The SpokenWeb team records these people’s songs or poems on authentic tape recorders from the mid-20th century, or “vintage reel-to-reel devices,”  and then digitizes the product to preserve it. The team also makes sure to record the story behind how the participants learned the poems they recite.  Since the team moves around a lot and meets people from various backgrounds, the recordings include recitals in many different languages.

Dr. Jason Camlot is the Principal Investigator  and director of the Concordia University SpokenWeb team and is also the mind behind the Poetry in Memory project. He works closely with Isabelle Devi Poirier, undergraduate student, and Ariella Ruby, MA student, who were both present at the pop-up booth on March 25. 

This project has been in the making since before the pandemic, and so far, Camlot’s team has amassed about 24 hours worth of recordings.

The SpokenWeb lab rallies scholar teams from all over North America who specialize in “the preservation of sonic artifacts,” meaning that they study and create projects based on recordings that have historical value. Camlot and his team set up booths in different locations and engage with people who are interested in their installation. They are hard to miss, owing to the authentic Sony tape recorder from 1959 that sits on their table. 

“The portable reel to reel is one of a few we have in the lab for on-site projects,” explained Camlot. “It is a solid state portable recorded from 1959 by Sony. This kind of machine would have been affordable to people for everyday use, and is the kind of recorder that would have been brought to poetry readings to record them in the 1960.”

The Poetry in Memory  project will soon become available to the public. “Some of this audio will be used by Prof. Camlot to produce a podcast on the memorized poem for the SpokenWeb podcast series,” said Ruby, “and all the audio will eventually be integrated into an audio exhibition that is planned for 2025.”

Arts and Culture

Poetry Spotlight: Jessica Wood

I Know I Need to Move Out

I had wanted you for such a long time. 

Could have been perfect, me and you, alone. 

Don’t you know you were supposed to be mine?

My clothes in your closet, hung in a line, 

the very first day that I called you “home” 

I had wanted you for such a long time. 

So how could you let my clothes, in your confines,

be eaten by the mold your dampness had grown?

Don’t you know you were supposed to be mine?

I tried to convince myself we could be fine, 

made excuses to my mom on the phone.

I had wanted you for such a long time. 

I wish that I would have known when I signed 

your lease that you would wear me to the bone. 

Don’t you know you were supposed to be mine?

I thought living alone would be divine.

All you had to do was be my new home.

I had wanted you for such a long time.

Don’t you know you were supposed to be mine?

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