It kind of went over big back in the middle of January when the first show opened. But it’s going to be extremely difficult to keep up the hype for an entire year. It being the year-long, 15 exhibit, one book celebration of Publicité Sauvage‘s silverish anniversary (see if you can find the typo on the anniversary website).
They rolled the exhibitions out at Foufounes Électriques at the beginning of January, quickly added Café Campus in February and organized a third and larger one at the Écomusée du fier monde that just closed last week. So this seems as good of a time as any to start on the reviews.
I initially thought of reviewing each exhibit separately. But after seeing how sparse the one at Foufounes Électriques was I kind of made the executive decision to group some together. Hence the reason why I can’t tell you how many separate reviews there will be. Sorry.
I was quite surprised when I got to Foufounes, somehow I had not only expected bigger, larger, more. I had also expected older. 25 years is a long time, a very long time. And I had thought that there would be more than the dozen and a half, or so posters that they exhibited.
I felt like I was going on some sort of mission, not quite like the stations of the cross, but more like seeing all of Damien Hirst’s spot paintings. After all this was/is Montreal cultural history we’re talking about.
While I was looking at them I was trying to remember if I had actually seen any of the shows or events that they were talking about. Sadly for the most part I hadn’t. While Foufs was a great place to see bands from out of town (off the top of my head I can remember seeing KD Lang, Tackhead, Nirvana and Jonathan Richman there) for the most part I would go see local bands in either smaller, cheaper venues or bigger more impressive ones where they would really be able to puff out their chests and say “we made it!”. So while I saw the Ripchordz, I never saw them a Foufs.
So as an exercise in nostalgia this particular exhibit did not strike any chords with me.
I was also surprised to discover that the posters in the exhibits were not the same as the posters reproduced in the book (I’ll get to the book later in a separate post) hence the vagueness with some of the dates. I was also surprised to discover that not all the posters on display were for events that had taken place at Foufs.
Now, if I were writing for a more mainstream publication, this is the place where I would launch into some sort of brief history of Foufounes Électriques and Café Campus. But I’m not, so you can click on the links and/or read the book that accompanies the exhibitions.
The Café Campus part of the exhibit was similarly sparse. I actually got to see it during the daytime, which meant that the lighting was much better (but not sufficiently better to make my camera skills any better) and I think since I was already kind of glomming onto the concept, it made more sense to me.
That, or now that I think about it, I’ve always had a much stronger connection to Café Campus than I did to Foufounes Électriques. If there were someway to go back and calculate time spent, money spent, or amount of enjoyment received, I’m 100% positive that Café Campus would win on all three counts, or in any other measurement that could be counted. Somehow it seemed (and still seems) more locally grounded to me. Or it just might be due to th efact that I was never much into the goth scene.
The other thing that struck me was how small most of the posters were. I think that because they are relics of an ephemeral event those that stand out in my memory take on some sort of oversized significance in my brain, and therefore I expected the same kind of oversized poster.
Which leaves us with the first large scale and more general exhibit. The “good causes” posters at the Écomusée du fier monde. They were charging $6 to get in, and believe-you-me, it wasn’t worth it. There were about 40 or so posters there.
While the lighting was head, hands and shoulders above anything at Café Campus, somehow the idea of paying about 10¢ per poster seen didn’t quite sit right with me. And since it is down now, and for the future if there are any Publicité Sauvage posters you want to see, head on up to the Archives nationales du Québec, they have most of them, and while there might be some bureaucracy and red tape to slog through, they won’t charge you a dime. If they ask you “why” you want to see the posters, tell ’em you need to fact check this article…
Like the two previous iterations, there was a paucity (how’s that for using two two-bit words in one sentence!) of posters from the 1980s and 1990s – although now that I know what’s in the book and what’s in a show are two separate things, I’m going to be taking much closer and careful notes.
Things were grouped together with something obvious linking them. Either the organization
Or by cause
And while this was a nice touch, I still found myself trying to make connections to my past. Did I remember the poster? Had I attended the rally? Since my memory is sketchy at best I kept drawing blanks which then forced me to look at the posters as works of art, separate from the events that they promoted and it occurred to me that quite a few weren’t.
Look at the set of posters above. There’s one, the one for La Journée de l’air pur which could be, to me, considered as a work of art. The rest were specifically designed so as to get a specific bit of information across. And to do so in an engaging way. While that can and will make for some pretty things, for the most part, it isn’t the driving force behind making art. Yes, there are exceptions, but you get the point.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t go to see the 12 other exhibits – the fourth one is up right now someplace in Dawson College until the 24th of March – no in fact quite the opposite. You should go and see the exhibits. They are the tools in the fight against collective amnesia. And fighting a collective amnesia is a very good thing.
I just wish that instead of the roughly 15 years worth of posters that are being exhibited, there truly were selection from all 25 years. I also wish that all of them were as large, if not larger than the exhibit at the Écomusée du fier monde. 25 years is a lot of time, there should be a lot of posters to show the passage of time.