A (virtual) walk through Art Souterrain in the age of social distancing

Come away and Reset with me

“Someone once said it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” 

This quote, taken from Fredric Jameson’s “Future City,” given the current state of global affairs, might feel more relevant than ever.

On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and in just under a week, it ushered in a new era of social distancing. This article, originally conceived before the pandemic, was intended to pique the reader’s curiosity about the exhibit (and unintentionally the COVID-19 curve). So instead, we invite you to venture beneath the downtown core, into the underground city and visit Art Souterrain, a public art exhibition, from the comfort of your own home.

Art Souterrain’s 2020 theme Reset showcases art as a response to “humanity at a turning point.” Up until last week, the COVID-19 pandemic felt more like a distant possibility than a pressing reality.

It is true that many people, pre-COVID-19 crisis, had already seen the world at a tipping point, one that cried out for massive intervention. People were in the process of reorienting their own courses, avoiding the onset of environmental extinction, fighting the privatization of public services, protecting Indigenous lands or even preparing for an inevitable pandemic.

And yet now, all of our active, externalized and productivity-focused lives have abruptly come to a halt. We’re seeing the collapse of already precarious economic and healthcare systems, extensive financial turmoil, extreme physical isolation and a move to bring the real world, more than ever, online.

Social distancing is certainly in our best interest. And while we remain secluded, our pace will slow. We might have the time to rethink, reimagine and reset our social patterns and behaviours.

And although a visit to The Underground City is not condonable under the current circumstances, perhaps this piece will soothe your needs to escape the confines of your home while you embark on a virtual tour, highlighting the contributions of Concordians at Art Souterrain.

On March 7, I googled 10,000 steps. “Should you really take 10,000 steps a day?,” a headline for a click-bait “article” posted on the Fitbit—a popular and elite fitness tracking device—Get Moving blog was the first thing to appear. The content of the article meant little to me so I decided to skip over it. Its content is irrelevant, but what the article represents is what matters.

The commodification of fitness, 10,000 steps, is movement to quantify health habits and include them in daily assessments of productivity. Measured on your smartphone, Fit Bit, or other costly technical devices, 10,000 steps symbolize a bourgeois obsession with the analysis of a daily routine. These very devices are marketed towards the white-collar class as objects that define a productive, wealthy, and superior lifestyle.

RESO or the Underground City is Montreal’s subterranean labyrinth. It’s a highly developed, intricate, permanent network that on a regular day, is a transitory space for the bulk of its regular users; a site where Montreal’s establishment clock in their daily steps en-route to meetings, brief errands and quick lunch breaks.

It’s a conduit between the largest shopping malls, banks and businesses in the city. A site of convenience, and rather pedestrian in nature—both figuratively and literally—a patron of the Underground City may never have to leave the indoors to transfer from one building to the next, making their life simpler, shorter and more efficient.

Walls of the tunnels are plastered with posters of advertisements, interactive marketing strategies, TV advertisements and out-of-date pop music blaring through speakers. Some walls are long stretches of wide spaces with small storefronts selling luggage, computer items, gaming paraphernalia, customizable t-shirt stores or food courts armed with a visual grammar all too ubiquitous and familiar.

In a narrow, grey, hallway between L’OACI and Bonaventure Metro, five human-like forms clad in geometrically painted pylons lay scattered intermittently throughout the space. A few wear them like hats and look like witches. Others carry them like a javelin, resembling medieval knights on horses.

Gab More’s One Cone Army reinvents painting as a medium, using it as a sculptural street sign, occupying physical space. More’s signs stick out like sore thumbs, obstructing a hurried pedestrian’s path, reminding us that our city remains in a constant state of disarray.

From a distance, they look like war photographs you’d see at the World Press Exhibition: piles of rubble-strewn bodies, clouds of fire, mass armed conflict. At a closer glance, one might think it’s piles of debris leftover from the Turcot Interchange.

