The ‘Like’ Button Analyses, Part 4: My ‘Likeable’ Art Cards!

by Maksymilian Kapelanski

Last year in my quest for ‘likeable’ art I have discovered a forgotten gem, which I will attempt to burnish for your use here. In a box placed outside a used book store, I found a publication from the early 1960s titled A Place to Live. It was a government-funded, multi-author study on agriculture as part of American society. In slightly poor shape and obviously harking back to an era of what could be perceived as a dilapidated ‘institutional’ style, it did not find a buyer for years on end, the $2 price notwithstanding.

 

The cover of the book was a painted farm scene by an anonymous artist. Perhaps on account of the pervasively general, as opposed to an eminently personal style of the cover, the artist’s name was not provided for any special adoration. At first glance, the image makes one think of a primary school textbook, which is an association that unifies the institutional nature of the commission with the childlike nature of the image. If we adopted a critical stance, perhaps we would find in it a certain childishness, but isn’t it many influential adults who could be accused of not being grown up, both in the time of the book’s creation and in today’s contemporary culture? Certainly the country scene as a representation of simple living as well as the naturalistic utopia of the 60s (which mirrored the chemical utopia of the 50s) make us think of a certain immaturity of the times, but one of which an incarnation we would also do best to identify in the present.

 

However, a political interpretation must not be abused and I myself liked this book cover from the very moment I saw it. At the same time, the images needed a certain valorisation, and so I decided to transform the book cover into art cards. Accessible to the touch as separate entities to play with and juxtapose in a sort of child’s play, they gained even more in simplicity and were divorced from the scrutinizing eyes of the Brotherly Institution. Children engage in ‘liking’ and ‘unliking’ things in an especially vivacious manner, and what represents a positive value for a child is presented here in a quintessential concentration of 'free likeability'. In the cards we find images of happiness, lollipop colours, simple content, sunshine, and an underlying innocence, all brought together in a wholesome synthesis.

But what can become personally touching in the cards is accessible also through the slightly ‘negative’ aspects associated with the images. Such aspects are found in the resounding nostalgia for our individual childhood and collective past, both tinged with a hint of sadness and a feeling of loss. The dirt clinging to the cards from the old 1960s cover also makes accessible to our memory the reminiscence of a happy and slightly horrific image: the dirty children’s faces and knees, soiled from the rolling around on the ground and engaging in other forms of tactile enjoyment. The unification of the cards' positive aspects and the negative ones hopefully creates a ‘deep’ experience, one that doesn't negate any part of the human experience.

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The most satisfying moment, artistically speaking, was when a young woman to whom I handed the cards started playing with them, trying to unsuccessfully fit the cards into one single image, and her face became a child’s face in an expression of ‘like’. I mentioned something about the mother instinct, but she said: “C’est petit comme art, mais ce n’est pas ça”. In reality she herself had become a child, fascinated with play in a moment of utter innocence.

In the photos, three of five cards sized 2 1/2'' x 3 1/2'' are shown.

The 'Like' Button Analyses, Part 3: 'Liking' and Art

by Maksymilian Kapelanski

In S/Z, a chef-d’oeuvre deconstruction of the intellect’s literary enjoyment, Roland Barthes travels deep to the inner ‘like’ in order to show us its hidden architecture and then takes it apart in a transformative analysis. In a preface found in the English translation of the work, Richard Howard begins with a quotation and says a few choice words on the 'instinctive liking' of literature:

“‘It will afford profit and pleasure to that numerous class of persons who have no instinctive enjoyment of literature,’ writes a British reviewer of the French text of S/Z. Instinctive enjoyment of literature! Surely all of Roland Barthes’s ten books exist to unmask such an expression, to expose such a myth. It is precisely our ‘instinctive enjoyment’ which is acculturated, determined, in bondage. Only when we know - and it is a knowledge gained by taking pains, by renouncing what Freud calls instinctual gratification - what we are doing when we read, are we free to enjoy what we read. As long as our enjoyment is - or is said to be - instinctive it is not enjoyment, it is terrorism.” (Richard Howard, "An Introductory Note", in: Roland Barthes, S/Z. An Essay. New York: Hill and Wang, 1974, p. ix.)
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In recent history, serious art has not exactly been subject to ‘liking’ by the so-called great minds, such as Barthes’ - rather, it was created and forged, loved and hated, interrogated and ignored, bought and stolen, championed and undermined. While my contemporaries disagree to an increasing degree, my natural tendency tells me to think that there is much more in good art than what can simply be liked. In its usual application, ‘liking’ is appropriate for something that could be described as 'nice', and normally, one would be hard pressed to successfully apply it to anything that holds a lesser, but also a higher value.

