Arts and Culture Festival

MOMENTA returns to Montreal with a new face

MOMENTA’s 18th edition maintains the great axiom: the only constant is change.   

Since 1989, Montréal’s MOMENTA Biennale de l’image has brought artists from around the world to collaborate with the local creative community in celebration of contemporary art that speaks to global concerns. Expanding on its origins as an exposition of cutting edge photography, MOMENTA’s 18th edition puts forth a program of artists who employ a breadth of methodologies in their work including video, sculpture, lenticular printing, projection, performance, miniature painting, and more. 

The opening event was held at Fonderie Darling—a converted 19th century industrial building that had been abandoned in 1991 until it was revived as a visual arts centre in 2002. The repurposed foundry served as the perfect venue for the vernissage, for its history aptly suits MOMENTA’s theme for this year: Masquerades: Drawn to Metamorphosis.

Curator Ji-Yoon Han Speaks at MOMENTA’s Opening Event, Fonderie Darling. Photo By Emma Bell / The Concordian.

In a world of fixed identities that tether us to limited ways of being, the masquerade invites us to embrace transformation, fluctuation, novelty and possibility. It is an intervention that offers a space for reimagining identity as a continuous process of becoming. 

“This biennial is about desire—it is about becoming; becoming other, becoming image, becoming oneself through the tangles of the gaze. Becoming is appearing and disappearing—showing and concealing. It is a transformation in time and space—bringing to the surface the energies of the archaic, the forgotten, the subterranean. This is about experimenting with one’s place and one’s boundaries—never affixed in this world; embracing transitional states,” said curator Ji-Yoon Han to the crowd outside the foundry. 

View of Artist Jeannette Ehlers’ Video Installation Moko Is Future (2022) in their Exhibition Play Mas, Fonderie Darling. Photo By Emma Bell / The Concordian.

MOMENTA provided 23 artists with the opportunity to exhibit a solo-show at one of the 16 participating venues around Montréal from the Mile End to the Old Port. The first exhibition to open was Séamus Gallagher’s “Mother, Memory, Cellophane” at the McCord Stewart Museum near McGill University. Han remarked that Gallagher was one of the first artists she had in mind as she was developing the theme for the biennale, for their interdisciplinary work is rooted in transformation, liminality, and motion. 

“Mother, Memory, Cellophane” is Gallagher’s first museum scale exhibition. Upon entering the gallery on the third floor of the McCord, the viewer encounters an illuminated pink platform occupied by an invisible figure wearing an extravagant plastic pink-and-blue dress with a sash that reads “Miss Chemistry.” This dramatic, phantasmic display introduces the viewer to the protagonist of the show, the ghost of Miss Chemistry.  

Gallery view of Mother, Memory, Cellophane, McCord Stewart Museum. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian

The 1939 New York World’s Fair, titled “World of Tomorrow,” showcased the anticipation for rapid scientific advancement as a new dawn for society. It was here where the DuPont company launched their new nylon stockings, donned by a model named Miss Chemistry, who personified chemistry as human progress, calling her the “the plastic woman of the future.” Her stereotypical feminine beauty, enhanced by the synthetic material of the stockings, stood as a symbol of mid-20th century values and visions of the future. Today, we look back on these sensibilities with eyes that have witnessed the true legacy of the 20th century—so-called progress at the cost of violence, pollution and uninhibited consumerism. 

“It is the first time that Séamus is dealing with an historical moment,” said Han. “This is one of the reasons why we thought it would be a good match with the McCord museum.” 

McCord Stewart Museum Façade. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian

The title of the show is drawn from a 1940 survey that claimed the words “Mother,” “Memory,” and “Cellophane” as the most beautiful words in the English language—a testament to the entanglements between femininity, nostalgia and synthetic material culture. These notions intertwine and constitute the character of the phantom of Miss Chemistry that Gallagher appropriates through drag performance.

