nuit-blanche-festival-montreal-lumiereYet another winter festival is upon us! This week kicks off the 14th edition of Montréal En Lumière. From February 21st to March 3rd the city will be filled with theatre, music, dancing, and visual art programming, both indoor and outdoor! While many of the events are hosted indoors have ticket prices, the central outdoor site is free. Throughout Quartier des Spectacles there will be live performances, interactive art  installations, food and drink vendors and of course beautiful lights. In addition to the live entertainment and arts, Place des Festivales has a ferris wheel. There is also a cinematic dome that will screen films, as well as for performances by VJs and DJs providing eye and ear candy. The festivities run until eleven each evening (excluding Sunday).

The event ends with Montreal’s Nuit Blanche on March 2nd. This year will mark the tenth celebration of the all night art festival for Montreal. The downtown site of Montréal En Lumière will remain open until 3 a.m., but there is no lack of things to see. Programming for the event is city wide and has designated spots through quartiers de spectacle, old Montreal, the olympic park, the plateau and mile end, as well as art through the metro stations. There are shuttle buses  provided to get you to and from each happening. Do your best to plan the night accordingly as there’s lots of ground and lots of hours to cover! I’ve experienced Nuit Blanche in several major cities now and am looking forward to seeing how Montreal differs from the rest.

Watch for our complete Nuit Blance preview coming out soon!


Jason Botkin en masse

EN MASSE“Really the birth of the project was getting a bunch of artist together to see what experimental art they could come up with, we got these massive canvases by covering the walls with paper, and gave out markers to see what would happen.” I’m speaking with Jason Botkin, one of the founders of En Masse, while standing beside several artists drawing on ladders beside paper wrapped columns in the Eaton Center food court on Nuit Blanche.

It was the second year I’d seen them at the all night festival. The first time was in the Old Port, when they covered the walls of an entire room with the most rich, satirically devastating drawings I had ever seen.

There was so much action going on in the black and white piece of collective consciousness that there seemed to be a hidden narrative being told between the drawings.

En Masse is described as “a boundary-blurring cocktail of high and lowbrow culture, pop imagery fragmented like shattered glass in a spontaneous, multi-genre, black-on-white collision.” The black and white drawings are a continually evolving piece that erupts with creativity. Which makes watching the artists work, an eye-peeling, mind-bending, hypnotic experience.

“When we started, we didn’t care about the artwork so much, but we were interested in seeing what would happen if we got all these cool artist together.”

Realizing that they had something remarkable, they decided to act on it, spreading the word of the black and white revolution across the city. Recently En Masse has had their work on display at the Musée des Beaux-arts. An incredible acceptance for a piece that would be considered on the margins for the fine art community. The group has found a way to break the boundaries of the high/low art divide, and found some acceptance in high art culture.

They have also put on production of their art work at Osheaga, Piknic Électronik, Under Pressure, Manifesto (Toronto). They even worked with the Cirque du Soleil to create a work for one of their productions.

The finished product is pretty neat to see. “We didn’t have expectations that it would turn out so well but this works.”

Jason Botkin en masseFor Jason Botkin, Rupert Bottenberg, and Fred Carr, their first project was a life changing experience that lead them to eventually organizing further events.

Although the group has often mistakenly been labeled a “collective” which does not justifiably define them, they are indeed a “drawing initiative” that brings together many different art forms from the realm of fine art, underground comics, graffiti and graphic design.

“Many people had different ways of creating elements and there were many competing egos.”

The final product however, comes together as a unique piece where the whole is greater than any individual aspect. The amount of artists contributing varies from show to show. “Last year, District Montreal did the numbers and we had something like 2000 drawers.”

Since it’s inception they have also worked with schools to have En Masse activities with students. “That started after our first project. We approached the English Montreal School Board. A year into the project En Masse began For the Masses, it took about a year to resurrect the project and we did it with John Abbott collegiate.”

“We had friends who were doing an out-reach program and worked with Artpop and the Redbird gallery (up on Van Horne), we did a huge project, about 350 sq. ft. It was incredible. One of my favorite pieces.”

That’s a lot of markers!

After a big year expect to see more from En Masse in the future. More markers and more art talent to doodle on massive pieces of blank paper.

En Masse is one organization fighting the over the saturated commercial mind-space with public displays of real art, on the street and in our schools, and for that they should be commended.

Photos: Iana Kazakova & Chris Zacchia

We here at Forget the Box don’t just wait until the warm summer months to report on interesting concerts and festivals. From shaking our tushes at Igloofest in January to rocking out at Osheaga in August, we are committed to checking out and letting you know about all the fun and interesting events that this fair city of our has to offer all year round.

So that’s why this Saturday FTBers will be out in full force all night long (which honestly isn’t that much of a stretch for most of us) reporting on the annual Nuit Blanche, aka the closing night of the Montreal en Lumiere festival. Beginning in Paris in 1984 the idea of turning a city into an all night art gallery has since spread to 34 cities, Montreal being one of three in Canada (Halifax and Toronto are the other two).

So without further ado, here’s a list of some of the events that we’re excited about this year… and of course make sure that you check back to Forget the Box next week to hear all about what we thought about Nuit Blanche 2012!

-Fantasia will be presents highlights from its 2011 edition at Théâtre Maisonneuve. Place des Arts, 260 deMaisonneuve West, 12 am to 4 am

-At the Chapel of Notre Dame de Bon Secours, a Gospel choir will be performing five free shows. 400 rue St-Paul East, 8 pm to 12 am

Stephanie Robert @ Confabulation

-At Club Soda, Poirer and guest DJs invite you to come celebrate a “Montreal heatwave in the middle of winter.” 1225 St-Laurent, 10 pm to 3 am

-Art Matters will be having their annual Nuit Blanche event which they are advertising as a night of boxing, contemporary dance, theatre and sound installations. Blue Cat Boxing Studio, 435 Beaubien West, 10 pm to 3 am

-Interested in in-situ performances, street art and circus art? Mélanie Thibault and the Recircle Collective will be presenting At Night, All Cats are Grey outside of Place des Arts. Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme, 175 St-Catherine West, 10pm-4am

-The monthly storytelling event Confabulation, which is hosted by Uncalled For’s Matt Goldberg, will be presenting stories in honor of the shortest month of the year: storytellers that night will have a max of two minutes to share their tales with the audience. Shift Space, 1190 St-Antoine West, 8 pm to 11 pm

-POP Montreal will be collaborating will the CCA for a night of art and DJ goodness. Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1920 rue Baile, 7pm to 2am

-A collection of Montreal multi-media artists have put together a show called “What keeps you up at night?” Taking place at 372 St-Catherine, the curated evening will include drawing, painting, sculpture, video and photography.
-If your an astronomy geek or just want a chance to score points with your lady friend, the Planetarium is setting up telescopes all night for a chance to do a little stargazing. Outdoors, Parc Olympic, 4777 Pierre-de Coubertin Ave, 5pm-2am

-Artist Sarah Nesbitt is putting on a show that night card “The Postcard Project” where she’ll be encouraging Montrealers to try social networking the old fashioned way: creating postcards to send in the mail to friends. Galerie CO, 5235 St-Laurent, 6 pm to 2 am

For more information and options, please check out the Nuit Blanche schedule