Walking almost everywhere in Montreal is a cultural exercise, from manoeuvering through outdoor photography along Saint Catherine East to feeling as though you have taken LSD by mistake at SAT’s planetarium-style art projection dome to catching a juggling practice session in the plaza outside Place des Arts (175 Saint Catherine West), home to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, l’Opera de Montreal and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal.
My welcome to the city’s art scene was at the aforementioned SAT (1201 St Laurent), where couches line the room so spectators can look up at the projections and experience imagery and sound all around them. Artist submissions come from students and international artists, but the result, I’m told, is always the same: an intense hour of near-seizure due to rapidly flashing lights and innovative, moving graphics. It’s brilliant and completely dizzying.
Fresh off my visual high, it became very clear to me that Montreal is a city that devotes a lot of money and a lot of square footage to public spectacle: I watched a well-attended open forum debate about condo development take place at the Moment Factory speaker’s corner installation Megaphone (Boulevard de Maisonneuve and Jeanne-Mance), where any conversation spoken into a blood red megaphone is deconstructed word-by-word and projected on the wall of UQAM’s President-Kennedy building. But what’s most interesting are the transitions from one mode to the next-my cultural tour took me from a psychedelic haze to a vigorous municipal debate-flash mob to the aftermath of Montreal’s first-ever MURAL festival, a collection of 19 street murals along Saint Laurent produced by local artists Chris Dyer, Omen, Jason Botkin, Labrona, A’Shop, Paria Crew, En Masse and WZRDS GNG, and international giants Christina Angelina, Squid Called Sebastian, Escif, Pixel Pancho, Ricardo Cavolo, Phlegm, Reka One, Roa, LNY and more.
And while the obvious choices for great, curated art are the Contemporary Art Museum (Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture from October 17 to January 5) and the Montreal Fine Art Museum (Splendore a Venezia from October 12 to January 19), there is a wealth of free art from galleries about town exploring unconventional ideas. The free Cory Arcangel exhibition is a must-see at La Fondation DHC/Art (451 and 465 St-Jean Street, runs until November 24)-it explores nostalgia through hacked Nintendo games (a duck hunt gun shooter titled “I Shot Andy Warhol”), screen saver-like digital gradient art and a catalogued and archived library of a retired DJ’s dance records. After dipping my beak in the recent-past, I journeyed to Yves Laroche gallery (6355 Saint Laurent Blvd) to see its collection of for-sale street art from Adonis Flores, RESO, Van Arno and Joel Nakamura. Unfortunately, the gallery was closed on Mondays and I could only see through the window, but their collection is expansive and ever-rotating and totally worth a look.
Upcoming Events: Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo’s “My Tyrant, My Protest, My Myth” from November 14 to December 21 at Yves Laroche Gallery (free) Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff ($22 to $136) opens November 9 at Opera de Montreal Frank Zappa and Beethoven’s Fifth ($50) conducted by Kent Nagano on October 26 at Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal.