PHI Centre Hosts Venice VR Expanded for the Second Year

This exhibition features nearly 40 top-of-the-line VR works

For the second year in a row, the PHI Centre is hosting Venice VR Expanded, an exhibition that features nearly 40 top-of-the-line VR works. Montrealers have the exclusive chance to visit this unique exhibition as the PHI Centre is currently the only cultural venue in Canada to ever showcase Venice VR Expanded.

The exhibition is open to the public from Sept. 1 to Sept. 19. Each ticket affords visitors the chance to spend two hours in the exhibition. UK-based curators Liz Rosenthal and Michel Reilhac have worked hard this year to deliver innovative works that challenge previous conceptions of virtual reality environments. 

When I arrived at the PHI Centre early on a Tuesday morning, I made my way up to the fourth floor. Lingering behind a group of nine masked visitors, I waited to be seated, where I would be handed a VR headset and two remotes. Despite my weak stomach and history of unpleasant experiences with VR headsets, I was determined to enjoy this outing. Before I knew it, I was transported into several peculiar and beautiful worlds.

The first work that I decided to explore was a short film titled Caves by Director Carlos Isabel García. This 19-minute film invites viewers to follow three explorers deep into a network of tunnels that are, to say the least, anxiety-inducing. This work was absolutely thrilling and granted me a newfound respect for those who are brave enough to risk their lives in the name of exploration.

The next work I settled on was a short animated film titled Bing mei guei (The Sick Rose) by Tang Zhi-zhong and Huang Yun-hsien. The emotional 17-minute film follows a young girl who is hell-bent on bringing a magical rose to her mother, a woman who is a courageous front-line hospital worker amidst a raging pandemic. Though the film’s theme is gloomy at its core, and at times uncomfortably familiar, the secondary characters, namely a tribe of rats and a handful of demonic beings, make for a lively addition.

Finally, I decided to watch Micro Monsters by Elliot Graves. With many scenes involving larger-than-life bugs, I found myself overtaken with fascination rather than repulsion (as I was originally prepared for). Viewers are given a chance to take in every minute detail of these creatures, ones that they may normally pay no mind to. This documentary did not disappoint, and I ended up learning quite a few interesting facts. I now know that scorpions glow in the dark. 

Venice VR truly offers something for everyone, and I applaud the wide-ranging subjects that it covers. There are very few exhibitions that have managed to leave such a mark on me. 

Walking out onto Saint-Paul Street after the exhibition, I felt different. Not in a life-altering way, but I felt as though I had been presented with a special gift: the rare opportunity to briefly escape the boundaries of everyday life, where I was free to delve into the unknown, absorbing and appreciating it in 360-degree view.

One thing is certain: I will be returning next year to experience even more cutting-edge projects.

The PHI Centre is located at 315 Saint-Paul St. W.


Photo by Myriam Achard


Infinite Light: An installation offering expression, abstraction and illumination

 Kiran Abwani uses fibre optic lights to create work that glows

Kiran Abwani’s lightboxes are displayed on four walls within the first room beyond the entry of Never Apart gallery. This creative space is 1,200 square feet dedicated to the mission of “ending separation and igniting positive change and unity through culture,” as indicated on its website. The Centre focuses on conscious living by breaking down barriers of separation in society through music, art, panel discussions, and other events.

The first thing I noticed in the exhibit was how strongly my eyes were drawn around the room as line and colour created a rhythm across the entirety of the work. Movement and intensity of hues create a visual theme as you make your way around the installation. Abwani uses black wood framing around the lightboxes, which offers a simple yet reliable structure to the pieces.

Each work glows through the transparent acrylic and puts forth a subtle radiance in the space of the gallery. A focal point among each piece is evident, although some of the works portray this stronger than others. It is the light streaks within each work that draw the eye to these focal points.

Making my way through the exhibit, I was fortunate enough to see that Abwani was at the gallery showing her work to family members. I had a brief chance to speak to her. She said that this work is unusual for her, as her typical photography style is documentary in nature. With this series, she wanted to branch out and try something new.

As a photographer myself, I understand the exploration of light as a fascinating endeavour, and she indicated her interest in this type of investigation. Abwani created the images through long exposure photography using the movement of colourful fibre optic lights and mirrors. Light trails create the patterns and lines that we see shining through the transparent acrylic.

The artist explained the strong attraction towards experimentation in her light work and the uniqueness of each piece. No two pieces will ever be exactly alike, she explained. Each artwork shows an inherent presentation of spontaneity. Some images take on smooth, soft waves in blues and greens alongside more frantic and aggressive red and orange bolts of glowing lines. The vibrancy of colour ties the work together.