It is neither. Using digital manipulation, artist Sean Mundy has created Ruin, his own interpretation of a post-apocalyptic world. These austere images are concepts of a dystopian future. But their visual grammar is familiar, and the thought of a cataclysm doesn’t seem so distant either.

By the large fountain in the Centre de Commerce Mondial, a wedding party poses for bridal photos. Throughout the space, tour groups gather to learn about Canada’s parliament pre-confederation. Supposedly, this experience also functions as an escape room.

Surprisingly, none of these are performance pieces, they’re not part of Art Souterrain. These groups are the Saturday crowd.

Skawennati – Calico & Camouflage: Assemblée.

Throughout the centre, plastered on brick pillars and marble walls, are life-sized digital avatars. They carry protest signs with phrases such as “I can’t believe we have to protest this shit” and “Water is life.”

Skawennati, a Mohawk multi-media artist, brings visions of Indigenous futures developed in virtual reality to be as large as life in the form of plastic wall decals. Covered in neon camouflage vests, cargo pants or skirts, they look like computer-generated images used in a rendering of a condominium development or the Sims. But they’re the opposite of that. This is Calico & Camouflage: Assemblée. 

Skawennati still arms the space with viewing stations, a style more evocative of her traditional work. On TVs, you can watch her films Words Before All Else Part I, II and III. Her videos are powerful, but it’s the figures on the wall that are eye-catching. They are what Skawenati says is a form of “visibility in spaces of assimilation.”

Arkadi Lavoie Lachapelle – La Chorale

In a quiet corner of Palais des Congrès, Montreal’s largest convention centre, lies a beige mission-style bench. It looks like a giant extended rocking chair situated beneath a reflective ceiling.

Arkadi Lavoie Lachapelle has created La Chorale, resistance against “productivity centred” lives. Its form is simple, its message is subtly disarming: sit down, relax, disconnect from your daily routine and rethink.

Warm pastel portraits decorate the walls of a tunnel leading towards pension fund investment offices in Edifice Jacques-Parizeau. JJ Levine’s Family is quietly on display. 

The shots are soft meditations into intimate private lives. A parent and baby are asleep, covered by magenta sheets, lying in a bed beside a bright orange wall. A soft pink backdrop, grey couches and a young couple in jungle-print t-shirts hold hands. A toddler sits in a baby-blue jumper on turquoise stairs, their piercing gaze pointed directly towards the viewer. A parent breastfeeds their baby in a floral-print gown seated on top of a chestnut coloured storage trunk.

Family is a series of portraits of queer family life, made visible in a space that represents traditional values. Levine boldly subverts images of the nuclear family and claims them as their own symbols of family life.

JJ Levine – Family

In front of a Van Houtte Café in Palais Des Congrès are a series of perfectly arranged white cubes protruding diagonally into the air. At the top of the cubes lie charcoal coloured, miniature mountains. This topographical sculpture is Elyse Brodeur Magna’s Un Tout Parallèle. 

Applying thought from Greek philosophers, Lucretius and Epictetus, Un Tout Parallèle suggests that when atoms deviate from their parallel path, they create new physical bonds; in turn, new forms. Although uniform in their style, these sculptures are products of fresh physical creations, and invitations to climb the mountain in search of a restored purpose and a new physical form.

Tough times are certainly ahead, but how do we transcend them? Perhaps Un Tout Parallèle leaves a hint. 

Maxime Loiseau – Bac à Sable

“Eat, Sleep, Game, Repeat. Eat, Sleep, Game, Repeat. Eat, Sleep, Game, Repeat.” This routine, or rather, this mantra is the modus operandi for the stereotyped gamer. Using performance and installation, artist Maxime Loiseau propels the imagined reality of the disconnected gamer into the real world.

Occupying a storefront opposite a food court buried beneath Place Victoria, Loiseau has created a life-sized diorama. It resembles a gamer’s basement, covered in gaming paraphernalia, junk food, used pizza boxes, with clothes strewn across the floor. This is Bac à Sable, giving the public a voyeuristic view into virtual life.

