Bringing nature back to underground Montreal

For his 16the edition, the Underground Art festival brings nature to the heart of the pedestrian tunnels that connect buildings in downtown Montreal. Starting this Saturday, around a hundred works will decorate places like the Eaton Center or the Palais des congrès de Montréal to remind passers-by of the climate emergency.

“When we are disconnected from nature, it’s easy to forget that it exists. But as soon as we reconnect with it, we have no choice but to be aware that we are part of it and that if we destroy it, we destroy ourselves,” says Sonia Robertson, co-curator of the festival with Heather Davis. Both were present at the press tour of the exhibition last Thursday.

Until April 7, the event will take place under the motto “Environment, do you hear? “. For the occasion, around forty Canadian and international artists are displaying photos, sculptures and installations in seven locations in underground Montreal.

Mme Robertson mentioned selecting designers who make the environment a priority, just like her. The Innu artist also shed a few tears while worrying about the fate of the planet. “It makes no sense where we are,” she whispers.

An oasis at the shopping center

Different installations therefore aim to bring nature back to places that lack it. Among these, the work cooperative Le Comité presents Path of desire. Seen from the outside, this work which sits in the middle of the Eaton Center appears to be nothing more than an enormous black cube. But once inside, we discover a forest made up of 2,100 willow branches collected in the Outaouais. The group of artists relates that they chose this native shrub to recall its many ecological virtues, such as soil decontamination.

Present on site, designer Lou Renaud says that with her colleagues, she wanted to make nature accessible to Montrealers who wander underground. Thanks to this work, onlookers can come and rest while smelling the scent of the trees, sheltered from the ambient tumult. “The idea was to illustrate the relationship between public and private space. It was also to see how we can reclaim the space, especially when we are in a shopping center. »

Hope despite everything

By filling the metropolis’ underground pedestrian network with works, the festival contributes to democratizing art, believes its spokesperson, Karine Gonthier-Hyndman. In a world in “deep crisis”, these installations also aim to instill a dose of hope in the population, underlines the actress.

Those who take part in the event have the power to make walkers aware of different realities, says Atikamek multidisciplinary artist Catherine Boivin. In interview at Duty, she is delighted to be able to present the content she produces on the TikTok platform at Place Montréal Trust. “In my videos, for example, I film myself walking for the environment. With humor, I also address topics related to the daily lives of Indigenous people. »

The 34-year-old woman, well known to Internet users, is delighted to be able to expose what she does in the public space. “People will walk around, then they will stumble across my videos. I find it interesting to be able to reach people outside of TikTok. »

Mme Boivin also welcomes the place given to First Nations artists within the festival. Especially since these creators have a lot to say about climate change, she emphasizes. “I think that Aboriginal people can teach others things and inspire them by the way they treated the environment in the past,” she says.

More eco-friendly

In the wake of its sixteenth edition, the festival has opted for a green shift, says Frédéric Loury, general director of Art underground.

“For our installations, we used materials that are recycled or environmentally friendly,” he explained during the press visit. In order to reduce the carbon footprint generated by the event, the organizers also tried to limit travel linked to the festival, in addition to favoring carpooling, he added.

Underground art must embrace these new practices, says Mr. Loury. “It still bothers us a lot, because we have working methods and processes that were already implemented and known to everyone. But I think it’s a good time to make changes. »

Underground Art Festival

In various locations in Montreal, until April 7.

To watch on video

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