With titles like Dancing Sparks, Big Bang and Galactic Trip, an inherent theme of space and time is discernible not only from her words but also the aesthetics of the work. Although the series has unity and cohesion as a whole, the piece Infinite Light hangs on its own wall and appears to flash subtly, making the reddish-orange orb in the middle of the composition jump out at the viewer.

This work appears as the anchor for the show and I find myself continually drawn to it.

“As a visual storyteller, I aim to capture moments & experiences and to visually share these instances, perspectives and stories with my audience,” said Abwani in her artist statement. “Creating a connection with my audience is essential in my artistic practice, and with this series, I invite viewers to participate in the experience.”

The stories and connections are bold and symbolic in Kiran Abwani’s series, an experience that leaves the viewer with a fascination and inclination to look beyond the light and into the stories of the artworks.

Infinite Light is on view at Never Apart on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. until Jan. 4, 2020.


Photos by Shannon Roy.


The fate of our homes

Reflections on Gordon Matta Clark’s Rough Cuts and Outtakes

As usual, I was arriving late, not stylishly late, just expectedly late, as is expected of me. I have gotten better at this, and I had real justifications for it. I was swinging by from the FASA general meeting which happened to coincide with the vernissage of Rough Cuts and Outtakes, a collection of Gordon Matta Clark’s work exhibited by Hila Peleg, but by a couple of minutes.

So, as I was outside of the Canadian Centre of Architecture (CCA), I started to freak out a bit. The whole entrance was completely desolate, except for a pair of young boys who were kicking a football around and telling each other to go f*ck themselves. The buildings impressive white facade dwarfed them, making it feel even lonelier.

Considering this was the opening of an exhibition, I had expected at least a couple of stragglers waiting outside, having cigarettes or whatever people waiting for shows do – and considering I was a mere 10 minutes off it didn’t seem like an impossibility. I entered the reception lobby and greet the ticket sellers. Embarrassed by my tardiness, I hesitated at first but asked if the exhibit opened the following day, thinking I was a day off. They assured me that no, I was there at the right time and that the speaker had began, I just had to turn to the left. While I was momentarily relieved, I was still sent on a scramble down the long empty corridors of the CCA, accompanied only by fake plaster corinth pillars and victorian decor.

The speakers had begun, I could see from the far most right corner of the amphitheatre. It was dark and impossible to see if there were any seats left. An usher assured me there were seats but at the leftmost corner of the room, right at the front. I still could not see anything. I crossed the back row and stopped, seeing there was a cameraman aiming down the catwalk towards my expected seat. The usher finds this unacceptable, comes to me, and asks me what’s up. I said that everything was alright I just didn’t want to get in front of the camera and that I was happy to remain standing, but she wouldn’t have that and dragged me promptly to an empty seat.

When I finally settled, it was not just my cheeks that were relieved, but I had skipped out on the terribly boring introduction and hadn’t missed any of the juicy stuff. Hila Peleg, the curator of the exhibition, was only then walking towards the podium. Simultaneously, a large grey projection screen slowly scroll downwards. The lights on the stage went off and a projection flickered to life as grainy images of a sad looking and dilapidated house appeared. These were the cuts and extras from Clark’s famous work Splitting (1974), an intervention piece in which Clark and collaborators vertically sawed their way through the entirety of a New Jersey suburban residency that had been abandoned after residents were evicted in the wake of an upcoming urban renewal project.

Except again, this wasn’t Splitting proper. These were outtakes, the waning moments before the cutting began as the camera explores masses of personal objects strewn about by the yard of the residence while Clark and his collaborators crawl along the residence roof making measurements. The clips are few, damaged, and collaged together. Their only identifiable feature was that they are all images of the same house. But perhaps these off-hand shots are more defining and revealing as to the nature of Clark’s work than his mystical and anonymous spatial carvings will ever appear to the uninspired viewer. The great truth of his works lies in the old mattress, left to right in the cold sun. It speaks of people evicted and their homes and neighborhoods destroyed,and perhaps in their vernacular simplicity, they embody their energy and troubles better than any house ever could.

The city of Englewood, where the film shooting took place, is composed of mostly working class neighborhoods. The area has an almost equal number of African American residents to white of the city population. The particular neighborhood where Splitting was done was mostly of African American descent, according to census readings, hence it shouldn’t be surprising then to see how exclusionary social policies ended up mostly clearing out the neighborhood.

Other snippets of Clark’s work drew some of the same conclusions in different ways and forms, but it all came down to the same thing. Has architecture failed us?

