Scenes from the City II

Construction Cranes and High-Tension Lines - MUHC Superhospital site, Glen Yards Montreal; work of the author - June 2011

They sway and swing gently, as if they were being carried by gusts of wind. As they dance their eerie industrial ballet, a structure rises around them. Will they call it White Elephant?

It reminds me of an anecdote once related to me by Prof. Matthew Barlow at Concordia, who taught me the ‘Irish Experience in Montreal’ back in 2006. Great course, though I wish I had paid more attention at the time. In any event, he told us about bringing his ten-year-old nephew out on a walk through the city a few years prior, and the child was astounded to the cranes then more prevalent within the downtown core. He asked incredulously what kind of buildings they were, what kind of purpose they served. The response, that they in essence assisted in the construction of tall buildings took a while to sink into the youth’s head – he had never seen a construction crane before, despite growing up in the city. This point was, as you can imagine, rather significant for my professor.

Squirrel in Westmount Park - work of the author, June 2011

I spent the better part half an hour trailing this guy and several of his compatriots one beautifully sunny Saturday morning a few weeks back in Westmount Park. It was funny, I had never come across such curious squirrels before – they seemed intrigued by me, and enjoyed mugging for the camera. Maybe they’re vying for a much sought-after Disney contract. I’m sure Rescue Rangers is probably going to be revived sometime soon.

A nice place to wait - work of the author, June 18th 2011


Concordia McConnell Library Atrium - work of the author June 18th 2011

I had the immense pleasure of once again providing note-taking and picture-taking services to a local NGO. Here’s an atypical view oft he Con-U Library Atrium. It’s weird, I don’t think it nearly looked this good whenever I was walking through there as a student. Bizarre how quickly a perspective can change. Admittedly, I tended to spend little time sitting around in the Atrium, and rarer still were the opportunities to do so with the sun coming in as it did that day. It reminded me in fact of the very different building I first encountered in the summer of 2004, as I prepared to begin my academic journey at Con-U. I remember sitting in the Atrium reminiscing on where I had come from and thought about where I was going. I had no idea, but at least the building made me feel confident and at ease at the time.

Conversation between two Westmount Rhodesians (who happened to speaking French) - work of the author, June 2011

Basically I thought it was a prime snapshot of a stereotype I’d heard about, but then I heard them speak.

Urban Backyard; Between these Brick Walls - work of the author, June 2011

I can’t ever imagine living somewhere in the city without a balcony, terrace, porch or rooftop to go hang out on. This summer I’ve got an unprotected nook. Adding that to the list…

More public installation art – Madikap Building

Art-installation in front of Madikap Building on Sherbrooke West - work of the author, June 18th 2011

Never been completely sure what to make of this. I don’t like it, but I don’t mind it either. I’m glad it’s there, but it seems superfluous and out of place.

Perspectives on the City { No. 14 } – Instagram Edition

Unsettling Perspective - work of the author, June 18th 2011

Infinite karma points to anyone who can guess where this is. Also, I just saw a mouse scurry by in my room. Neat!

Also, if you haven’t caught the Instagram bug, go on-line and download it for your smartphone. Something like 5 million pics have been taken with Instagram in the last three months, meaning that the last three months have been exceptionally well documented, all by average people like us.


Big Empty Walls

Side of the Hotel de la Montagne - work of the author, June 17th 2011

I remember seeing pictures from Tehran when I was a kid – it may have been on CNN and may have been related to the Iran-Contra scandal, or the USS Vincennes accidental shoot-down of an air-liner, or the Tanker War or god knows what, but an image got stuck in my head. For the life of me I haven’t been able to find an image of what I’m talking about. I remember a mural painted on the side of a building, and from the looks of it, it was impressively large. It was an American flag, though turned on it’s side, with skulls for stars and bombs dropping from the stripes. I was impressed as a toddler and I can still picture it clearly in my head. In fact, every time I see a big empty concrete wall, I feel as though we the citizenry have a moral responsibility to fill it up with something beautiful, poignant or both. I don’t recommend anything overly anti-American mind you.

So here are some of my least favourite big empty walls.

I think this apt. tower is on Crescent - work of the author, June 17th 2011

I mean let’s face it – it’s nothing but a large slab of brown-grey concrete or beige/white brick. No decoration, not much of a discernible pattern. Just a vast open void, and there’s a plethora of such buildings littering the downtown core. You know what else is littering the downtown core? Advertisements and graffiti, and I’d prefer to see really well-done versions of both than the typically mundane versions which typically rob our visual attention.

I mean, when you take the whole of graffiti within the city, what’s the art-to-vandalism ratio? 1:100? 1:1000? Don’t tell me the guy that uses an ice-scraper to spell his initials on bus-shelter plexiglass is making an artistic statement, he’s costing the tax-payer (ie – all of us) money to get that fixed later. Now, that being said, when you go behind FouFounes Electriques and see the mind-blowing graffiti there, it makes me wonder why we can’t distribute it a bit better, offer grants and get legitimate artists working together to add vibrant splashes of colour to these drab facades.

I'd love to see the wall of this no-tell hotel celebrate the carnality common within. Work of the author, June 17th 2011

The point’s been brought up before as to whether the city can just up and do this – why not? Adding the art to the side of a building could get the owner some tax-break for stimulating the arts. I know there’s an apartment building on Towers Street in the Concordia Ghetto that features a pretty wild sculpture hanging off the side of the building, though who’d never know it was there unless you happened to spot the plaque at street level. I guess it just so happened that I was looking for plaques that day.

Anyways – as always, what do you think?

And by the by – congratulations to Leroy Audubon of South Marshfield New Hampshire for being our 2,000th guest.