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Arts

Groundwater explores the bond between memories, home, and natural elements

Groundwater, an exhibition stemming from the imaginative minds of four Concordia grads, took place from Sep. 15 to 19. Alexey Lazarev, Manuel Poitras, Loïc Chauvin, and Constantinos Giannoussis each presented their own unique installation, while also collectively adhering to a specific idea. Lazarev explained that “though the projects are all different, in one way or the other, we deal with processes that are hard to be seen. We came up with the name ‘Groundwater’ as something present, important, but hard to see.” The exhibition also places importance on exploring the permeability of borders. Whether these borders are geopolitical, conceptual, or physical, they vary for each artist.

The first installation is Lazarev’s Memory Fabric III. This work features images from his family archives in St. Petersburg, as well as photos he acquired from the St-Michel Flea Market. These photos are presented as an installation of woodblock prints that have been meticulously pressed onto several rolls of 60-foot paper. It is evident that Memory Fabric III was an intricate project for Lazarev to take on. He explains that some rolls of paper took approximately eight hours to produce. Observing these prints, the viewer is overcome with a certain nostalgia. While these memories do not belong to the viewer, there is something hauntingly familiar about the faces that stare back. When it comes to creating art, Lazarev is inspired by the themes of finding oneself, finding one’s place in the environment, feeling out of place, and dealing with different types of anxieties.

The next installation in the exhibition is titled DIY Flood: the reading room from Poitras. This work features several pieces of furniture and décor that are upended, dangling over a carpet. On the carpet rests a small table that showcases several books, all of which share a common theme: capitalism. Although the sound of running water is soothing to many, this certainly isn’t what the artist was going for when he crafted this piece.

“The installation is relaxing, but also discomforting, because of the water’s contact with these objects, which we usually assume to be safe,” explained Poitras. The artist also notes that his work tends to explore the natural world and environmental processes, especially regarding climate change. Fraught with anxiety, this piece confronts the often turbulent relationship that humans share with the natural world.

This work evokes an unsettling feeling: water tubes weave through the furniture and decor, serving as a stark reminder that our own materials and lives could very well be reclaimed by natural elements. It’s difficult for the viewer to not reflect on their own relationship with their environment, while also reflecting on how much they rely on the materials around them.

Next in the exhibition is Chauvin’s Ellipse. Chauvin’s work seeks to explore the connection between creation and destruction in both the natural and cultural world. This installation may look unsuspecting at first glance, but with careful examination, viewers can discern a subtle image amidst the grain of the laser engraved wood panel that the artist uses. The scene depicts a clear-cut forest. Next to this work is Produit Dérivé. In this work, Chauvin presents a small piece of wood that has been, as he explained, “put back into circulation in nature as plastic simulacra of the original object.” The piece of wood is accentuated by a light grey background that is reminiscent of a serene body of water.

Finally, there is Giannoussis’ 740 Avenue 80 Laval. This installation introduces a garden, recreated from Giannoussis’ memory of his grandfather’s. There are plum pits scattered in a patch of dirt, which are juxtaposed with wooden boxes arranged in a square and feature delicate paintings of ripe plums. There is a feeling of loss that arises when observing the discarded pits among the dirt. In Giannoussis’ artistic statement, the artist explains that despite his grandfather’s recent move to a new location, he still exhibited “an awkward but benevolent devotion to this now-lost space.” This work exhibits the deep ties that both the artist and his grandfather share when it comes to their idea of home. The vibrant purple of the painted plums offers a sense of vitality to the piece, and is a tender attempt at keeping the artist’s important memories alive.

Groundwater offers an intimate glance into these four artists’ notions of home, culture, and the natural world, as they encourage viewers to reflect on the environments they now inhabit, or may have in the past.

 

Photographs by Ashley Fish-Robertson

Categories
Arts

Nuit Blanche: Thoughts en lumiere, a rush into a green utopia

We didn’t do Nuit Blanche together, but we might as well have. Two arts writers vs Nuit Blanche. The apathy is real. We were slightly amused. And we’re still thinking too much about the colour green (and outer space?

Chloë Lalonde, Arts Editor, etc., The Concordian 

Nuit Blanche only really came onto my radar when I was in CEGEP, I guess some would consider that a late discovery. My best friend and I visited the Musee d’Art Contemporain (MAC) for one of their fantastic nocturnes. We had special drinks, I don’t remember much of the exhibition (it might have been David Altmejd) and exited the museum directly on Ste-Catherine Street. Little did we know of the wonderland that waited for us outside. Ah, a time when you didn’t have to book your slide/ferris wheel/zipline experience in advance… It was the best surprise.

Since then, Nuit Blanche has been lackluster, ridden with food anxiety, too much beer, long lines and the wrong activities (yeah, I’m talking about “wand-making” at Lockhart).