This is the same question that resonates from the abandoned clutter of household items to the tired mistreated structures that star in Clark’s work. This is an amusingly loaded question coming from an ex-architecture student, a heated discourse that is a mixture of both personal feelings of shame and maybe relief.

I love architecture, don’t get me wrong. I love looking at buildings and losing myself in their mysterious contours and repetitions, but my question aims more towards the general policy of most architecture in the 21st century. Undoubtedly, construction is linked with urban planning, but for something meant to be a force of beauty and social cohesion, architecture usually comes down to money and time (as most things sadly). A surrounding rhetoric has been that of speedy cheap construction.

In a vain pursuit of grandiosity and efficiency, much has been overlooked. Splittings’ few, second-long outtakes capture this in the refuse pile, pulling our attention away from the building by refocusing on the original subjects, the inhabitants. Despite all its ambition, architecture and to that extent construction is about making spaces that promote the health and prosperity of people. While they are definitely important, maybe the lofty ideals architecture claims to promote are utopian delusions. Through his life, Clark criticized established architectural practices,most notingly with his group Anarchitecture. In its manifesto and ideology, Matta rejected the orderliness and efficiency of modern cities, and celebrated the disorder of densely packed inner city life. I believe this celebration can be felt in those veering shots of the forgotten personal articles. The structures that are supposed to keep us warm and safe are bargaining chips that can be tossed at any moment with little regard for the tiny beings that inhabit them, much less for their few personal belongings. Conical Intersect (1975) is another display that shows buildings in pain, mutilated and left for dead, which isn’t too far a cry from the people evicted from those very structures, and left out in the cold.

Additionally Clark displayed a longing interest for ethnography and, in particular, archeology. Some of the secondary material that will be shown in January of next year will include a great deal of the photographs he took during his trips to South America. From the snippets shown, these include the gloomy images of Inca and Mesoamerican relics.The importance of these is that constant interest in people, their customs, vestments and the role that they play or represent in the imagined spaces left by their ancestors. But this is nothing new, there has always been a profound interest in ruins by poets, writers and artists. From biblical descriptions of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and their damning  implications, the fantastic imaginings of the members of the mostly italian capricci movement in the 16th century, to the apocalyptic prophesying of european artists in the inter and post war period. There has been a historical shift in the portrayal of ruins, from one of mystical and nostalgic allure to one of foreshadowing of destruction, ironic considering the fate of most of Clark’s work.

Perhaps the haunting beauty of contorted shapes and spaces is the promise for narrative,and ultimately, human connection. We search tirelessly old sites and tombs to see that timeless connection between us and our ancestors, to see our humanity echoed generation through generation. Ruins, for this reason, could almost be seen as universal places of worship. But these places are perhaps disappearing faster than we realize, or more accurately, less future ruins are being produced.

Toronto-based architect Brandon Donnelly, and Canadian/American architect, professor and writer Witold Rybczynski, both commented in architectural blogs on the shortening lifespan of buildings in our day and age.

Concrete, steel, and glass, for all their scale, are a lot less durable than one might imagine. Projects built even 60 years ago require major renovations that can come to be several times more expensive than the original costs at their conception.

Put this next to the impressive basilicas of the renaissance, the pyramids or the temples of Teotihuacan that have lasted for hundreds to thousands of years. Now, it is simply cheaper to knock down ugly buildings that we make for whatever necessary reason. For the community of Englewood, it was urban renewal. In Beauburg, Paris, a facelift was ‘needed’ around the then anticipated Centre Pompidou. And constantly a problem that arises is that there was a lack of foresight. Useless or unneeded structure are built, that have little consideration for local communities and necessities. For example, one only has to look at the many failed housing projects in the US (Pruitt Igoe, Cabrini Green), Chinese ghost cities, or Venezuela’s Mission Vivenda. Perhaps the buildings in question were not the most beautiful or impressive. Perhaps they weren’t the most economically efficient use of space, nor the greatest investment. But perhaps that also speaks of a culture that isn’t building things meant to last. The human element is trampled, again and again.

There are still historical societies remembered through the preservation of their architectural structures today, but is there any concern for the preservation of our present or future structures, or will rebuilding every forthcoming day reach the point where history ceases to exist? And to that, what can be said about us, the tenants of these badly built structures. Are we to remain prisoners of badly constructed homes or should we demand better quality construction meant to foster better social equality?

The CCA is open from  Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Thursdays, during which they are open until 9 p.m. Admission is free for students any day of the week. For more information visit their website.


Photos by Annita Parish


Expressing what you are and what you are not

Smelted: An exploration of oneself

To cap off Smelted, VAV’s most recent student-run exhibition, some of the artists spoke about their pieces and the mediums they used to showcase their quest for identity.