It’s a reference to geek culture and comment on overconsumption. But as we retreat into cloistered lives for the foreseeable future, gaming might be the antidote to reimagine the reality we’re facing.

This is where I end my 10,000 steps, in a food court in downtown Montreal, decorated like a 1990s shopping mall. Its shabby decor is a fitting backdrop for Reset and its exploration of urban obstruction, public display of private life, productivity culture, questions of alternate futures and transcendentalism.

This reset is an artistic form. We’re in a state of reset, but don’t know what it looks like yet. Our lives are slowing. As we retreat inside for society’s betterment, there are barriers that inhibit one from collecting their 10,000 steps, but the pressure to do so might also be dwindling. If anything, when we make our way out of it, hopefully, we can take these messages to heart and reset our daily lives.




Photos by Anthony James Armstrong.

Video by Lola Cardona.


Digital reflection in an unexpected place

Eric Pickersgill’s analog photography showcases human relationships with technology

As part of Montreal’s Art Souterrain 2019 festival, running until March 24, artist Eric Pickersgill is showcasing a photographic series, titled Removed. The collection of black and white photographs focus on the constant presence of cell phones and technology in contemporary life. Connecting to the festival’s theme, Pickersgill’s project considers the significance of technology as a navigation of what is true, or false, and the way it influences one’s perception of the world and relationships to others.

In their opening statement on this year’s theme, the festival discusses how “art is, in essence, an illusion of reality, a way of, in turn, representing, denying and questioning.”

Pickersgill is an American artist, based in North Carolina. He works primarily in analog photography and finds a connection between education and art, influenced by his teaching experience with Teach For America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilising future leaders. In his photography work, there is consideration over how images can reflect a greater society.

Each image of Removed shows a subject in their everyday life and looking at their cell phone. Yet, upon closer inspection, the viewer realizes there is no phone. While the subject is positioned as if they are holding a mobile device, their hand is actually empty and they are staring at a blank space.

Pickersgill was inspired to create this project after following his own routine of scrolling through his phone in bed, before falling asleep. He was woken by his phone falling, yet found his hand in the same position, as if he was still holding it. From there, he began to take photographs of those around him, such as friends, strangers on the street, and even audiences at a TEDx Talk that Pickersgill presented at, speaking to relationships with devices.

An aspect of Removed that directly connects to Art Souterrain’s True Or False, is the viewer’s own interpretation and questioning of Pickersgill’s images. As one views these images, it is difficult to decipher whether or not there is editing involved, especially with the removal of the phone. Did Pickersgill simply edit out the device which the subject is holding and staring at? Yet, there is no editing to these images—the artist describes them as performances, in which the subjects of the photos act as if they are holding a device, and often find a space of reflection as they stare at their empty hand.

The lack of clarity as viewers wonder about the reality of the image further connects to the ideas of truth in a digital age. The artist also considered the prominence of fake news and how most people now receive all of their information and news from an online source. Through this, there is a complex navigation of faith, questioning and confusion around information gained online.

Removed is exhibiting in the Palais des Congres de Montreal, at 1001 Jean Paul Riopelle Pl., near Chinatown. It is showing in a passage connected to the Place d’Armes metro, as a space that is industrial and does not necessarily appear like somewhere art would be showcased. Yet, this detail plays an important role for Pickersgill in connection to his work. In considering the focus on devices and technology, these objects in expand the accessibility one has to art. For those who stumble upon these works by accident, a greater reflection of their own relationship with technology is encouraged, as they pass by and interact with these works in an untraditional art space.

The work encourages questioning of editing and reality both within the image, and in a broader context of contemporary society, while reflecting back to the viewer a very common sight—someone deeply engaged with their cell phone. These aspects work together to create art that challenges and encourages viewers to situate themselves within the works, and invoke greater consideration of the relationships between physicality, the digital, and human connection and truth within it all.

Removed will be showing until March 24, and is accessible through the underground tunnels at Place Des Arts.