This year I decided I would spend my Saturday evening after a long day of teaching and laying out the arts and opinions sections of the paper, visiting as many galleries as I could manage with my sister. We met up quite early at the Belgo building (372 Ste-Catherine St. W.), before things were popping, and managed to pass by every gallery that was open, before stopping by the very crowded MAC, UQAM’s art gallery, a surprise performance we weren’t expecting and finishing off with Le Livart.

The Belgo is unassuming, if you didn’t already know it was home to 27 galleries, several artist studios, savvy startups and dance studios, it would be hard for you to find out. The exterior isn’t necessarily inviting, neither is the lobby and the adjacent cafe (I found a hair in my crepe and they gave me a free latte.)

It was my sister’s first time there and she had no expectations, but I didn’t want to disappoint. I did force her to cancel her unmade plans with her friends to hang out with me, after all. We rode the elevator up to the fifth floor (which is truly the sixth), and wove our way in and out of galleries uninterested until I started to notice a grand theme. Every gallery featured some kind of moon print. Drawings or lithographs, etchings, paintings––like craters on the moon––everything felt geographical, alluding to the earth and the landscape.

AMER, an artist from Montreal, paints with rust in their exhibition at Galerie Luz, using hydrogen, oxygen and carbon—what AMER considers among the essential elements for the appearance of life. Their work returns to the origin of the medium, with natural hues and industrial materials to reference ancient cave paintings and transmit modern messages over time.

Past a wall separating Galerie Luz in two, lived fibre works that felt entirely alien to AMER’s practice. White and fluffy, interrupted by copper threads and plastics, Mariela Borello’s tapestries connect to the body.

Later, at UQAM’s art gallery, the moon prints returned. Only this time they were in the forms of massive paper tapestries and sculptures disappearing into the floor. These rooms of earth and stone, on until March 21, compiled the incredibly similar practices of Michel Boulanger and Katja Davar.

Boulanger’s Girations, Rouler 1 was absolutely mesmerizing. A jeep-esque vehicle sinks and resurfaces, only to sink again, creating new landscapes with each dip. Davar’s drawings resonate on the same frequency. Each piece is like witnessing the plans for a new earth, land and soil.

The theme this year was “vert,” and events and exhibitions generally referenced the colour, sustainability and the environment throughout. Green is symbolic for many things, most notably, growth, whether natural/environmental, economic or personal, it’s said to be healing and inspire creativity.

Some works were all too literal; Le Livart had an exhibition up the whole month of February based solely on the colour green, and others were just flat out unrelated and overpopulated (collection exhibitions at the MAC).

Oh, and I can’t forget the performance we walked into on our way home, which was, arguably, my sister’s favourite part. Mourning of the Living Past, performed by Inflatable Deities, Canadian artists Jessica Mensch and Emily Pelstring, shook their futuristic “organic sparkly energy” all over UQAM’s Judith-Jasmin pavilion. It truly infected my 18-year-old sister. She danced along with them (behind the crowd) as I filmed her. She also changed her Instagram bio to “organic sparkly energy,” which I’m pretty sure is what the glittery duo chanted into their electronic amplifiers.


Sophia Arnold, Contributor for The Concordian and CUJAH Editor-in-Chief 

For the past five years, since I moved to Montreal, Nuit Blanche has been something to look forward to in the depths of your depressive episodes at the height of winter, mostly because the metro is open all night and the thought of riding public transit at 4 a.m. is overwhelming for a green-minded, uber-despising person. It gives a cosmopolitan New York vibe that Montreal aspires to everyday but can only afford to cave into twice a year (the other night being New Years Eve).

Nuit Blanche attracts all kinds of people: those who have kids and want to take them on the mini Ferris wheel at Place des Arts before retiring after “doing Nuit Blanche,” tourists who are just happy to be wherever they end up (admittedly, me the first two years…), and Montrealers who know where to be and will not give you the time of day if “you’re not from Montreal.”

My night started at Le Livart. I had been there a few times before but never on Nuit Blanche, although my partner had and was enamoured with the basement dance floor. The layout of the place reflects its roots as an old residential home, and still allows for artists-in-residence to use the upstairs rooms as studios. For Nuit Blanche, they had many artists exhibiting their works on the ground floor, and opened the upstairs, inviting you to speak with the gallery’s resident artists.

The exhibition went through all the various interpretations of this year’s theme, green, in all its facets. Livart expanded on the ideas presented in Vert, Histoire d’une couleur by Michel Pastoureau, who highlights green as a central colour in the role of art history. As you enter, Renaud Séguin’s green, ‘cabinet of curiosity’ style room welcomes you into a literal green space. Filled with found objects, from candy wrappers to paint colour samples, and some iconic references, like a picture of The Green Lady (@greenladyofbrooklyn), it’s like entering a commodity forest; our new image of green.

Other rooms in the gallery welcomed the interpretation of ‘green’ to be detourned headlights,  bricolage wreaths placed on the ground and large-scale photography. Due to the variety of mediums included, when you left Le Livart you were very aware what role the colour and ideology of green plays in contemporary art.

