Montreal Tourist and Citizen Rescue Art Cards

by Maksymilian Kapelanski

There is a type of human that seems to often be tragically enclosed in a circuit of false miracles: the tourist. To a large extent, his or her experience relies on the steady supply of costly illusions that bamboozle the critical mind. The tourist is to see the best of Montreal in a high-energy stream of visuals fitted into a few days of subjective spectacle. One can guess, however, that as the days pass at least a few tourists start to wonder what it means to be a real Montrealer. Alas, living in this city is the greatest show they will likely never take part in as real actors. And when the visitor is at the final stage of the tour, looking for a souvenir in shops replete with kitschy figurines of moose, beaver, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police representatives that will, back home, scare the kids at night, he or she will desperately wonder if there’s anything real that they can hang on to. Maybe a small rock from the Mountain will do? Anything!

However, even being a Montrealer carries the risk of losing sight of what is real and special in this city. We become so used to the neighborhoods that we don’t even see them anymore. I remember reading somewhere a story of a Zen monk who practiced meditation in a secluded monastery. His practice was based on the idea of “ordinary sitting”, and he was so successful in it that he saw nothing special about the place or about what he was doing. But one day he had to leave the monastery for a number of weeks. When he came back, he was overtaken by emotion and tears were streaming down his cheeks because everything--the monastery, the other monks, the meditation hall--seemed so very, very special to him.

In my attempt to help reclaim a genuine experience of this city fortourists, citizens of Montreal, and myself, I am making what I call Montreal Tourist and Citizen Rescue Art Cards. First, I transform found tourist guides of Montreal into handmade paper. The symbolic, digitally-designed, and factory-made representations of this city originally found in printed tourist guides are thus being turned into post-symbolic, traditionally-designed, and handmade art objects. This paper is imperfect, rather thick, complete with impressions of the tools it was made with, and sometimes carries remnants of symbols, drawings, and letters from the original pages. The paper is then cut into art cards onto which I affix a small portion of a map of Montreal.

Each card, approximately 2 1/2’’ x 3 1/2’’ in size, is different and unique. You can contact me for a full photo list of cards, choose one as to your liking, or order a custom card that includes your favourite street, neighborhood, or name (such as Terry Fox Street, Mozart Street, Chopin Street, or Rotterdam Street). Montreal Tourist and Citizen Rescue Art Cards are meant to be a token toward reclaiming a genuine tourist and local experience, and you can play a part in its happy realization.