Late last year I was wandering around through the bowels of our fair city and was struck by the fact that Les Cours Mont Royal‘s Christmas decorations were not only made out of various things (mostly old 2 litre soda bottles) that had been recycled, but the fact that they weren’t making such a big deal out of it and trumpeting that they were super cool and the bestest because of their design choices. Super props and kudos to whomever does the displays for Les Cours Mont Royal, along with some extra points for choosing to stay anonymous.
While I normally am dead-set against most things commercial, I found this particular tree quite witty. Using the bags of the stores in Les Cours Mont Royal as “ornaments” was a great idea.
I’m not certain I’m any closer to understanding Les Angèles ces derniers bleus (loosely translated to The Angels’ Latest Blues) but it somehow makes me smile and think that everything is linked. I went in thinking it was going to be some sort of dance performance. I came out realizing it was something much more than that. Basically, a collection of things “Angel.” With a heavy emphasis on a certain American television show from the 1970s.
I wasn’t keeping track of how many angel references they actually used, but the ones that I did catch were Bobby Helms‘ (the voice behind Jingle Bell Rock) You are My Precious Angel.
I’m not much into angels, but some that they missed were AngeNeige, the angel store run by my friend Franceen, up the street from La Chapelle (the theater where they performed it). The Blue Angels, the United States’ Navy’s flying aerobatic team. And The Blue Angel, the Marlene Dietrich film, directed by Josef von Sternberg.
I’m certain I missed scads upon scads. Both in the performance and not in the performance. Feel free to let me know what I’ve missed (and bonus points for doing it in rhyme). But you get the idea.
Initially and for a good half to three-quarters of the performance I was trying really really hard to figure out (or perhaps impose) a plot on it. I’m not entirely certain why. Possibly due to some outdated belief that if there are characters, there must be some sort of narrative. Kind of like still arguing for the Ptolemaic system, old habits die hard. It was only when I realized that there wasn’t any real plot, that I was able to realize that it was a pretty gosh darn good performance.
To get the easy stuff out of the way first, it was a minimalist set. Two table lamps (one with what looked like goldfish embedded in the base), three manequin heads, a TV and a phone. There might have been some other things as well, but the action started and I got distracted while I was writing things down, so I don’t know if my list is a complete or incomplete inventory.
Pierre-Marc Ouellette came on stage first in a red suit and started doing some kind of disco dancing that veered towards Elvis
then towards a more freer hippy style, before going all YMCA, but spelling A-N-G-E-L-E-S instead.
The three other members of the C’est Juste Lundi collective come on stage, Hinda Essadiqi, Karina Champoux and Emmanuelle Bourassa Beaudoin. They shake, they emote and then they start doing some rather complicated and fast moves. Up and down, kind of dog-like but I was very impressed with how tight they were, Anne Thériault their rehearsal director did a mighty fine job. Their timing was impeccable and incredible.
They do some more emoting, use some finger guns, run around and then bring out a TV which shows an edited version of the opening sequence from Charlie’s Angels (and at the same time allows everyone to catch their breath and change costume). Then M. Oulette and Ms. Champoux do a duet that involves some blue clothes. Ms. Bourassa Beaudoin comes on stage and uses one of the mannequin heads as some sort of appendage to her body. Ms. Essadiqi then gets a solo that has something to do with an address book and a pen, and then Ms. Bourassa Beaudoin brings a cassette player out and sticks her head above a fan so her hair can billow. Everyone starts go-go dancing and finally Ms. Champoux starts playing a ukelele and whistling while the others are doing bird calls and the lights fades.
While I generally prefer not to single out specific dancers, Ms. Essadiqi definitely got the lion’s share of my notes and attention. In retrospect I found it a tad strange, because as an adolescent I definitely preferred Sabrina Duncan and Jill Munroe to Kelly Garrett. And Ms. Essadiqi was playing the Jaclyn Smith character.
I should also make mention of Denis Lemieux who helped with the costumes (I’m not sure exactly how or what he did to help, but that’s what it says in the program) and the costumes were pretty darn good as well.
In the program and the press kit and the website, they emphasize the word ludique, which because I’m a bloke with a bad vocabulary, thought had some connection to being a Luddite, and not the notion of playing. After looking it up in numerous dictionaries (just to be certain) it made perfect sense.
I’ve said this before (and I’ll probably repeat myself again) but I absolutely love the fact that Montreal, and by extension Quebec, is a place where artists are allowed to play and experiment with form and content. Les Angèles ces derniers bleus effectively is just that. But unlike an awful lot of other performances I have seen, it also manages to be entertaining for the audience (or at least this audience member) at the same time. It bodes well for future projects by the C’est Juste Lundi folk.
Yes, there are things that didn’t quite work, or could have worked better – but unless you’re Robert Lepage or Marie Chouinard you’re never going to get absolutely everything right all the time. And that’s my point exactly. Having the ability to try out things in a trusting and comfortable environment is a good thing.