The 11 students selected for this exhibition used funky materials such as terracotta, sofa cushions and even candy to express aspects of their individual identities. Using media  ranging from acrylic and oil paint to woodworking and photography, the artists explored themes related to materialism, health and sexuality.

Alicia Turgeon designed a flexible, ergonomic table and chair.
Photo by Hannah Ewen.

For Alicia Turgeon, a former industrial design student, her quest meant working on her cognitive and sensory particularities by making ergonomic furniture. After 20 tests and three prototypes, she presented Prompt 01-02, a wooden chair and coffee table with flexible features.

“To me, this piece was all about showing the process,” Turgeon said. The result is not final, but the chair embodies her idea. “I am still working on finding a way so that someone can actually sit on it.”

Isaac Smeele’s work explores breeding and consumerism. He presented Candyland, a textured, colourful portrait of a teddy bear made of candy, moss and garbage.

Isaac Smeele’s Candyland explores breeding and consumerism.
Photo by Hannah Ewen

Since Smeele selected items that decompose, he used large amounts of acrylic to exemplify and capture the hoarding of things. With the acrylic used to set the piece, he estimated it will stay intact for 10 years.

Family also played an important role in Smeele’s personal evolution. “I wanted to show something about how we tend to sugarcoat the hardest parts of ourselves,” he said. “As a father now, I realize the parts of myself that I need to work on.”

On the other hand, Meghan O’Kill-Dearden presented Things I like to Collect, an assemblage of meaningful objects she has accumulated over time. She recreated purses and bags with terracotta, glazes and epoxy. She also integrated elements that were intact such as dried flowers and fruit pits.

“I wanted to show how collecting objects can comfort me,” O’Kill-Dearden said. “[My work] questions their functionality and the enjoyment of these objects.”

Matieu Marin’s photographs explore chronic illness and the impact of medicine on his body.
Photo by Hannah Ewen.

All the pieces in the exhibition show some sort of internal reflection and questioning. Some do so with a lighter tone, and others with a darker approach, such as Matthieu Marin’s work. For him, that self-reflection happened using a self-portrait made with a digital camera. He examined his chronic illness and the impact of medicine on his body through photography. In the two pictures he presented, Marin is naked and uses motion blur (with the movement of his arm) to demonstrate the impact of medicine on his body.

“I wanted to show what it means to embody a sick body,” Marin said.

Smelted gave viewers intimate access to the artists’ personal introspection. It immersed the viewer in a world where they found themselves contemplating and questioning their ideas of identity. The exhibition successfully showcased vulnerability, uncertainty and, for some of the artists, finding purpose.


The VAV Gallery holds exhibitions every three weeks and will be accepting submissions for their fall programming until Sept. 14, including their special Black History Month in November exhibition. All submitting artists must be enrolled in at least one fine arts course during the 2018-19 academic year. More information can be found on their website:


Lost and found given new life in New Jazz

Established Concordia artist debuts exhibition in collaboration with alumni curators

Matthew Thomson refers to himself as “sort of a picker.” The artist gathers objects he finds on the street and converts them into intriguing works of art.

The well-established Concordia alumnus spent a number of years earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the fine arts program. Now, working toward an art education degree, Thomson teaches art at multiple high schools and the Visual Arts Centre in Westmount. While speaking about New Jazz, his current installation at the Ymuno Exhibitions gallery, Thomson described his university career as “never ending.” The same, it seems, could be said about the constant artistic inspiration he draws from his immediate environment. While walking the streets of Montreal, Thomson is inspired to tell the stories of the objects he finds.

Upon viewing his work, the audience is immediately drawn in, wanting to get a closer look at the intricacies of his craft. Thomson’s pieces, which often begin with an old door or picture frame, are then layered with delicate wirework and carefully hand-placed sequins.

New Jazz takes its name from one of Thomson’s pieces of the same title, which consists of various objects Thomson collected, including piano keys, a toy car and two sets of plastic teeth, sitting inside a picture frame.

When asked about the exhibition’s theme, Thomson explained, “[It’s] like if you had a song, and all the notes fell out of the song. You’re looking at them individually and then … repackaging it as something new. Actual artworks themselves become catalysts for other artworks.”

In a corner of the gallery Thomson called “the party section” sit his pieces Party Guests, Party Animals, The Fall and Birthday Boy. The first is a collage of the various personalities that would be found at a party. Some of the painted faces wear masks and others display joyful, stern or animated expressions.

Party Animals, another collage piece, displays two young girls in conversation with each other. Thomson cut out the faces of the girls to create an odd but intriguing image of youth. A third collage, The Fall, concludes the party journey from playfulness to despair. A small cutout of a person is suspended against a dark and textured backdrop.

