Art Souterrain: 5 must-see works in the land down under

Crédit photo: "La métropolitaine" by Dan Popa Art Souterrain: 5 must-see works in the land down under

We all know that the term “Underground City” is a bit of a misnomer, but “passageways that connect malls with food courts, metro stops and B-list accessory stores in downtown Montreal” takes too long to say. So instead, we accede to our laziness, sigh and mutter to confused tourists, “sure – take the escalator down and you’ll find the ‘Underground City’” (one can never be too lazy for air quotes.)
Despite our shared contempt for all things grossly overhyped and misnamed, there is something I think you should be aware of going on “down there” (oooh, sounds dirty! Sorry – isn’t.) Montreal’s own Art Souterrain Festival has just released a torrent of contemporary art onto surfaces right below street level. The festival aims to make art accessible to a larger public by departing from the traditional exposition spaces. Here is just a smattering of artists and exhibits to check out along our sunken highways and byways:
1. Anca Matyiku and Chad Connery: Ginnungagap
Talk about your telecommute! These two artists maintain a creative practice via correspondence across Canada, and manage to create some super keen stuff that made even the Architecture Venice Biennale sit up and take notice. Catch their installation in Complexe Les Ailes, and see how they make the most serviceable of structures come alive with verve and vitality.
2. Margo Majewska: Plato Tectonics
Man, I love me some allegorical dialectics. So too does Margo Majewska, a Californian artist (by way of Poland) who uses Plato’s Cave Allegory to transform an everyday underground warren into a thought-provoking, cave-like environment. Wander through Westcliff and expand your mind.
3. Tom Pnini: Volcano Demo and Snow Demo
This is a recipe for “wow”. Take one Israeli artist, a four-storey apartment building, eighteen stagehands and a whole lot of chutzpah, and what do you get? A giant, man-made volcano doing its volcano thing at Complexe Les Ailes, apparently. While you’re at it, throw in 10,000 Styrofoam balls attached to mini-parachutes and some judicious camera work. You’ll get another fine dish of “oh, ha ha! So cool!” to serve alongside. 
4. Baptiste Grison: The Newcomers
Homogenization is a process best applied to milk, I always say. Try to apply it to society, and things will only curdle. Baptiste Grison’s photographic series, “The Newcomers” looks at six refugee families newly settled in the (mainly French-Canadian) town of Joliette, Quebec. Saunter by 1000 de la Gauchetiere to learn more about this interesting project.  
5. Ruthi Helbitz Cohen: Mind the Gap
Complexe Les Ailes just got a little more complex with Ruth Helbitz Cohen's installation, "Mind the Gap". Helbitz Cohen’s sculptures deal with the transformation of nature, its existence between dream and wakefulness, blossoming and destruction. Walk through the piece, and take note of the spaces in between.

Art Souterrain
March 1–16 |

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