The search for truth in a digital age

Art Souterrain considers honesty, technology and accessibility

Annual Montreal contemporary arts festival Art Souterrain is gearing up for its 11th edition, with this year’s theme being True Or False. Considering the relationship between the digital world and easy access to information, the festival is focused on looking at how that influences a navigation of the truth. In its opening statement on the festival and this year’s theme, Art Souterrain considers that: “Indeed, art is, in essence, an illusion of reality, a way of, in turn, representing, denying and questioning.”

This year, Art Souterrain

Head in the Sand by Brendon George Ko

will be taking place from March 2 to 24, hosting a large number of varied activities and featuring a mixture of both local and international artists, in various locations across the city. The underground passages across the city will be a central location for many of the events, which includes the launch of the exhibition during Nuit Blanche, on March 2. A central focus of the festival this year is accessibility and diversity, by including more activities for families and children, along with a more diversified itinerary overall.

The festival is free, which plays into its focus on greater accessibility. The events are all held in public spaces, such as the underground tunnels, and Cinema du Parc, and the Cultural Institute of Mexico in Montreal. While art galleries around the city will also be hosting these events (including Concordia University’s VAV Gallery), the use of public and untraditional art spaces aims to challenge traditional structures of viewing and interacting with art, as well as some of the exclusivity that can often be present in these environments.

Stuffed Kitsch, Florence Yee.

The festival includes Concordia alum and multimedia artist Florence Yee’s exhibition, Stuffed Kitsch, which will be showing at Complexe Guy-Favreau, from March 2. Stuffed Kitsch consists of fleece objects, with polyester stuffing, appearing as blue and white porcelain ceramics. The work navigates the nuances and histories behind these objects, in the context of 17th century relations between European consumers and East Asian aesthetics. Diaspora, truth and falsity are considered through Yee’s work.

6 Times Cameras Caught Molly Soda Off Guard is another exhibition that is showing during Art Souterrain, also at Complexe Guy-Favreau. The artist behind this work is Molly Soda, a visual and performance artist from Puerto Rico, based in the United States. Soda’s work is often online only, and explores themes of identity and connection, along with online culture. Social media platforms are often the medium that she translates these focuses through, creating work that promotes cyberfeminism using the digital to navigate humanity and human feelings.

Some of the other events include a tour of the underground tunnels, and family friendly events that encourage participants and viewers to also create art. On Saturday, March 9, a guided tour titled At The Edge Of Reality brings participants along three different thematic routes of Montreal’s underground tunnels. The event provides participants with greater knowledge of these tunnels, through sharing information about their structure and purpose.

As part of the family focus of Art Souterrain, the festival will be offering a special drawing workshop, in collaboration with the Place Ville Marie Observatory. On Wednesday, March 6, families will be able to draw and create a piece of art inspired by Alexander Pilis, whose work will be displayed in the observatory.

Pilis is an artist based in both Montreal and São Paulo, Brazil. His work considers the Architecture Parallax, which challenges ideas of vision as the only, and complete, verification of reality. Through this, Pilis has created a multimedia project that navigates the complexities of architecture, concepts of reality, and sight and vision.

Adding to the unique take on this workshop held in the observatory, Pilis will also be present for the event, along with an animator to help facilitate the event. The location of the event will provide participants with a stunning panorama view, connecting specific aspects, such as vision and view, architecture, and interaction with art.

Over the first three weeks of March, True Or False will be pushing traditional art-viewing boundaries and sharing a diverse range of activities and events with Montreal. Showcasing different mediums, different themes, and different locations, there is something for everyone, when considering the ever-present ideas of truth in a digital age. To find out more about Art Souterrain and this year’s events, visit their website:


The quieter side of Montreal’s party night

Winter’s biggest party hides colorful gems underground

Written by Jocelyn Beaudet and Nathalie Laflamme

While the streets of downtown Montreal are flooded with people – dancing, drinking, socializing and otherwise having a good time, a quieter expression forms, under the concrete where thousands party.  Nuit Blanche happens once a year; the metros are open all night, and festivities are thrown all around the city. This is also host to one of the largest art exhibits, spanning the entire ‘underground city’, and beyond. This year, like every other year, I’d opted out of partying all night in favor of tasting the artistic diversity of our local artists. My journey began at metro Places-des-Arts, where the first exhibit that would catch my eye was.

