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Nuit Blanche Part 2: Art Souterrain

Art Souterrain

I’m not an art critic. Or an art lover. Or really an art anything. So when I look through the guide to the Nuit Blanche, I glaze over all the art galleries, dance performances, films, plays, DJs or anything else of the sort. Instead, I concern myself with fun things in the Old Port or anything that’s funny.

But something about this “Art Souterrain” project caused me to want to go there. It was free, it was in a heated environment, and you could walk through it all without waiting in lines, checking your coats or feeling guilty about leaving early. You could spend about 10 seconds at one installation and then move on to the next one. And that’s pretty much what I did.

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The spooky metro car

I got on the metro the other day to do some grocery shopping and I finally stumbled on the one metro car that’s been retrofitted as part of an art installation.

For those who have never seen it, it’s easily recognizable by its dark blue interior (there are also buildings painted on the windows). When you get on, you don’t notice anything else unusual (it looks like just another one of those wrap-around ads they always have), but then you start hearing the sounds. Some are literally bells and whistles. Others are children talking. (There’s at least one video of it on YouTube)

It’s not immediately clear where it’s coming from. A lot of people on my train turned their heads wondering who was carrying speakers. The sound is surprisingly clear, and just a little bit louder than the station announcements. Reaction was sadly underwhelming. People coming home from work are amazingly uninterested in things going on around them.

I ended up taking the train all the way to Laval (with my groceries) to experience it (tangent: It’s surprising, anecdotally at least, how many people ride the metro to laval. Almost half of those passing Jean-Talon seem to go to either Cartier or Montmorency stations and transfer to the buses.)

Radio-Canada has a radio interview (third item down) with the artist, Rose-Marie Goulet, who explains that the purpose is to bring art galleries to people who don’t go to them. She also says that the STM was eager to help her with the project (though the fact that she went straight to the top with her request probably has something to do with that.) The interview also includes a couple of audio clips from the train.

The car (#78-007, at the centre of the 9-car train) is currently on the orange line, and will make the rounds on the blue and yellow lines over the next six months.

A little bit of irony: I would have missed the train entirely had there not been a metro delay earlier in the evening caused by a stroller on the tracks at Plamondon.