Meet the artists, ABC:MTL

Cult MTL talks to Dominic Boulerice and Kesso Saulnier about their ABC:MTL projects at the CCA, highlighting unseen features of Montreal life.

“Maison cossue, 2012,” by Dominic Boulerice

The CCA’s sprawling, multi-phase ABC:MTLexhibition ushered in the latest suite of keyword-themed displays last week, setting off the next round of public talks and workshops about the plurality of ways to represent Montreal. This weekend, the Centre is hosting a free afternoon Meet the Artists session, where the public can hear about and discuss some of Phase C’s most compelling projects with the artists, urban planners, photographers, architects and other chroniclers of city life who produced them.

Cult MTL spoke to two participants about their work, both intended to reveal something about Montreal life that usually remains hidden or unnoticed. Artist/photographer and architectural historian Dominic Boulerice describes his Aveugle series, photographs of boarded up heritage houses around the city, while Kesso Saulnier talks about Poubelle, quilted works assembled from abandoned clothing picked up from the city’s generous streets.

Dominic Boulerice, Aveugle

“Windows are the eyes of the building,” Boulerice says, describing how he came to term his series of black and white photographs of boarded-up heritage buildings Aveugle. “It’s also an allusion to the fact that we, Montrealers, are blind. We don’t see these buildings, or we don’t want to see them. Even I, having a particular interest in architecture, I didn’t see these buildings until I started photographing them.”

While Boulerice has a background in fine arts, he has increasingly shifted his focus toward architectural history, working between Montreal and Toronto on a post-doc at York. In this series, though, his architectural, historical and aesthetic interest cohere in the windowless, largely abandoned historical houses that time and commerce forgot.

“Aveugle,” he explains, “comes from architectural vocabulary. “Usually these features are decorative, but in this case they’re not. All the openings are blocked, so that light and people can’t enter the building. So they’re not only blind, they’re dead buildings.”

“I just started by photographing a late 19th century farmhouse in my neighbourhood. It wasn’t abandoned, because people were still living in it, but it was in a complete state of disrepair,” he explains. “But as the process went its way, I found many houses that were boarded over, so it kind of shifted. And I was kind of amazed to see how many of these houses or buildings you can find in Montreal.”

“Rues en patchworks, 2010-2012,” by Kesso Saulnier.

Kesso Saulnier, Poubelles

“I was just walking around the city and seeing all this material available for free,” says Saulnier, a textile artist, who worked mostly with embroidery before turning to the riches of our fair city’s garbage day streets.

“I’m always conflicted between being very happy that there’s all this stuff actually available for people to pick up for free. But at the same time, it’s not always clear, when they put these things out, if they’re giving it away for free and trying to make resources for people or just throwing things away.”

Once she began to notice the bounty of abandoned textiles that leave subtle traces of our past consumption around town, she says she became interested in appropriating them into new projects. She eventually developed the idea into a master’s project, weaving sections of curb booty into bright, complex new creations.

“Just having these materials I started going more towards the history of quilts and making things with recycled materials,” she says. “It’s amazing what you can find around.” ■

Meet the Artists, Feb. 9, Canadian Centre for Architecture (1920 Baile), 3-5 p.m., free

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