Major Montreal art event BNL MTL begins this week

Get primed for the two-month, biennial, international visual and performance art event that’s right around the corner.


Michael Blum’s “The Swap” (video still, 2016). Photo by Roberto Gianstefani

Since 1998, Montreal’s Biennale (now stylized as BNL MTL) has been mounting a substantial selection of international contemporary art every two years, with a spotlight on work by Québécois artists. Affiliated for its first 11 years with the Centre International d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, the Biennale has been partnered with the Musée d’art contemporain since 2013, using the museum as its hub while retaining an all-city presence with exhibits at other museums and small galleries around town.

Though this year’s Biennale only begins on Oct. 19 (and runs till Jan. 15, 2017), its pre-programming was inaugurated on Sept. 21 with Automobile, a performance by Joe Namy presented in collaboration with POP Montreal and la Station—centre intergénérationel, the revived Mies Van der Rohe gas station located on Nuns’ Island. Namy’s performance, which teamed up with local car audio enthusiasts, has been cited as one of the major inspirations for this edition of the two-month art event, entitled le Grand Balcon, curated by Belgian-born Philippe Pirotte.


Nicole Eisenman’s “Long Distance” (2015)

Biennale 2016 doesn’t want to fall into a traditional heavily outlined thematic but instead aims to give audiences guidelines and parameters as viewers. It’s loosely inspired by Jean Genet’s 1957 play Le Balcon, evoking notions of interiority/exteriority, voyeurism, violence, pain, pleasure, power and beauty as main focal points; it is a choice not to impose a curatorial vision or projection.

Citing Joe Namy’s performance as the heart of the Biennale, Pirotte shared the programming with passion, a desire to make things differently, which resonates through the choices of artists and locations. He explained that he doesn’t believe that art’s goal or raison d’être is to create a revolution — rather he embraces its futility and wants to frame our experience of love or hate as a meaningful cue for navigating through this project.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby's "Cassava Garden" (2015). Photo by Robert Glowacki
Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s “Cassava Garden” (2015). Photo by Robert Glowacki

The Biennale will be revolving around discursive events (performances, talks and lectures) as opposed to the straightforward exhibits around the city. The edition’s count of Québécois artists is much lower than the past editions, but with a higher quotient of international and Canadian artists. The project assembles a great number of commissions, premieres and co-productions which will hopefully draw larger international audiences to Montreal.

Le Grand Balcon/The Grand Balcony runs from Oct. 19–Jan. 15, 2017 with its homebase at the MAC (Musée d’art contemporain), with parallel exhibits presented at the newly inaugurated exhibition space le Livart, Galerie de l’UQAM, Dazibao, Optica and Regroupement du Pied Carré, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and la Station — centre intergénérationel.


Janice Kerbel + Marina Rosenfeld in conversation

Place des Arts, Cinquième Salle (175 Ste-Catherine W.), Oct. 18, 6 p.m.

Moyra Davey

Place des Arts, Cinquième Salle (175 Ste-Catherine W.), Oct. 19, 6 p.m.

Haig Aivazian

SAT (1201 St-Laurent), Oct. 20, 6 p.m.

Janice Kerbel

Concordia University, Hall Building (1455 de Maisonneuve W.), Oct. 21, 1 p.m.

Performances and concerts

The Misanthrope by IMPURE FICTION

SAT (1201 St-Laurent), Oct. 18, 6 p.m. + Oct. 19, 10 p.m.

DOUG by Janice Kerbel

Oct. 19, 5 p.m., MAC (185 Ste-Catherine W.) + Oct. 20, 8 p.m., SAT (1201 St-Laurent)

Marina Rosenfeld

Manège militaire Cathcart (691 Cathcart), Oct. 19, 7 p.m.

Hassan Khan

Phi Centre (407 St-Pierre), Jan. 12, 2017, 8 p.m.


SAT (1201 St-Laurent), Oct. 19

11 a.m.: Valérie Blass, David gheron tretiakoff, Benjamin Serror, Myriam Jacob-Allard

1 pm.: Michael Blum, Nathalie Melikian, thirteen Black Cats, Luke Willis Thompson

CCA (1920 Baile), Oct. 20

1 p.m.: Dineo Seshee Bopape, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Zac Langdon-Pole, Camille Norment

3 p.m.: Lena henke, Shannon Bool, Luis Jacob, Celia Perrin Sidarous

For the complete BNL MTL program, see the official website.