Moving through the gallery, lenticular prints line the periphery of the space. The holographic quality of the surface denies the audience a fixed image to gaze upon, and rather offers an oscillation between text and image that changes along with the viewer’s movement. The print “Desire’s Inherent Vice Belongs in its Accumulation” (2023) superimposes the titular text over a still image of the artist performing as Miss Chemistry. As they perform, their face is transformed through a projection mapped onto a mask, creating layers of identity. These layers are further complicated by the shimmering surface of the print that obscures just as much as it reveals. 

Gallagher has thus created a persona that cannot be grasped; “an image that can never be seized” as Han describes it. Their technique and materials speak to the ever-shifting and evolving nature of identity and expression. Hear more from the artist during their free virtual discussion of their work on Nov. 22, 2023 at noon, which will be livestreamed on the museum’s Facebook page.

Find MOMENTA’s upcoming calendar of discussions, conferences and workshops as well as their exhibition map at their website here. The biennale will be ongoing until Oct. 22, 2023.


The role of virtual museums in a time of isolation

Museums and galleries are being forced to adapt amidst uncertainty

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for everyone. There is a lot of uncertainty regarding jobs, school and just about everything right now. With vernissages being cancelled, and museums and other art spaces being closed indefinitely, many questions are being raised within the art world.

However, amidst all this uncertainty lies a new wave of innovation. Many art institutions have made their collections available digitally, for all. From the Louvre to the Sistine Chapel, viewers can visit these otherwise costly landmarks from the comfort of their own home, for free. Some museums, like the Louvre, are providing virtual tours, while others like the MET, are giving access to their collection databases.

But what does this mean for the museum as a physical space to view, experience and enjoy art? Does the accessibility of digital galleries affect the experience of engaging with art? In reality, this is not a new concept. Many institutions already have digital access to their collections, including the MET and the MOMA, and platforms like Artsy and Artnet already serve as online galleries, where patrons can view and purchase art.

Nonetheless, the current circumstances have provided many museums with the opportunity to expand and grow, as they adapt during these difficult times. The Biennale of Sydney recently announced their decision to close their exhibitions and move online, and Art Basel will host virtual booths for all 231 featured galleries.

In an effort to give viewers the freedom to explore their collection, the Glenbow Museum in Calgary has begun Glenbow From Home. The initiative allows access to virtual tours, online collections and educational videos, as a means of providing “inspiration, beauty, and most importantly, a sense of connection to the people and world around us,” according to the museum’s website.

Viewers can familiarize themselves with Canadian art by strolling through The Royal Ontario Museum and The Vancouver Art Gallery via the Google Arts & Culture platform or expand their knowledge of Indigenous art through the Canadian Museum of History’s Online Exhibition of Inuit Prints and virtual access to Alex Janvier’s Morning StarGambeh Then.’ To learn more about the history of the popular Christmas classic, The Nutcracker, The National Ballet of Canada is offering an online photographic exhibition.

Galleries and museums are not the limit. While travelling is currently off-limits, you can explore sites like Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and the Uffizi Gallery from the comfort of your home. Google Arts & Culture even allows individuals to search sites by location, via their interactive map.

As we self-isolate and practice social distancing for the next couple of months, viewers can take this opportunity to visit locations they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford, or have time to visit amid their busy schedules. So sit back, get comfortable and use art as a way to de-stress.


Momenta Biennale takes over Montreal with a critical artistic lens

There’s life in everything

Previously named Mois de la Photo, the Momenta Biennale is an extensive series of themed exhibitions in galleries all over Montreal occurring every other year at the same time as the World Press Photo exhibition. This is done intentionally, to emphasize the power of different images. The theme of this year’s biennale, titled The Life of Things, is materiality, material culture, consumerism, and environmentalism. The theme is interpreted differently by 39 local and international artists, with some focusing on living things, others on objects, oral histories, and movement.

The exhibition at Galerie de l’UQAM, where their biennale launched, is divided into two segments, “Cultural Objects and Material Culture” and “Thingified Beings or Humanized objects.” International artists explore identity and the body, and the legacy left behind by objects in various light-based and time-based mediums. Kader Attia, an artist based in Algeria and France, put forward a striking silent projection that explores the “restoration” of people (specifically severely wounded World War I soldiers) and mended artifacts from museum archives. The restoration methods between two very different subjects are surprisingly similar, sharing basic cross stitch methods, and once healed, leave noticeable patterns in the visible scar tissue. Across the gallery, Victoria Sin (Toronto/London) showcases a four-part series exploring the art of drag and its role in defining “femme” culture.

Every Room is a Waiting Room Part 1, Bridget Moser.

Stepping off from “Cultural Objects and Material Culture” and “Thingified Beings or Humanized objects,” the exhibition at VOX, centre de l’image contemporaine presents “The Absurd as Counter-Narrative of the Object” and “Still Life in an Age of Environmental Crisis.” Among the nine artists at VOX are Concordia alumni Juan Oritz-Apuy, Bridget Moser, and Elisabeth Belliveau.  

Centred around the idea of the still life, Belliveau’s work addresses consumer society, inviting us to look closely at things and choices. Belliveau Works with installation, found objects (both authentic and replicated), video, and stop motion animation, to depict a feminist means of art making.

By analyzing still lives created by women in the 16th century, this painterly subject, separate from that of the body, invited these women to focus on something domestic and hide their own self-portraits in reflections of the objects on the table. Belliveau, drawing from this, is interested in how things came to the table, making connections to the aestheticization of food in the digital world with the rise of “foodie” accounts on Instagram.

Still Life with Fallen Fruit (after A Breath of Life by Clarice Lispector), Elisabeth Belliveau

Her work at Vox, Still life with Fallen Fruit depicts objects collected upon months spent in Japan. Parallel to traditional bronze casting, Belliveau chose to scan fruit, namely apricots and figs, which had fallen from trees in the Japanese countryside, and 3D print them, thus navigating the ultimate decay of her subject. The other objects in her installation are rich with personal memories, and while they may be mundane, she wishes to emphasize the symbolic meaning behind the objects and not their material value.

Her work permits viewers to slow down, analyzing the material hierarchy of things, questioning economical consequences and validating the breath of life that animates objects in question, real or replicated.

Working in tandem,  Oritz-Apuy’s installation poses a striking take on ideas previously set by Belliveau, contextualized by the absurd and the still life in the Anthropocene. His video collage presents select, existing Youtube unboxing videos, overlapping the language and care used to unwrap various products from their packaging. Oritz-Apuy is fascinated by relationships with commodities and the way in which they may replace relationships with people. His work is self-conscious, critically analyzing the absurdity of this unboxing phenomenon and nonetheless, being completely taken by the beauty of objects. Oritz-Apuy’s installation practice is characterized by a bold, intentional use of colour, painted in stripes on the walls, transforming the initial white cube setting. On a wall opposite of the video collage rest his fetishized objects; monuments stripped from their packaging labels to highlight their form, colour, and contour.

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Juan Ortiz-Apuy.

This year’s Momenta Biennale continues to toy with these ideas of things, stuff and what they reveal about our society and consumer culture. MAKING A RELIGION OUT OF ONE’S LONELINESS, by Canada’s Hannah Doerksen at Centre CLARK continues to use objects, this time embedded with the artist’s personal encounters, are used to create a space of “mystical contemplation.” The idea of the altar, a recurring theme within the Biennale, returns in another form with Celia Perrin Sidarous’s work at the McCord Museum titled The Archivist, which traces museological practices tied to archiving images and objects, resulting in inkjet print montages, a different kind of narrative-embedded still life.

For more information regarding Momenta’s many incredible exhibitions, workshops, talks and other activities read more here. Entrance to these various venues is free until mid-October, and there will be a french guided tour of the Biennale’s exhibitions at the Galeries de Gaspe on Sept. 14 from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.


Photos by Cecilia Piga.

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