By CHRIS 'ZEKE' HAND
The Darling Foundry aka Quartier Ephemere exemplifies just about everything that is both great about the Montreal art world, and (unfortunately) everything that is absolutely horrible about the Montreal art world. Initially founded in 1993, Quartier Ephemere took over the Darling Foundry in 2002 as an exhibition space. In 2006 they expanded, and incorporated studio space. There is a restaurant attached and while it isn't exactly in the heart of Old Montreal, it is close enough to Old Montreal that if you're a tourist it isn't gonna knock you off your path, too far.
When they started out, Quartier Epemere had some difficulty securing government funding, so they took a hard-ish line and embraced more private means to gain cash in order to show cool stuff. Now that they've been around thirteen years they have figured out how to get the government to toss them some money, while at the same time not giving up on the private means either.
What I don't like about them, is that other than the private-public partnership (which seems to be big in Quebec these days) they don't really challenge the arts establishment, or any establishment all that much. The art that they generally exhibit is safe, nice and quite comprehensible within a 21st century perspective (ie heavy on the concept, heavy on the multimedia, light on the explanations, light on accessibility). So if you're gonna go, be prepared to spend at least 30 minutes per exhibit, and I strongly counsel you to break through the 'white cube' and ask any questions that might occur to you to any staff that might be within earshot.
Unlike an awful lot of 'white cube' art space, both here in Montreal and elsewhere, the staff is friendly, and when prompted quite engaging. (For the record while I would call two of the members of the board of directors and three of the staff friends, the people to whom I directed my questions about these exhibits were complete strangers).
But yes, the exhibits. That is why we're here, right? In the big room there's a bunch of gravel, some green plastic pint baskets, a bunch of wires, and three videos. Basically from what I understand Jennifer Stillwell came all the way from Winnipeg to have a residency at Quartier Ephemere last summer. By having a residency an artist is expected to come up with something creative that is exhibition worthy. Well, while Ms. Stillwell was hanging out at the Darling Foundry one of the major thoroughfares in Old Montreal was going through major and significant reconstruction. Apparently she decided that this was worthy of being turned into something artistic.
As I wrote; it is a bunch of gravel, some green plastic pint baskets, a bunch of wires, and three videos.
If you want to play around in or with a bunch of gravel, some green plastic pint baskets, a bunch of wires, and three videos, then you're probably gonna enjoy yourself. I can also imagine that during the vernissage being able to tromp through the gravel with a glass of wine in hand might have been very enjoyable as well - but I wasn't there for the vernissage, and once I've eaten my strawberries, I recycle the green plastic pint baskets that they come in - so I looked, I shrugged, and I was very thankful that there was a second space that had a second exhibit.
Risa Hatayama is the artist credited with making the art in the second space, but she states that she collaborated with Mathieu Bouchard, and she also thanks Ryan Conlon and Alan Wong (For the record, I am friends with an Alan Wong but, I have not asked my friend Alan Wong if he is the Alan Wong who got thanked by Risa Hatayama, I'm under deadline here) so I am not entirely certain if she was 100% responsible. But I would guess that she came up with the idea and then asked people to help her realize that idea. Pity that they didn't ask her to elaborate on her idea slightly.
Basically you've got seven videos that don't move too much, some wireless headphones that you're supposed to wear (and listen to) that sort of make some interesting noises - for a little while. Somehow there is some connection with Rainer Maria Rilke, but I missed that class when I was in university and taking modern European literature, so I don't quite understand what Ms. Hatayama means when she quotes from his 'Sonnets To Orpheus.'
There's a video of someone's chest, another video of some branches, some sheet music, another video the inside of a piano, a candle (more about that one later) another video a bird in a cage and another video of something that looked like either cotton or cherry blossoms, I couldn't tell. The wireless headphones seem to be pumping sounds that are sorta kinda loosely related to what I was watching, but in actual fact add to my visual stimulation because there are these wicked cool LED's on top of each headset and unless you're viewing the show by yourself they are quite eye attracting.
I'm certain that if I furrowed my brow and tried somewhat harder I could come up with some connection - something along the lines of the bird in the cage gives the video of the chest avian flu, which makes everyone realize that life is as fragile as the flame of a candle, but, I'm not certain how I would fit the branches in - and if you see me in person you'll notice my brow is still smooth.
But speaking of the candle, I don't know if you've seen any of Gerhard Richter's paintings that are called 'Kerze,' but you might have seen Sonic Youth's album called "Daydream Nation.' It is a pretty kick-ass album. Anyhows the front and back covers of the album are reproductions of Gerhard Richter's paintings that are called 'Kerze' (one from 1982 and a second from 1983) and if you haven't quite figured it out by now, both are paintings of candles. As Quartier Ephemere used still photos from the candle video in marketing material for Ms. Hatayama's exhibit, and I have been and will be a really big Sonic Youth fan, I went in thinking that there was some connection. As you might have guessed if you're still reading there does not seem to be any connection. Needless to say I was disappointed.
However, I don't think that just because I think that I had a crush a Kim Gordon (the bass player for Sonic Youth) and as a consequence was disappointed by an art show that you should read too much into my disappointment, unless of course you have (or had) a crush on Kim Gordon yourself.
"Risa Hatayama and Jennifer Stillwell" are on view until May 27, 2007 at Quartier Éphémère at Fonderie Darling, 745 Ottawa Street, QC, Canada
All images are courtesy of the artist and the Darling Foundry.