Initially back at the beginning of the year when Publicité Sauvage started celebrating their silver anniversary I was quite excited. I figured that a year long celebration involving 15 different exhibits at a variety of different venues could be an amazing thing. Unfortunately my idea and those of Publicité Sauvage haven’t quite jibed. Where I was thinking some far reaching history of events in Montreal, rigorously documented and thematically linked, offering accessible but relevant exhibits than were engaging and entertaining. They were thinking something more along the lines of let’s try to hang as many old posters as we have in as many different places around the city as possible, and while we’re at it, documentation, visibility and coherence be damned.
What has been offered has been a hastily and shoddily thrown together series of exhibits that seem more like an afterthought to the book/catalogue (which itself is more like a hagiography than a critical analysis). None the less, any celebration of a past which is just far enough away that I can only view it through a serious haze is always welcome. Back at the start, I was all full of ideas about how I was going to write a gazillion and a half words on each and every show. I was going to do deep research to not only find out who designed each poster, but where it was printed, what kind of paper and then find reviews and articles on line that discussed the events on the poster. Yeah, right. That and $2 will get me a cup of coffee. As it turned out, I got to see four of the first five exhibits. (If you’re interested, you can read what I wrote about 1/15, 2/15 and 3/15 here and what I wrote about 5/15 here.)
So, since my sights have been lowered, I’m combining exhibits 6/15, 7/15, and 8/15 into one review here and now, and I reserve the right to change my mind again and again and again for any and all of the exhibits yet to come. Exhibit 6/15 was at city hall and involved a bunch of posters loosely grouped together as large events that happened in Montreal.
Exhibit 7/15 was at the Monument National and involved (for the most part) things that had happened in theatres.
Exhibit 8/15 was way the heck out in the middle of buttfuck nowhere (aka Tohu) and consisted of some circus posters, and in passing was when and where I realized what was being shown on the walls, what was being written up in the book/catalogue, what was going to written up in the grant report and what was going to be remembered by people who saw any of the exhibits were four completely, utterly and entirely different things unrelated to each other like me, Buddha, Mama Cass Elliot and Fireball Roberts (go look them up on Wikipedia, I’ll wait)
I don’t know who is responsible, but I can only guess that it is Marc H. Choko who is listed as curator all over the place. But he shows a remarkable lack of vision and creativity given the milieu he has chosen to immerse himself in. Pinning up old posters to office cubicle dividers, no matter how
good or great awesome the posters are is just doing them a disservice. No they do not need to be framed, but the posters need to be treated with some respect. I would venture a guess that the book/catalogue will/has sold in the low four figures ($40 isn’t cheap, I need to thank Emmanuel Galland, yes that Emmanuel Galland for my copy, he was/is the publicist for the Publicité Sauvage 25½). However I would venture another guess that upwards 1 million people will see the individual exhibits, counting geeks like me seven different times for the seven different exhibits I’ve seen one time each. How many people walk through City Hall every day? 2,000? The exhibit was up there for two weeks. If my guess is right that means 30,000 people saw it. There are 14 other exhibits in certain cases, places that have even higher traffic for a longer period of time (number 9/15 is going to be at Place des Arts for a full month).
As I have seen them so far, the exhibits have served as a kind of variation on the game Concentration, or if you prefer, how many of the events shown can you remember? But then the minute I turned away from the exhibit, I forgot what posters were there. Instead of just presenting nine Cirque du Soleil posters with a minimum of information
how difficult would it have been to spend a couple of bucks at a printshop on some plastic lettering that was then stuck on the wall explaining which poster was the very first Cirque du Soleil poster that Publicité Sauvage handled. Or some bafflegab and goobledygook as to why they don’t have a complete collection of posters from the 30 productions the Cirque du Soleil has done to date. Or heck a headshot of the person who drew the first poster along with their name in something just a little bit larger than 10 point type.
It’s almost as if M. Choko insisted that he follow the guidelines for the actual poster hangers that Publicité Sauvage hires. But without the added benefit of having multiple copies to hang.
Then if I really let loose, I honestly don’t think that an exhibit at the Centre d’Histoire de Montreal in 1995 counts as a “événements marquants de Montréal” (and it probably wouldn’t hurt either if they figured out some way to stop the posters from gapping while being exhibited, but I might be nitpicking here…)
Nor do I think a poster for an album belongs in a collection of theatre posters
And then for the biggest WTF, did Publicité Sauvage somehow build a Latvian division after they couldn’t even figure out Toronto to save their life
Or did they, after the fact discover that there was way more wall space at Tohu than posters that they had mounted? I dunno, but as you can tell by the awesome amount of publicity that M. Galland has been able to accrue since January the entire city has been held enthralled by multiple exhibits of self-serving publicity that Publicité Sauvage has been able to garner – end sarcasm now.
I’ll wait until later in the year to even bring up to various conflicts of interest. And my expectations for 9/15 through 15/15 have been knocked lower than any sub basement you’ve ever visited in your life. I’m going to do my best to see the remaining shows, but while I’m fairly convinced that I am the only person in the entire universe who isn’t paid by Publicité Sauvage who has seen 87.5% of the shows so far, it ain’t like I’ve seen them all, and as a consequence trying to keep up to some unattainable level and promising to see every last one, is just a little bit beyond me now. Hopefully M. Choko is capabloe of learning from past mistakes and the stuff that he shows in the fall/winter season lives up to my initial expectations.
But I’m not holding my breath… Nor would I suggest you do either.