I was somewhat at odds over, or maybe just confused by, the choice of angels as the overriding theme. I’ve never been religious, and have actually been accused of being an anti-spritualist (whatever that is). I’m certain if I sat down with Ms. Bourassa Beaudoin (who gets credit as the artistic director of C’est Juste Lundi) she would be able to explain in plain language how and why angels were chosen. But it was not immediately self-evident. Nor did it make itself known in the 72 hours following.
Playfulness is not normally something that is immediately associated with a strong sense of spirituality, although there are some paintings I can think of where the cherubim aren’t exactly moping around. Towards the end with the ukelele and the bird sounds, someone probably could point out some sense of spirituality, but it still would be a stretch.
However, since Les Angèles ces derniers bleus is definitely absurdist (in the best sense of the word) choosing to use angels as the main characters could be considered an absolutely brilliant choice just because of its oppositional quality. The performance is not something that is easily digested and sometimes in situations like that it’s best just to swallow it whole without chewing.
I wouldn’t (ok, maybe I would) try to figure out where Les Angèles ces derniers bleus and C’est Juste Lundi fit in in the grand scheme of things performance in Quebec. But they (and it) definitely belong. I haven’t looked all that hard, but I didn’t see them on the cover of Voir, nor did I hear anything about them on Radio-Canada, which is kind of a pity, because many other less deserving projects have gotten both.
And then finally (‘cuz I definitely have rambled on for far too long) after some reflection; Les Angèles ces derniers bleus by the Collectif C’est Juste Lundi, is trying to incarnate some kind of mythical childhood. None of the performers is old enough to have even been thought of by their parents when Charlie’s Angel’s first aired, and as it was most definitely an American (as opposed to Quebecois) television show, they all are starting out with two strikes against them. So the entire production must be based on some sort of concept that never existed in anything except their minds. And I like that.
Like everyone, a museum gets the winter doldrums
Organizing an exhibit is better than twiddling one’s thumbs.
I can hear them now, “we’ve got two and a half months to fill.”
“Something local and cross-disciplinary would fit the bill!”
Let’s get some local vedettes, get them to choose something from our collection
Have them respond in kind with their art, kind of like making a connection.”
In theory and on paper the idea looked good if not great,
The sad truth of the matter, unfortunately was a bunch of art that was second rate.
The first pairing was Rodin with Michel Rabagliati
The cartoon and the sculpture were fine, but the incessant noise drove me batty.
Pierre Soulages and Roland Poulin
Brush strokes on canvas, brushed metal, sounds like a plan.
Jean Verville and Pierre Lapointe used Patrick Join’s C2 chair
Stacked plastic chairs and a ditty on a piano was what we were supposed to compare.
There was no info on the song, and I bet their stock came from Home Depot.
I can’t quite decide if they mailed it in, or if they just had a budget that was cheap-o.
Adad Hannah and Denys Arcand wanted to use Archizoom’s Safari Sofa
So they made a multi-channel video about a bunch of cocaine snorting loafers.
The sound track should have been disco but was more world beat
And there were other details that, for me, made it incomplete.
Renata Morales likes George Segal’s Woman Sitting on a Bed
She made something to represent everything in the woman’s head.
Birds and dolls made from cloth, a tad simplistic,
But from a clothing designer quite artistic.
Jennifer Alleyn and Nancy Huston used some drawings from Jennifer’s dad.
The technology failed and as a consequence this installation was both sad and bad.
Gilles Saucier used Composition 11 by Borduas
One shiny white wall, one shiny black wall, kind of blah.
Riopelle’s The Circus was used by Jeannot Painchaud
She took it kind of literally and her videos of circus performers fairly glowed.
Next time, I’d suggest instead of the title that she focus on the content
Making something that combines with the original, to augment.
Marie Chouinard was the most egregious
The pictures of her dancers were atrocious.
Looking at them, you couldn’t see the piece from the museum
Perfect definition of the word hokum.
Melissa Auf de Maur liked Hodler’s Halberdier,
Taking pictures of herself naked with old army gear.
How a panoramic camera becomes a weapon
I something that I can’t reckon.
En Masse used Penck’s Start of the Lion Hunt
As an excuse to paint a large room, left, right, back and front
Completely with cartoon like drawings in white and black
Their work is not a tough nut to crack.
Wadji Mouwad used a photograph by Catherine Opie
As a means to talk about childhood very aggressively.
But beyond the quote, I think all the art was made by Raymond Marius Boucher
He gets credit for “Art Direction” and probably can better make what Wadji wanted to convey.
Genvieve Cadieux compared her work to Tom Thomson’s Northern Lights
Marfa, Texas is not Northern Ontario, unless it’s history she rewrites.
Claude Cormier used a piece of 12th century religious art
And a wall of stuffed animals, probably thought he was being smart.
Jean Derome wasn’t content with just one.
27 paintings, and 72 pieces of music is just a little overdone.
It would have been nicer if he hadn’t relied so much on chance.
And if there was more light, viewing the paintings would have been enhanced.
Rita redid a Lawren Harris painting as couches
Stéphane Halmaï-Voisard and Karine Corbeil are no slouches.
