If you weren’t willing to brave the treacherous sidewalks on Nuit Blanche, you were likely viewing art below the streets. Navigating the underground city was trying, given its immensity, but well worth it to avoid the cold and the drunken ruckus up above. Art Souterrain had on hand cultural guides, and the sometimes even the artists themselves on hand to have a chat. Foundations is the theme for Art Souterrain 2014, calling for reflection on how we build connections, identities and places, whether they be in the digital or physical realm.
Tucked away in the Eaton Centre, Touchbooth, provides an antidote to our selfie-saturated world with an interactive photobooth created by Hannah Palmer and Aude Guivarc’h. One artist who embraced the selfie in video format was Owen Eric Wood. Many of us have snapped a photo ourselves while traveling, in lieu of asking someone to do it for us. Owen Eric Wood had the idea to create a video self-portrait in selfie-style, titled Return. While traveling, he used the camera to film himself he expresses continual self-evaluation and transformation in unfamiliar lands.
“I had this idea- does traveling make you feel either alienated or disembodied or disconnected…because you have nostalgia from the place that you are from and when you come back you have nostalgia for where you were?” he told me in the Place Victoria food court.
“It’s not just about these places, but this character in these places…it is about self-reflection… now that I’m displaced and I don’t feel like I belong there, who am I?” he added. He juxtaposes images from Mexico to Italy with narration in several languages, as he swirls in and out of the frame. Wood, who obtained a B.F.A. from Concordia University and an M.F.A. from the University of Windsor, explores identity in the context of specific themes in his work, and is certainly a video artist to watch.
Next door at Place de la Cité, photographer Meagan Moore was present at her piece Maison. The piece used photography and video to recreate the experience of her Grandmother’s home. “It was kind of like a sanctuary when I was young and I wanted to preserve the calm feeling of the house,” explained Moore.
That house is presently up for sale, and a connection to this place ever more important. Moore used both photography and video in a patchwork fashion to reconstruct the house, while leaving a living and open feel. “I didn’t want it to become a memento mori,” she added. The soft sound of a ticking clock loops to accompany the images, and you can easily begin to feel at home.
Later on, I caught a performance of Taktiligne by Geneviève Le Guerrier-Aubry in Place Bonaventure. Using an infrared camera and programming code, Geneviève drew as her body moved with the goal of saturating the screen with geometric shapes.“My performance consists of creating a design, and my body is integrated into the design. I’m using a wireless mouse with which I’m drawing,” explained Geneviève, “I find there is an interesting effect with the costume. There is a visual effect and this is what I research. How do we integrate the image into the body and make it fluid?”
The design disappears after the performance, making it truly a live drawing. If you missed the Nuit Blanche performance, you may get another chance to see her perform. “I really want to continue to do more in the future,” added Geneviève. She is currently completing a Masters in Communication and Media at UQAM.
I ended my underground adventure at Plato’s Techtonics by Margo Majewska in Place de la Cité. Seeing the shadows of passersby float onto the folded paper structures, I was reminded that things aren’t always as they seem and certainly that was the message of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The exhibits I saw questioned identity, time, place and how we perceive them. Until March 16th, you can come make your own conclusions and explore these exhibits, along with the many more present throughout the underground.