Next stop was Palais des Congrès, where we saw some of the works featured in this year’s Art Souterrain underground exhibitions, running until March 22. The piece we spent the most time with was the automated metro doors in sequence that opened as you walked through the hallway of them. It was an unexpected yet retrospectively predictable surprise seeing as the delapidated metro cars are the subject of many interactive installations throughout the city, highlighting the history and development of an iconic feature of Montreal daily life.

Next on the agenda; Phi Centre. I don’t really know where to begin with this one. As a self identifying ‘antenna,’ Phi Centre hosts a variety of events showcasing the latest tech developments, and this night was no exception. The show, Simulation/Acceleration, was built on the premise of human connectivity, digital capitalism and environmental degradation, exploring the topic with Virtual Reality (VR), augmented reality and a green screen interactive performance. DJ sets also took place throughout the night with visuals.

Life on the green screen was the highlight of the show. Mesmerized by the piercing gaze and dynamic movement of the performers in an array of outfits and positions, it was an ominous presence that rarely broke—apart from when viewers were invited to enter the green screen setup and the rare drunk guy did a peace sign. The screen showing the results of the green screen performance embodied the premise of the show, deconstructing the commonplace ideas of humans as apart from the environment and autonomous players in a hyperconnected world.

After a necessary food detour, we headed to Places des Arts, which was a short stop. Eying it through the crowds of people, we decided to skip it this year as it has an overdone, commercial vibe that we weren’t looking for (signified by the giant maple syrup cans).

Final stop: Eastern Bloc. The event aimed to create an urban oasis and safe space for freedom of expression and being, which it did through Allison Moore’s installation, The Enchanted Woods and various DJ sets with a dance floor in the usual exhibition space. Running until 4 a.m., it felt like a liberation from winter and greyness, taking you out of time and space to a utopic non-place—even though they ran out of drinks and you had to wait 30 minutes for the bathroom, which kind of brought you back down to earth.


All in all, it was an extensive, involved and jovial evening. But, we wish this programming was accessible at a substantial level throughout the year. In one evening, you go to four events before your corporeal limit is reached and you miss events that cannot be experienced again. In an ideal green utopia devoid of money, the metro would run 24 hours a day and every night would be an opportunity to engage with your local and international communities in such a monumental way, like the way you can on Nuit Blanche.

 

 

 

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Photos by Chloë Lalonde and Sophia Arnold.

Categories
Arts

Chaos, discomfort, and absurdism

If you could visually represent feelings of discomfort and worry, what would they look like?

Montreal and Mexico City-based artist Beth Frey illustrates this in her most recent exhibition. The multidisciplinary artist, a Concordia MFA graduate, explores themes of girlhood, the body, social media, and mental health through her sculptures, drawings, and videos.

BOOM BOOM BLOOM DOOM was on view throughout the month of September at Galerie POPOP, in downtown Montreal. The space felt, all at once, organized yet chaotic; offering a visual representation of the conversation that is constantly going on in your head.

Frey approaches the topics through an absurdist perspective. Absurdism, a philosophy that emerged in the 19th century, refers to the human tendency to seek meaning in life, and ultimately, the inability to find any. The use of colorful watercolours-in conjunction with the underlying heavy subject matter-demonstrates the artist’s ironic approach to sociopolitical topics and playful sense of humor.

Frey’s works make references to pop culture by integrating cartoon and comic characters, which offers the viewer a sense of familiarity. The vibrant colours of the works, in contrast with the sketchy outlines and linework, allude to hyperreality.

Lucy Encounters Ego Death (and hopefully finds some sort of inner peace), features a cartoonish rendition of Peanuts character Lucy, quite noticeably in a state of disturbance. The dripping quality of the watercolours indirectly hints to the sense of lack of control that accompanies anxiety, offering the viewer an image of an unpleasant sensation.

The paintings, given titles such as Two Strangers Console One Another While the Artist Checks Her Instagram and I’m Not Bashful, You’re Bashful feel like an internal commentary. They are, all at once, satirical and critical, direct and honest, and similar to the works at the gallery.

The painting Anxiety Library illustrates a table surrounded by figures reading books with names like “Problems Vol. 26” and “Your Impending Death.” People sit among monster-like creatures, some burying their heads within their novels, others screaming. The whirlwind of colours and textures makes the work feel very noisy, as though the viewer can hear all that is going on within the piece.

While each of the pieces has a meaning on their own, collectively they contribute to the artist’s approach of creating works from an absurdist standpoint. They demonstrate a desire to find peace and quiet while simultaneously struggling with an internal search for meaning, and ultimately, battling an impending sense of doom.

Further information about Beth Frey’s work can be found at www.bethfrey.com.

 

 

With files from Beth Frey and Sophie Latouche.

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