As a teenager I wrote a rebellious poem for an English class assignment, and a day after handing it in, the piece came back with the professor's red mark around one word - ‘nice’. On the margin he wrote: “this word doesn’t say much”. I admit I slipped a little in one stanza. For a moment, there was no symbolic dagger to chew on, no one telling you that you won’t get out of here alive, no youthful anger that breaks through the Wall. For a moment, things were okay. From high school I also remember the Good News Bible, which we used in religion class. It was illustrated with peaceful, conventionalized, single-line drawings, and all of the people’s faces were presented as simple, empty ovals. Naturally, the choice of means was meant to express humanity in general, and to imbue it with a calm, likeable quality. Most of us didn't love religion class. But it wasn't unlikeable.

In a curious analogy to the Good News Bible, the Sherbrooke subway station in Montreal features an enormous mosaic with a quasi-Biblical scene showing the origins of Quebec and its people with the same empty, symbolic, oval faces. This public piece of art is clearly meant for everyone, and we all know the artist couldn’t fit everyone’s face into the image, however grand. But a more critical writer could make the remark that the image is fitting because in the subway we also feel faceless. To me, the mosaic makes anonymity and mass membership more acceptable, and even more likeable. While this is also what makes me ambivalent about this dwarfing image, and what reminds me of 'likeable' art's mildly numbing, 'affirmative' function, I will soon be setting out on my own quest for art that presses my mind's 'like button'.

The 'Like' Button Analyses, Part 2: Mythological ‘Deep Liking’

by Maksymilian Kapelanski

In contrast both to history as a succession of almost palpable, printed facts encased in the iron logic of historical narrative, and to history as seen in the anti-narrative flashes of ‘capricious’, disjointed, and surreal series of ‘likes’, let us consider the possibility of a history conditioned by what I would like to call 'mythological deep liking’.

 

 

‘Mythological’, because like any good myth, true liking goes both higher and deeper then the liking afforded by a one- or even two-dimensional conception of human beings reduced through modern objectifications. But even such reduction is mythological, because the understanding of the human being is mythological no matter how vigorously the label is eschewed. If we consider some reductive views of humanity, we cannot but help think how much faith and fervent ideal transpires through their often structural figments of imagination. Still today we cannot get away from mythologizing ourselves, because there is no objective way to understand the human being, just as there is no way to grasp the mind. Since we cannot give up grasping itself, we are always transposing ideas to at least get hold of the spectre of the thing to be understood.

 

 

I have proposed ‘deep liking’, since in contrast to some of the surface, Internet ‘shallow liking’, the former is a true romance that goes to the very core of the human being. This human being intuitively creates with it the total worlds in which he and she lives, fashioning out the stuff of structure, pleasure, understanding, and passion into the mind’s internal dwellings, weaving around it the ornate fabric of ‘reality’ as revealed in history. But even the Internet's 'shallow liking‘ can be rehabilitated as a deep, mythical category. For example, in its depths, echoes of the bifurcated moral space of Christianity resound at the moment of the binary decision making on the Internet: ‘evil’ or ‘good’ - ‘like’ or ‘unlike’.

 

 

In a deep way, traces of old myths and their methodological axioms abound around us, and I will not even mention here the overworked ‘rock-star-as-God’ cliché. The contemporary religious marketplace is itself an arena for ‘liking’ and ‘unliking’, except the moral choice intrinsic to the monolithic religious societies of the past is now being applied from above, as a meta-category to the personal choice between religions. If we are tempted to judge this type of mentality, let us remember that even God decided, after having finished working on the World, that he liked the result. When he turned to Noah, he was already ‘unliking’ its developments.

 

 

Everyday we hover around 'shallow like’ and exploit it, while not fully understanding it. But lest we become self-satisfied with our analysis and start liking it, we need to ask: where does ‘deep like’ reside? We must search deeper for this inspiring though elusive category, and I suspect that it is intrinsic to the mind. What happens in the mind when ‘deep like’ is activated? What are the scientists and the psychoanalysts saying? What are the theists and the Buddhists saying? Will our perception of 'shallow like’ change when we analyze its contexts and create a depth for it, to be properly mined? And what will be left when we analyze the very core of ‘deep like’? Will the contemporary Internet social structure fall apart? If we analyze ‘deep like’ will we analyze it - or even ourselves - away?

