The annual underground art festival puts art in the tunnels and stairwells of Montreal’s underground “city”. In doing so, art becomes accessible, or at least visible, to anyone walking by. This year, the theme of Voies-Voix Résilientes showcases work by and about people who have been at times othered, marginalized, and colonized. Over 40 artists’ works are showcased and include both local and international creators. There are also over 30 different discovery activities, so one’s jaunt through the tunnels is only as passive as one chooses to make it.
The exhibition is quite large, so the recommendation is to take it in pieces and spread it over the period it is up. Certain events take place only on the weekends and guided tours are available.
On my venture, starting in Place Victoria, I journeyed to the Complexe Guy Favreau. Green arrows led the way, and the occasional map helped me make sure I hadn’t missed a work. Signs marked each piece, explaining both the curator’s decision as well as the artist’s vision. This helped situate each work in the theme of the event, but also prevented each piece from being dwarfed by being positioned in large public spaces. Many others were following the route and there’s something pleasing about this sort of informal art viewing.
Among the ones I saw that stand out are, Tout doit disparaitre!, a work by Jean-Francois Boclé, a Parisian artist whose installation works have appeared globally. Tout doit disparaitre fills a long hall with blue plastic bags, a metaphor for both slaves and garbage, as both have been thrown overboard in trans-Atlantic crossings.
Textile artist Sarabeth Trivino, a Montreal-based artist of Chilean decescent’s work, Je m’appelle Eli, addresses the theme of gender non-binarity. Trivino envisions her work as a story, in which a person identified as a girl at birth chooses to be neither feminine nor masculine, and changes their name to Eli. The embroidery on a pink dress that belonged to Trivino as a child, has been embroidered with the phrase “My name is Eli” and the colors used are the colors of the non-binary flag. Along with it is a knit circle, serving as both a mandala and a mother to the dress.
Kenhtè:ke artist, Shelby Lisk’s work Still Now Here We Are are photos of moccasins that Lisk created with the beaded tesk “still now here we are” on the soles, written so that for one shoe, the imprint is the readable version, while the other would be in reverse. Lisk is referencing 11,000-old moccasin footprints found on Toronto Island that were eventually paved over by construction.
I don’t want to give everything away, but art lovers and those attuned to culture will be pleased to find works addressing everything from black hair styles to the issues of colonization to a collection of works by the members of the Montreal Chinese elders community and part of the Art for Elderly collective. Travel downtown underground to catch Art Souterrain for an hour or two.
Art Souterrain takes place from April 2 to June 30, 2022. For artworks and schedule, see the webpage HERE.