The fourth and final piece of the section, Birthday Boy, is made entirely out of children’s toys Thomson found on the streets of Montreal. As a sort of contemporary ode to Arcimboldo’s 16th century fruit portraits, Thomson explained, he arranged the toys to form a head. The festive bust wears a golden crown, has a plastic carrot for a nose and holds a party horn in its mouth.

From the objects Thomson finds to the pieces he creates himself and continues to alter, the idea of deconstruction and reconstruction is a thread that runs throughout the exhibition. One example of this process can be seen in his piece titled Admit One. The mixed media framed piece depicts a piece of roadkill laying on top of a silver drain grate. The drain has been covered in shimmering silver leaf which catches the viewer’s eye. Upon further inspection, spots of reddish brown in the silver become visible. Thomson explained that he purposefully didn’t cover all the silver in varnish, allowing parts of it to oxidize and rust. He attributes this unconventional technique to his inner “mad scientist.” Playing with certain techniques and processes cultivates “a stronger connection between you and the things you’re working with,” Thomson said.

In New Jazz, Thomson also addresses the concept of inanimate objects having a history of their own. His piece, Untitled (which he also referred to as Survivor), is a chair he found and chiselled pieces off of to make it appear battered and worn out. The result is an object that looks as though it has been beaten and chewed but remains strong and autonomous. Thomson said he wanted to “create a character out of the chair itself.” By seeing the chair as its own character, the viewer is able to imagine its previous life, as well as its resilience and strength.

It’s because of this imaginative outlook that Thomson chooses to recycle and repurpose objects he finds. “There’s always a bit of … what the object was before that’s in the piece,” he said. “You can’t erase that. You’re not starting with a blank canvas. You’re starting with things that are things, that belonged to something before. The traces will always remain within the piece.”

Ymuno Exhibitions is run by Concordia alumni Madeline Richards and Ben Williamson. The duo met Thomson while they were completing their undergraduate degrees, and they recently reconnected to showcase Thomson’s work.

New Jazz will be displayed at Ymuno Exhibitions until Sept. 30. Admission is free.


Tackling questions of identity in a digital age

Concordia artists experiment with new media and the body in Ctrl_Alt_Del_

Concordia’s Visual Arts Visuels (VAV) Gallery described its current exhibition as “a glimpse into the ways in which global communications have changed” in the age of the internet — and the name truly does catch you off guard. Ctrl_Alt_Del_ is a collection of various works, ranging from installations to paintings to performance pieces that, simply put, sum up the millennial digital age.

Featuring Concordia students Maxime Brown, Sophie Heyen-Dubé, Gabrielle Hoole, Caroline Kinkead, Jessica Sofia Lopez, Alejandra Morales, Diane Roe and Raphael Sandler, the exhibit’s eight pieces explore politics, identity and the process of identifying oneself as an artist and a physical being. Through experimenting with new media and exploring the raw movements of the body, the exhibition takes shape, allowing many forms of art and thought to coexist.

The role of women in history is a prominent element of the exhibition. It explores binary and nonbinary interpretations of ‘feminine’ traits: how women should dress, how they should act and carry themselves, who they should vote for and how to identify themselves.

Morales’ piece, Your Attention is Not Enough, subtly juxtaposes women with unconventional birds, like the ostrich and the rooster, contradicting traditional female stereotypes of being small, frail and free.

Hoole’s cardboard piece — which I truly believe is the highlight of the exhibit — exposes the hypocrisy in white feminism. In the exhibition pamphlet, Hoole quotes political commentator Christina Greer, writing, “You don’t need men to have the patriarchy, white women hold up the patriarchy as well.”

Those Trump Girls balances on one leg, with four arms and two heads. This piece is meant to illustrate the educated white women under 30 who voted for Trump. In Hoole’s words, as a white female artist of privilege, “summing up the insidious nature of being a white woman in our current era … the contemporary white woman finds herself straddling the dichotomy of privilege and sexism.”

Emerging out of a country living a silenced war, alternative facts have become a dreadful norm, the exhibition’s pamphlet explains, and the process of moving on becomes a “sweet cyber dream, a network interruption, the blue screen of death.” Lopez’s piece, No HD, is a low-definition video of a contemporary dance that takes the viewer on a raw journey of self-discovery. Accompanied by the sound of a beating heart and panting breath, the audience watches Lopez as she moves to “reconnect with her roots and become her own friend.”

Ctrl_Alt_Del_ is, for me, a way of saying, ‘F**k it!’ And I love it. I said to myself, it’s time. This is me, raw, in pain, true and, yes it hurts, but I decided not to be colonized by fear,” Lopez said. “Instead, I am riding the wave.”