 

The 'Like' Button Analyses, Part 1: 'Liking' and 'Unliking' Myths

by Maksymilian Kapelanski

European history was serious business as it was presented in my youth. As students we endured the almost palpable, printed facts and iron logic of historical narrative in high school and at university, and there was nothing funny or introspective about it. On the other hand, to people partaking in today’s fun, ironic, cyber-consciousness which operates in entertaining fragmentation, the intersubjective psycho-drama of the European narrative seems more like a series of disjointed, surreal caprices. We begin to wonder if the myths of the Old World were not subject to a succession of whimsical ‘likes’ and ‘unlikes’ of society, in analogy to the popular ‘friending’ and ‘unfriending’ functions, 'thumbs up' and 'thumbs down' buttons, and other similar graphic interface elements used on the Internet. Thus, political, social, and moral ideas and standards in history could be seen as having been ‘liked’ and then ‘unliked’ as if in spontaneous, ‘viral’ media fashion.

If we were to link these disjointed, bite-size 'caprices' of history, we could get the impression that the Mediaeval worldview was largely deconstructed in a world-famous series of ‘unlikes’ which unfolded over centuries and were instigated by the main social actors. Geocentricity was ‘unliked’ by Copernicus, the idea of the Monarch as God’s representative on Earth was ‘unliked’ with the rise of the bourgeoisie, the idea of Man as God’s creation 'unliked' by Darwin; furthermore, the bifurcation of morality into good and evil was ‘unliked’ by Max Stirner and Nietzsche, and Love as a divine gift ‘unliked’ by modern chemists, to name only a few examples.

If we were to follow this train of thought, we could perhaps advance the idea that the gradual disassembling and 'unliking' of tradition simultaneously assists in a building up and ‘liking’ of new myths. Can there really be a minus without a plus? One story of a societal ‘like’ filling the vacuum of a massive ‘unlike’ is story of Modernism, a great myth which has aged in poor fashion, in part because of its neglect of the human body and the starved flesh around the ideas it posited. Another vacuum-filling, collective ‘liking’ was the New Age movement, later a prime example of the principle that any 'likes' constructed in a cultural vacuum emergency are subject to rapid 'deliking'.

In the back of our minds our intelligence still tells us that history is not quite so shallow and fashion-based (although Michel Onfray accuses intellectuals themselves of opportunistic fads). At the same time, from the contemporary vantage point the analogy to ‘liking’ and ‘unliking’ points to an ever stronger impression of a whimsical type of history, an impression which closes in on us ever more tightly, securing increasing amounts of imaginative space. The described effect can be understood as the price to pay for not having been sensitized to the deep level as well as the meta-level of history in those long-lasting high school and university courses of our youth.

The Heisenberg Transfiguration (2001)

by Maksymilian Kapelanski

In 2001, I curated and participated in three art and sound shows in an effort to stimulate, at the most direct level, creative and personal interchanges among vistor and newcomer artists to Montreal. One of these nights saw and heard my performance piece titled The Heisenberg Transfiguration. It is here that I would like to memorialize the atmosphere this idea- and mood-based piece sought to create.

In the performance area stood an oblong, white coffee table. On it was placed a white coffee-maker with a dripper mechanism and a transparent glass receptacle. A low, modernist-styled, black desk lamp hung just above the coffee-maker. Two stereo speakers flanked the both sides of the table.

A friend of mine by the name of CourtnAy read the introductory text (now lost to time), in which I linked the philosophy of the piece with a brief exposition of the “observer effect” (discovered by Werner Heisenberg), a unique concept in physics. Today, the Wikipedia entry for this concept explains:

“In physics, the term observer effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on the phenomenon being observed. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner. A commonplace example is checking the pressure in an automobile tire; this is difficult to do without letting out some of the air, thus changing the pressure.”

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observer_effect_(physics), consulted November 2, 2012).

The idea behind the performance piece was that through the observation of the making of green tea in the coffee-maker and through the ministry of Art, Music, and Science, the audience will transform the fundamental substance of the liquid at hand, which it will then be free to consume.

