In theory I really like the concept and ideas behind Mouvement art public, in practice, not so much. But let me back up a little bit. Back in 2007, Manuel Bujold, a friend of mine was able to convince a whack of people that any unused inventory of ad space on bus shelters should be given over to quote art, unquote. All fine and dandy, until I saw it in action. Basically, besides the photographs they reproduced there was also some text about Mouvement art public, the artist and if I remember correctly, the artist as well. I’m still undecided if I like the fact that they were blatantly obvious about the images being reproductions or not, and while I like some information about the artist, especially when they are not well known artists, I prefer to have to figure out the actual art myself.
They continued in 2008 adding some fairly well known artists, like Ed Burtynsky into the mix. Then they started branching out into those ubiquitous billboard like structures that the city uses on some major streets like McGill College in a misguided attempt to get people to stroll along a rather desolate but none-the-less major thoroughfare. Then for unknown reasons they installed them over at the Atwater Market, Place Émilie-Gamelin and Marche Maisonneuve.
These people sized (as opposed to highway sized) billboards ditched the excess text explaining stuff, and made it look like the images being presented were if not originals, intended to be exhibited that way. Digging slightly deeper, it seems that once, or twice a year they change what’s being shown. Although as you might expect it doesn’t get an awful lot of press.
Anyhows, in my meanderings around the city, I’ve seen two exhibits at Place Émilie-Gamelin and one at Marche Maisonneuve. The exhibits at Place Émilie-Gamelin were called Why Don’t We Do It In The Road, and Backstage. Today I am going to focus on the exhibits at Place Émilie-Gamelin, and if I am real good I’ll get down to the Atwater Market to find out what they have up there sometime soon.
Backstage is a series of photographic portraits of pop musicians before or after performing taken by Valerie Jodoin Keaton.
Initially, because of the location and the rather scruffy nature of the various Green Rooms, I thought that they were in fact portraits of folks who were itinerant in nature, which goes to show you how much I pay attention to pop music. I personally know a couple of people who also do that sort of photography, namely Eva Blue and Susan Moss. Both of them take much better pictures of musicians than Ms. Jodoin Keaton
And that is ultimately why I like the concept in theory more than practice, when push comes to shove, it truly is about the art, and if the art doesn’t cut it, then no amount of posturing is going to save it. Her black and white portraits don’t really capture anything about any of the musicians. They are more voyeuristic, but not in a good way, attempting to document something ephemeral or transient. More in a “I got to go backstage, and you didn’t” sort of way.
In particular, I find her insistence on converting her images to black and white completely annoying and thoroughly useless. It’s a pathetic attempt to give some thin veneer of history to some rather pedestrian pictures of pop stars, whose music for the most part will not be remembered for much longer than the time it takes to sing one of their songs.
Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? By The Blind Artists Collective while significantly better than Ms. Jodoin Keaton’s pictures, isn’t sufficiently strong to make up for them. Maddeningly obtuse, trying to find any information about the artists, the images or just about anything else on-line was an exercise in frustration. The only thing I could find was this blurb on the Mouvement Art Public’s website, which doesn’t say bupkis.
A series of images, obviously, taken on the street. Each is colorful in its own way. They are all strong enough that they were able to wrestle my attention away from the various dramas happening in and around Place Émilie-Gamelin. But not sufficiently strong to be truly memorable. I’m torn between deciding that it is a good thing that they have been defaced by the various people who frequent Place Émilie-Gamelin, or if it is in fact a bad thing. Given that it is so obviously some kind of empowering project for disadvantaged folk, the idea that the “collective” is larger than just the people squeezing the shutter button is intriguing. But at the same time, I’m not that keen on condoning obvious vandalism.
Ultimately, I think that this is the kind of art that Mouvement Art Public showcases best. It’s just a matter of getting more information about it out there, and attempting to get more attention paid to it at the same time.