Two Solitudes No More: ABC:MTL at the CCA

By Paloma Friedman Dec. 6, 2012

La Ronde

Olivo Barbieri, Aerial view of La Ronde amusement park and the Jacques Cartier Bridge, Montréal, 2004. CCA Collection. Gift of The Sandra and Leo Kolber Foundation

Montreal is a city heavily influenced by language. Despite the two solitudes, its denizens speak "franglais"-the shared dialect of an otherwise split city. A new Canadian Centre for Architecture exhibit uses the frame of lexicon to create a multimedia portrait of the city's contemporary visual, historical and emotional vocabulary.

Launched November 13, ABC:MTL will unveil a variety of projects under keywords that include the obvious-"island" and "bridge"-but also neologisms and lesser-known terms like electrosmog, hyperbâtiment and montroyalite.

The exhibit was born out of an open-source attempt to "collect the small elements of the city that combine to form a simple image," says curator Fabrizio Gallanti. In June, the museum put out a general call for submissions and received nearly 250 projects. Of those, ninety were selected.

For example, a striking collection of four closeups of policemen in riot gear blurs the line between citizen and disciplinarian. Music videos and video installations by local artists are shown in the gallery's theatre. And a duo of Los Angeles photographers who had never been to Montreal descended on the city-their first impressions are captured in the "Arrivals" gallery.

The exhibit merits return visits throughout its life, as the multitude of projects will be rotated in four phases. Gallanti explains that while this dynamic approach is an unusual way to stage an exhibition, he hopes it will generate a conversation about contemporary Montreal and its future. Meant to be interactive, the exhibit allows visitors to provide feedback on the CCA website. The museum is even still accepting submissions for the later stages of the show.

This is the CCA's third exhibit in a series that turns its focus to the museum's home city. In 1998, it displayed Montréal Métropole, 1880-1930, which looked at the emergence of a metropolis at the turn of the century. Six years later, the CCA staged The 60s: Montreal Thinks Big, which explored the development of the city during its mid-century surge in growth.

ABC:MTL runs at the Canadian Centre for Architecture until March 31, 2013.

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