Ctrl_Alt_Del_ is on display at the VAV Gallery until Sept. 8. There will be a finissage with a live performance by Heyen-Dubé on Sept. 5, from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. Admission is free.


ASTÉRISMES: Complexity in interpretation

Sometimes art isn’t meant to be straightforward, and that is definitely the case for Montreal artist Nicolas Baier’s ASTÉRISMES. As you walk into the exhibition, you are met by a variety of art pieces that could have been inspired by outer space—some are swirled with colour, others solely grey and dreary. Each piece has a different texture and exudes a different aura. The entire exhibition is quite puzzling and requires some serious interpretation. ASTÉRISMES is a complex and mind-bending art exhibition on display at the Division Gallery Montreal until Nov. 5.

Baier is inspired by the complexity of the mind. “Mostly, my interest was the perpetual ongoing, growing and deploying network made or utilized by human knowledge,“ said Baier. “Our point of view on reality, as a group, is not only altered by our position, but also by our tools and our previous knowledge.”

Vanite is one of the many cosmic-inspired works of Nicolas Baier on display at the ASTÉRISMES exhibition. Photo by Richard Max Tremblay.

This exhibition, with its extraterrestrial-looking shapes and images in the works, kept me wondering what the pieces were about and what one is meant to take away from them. Their meanings are meant to be complex, as according to Baier. He wants viewers to take away from the exhibition that “reality is a very complex subject.”

“Reality, nature, cosmos are three synonyms, in my opinion, three words that are totally inclusive,” he said. “We think of the cosmos as something so far, while it’s the air that we breathe, it’s our flesh, our thoughts. We are the cosmos—we are the nature. The machines that we are building are also a part of nature. We are the way the universe is succeeding, having dreams about itself, or understanding itself.”

The exhibition is certainly as mind-bending as its definition, and provides a space to sit and contemplate the universe and one’s existence.

This exhibition is not Baier’s first, and growing up in Montreal, he has wanted to be an artist for as long as he can remember. He said it may have had to do with the fact that both of his parents were art teachers. Baier is a successful artist with many solo and group exhibitions under his belt. His work has been displayed at many galleries across Canada, including the Division Gallery in Toronto and St Mary’s Art Gallery in Halifax.

For more information, you can check out his website.


When office supplies become an art exhibition

We Make Carpets use a variety of items to construct their pieces including elastics bands and paper clips

Who would have anticipated that the modest paper clip would have its big break as a carpet?

In Bend and Stretch, the three-person Dutch collective We Make Carpets uses everyday office supplies to construct intricate and enthralling pieces. Two of their installations, one assembled with paper clips and the other with elastic bands, are featured at Diagonale centre des arts et des fibres du Québec and were created in the gallery itself.

The piece made from elastic spans the length of the room, with the coloured bands stretched out between nails hammered into the wall. The bands connect and intersect, forming geometric patterns such as triangles, squares and lines.

The second piece, made from thousands of paper clips, spans over roughly six feet of the floor of the exhibit.  Hundreds of paper clips of different colours, which are placed in various directions,  create a pattern. The rows of paper clips mostly run parallel to each other but are broken up here and there by slanted pieces, adding texture.

The installations are interesting both in their complexity and simplicity.  The use of one material to create these works, such as elastic bands or tons of paper clips, makes them appear simplistic. However, from afar, the viewer can take in the colour and geometrically-inspired patterns, enjoying the overall cohesiveness of the piece. The distance at which you view the piece impacts its effect. It is fun to view them from few steps back, but it is equally interesting to get in close and take in the details. The closer you get to the piece, the more you appreciate the thousands of little parts that form the whole. If an elastic were to snap or a paperclip were to be nudged, the synchronicity would be thrown off and the installation would lose its significance.

The relationship these works have with space is intriguing. These installations are supposed to imitate carpets: the lowly rugs that children wipe their hands on and adults vacuum once in a blue moon—the item we’ve traditionally brought outside every spring, whacking with a broom to dislodge the dust. These pieces could very well be carpets – except that to step on them would destroy them. Typically, a carpet wouldn’t inspire such minute scrutiny. But in the space of the gallery, the carpets become a valuable object to be admired and interpreted.

The fragile nature of these art pieces makes us question how we use their parts. If paper clips can create something as elaborate as a carpet, maybe they are meant to do more than just secure a bunch of papers together.  The exhibition overall makes you wonder about our relationship with common, everyday stationary objects. If an elastic band can become a work of art, then practically anything can have artistic value. It just requires us to look differently at mundane objects and see their uniqueness.

