The Fervor and Excitement of “Free Wednesday”

3 exhibitions: Ingenious3. Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Feb10 – Apr22.07.

Jean-Pierre Gauthier | Jérôme Fortin | Guy Ben-Ner

I always like to go to the musée d’art contemporain here in Montreal, on Wednesday evenings. Not only because it’s free after 6pm, but because the atmosphere is electric. The place is crowded, mostly with young art students from the local universities and cegeps (colleges) and artists like my husband, photographer Sol Lang and me, (he always accompanies me on my artistic adventures), all with a great hunger for what we will find at the museum. Needless to say, we are not often disappointed. There is lots of activity, everyone is “drinking-in” the atmosphere and the art. It’s a place to meet and to share. To feel as if we are all part of this greater whole called art.

Jean-Pierre GauthierJean-Pierre Gauthier. Before entering the main exhibition, we hear the music of a piano coming from a doorway to the side of the main entrance. Upon entering the dimly lit room, we are greeted by a baby grand piano, spot lit from above giving a theatrical ambiance. But wait! There is no one at the keyboard. It is electronically hooked up to wires and pistons pulling the piano keys in some random sequence. The result is a strange composition that seems to include chords and notes, but no specific melody that could make one walk away humming… The piano and the seat holding the electronic hardware are beautifully and randomly covered in a silver metallic duct tape. This is our introduction to Mr. Jean-Pierre Gauthier, the first of three artists who will challenge our thoughts about what art is or what it should be. For an artist like me, this new task of coming to review a museum exhibition, has stimulated and activated different neurons in my brain and all my senses are somehow alerted in a different way. It’s a new challenge and therefore a new thrill. Gauthier’s kinetic “über-hybrid installations” entertain and seduce the crowds. People love it when things move and make sounds!

Mr. Gauthier works with found objects as metaphors (dog leashes, garbage bags, etc), that move with subtle wiring hanging from the ceiling, and they speak to you like magic. His “uncertainty marker” series are like spiders or dream-catchers that are roving around making subtle and beautiful drawings on the wall. This show of works reminds us of DaVinci, with his inventions using everyday objects, put together in a magical, child-like manner.

In another room, we find 6 earphones, hanging from wiring crossing the ceiling and walls, coming down to greet the observer and beckoning them to listen to the different parts to the large installation. My mechanically minded husband was a great translator for me… sound mixers, clamps, speakers, logic boards, electric wiring, amplifiers, electric motors, plastic ties and tubing, all making up a very complex and organic installation, called “The Sound of Things – Semaphores and Brooms”. Lots of vibration and sound. A very powerful piece.

And yet another room, this time we find large metal springs, moving systematically grating against individual mirrors, like chalk on a black board. The sound vibrates throughout the room, as museum docents walk around with a large entourage, giving talks explaining in great detail and with great enthusiasm to their very captive audience which hangs on every word. This is the excitement of free Wednesdays.

jerome fortinJérôme Fortin. This artist works with all things that you can find and pickup for free… lottery forms, maps, museum schedules, japanese manga comic strips, yellow pages, coloring books. I love this room, with its very large pieces of folded paper, measuring approx. 10 feet x 15 feet, each. Jérôme Fortin‘s works are hypnotic and meditative, it’s like basket weaving, and Sol and I chuckled that he must be the sanest person around. An unbelievable display of hand dexterity. It moved me because I sensed the art’s zen quality. It was done with an artistic temperament in mind, and it speaks to the emotions. It provokes but does not propagandize. We enjoyed a short video of the making of the installations, which was also very zen.

guy-ben-nerGuy Ben-Ner. Treehouse Kit and video. My impressions were that this piece was conceptual and not that interesting in terms of the visual appeal. It was mostly about a Robinson Crusoe like character, building a tree house from a table and two chairs, and then dismantling it and re-building a bunk bed… Guy Ben-Ner‘s work is too heady for me, and uninteresting visually. Although I did see that his art brings out a child-like quality and playfulness, and many people did seem fascinated by it. Unfortunately, I was not one of them.

After a couple of hours and several large rooms later, looking at several pieces of art, we ended up on a comfy bench in the main welcoming area, and began a very interesting talk with a very friendly museum guard, hungry for human interaction. As we started a long conversation, he gave us many wonderful insights into the exhibition, which took as much as two weeks to put up, and he recounted having seen the artists while they were installing the show, and that he’d had some very philosophic chats with the artists who explained what their works were about and that was a thrill!
Mary Bogdan

What a buzzing commentary Mary – cool! The kinetic appeal of Gauthier’s work and the fastidiousness of Fortin defintely come through. We leave together for Montreal this morning and I’m sure will stop in at the museum of contemporary art for a couple of hours this afternoon.

I was struck by what you wrote about the way Gauthier’s works speak through magical metaphors. This struggle to bring the inanimate detritus of civilization to life. Its like Dr Frankenstein, but for our artifacts and ideas, not lovers.

Well, I can’t wait to get up there and see the show – you have definitely given me some forward momentum! Thank you :)

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