Nice to end the exhibit on a high note.
Leaving with a smile is always good; quote, unquote.
About two weeks ago I saw José Navas’ Personae. Since I’ve been on a poetry jag for a while, I wasn’t quite certain how I would write about it in humorous verse. But then it occurred to me, instead of humorous verse, I could write a sonnet.
Sonnets are not easy.
And this isn’t a sonnet either. It’s got four too many lines, the meter is all over the place. It also probably could be helped with some judicious editing. But instead of having it hanging over my head, like so many other things, I made the executive decision to get it out.
The obscure métro stations just keep coming. This one surprised me in that it is very much a product of its times. It has an 80s post-apocalyptic feel to it. Either that or some brutalist architecture gone disco.
Lemoyne & Associés were the architects, and someone in their office must’ve loved glass bricks. Unfortunately, I can’t find any information about other things they’ve built.
This is (was) the first metro station I’ve ever seen where there were details on the tiles. I can’t figure out for the life of me why Lemoyne & Associés woudl specify such a tile, unless they got a deal on them.
To my eye (and butt) the benches have a kind of, Art Deco feel to them.
Big Hands, 2010 Big Hands, Big Breasts,
Small Head, shirt knot on her chest.
Deauville, 2007 & Rotterdam, 2006 I‘m not sure what Deauville has to do with Rotterdam
If the pictures were taken in a brothel, do royalties get paid to the Madam?
As long as I am asking questions I wonder if either one uses a diaphragm?
Quite possibly, the easiest way to explain “wham bam thank you ma’am.”
Malmö, 2006 Malmö’s another brothel scene
The couple pictured doesn’t look older than eighteen.
The Dane, 2006 The second act of Hamlet would be easier to explain
To high school males if it was illustrated with “The Dane.”
Big breasted naked women with mismatched body parts
Apparently one of them is his sweetheart
Despite the fact that his brushwork is never roughshod
There’s something that always seems odd.
Patch and Pearl, 2007 Patch and Pearl gazing out in the distance
A complete understanding gives some resistance.
Thanksgiving, 2003 Singing for her supper or taking a taste?
The action in this painting is not snail-paced.
Not at all traditional, kind of quirky,
Take a gander at the size of the turkey.
Rachel in Fur, 2002 Currin as Kusiemski?
Would you disagree?
Given his porn paintings
It’s hard to see them abstaining.
Bent Lady, 2003 A Bent Lady with a bunch of roses
Damien Hirst Knowses.
Anna, 2004 Anna smiles sweetly behind a banana and a three branched candelabrum
No matter how hard I try, this isn’t abstract expressionism.
The Christian, 2005 Some woman with a melon as a breast,
I would hate to see how he paints her fesses.
I don’t understand all the fruit in a bowl
Does eating grapes help your soul?
The Old Guy, 1994 I like the skinny dude’s sweater
He’s an old guy, I hope he gets better.
Hanging out in the bathroom
Is he talking? And if so to whom?
The Berliner, 1994 Did Mr. Currin live in Berlin?
The paint on this one is not thin.
There’s still something weird
It might be the hair, it might be the beard.
The Invalids, 1997 It took a while for me to notice the wheelchair
Smack dab in the middle of the painting is a mighty big pair.
Add to that hand coming out of her head
And you can understand how I was misled.
Sno-bo, 1999 Santa’s little helper
Diaphanous skirts as it were.
The two don’t quite meld.
While I was looking at it parts of my body swelled.
Stamford after brunch, 2000 I wonder what the etiquette
is in Stamford, Connecticut?
Smoking cigars and drinking martinis,
I’m surprised that they’re not wearing bikinis!
Honeymoon Nude, 1998 I wonder if Ms. Feinstein sculpted John
Or is showing her off naked, for him a turn on?
The Neverending Story, 1994 Atreyu? Bastian Bux?
Is he thinking, “I wonder if she fucks?”
Girl in bed, 1993 Whose hand? And why’s she looking away?
Is she lost in her thoughts and far away?
Or is it bedtime and she’s about to hit the hay?
Mrs. Omni, 1993 You can never be too thin or too rich.
Mrs. Omni is a fairly standard issue portrait about which
There isn’t much I can say.
I can’t figure out why he chose her to portray.
Bea Arthur Naked, 1991 I wonder if Mr. Currin watched Maude
When he was growing up? And was awed
As I was by the television show.
Although I have to admit I dreamt about Adrienne Barbeau.
Old Couple, 1993 Two people painted on a background that’s beige
Despite, or maybe because of, their clothes, they look their age.
Brown Lady, 1991 What’s the opposite of brown?
While she’s smiling, I frown.
There’s something off, not quite right
I think it has to do with the background being very bright.
The Wizard, 1994 A wizard, a thaumaturge, a necromancer
Those breasts definitely enhance her.
I’m not certain I want to know what type of spell he will cast
This was the first painting in the show and it mirrors the last.
Apologies, I only realized too late that I had failed to recite these last four lines. When it comes time to release the “Director’s Cut” version, I will re-record it completely.