Bend and Stretch is open until Oct. 15. Diagonale is open Thursday to Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m, and admission to the gallery is free.


Young The Giant – Home of the Strange

Young The Giant – Home of the Strange (Fueled by Ramen, 2016)

Young The Giant’s third studio album Home of the Strange is quite possibly their best and most ambitious record yet. Unlike their first few outputs, Home of the Strange puts a large focus on grand instrumentals that fill the ears with some of the most pleasant sounds you’ll ever hear. The guitars are bright and poppy while the drums are on point. The arrangements on songs like “Something to Believe In” and “Silvertongue” will get you moving, while also giving you an overpowering feeling of nostalgia. The band changes up the mood on songs like “Art Exhibit,” by giving a mix of emotions that helps break up the album. Home of the Strange is indie rock at its finest and offers a sound that’s unique. On this record, Young The Giant is able to distinguish themselves from other indie rock bands with its newfound blend of sounds.

Trial Track: Something To Believe In



Welcome to the freak show

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

Beyond the walls of Montreal’s prestigious Museum of Fine Arts there is another art scene that lives in small, obsolete areas of the city. Spread out across the Mile End and the Plateau are gallery spaces hidden in random, industrialized buildings, waiting to be discovered and explored. Such is the case of Diagonale, a gallery located on Gaspé Ave., and which is currently harbouring Monstrosities, yet another artistic endeavour showcasing the work of Concordia students.

Monstrosities consists of a selection of works by undergraduate students completing their major in fibre and material practices, one of the lesser known studio programs in the fine arts department at Concordia. As the exhibit’s descriptor so quaintly puts it, “the artists deal with notions that tie textile and the body together, exploring the relationship that exists between the two and how they contrast and complement each other.” The result is a combination that will provoke both nausea and utter astonishment.

Body Of Consent, one of the easiest pieces to spot upon walking into the exhibit, is the work of artist Véronique Tremblay. What at first will earnestly remind viewers of a set of genitalia disembodied in limp pieces, is actually meticulously thought out. As audiences approach the piece they realize that on this pink, shiny fabric, the author has printed thousands of words that could typically be related to sexual encounters, be they one night stands or full-on relationships. Words linger on textile, reminding viewers of the consequences and weight that come with this burlesque illustration of these fundamental body parts.

The most impressive and notoriously nauseating piece in the exhibit is, without a doubt, Untitled by Cardy Lai. Using what appears to be strands of thick woollen string drenched in coffee, the artist realistically makes viewers want to gag by creating an accurate depiction of fecal matter. Although some question the artistic value of such a piece, it does play a more traditional artistic role phenomenally well: it effectively recreates reality. In fact, the depiction is so well executed that viewers will squirm, cringe and even turn away if they are the more sensitive type. Stomachs will certainly churn as audiences will have no trouble imagining the texture and stench to accompany this piece.

Other works also stand out in the exhibit, though less scandalously. Stephanie E.M. Coleman’s Maladjusted, an impressive piece of lingerie, plays with transparency and symbolism. As for Mask: Bestialiska, by Benita Whyte, this last piece is a combination of sculptural endeavours and video presentation. The piece has this particularly monstrous touch to it, as the video reveals a subject slowly and meticulously removing a mask in a movement to reveal her face.

Notions of freedom and liberty are perhaps unintentionally evoked by the gallery’s setup, as the shadows on the wall remind us of birds flying off into the horizon.

There is some criticism to be had in regards to the curatorial style of the exhibit. Considering the symbolic value of their work it would have been nice if the artists had provided some sort of descriptor to further enlighten their audience on the creative process that accompanied their work. This is because with understanding comes fascination. After all, it’s a fundamental rule of human nature: horrify us and we simply won’t know how to look away.

Monstrosities will be running until March 23 at Diagonale Centre d’arts, 5455 Gaspé Ave. local 203. Admission is free and the gallery is open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday.


Exploring the identity paradox

Roulotte by Mika Goodfriend from his installment Snowbirds at the FOFA Gallery

Art is a dialogue between the artist and the spectator. Artists are storytellers, forever intent on the ritual of showcasing their unique vision, of expressing their understanding of complex themes and issues. At times, a piece will represent a part of an artist’s story, a shard of who they are. Other times, artists will take a step back and delve into their observations of the world and all that surrounds them. Thus, unsurprisingly, artists may often take completely opposite paths to expose their views and spur our imaginations.

The FOFA Gallery’s most recent installments, Snowbirds and Falling Through a Mirror, are both intent on exploring the theme of identity, delving into what provides us with a sense of belonging as individuals. That being said, the artists, Mika Goodfriend, Tammy Salzl and Emily Jan, could not have more diametrically opposed approaches when it comes to exploring this theme in particular.