Lights were shut, and the modernist-looking desk lamp was simultaneously lit. There was a sudden change of atmosphere. Tea light candles for each participant were given out. The light of the desk lamp was soft, and both the white table and the white coffee-maker seemed to be transported in a special glow. I placed a generous amount of green tea in the receptacle and turned on the coffee-maker. It blinked in the half-darkness with its red eye.

 

A tea field in winter, waiting for the watchful transformation by the sun.

 

Soft music started emanating from the speakers: it was Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble’s interpretation of Cristóbal de Morales’ Parce mihi domine. (Listen to it here, read about the album with it as the first track here.) Over the gentle wash of Renaissance voices soared the inspired saxophone melody, creating a syncretic spiritual experience. Slowly, the green tea maker, lit from above as if it was a tabernaculum for the creative essencequietly gurgled and yielded its first drops. Even the sounds coming from the coffee-maker seemed to add positively to the effect. The music became stronger, and so did the tea, and all the while the receptacle of Art was patiently being filled with the golden nectar. The sublime tension mounted with the growing emotion of the music.

At the climax, when the receptacle was full and the performance reached a moment of suspense, one of my acquaintances sitting in the circle of participants on the floor, a man with red hair combed back with 1950s pomade into a pompadour, a sincere lover of country music and a steadfast attendee of barfly blue grass concerts sporting a worn-out jean jacket, seemed to have buckled under the atmospheric pressure, and shouted out “This is some kind of a $%#! religious cult!”.

But soon the lights were lit, the suspense lifted, after a moment of silence people started talking, and the tea was distributed in small cups for all to consume. Some did consume, while others did not. Just like in the real world. Everything seemed to be back in order.

Not-Knowing May Be What We're Missing

by Maksymilian Kapelanski
 
 

I MAY HAVE PUT AN ARTWORK ON THE BACK OF THIS TREE-TRUNK

2012

Could we do without having every curiosity satiated by a caressing movement of the index finger over the Oracle’s white mouse? Would we be lost in the world without our mind being power-steered by twitchy electronic devices? In the wave of the blue screen our artistic mind struggles to overcome the surplus of “beauty”. There was a time when people went to art museums like starved wolves. The hunger of not-knowing was very important for a more complete picture of the unique object. This principle hasn’t changed. We need to keep reviving Existence’s suddenly deceased sister — Non-Existence.

The St. Hubert Logo: A Psycho-Engineered Image?

by Maksymilian Kapelanski

Many of us see the St. Hubert family restaurant logo regularly--and often unconsciously--while driving to work, cleaning out the mailbox of junk mail, or numbly watching those pesky advertisements on TV or the Internet. The logo, featuring a humanoid cartoon rooster dressed as a waiter, can be seen as having been designed to make you beg to eat chicken at St. Hubert. Let us see how.

Appetizing colours fill the logo: the red reminds us of rare meat, the yellow no doubt signifies golden fries and the flame used to make it all happen. The rooster-waiter on the logo has a large red plume, stylized somewhat like a punk’s hairdo, perhaps subliminally appealing to the youngsters looking for a sizzling bite to eat. Simultaneously, the tuxedo on the rooster-waiter softens the hearts of the older clientele.

The red cockscomb in the shape of a plume may well be a device neutralizing any stray mental images of animal bloodshed. While it may in fact refer to the inevitable bodily liquid spilled when the chicken is killed, the fine and elaborate outline of this red, alarming hairdo imposes clear-cut boundaries that contain the “blood”, creating a clean break between the tragic death of a real chicken and the tasty meal that sits with great comfort on your plate. The white gloves the rooster-waiter is wearing further inspire in us a sense of cleanliness, and so the messy annihilation is shut out of the consciousness. We can eat in peace.

Rendering the rooster-waiter into a cartoon character is instrumental to neutralizing mental images of violence. In cartoons the frequent incidents of violence are extreme yet not quite real, and it's usually “undoable”. In many cartoons, no matter what happens to a character—whether it is blown up, dismembered, or hammered into the earth—it comes back in full health for further adventure. The use of a cartoon picture also appeals to kids wanting to eat at the restaurant, and invites them into an air of wacky fun.

One more technique used in the logo makes us easily accept eating chickens. The feast has been sanctioned by a special authority and power: the king of the chickens, that is the rooster. He himself is serving you as seen in the logo, so it is evident he has also decreed the fate of his “subjects”. Everything seems to have gone through the uppermost channels. The fact that a king is serving us is also quite flattering.