Amidst the sea of people, this brightly lit contraption was colorful, and odd enough to make me double-take. There was something that felt so out of place, and yet belonged exactly where it was. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

No further than a few meters away, there was the sound of endlessly echoing human voices, equally unnerving and yet, strangely reminiscent of whale ‘songs’. The sound came from this dome, made entirely out of speakers. Several microphones hung from the inside, where those who climbed in could speak, sing or hum. Usually, this proximity would cause horrible audio feedback, but for some reason, all that escaped was the strange sounds that caught my attention in the first place. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

As I walked further into places-des-arts, I was greeted by what can only be described as a life-sized version of Lite-Brite. The crowd was having fun organizing the pieces around before moving further into the larger part of the ARTV Studio exhibit. I decided to make a small detour into the exhibit and explore it a bit further. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

There was something oddly enchanting about the whole thing, but I didn’t stay put for very long, and moved on deeper inside. Where someone was painting. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

Now this isn’t something I’ve seen very often in my past attendances of Nuit Blanche. Two artists were painting separate pieces. This was the first I saw in action. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

On my way to the second painter though, I was stopped by this ‘statue’. Although hardly made of earthen materials, it reminded me oddly of a clay statue, and some vague recollections of Indiana Jones. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

And here stood the second painter. Equally as impressive as the one before him. I stood by to watch him paint a little further, and moved out of the ARTV Studio exhibit, and made my way towards Complexe Desjardins after making this small detour. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

There’s always some sort of interesting looped film playing in the hallway of place-des-arts, this in itself isn’t particularly new. But this particular looped animation, reminiscent of older cartoons, made me smile and brought back some fonder memories. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

I took a short break once I was inside Complexe Desjardins, for a bit of coffee and because a crowd was gathering around the fountain at the center. By the fountain though, was this ominous monolith. Admittedly, I wasn’t impressed with it at first and opted out of taking a picture of it. But over the few minutes I stood by it, the looming presence of the exhibit grew on me. I barely had the time to snag a picture before the lights dimmed, and the fountain began ‘misting’. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

Accompanied by some beautiful music in the background, the scene felt almost like a fairy tale, straight out of a live-action Disney movie. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

Predictably, the fountain’s spout shot the water all the way to the shopping mall’s high ceiling. Although nothing out of the ordinary for those familiar with the fountain, the colored lights and music made for a more meaningful experience, almost building the whole thing like a crescendo.
As the presentation ended, I began to make my way out of the mall, and further away from Places-des-Arts. Also predictably, this is where things started becoming a little less interesting. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

A bit past Complexe Guy-Favreau’s underground was a piece of wireframe which, when illuminated and projected to the wall behind, created an interesting perception trick. The exhibit itself though, felt ill-placed and easy to pass by, should its presentation not be underway. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

On the way to the Palais des Congres, in the brightly lit tunnels, was this. The odd combination of geometry and art felt like it spoke out me, almost begged for my attention. With that being said, I’m still unsure as to what exactly it represented. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

As we climbed out of the underground, giant replicas of cigarettes piled together like a campfire stood in my way. I’m sure there was a message to convey here, but I’ve missed the point completely. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

Through another hallway, the projection of walking silhouettes on crumpled paper was on display. With the sounds of a busy crowd playing in the background, the shadows on the paper continued along their merry way, even when the hallway was deserted. For some reason, it felt oddly creepy, like seeing and hearing ghosts in the city’s often silent tunnels. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

In the Palais des Congres now, there danced a strange yarn-clad figure. Not seen in the picture is the headphones protruding from its side. After some time spent fearing ghosts in the city’s underground, I didn’t quite feel comfortable around this exhibit and promptly walked away. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

