Air : le regard du vent Installation of windsock on roof of Espace Projet gallery in the Villeray district of Montreal.
Air : le regard du vent Presentation of video at Espace Projet
Air : le regard du vent
Wireless networks near my place include “maus,” “TRABANT” and “pupusa” (for the last, it is La Petite-Patrie, after all). The New Yorker published a fun, short piece on such network names a while back:
In a way, much of the material cabling that networks us all together could, for purposes of this exhibition, be filed under “air”—for literary reasons, that is. Or maybe even “water.” All our talk of cloud computing and surfing the Web is mere metaphor, after all—a literary illusion sustainable solely via these “brick and mortar” (mineral and hydrocarbon) components. I’m sure that your drones, satellites and “perma-selfie” fit into this picture, too, somehow!
In the end, isn’t metaphor what’s really at the root of the four traditional elements (accepting the substitution of fire, here, with its corollary “fer”) represented in this show? The symbolism of the show’s promotional graphic, itself borrowed from the cover of Le Corbusier’s “Les Quatre Routes,” likewise invokes this tetrad. In his personal beliefs, Le Corbusier, the Modernist’s Modernist, would surely stand nearer to Newtonian physics and the Periodic Table; thus, I find it a little disarming that he used this archaic, alchemical elemental system as a literary device to organize his reflections on transport.
Pillowy clouds and romantic music. Take me there now! As well as airplanes we now have buzzing drones and satellites to take care of our aerial viewpoint. Ubiquitous enough that the surface of the world is in a perpetual state of self imaging taking – a “perma-selfie”. I don’t know where Corbusier was on the political scale in terms of his relationship to the Vichy government. Probably going with the flow, as it were.
With regards to what we noticed about the air, mostly it was just cold and blustery, with jets flying over head, but one thing we didn’t take into account that has come up in subsequent conversations is the presence of wireless internet signals and hotspots that pervade the air. BELL635 and Hackerdelight are new tenants in the air currents surrounding us.
The airplane would indeed have provided a privileged visual position at the time. I’m reminded of the opening sequence of Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will”: pillowy clouds, shot from a plane, accompanied by romantic music. As the plane descends, the spires, gables and castle of Nuremberg come into focus. And here, too, the reverence for the machine is central; the shadow of Hitler’s plane is even visible on Nuremberg’s streets. I read somewhere that Hitler was the first politician to use airplanes for campaign tours—a remarkable move at the time. Quite a contrast with other forms of travel, as far as privilege goes; departing Montreal by train from the Gare Centrale, for example, the traveler is treated to the ennobling sights of industrial ruins, cookie-cutter condo developments and St-Henri and Pointe-St-Charles residents’ undergarments drying on the washline.
I’m intrigued that you and your colleagues made a sort of “air tour” of Villeray—not the most typical human activity! Besides the airways, what other kinds of phenomena did you find? Blustery, wind-swept straightaways? Micro-climatic conditions like mini-cyclones that trap leaves and detritus? Birds?
Ed, thanks for your comment. The relationship between Corbusier’s text and the Villeray neighbourhood was mostly left to the groups of artists to determine. We were 4 small groups each working with our “element” which in my case, was air. I think all one can do while developing a pertinent work is to keep the text in mind while you are working out your idea, otherwise the art being produces risks being overly illustrative of the text. That said, we did spend some time trying to imagine some of the things that would have been active during the time Le Corbusier wrote the text. He would have been in France during the Nazi occupation, there was also a futurist bent to his thinking, i.e. a reverence for the machine.
In our case, we were thinking about how the airplane afforded a bird’s eye view, and that this was a particularly privileged position at the time of the books writing. As far as making the work goes, though, we walked around the Villeray neighbourhood and made an effort to take note of all the things the air was doing. In particular, we noted wind and airplanes, which fly right over the neighbourhood as they go to land at Trudeau airport.
Paul, one aspect about your work in this show that struck me particularly was how the video seems to suggest a point of view, or more precisely a *subjectivity* upon which we can project our own notions and imperatives (“it seems like an animal,” or, as you suggested, “it seems hungry”). And although the sole animus, here, is the wind itself, it does seem a little as if some kind of predator or Windigo is gazing searchingly down over rue Villeray. Indeed, the show as a whole is all about ways of looking at Villeray, so, as Le Corbusier’s “Les Quatre Routes” is the chosen lens for doing so, I wonder how he might have seen the neighbourhood. In working with the other artists and architects involved in this exhibition, was there much discussion of Le Corbusier’s work against the backdrop of our local context?