Snowbirds, the portion of the installments that belongs to Goodfriend, gives the impression of wanting to provoke some sort of reaction amongst its viewers. Unveiling a sort of stagnant truth about Quebec’s “Snowbird generation”, viewers are left to deal with this photographic instance of truth, often fighting back defensive sentiments in a spot of cultural vulnerability.

Goodfriend was just awarded prizes in the BMO 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition, for two of the pieces in his photography series, Benoit et Suzanne and Reynald et Marylda. Snowbirds, he explains, was made to take an anthropological view on the immigration (or rather the export) of Quebec culture.

The photography truly has a “social documentary approach to it,” as the gallery descriptor so eloquently puts it. Shot entirely in an RV trailer park in Breezy Hill, Florida, the snapshots meticulously study the habits of what Goodfriend considers a generation that should be treated as an “endangered species,” underlining the fact that these retirees are the last of Quebec’s residents to immigrate “en masse.”

The second part of the exhibit, put on by the FOFA Gallery, is a joint venture between Jan and Salzl, who have formed a collective for the occasion. Combining their artistic mediums of choice, the artists showcase both painting and sculpture in one given space. The collaboration is titled Falling Through The Mirror and, coincidently, will remind its spectators, one more than one occasion, of a horror-filled version of Alice In Wonderland.

Salzl, the painter portion of the duo, has completed a master’s in Fine Arts at Concordia, specializing in painting and drawing. Her portion of Falling Through a Mirror has a mythological feel to it, combining the role of humans and animals in a way that is reminiscent of fairy tales. The result is an eerie but captivating series of portraits that will leave the weaker of heart with goosebumps. Much like Goodfriend, Salzl deals with the concept of identity: as she puts it in her artist’s profile, she is illustrating “true parables from a fairy tale book about a society distorted and chaotic.”

As for Jan, her sculptures are breathtakingly horrific, in fascinating sense. Selkie, the main piece she is showcasing, is a seal-like looking carcass that is realistically strewn across the gallery’s main portion of space. With the FOFA Gallery plunged in darkness, lit up only by a few selective spotlights to showcase the work of the collective, Jan’s work takes on a mythic feel. Viewers will easily be reminded of those dark fairy tales told by creators like the Brothers Grimm, and how close to reality these stories always seem to be. Jan’s work is the meeting place for fiction and reality, a place where we find ourselves pushing the limits of our comprehensive imagination through art.

Falling Through The Mirror and Snowbirds will be on display at the FOFA Gallery (main floor of the EV building) until April 4. Admission is free of charge. For additional information, visit


Inquiring into the artistic process and its product

Photo by Megan Moore.

As the semester draws to a close, the VAV gallery at Concordia has launched its final exhibit of 2012, one which will surely encourage discussion.

Queer Partnerships, attempts to look at the different shapes human contact and creative collaboration take, while exploring and challenging the artistic conventions of masculinity, singularity and heteronormativity. To this purpose, the exhibit provides an opportunity for the audience to explore both the artistic process and its product.

The Queer Partnerships Collective is a group of students assembled by Concordia professor Erin Silver, in the context of her ART398 class, Significant “Others”: Queer Partnerships in Art & Art-Making. Silver paired the students in her class with an artist mentor from Montreal and Toronto, in order to focus attention on the possibilities of queer artistic collaborations.

Behind the scenes in this exhibit, the curatorial efforts put forth are also reflective of a desire to challenge artistic conventions. Clinton Glenn, the exhibit’s curator, is using Queer Partnerships as an experiment for his curatorial statement. Glenn explained that the point of the way he curated this exhibit was to challenge the traditional gallery approach by “destroying the narrative sequence that’s usually present in exhibits.”

He plans on scheduling a set number of interventions, affecting the setup of the exhibit and allowing him to analyze how people interact with gallery space.

Queer Partnerships is an exhibit that’s expecting a lot of exposure. Its participation in the World Aids Day this past weekend has earned it a lot of attention, both on and off campus. In light of the artists’ engagement in the queer subject matter, this exhibit is, if anything, a great example of how you can use art to advocate knowledge and opinions on given social issues. These pieces are very personal, some even including memorabilia from coming-out stories.

Overall, the exhibit has something raw to it that’s very compelling. It says a lot for just how close transparency can bring you to an artist and how it can advocate their overall message, but there’s nothing sleek or finished about it’s showcasing. You’re simply left with the impression that you are peeking into someone’s innermost thoughts, fears and advocacies, their perpetual work in progress.

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