My trip towards the Eaton Centre from here remained fairly uneventful. Exhibits were plenty, but at this point, I felt disenchanted. When we arrived at the city’s busiest mall, the yearly ‘crowd-sourced’ art exhibit was well underway. As the crowd was encouraged to participate and draw its own art on different-shaped canvases. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

And here, my journey came to an end. After spending three hours mulling over several dozen presentations and exhibits, I was about ready to call it a night.
There were several other exhibits that I’ve seen, but not presented, and these represent my favorites – both good and bad – among the ones that I’d seen this year.
As usual though, the furthest I was from places-des-arts, the less impressed I was with the exhibits themselves. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

At the end of the day though, the whole thing was a fun experience, and many of the exhibits are still available for art lovers to browse until March 14th. That being said, the exhibits may end up being just as busy as this one in the end. Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet.

Meanwhile, on campus…

Concordia took part in Nuit blanche with their event, Crystaline. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme


At the VAV Gallery in the VA building, three artists were given twp square feet of an “interactive film strip” to create pieces that respond to winter in Montreal. This piece was created by Keir MacDonald, and is called Flip-Strip No. 1. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme


“Montréal la belle”, by Audrey Dandenault. This piece is made of silk. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme

Many projections took place inside and outside the gallery. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme

In the MFA gallery, participants were able to try their hand at animations, learning from students as well as professionals, like Concordia professor Erik Goulet. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme

Participants got to try animating with puppets, different colors of sand, and cutout papers. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme

Participants also got to learn to animate with 35 mm film and sharpies from professor Goulet. The animation projects were later projected, and participants got to keep their ribbons. Photo by Nathalie Laflamme


Come underground and play

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

No two people see the same New York City, San Francisco, Paris or Las Vegas. Some will remember the skyline, with its endless skyscrapers, carving out a clouded sky. Others will prefer the museums, with that breathtaking piece of artwork they thought they’d never see. These cities — much like our own — are playgrounds, where individuals are left to gather fragmented memories and impressions.

Montreal, for instance, is a city with a remarkable use of public space. It can be said that we are, above all, a showcasing city. The very existence of these spaces, crowded with artistic installments and festivals at all times of year, is constantly inviting people, either citizens or tourists, into discovering our city.

An excellent example of our city’s showcasing endeavors is this year’s returning edition of Art Souterrain, which will be running from March 2 until March 17. This artistic event is put together by an organization of the same name, which was founded in 2009. The Art Souterrain organization’s mission is to make contemporary art more accessible to all and to give it a chance to be appreciated as a whole.

Art Souterrain, in 2013, is the fifth edition of this impressive event, as this year’s circuit spans over seven kilometers. Artists’ creations always focus on one curated theme in order to create a cohesive circuit for people to explore. This year’s theme is the labyrinth: “a sinuous plan, provided or not of crossings, dead ends and false tracks, intended to slow down or get lost someone who tries to walk through it,” as it is eloquently explained on their website. They are, however, quick to underline the symbolic sense of the theme as well; the labyrinth also references the understanding between the spectator and the artist and how the former will lead audiences through a series of movements and ideas to a new vision or perspective.

For people interested in completing the circuit as a whole, the downtown Montreal area has been divided into eight zones. They all host a respective amount of artists, based on whatever space is available. This includes “unofficially” parts of the STM, as well as more official venues such as Palais des Congrès.

As an organization, Art Souterrain has the more “local” goal of encouraging Montreal to renew its stance on visual arts. The same way it has actively decided to advocate its importance in the music world, be it on the local or the international scene, Art Souterrain would like Montreal to take an active role in promoting contemporary visual arts. What visitors of the event will quickly come to understand is that Art Souterrain wants to create a sense of pride and appreciation for the visual arts, that has been but an undertone in the city until now.

This major artistic event also fosters the notion of ‘guest city’. Essentially, the organization partners with another major city from around the world in order to invite some of that city’s newer or more prominent contemporary artists to come and exhibit their work. This year’s guests were from Barcelona, and have been greatly influenced by a combination of both Catalan and Spanish artistic techniques and themes.

Art Souterrain is an invitation for Montrealers to take the time to enjoy a spectacle. After all, part of the city has essentially been temporarily revamped to take your breath away. Why not go take a walk and let it surprise you?

Art Souterrain will be taking place across the downtown Montreal underground March 2-17. There are no admission fees related to this event. For a detailed map of the circuit and for more information visit


It’s a beautiful world

The city is subtly splattered with his delectable images promoting Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. Metro stations and billboards throughout the city are adorned with the product of his vision and search for beauty. His photographs are deep, sensuous images full of movement, flow and sentiment. They succeed in proving that beauty is all around us, even where we least expect it.
Beauty is an aging man or woman. Beauty is a straight, gay or transsexual person. Beauty is respect and understanding towards difference. Beauty is drama and a story as it unfolds. Beauty is transforming negativity into positivity. Beauty, for Damian Siqueiros, is omnipresent.
“When you treat beauty not as commercial beauty, as what a top model would look like, but beauty in the sense of having a positive view on things and transforming negativity into happiness; for me, that’s beauty,” said Siqueiros. “And finding that beauty in people or in places […] that’s what moves my work.”
With both art and photography as part of his education, Siqueiros doesn’t consider himself merely a photographer, but a blend of a photographer and painter—a photopainter, as he calls it. Painting is an essential part of his process; he pays close attention to makeup, set designs, lighting and retouching. He compares his work with that of a Renaissance painter, applying several transparencies and layers to his photographs, almost like brushstrokes. The final product is a photographic image with the aesthetic of a painting.
“I would say that even though I have both, as a photographer and as an artist, the aesthetic is always a very clear view of where I wanted to be as an artist,” said Siqueiros. “It’s strange because I think that’s one of the hardest things as an artist: to find your own voice.”
Siqueiros comes from a close, science-driven family from Baja California, Mexico. In 2009, he moved to Montreal with the hopes of starting a new life in a city where topics such as gender equality and gender diversity were being discussed regularly. In fact, these are two things Siqueiros speaks about a lot; one of his goals is to motivate people to be respectful and understanding with other people and with other people’s differences.
“Gender diversity is an intrinsic part of the identity of every person,” said Siqueiros with a thick but charming Spanish accent. “But it’s not the person. There can be good or bad people that are straight or gay or transsexual and it really doesn’t matter that much.”
Siqueiros, who specializes in artistic and editorial photography, is fascinated with movement. It’s no mystery why his favourite subject to photograph are dancers. He says movement inspires him because of the drama; not drama in the sense that something negative is happening, but that something is happening.
He seeks to tell the story behind a person as it develops through his work, and for him, movement and emotion are the perfect combination to do that. He tries to portray emotions that make people feel alive and connected to his work, even if they may be sad ones. He compares the feeling to the aftertaste of listening to an Adele song—although it is sad, it doesn’t make you feel bad, it makes you feel good and alive.
His latest series, part of this year’s Art Souterrain, is called The Journey of Flowers. Siqueiros draws a parallel between the life of a flower and the career of a dancer, both significantly short.
He aims to connect with his public on an emotional level rather than an intellectual one, something he thinks contemporary art has forgotten how to do.
In the series, Siqueiros also exposes the limits people feel they have when they age or if they suffer from a chronic illness. He wants people to overcome the preconception that being old or ill means not being able to be active or fulfilled and not being able to contribute to society.
He photographed renowned Quebec dancer and choreographer Margie Gillis, and Bobby Thompson, Montreal’s well-known Argentinian tango dancer, both in their fifties and still very active and popular, in order to exemplify how he would like people to see life when they hit that age.
”If tomorrow I can’t walk as fast as I used to do, then it means that I have more time to look at my environment and the place where I live and contemplate more,” said Siqueiros. “I want people to take this seemingly bad thing as an opportunity to become better people.”

Art Souterrain runs until March 11. Siqueiros’ work will be exhibited at Square Victoria metro station. For more information on Art Souterrain, visit For more information about Damian Siqueiros, visit

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