The restaurant’s first location was found on St. Hubert street in Montreal in the 1950s. However, the name also makes us think of another figure of authority: St. Hubert, the protector saint of the hunters. There’s nothing like an air of saintliness to counter the evil spectre of factory chicken farming that may cling to our ideas of chain restaurants and threaten to spoil our culinary experience.

Visiting St. Hubert on impulse is triggered by a special element in the logo: the single raised finger of the rooster-waiter. He is clearly signaling that you have to wait just one minute for the meal to arrive. For a hunger-stricken, salivating human, this is the perfect waiting time. You never have to plan a visit to St. Hubert: you can walk in at any moment in a hunger emergency.

Psycho-marketing devices can also be found in the St. Hubert chain outside of the logo. For example, to foster a feeling of academic accomplishment connected to serving chicken and ribs, in 1979 the restaurant opened St. Hubert University to train its employees. Another fun fact to fathom is that the sexual element is not lacking from the experience at this family restaurant. Some of us might remember a television commercial in which a young man sits down in the restaurant as a young waitress approaches. There is clearly attraction. After much smiling the man sheepishly orders... a breast!

Downright Thievery... For Art's Sake!

by Maksymilian Kapelanski

True Story #1

 

I will begin with a true story to get your mind going into some criminally artistic alleyways.

Two artists, let’s call them artist A and artist B, went on an escapade to a semi-forgotten, post-industrial part of Montreal. They walked into a junkyard with used mechanical parts: small and large metal and rubber wheels, wires of various thicknesses and colours, derelict parts of engines, convoluted contents of old telephones, and a multitude of unidentifiable, gutted factory devices, all piled up to the ceiling. In the centre there was a space with three chairs on which sat three old, drunken men. They called the shots regarding the visit, and by sipping some alcohol they ensured everything ran smoothly from their perspective. The two artists greeted the men and, with their permission, started rummaging through the junk. They finally picked out a handful of morsels of metal to use in their art.

The three drunken men then had a conference and called out the prices: “Twenty-five cents! Fifty cents! Two dollars!” But when the artists came out onto the street and started walked home, they observed that for just a handful of junk the total sum felt as if they made some large purchase, and they expressed his disappointment at the blatantly commercial aspect of the exchange. The old men had charged quite a bit! But for some reason, Artist A was less worried. Artist B showed him what he bought at the junkyard. Artist A in turn showed him a small screw, and said: “I stole this”. “That’s why yours is better than mine”, answered artist B.

An illustration of Artist A’s solution to the anti-creative commodification of art, the story shows how symbolic value used to liberate art was more important in his mind than the fact of committing an offence and--let us not forget--depriving several men of the means to buying a few more drops of alcohol. While he could afford to buy the screw, this would not allow him to knock out a brick from the Wall of Commerce. Not everyone would agree, naturally.

 

True Story # 2

 

For an interesting comparison, I will continue with a second true story about the same thieving Artist A and another, heretofore unmentioned artist--let’s call him Artist C.

Artist C, a true, sensitive idealist, was once violtently accosted by his mafioso landlord, who got him into a chokehold and threatened him verbally. Later in the day, Artist A, a friend of the victim, lent him some funds to escape the apartment and execute a “midnight move”. He let him sleep on his couch while he looked for a new place, and he fed him cereal in the morning and beer in the evening--the celebrated staples of many a serious artistic activity. They had plenty of time to catch up and even shed a few tears of close camaraderie. Artist C (the sensitive idealist) noticed in passing that in contrast to himself, Artist A (who stole the screw for art’s sake) hadn’t been working much on his art lately. When Artist C finally left for a new, safe home, Artist A noticed that the former had connivingly stolen his digital camera. Months later, he found his idealistic friend’s new artistic website, which he made with the camera. The major theme of the website was the sensitive relationship of Art and Love.

 

Conclusions: Your Turn

 

Since the artist who stole the junkyard screw for art’s sake also got a piece of his property stolen in the name of art, and the thievery was committed by another artist, several complex ethical and philosophical questions naturally arise. I’m sure your mind is teeming with them. But I will not help, lest I spoil your fun! A philosophical cliffhanger is often most effective.

 

My Project

 

To commemorate and problematize the theme of thievery and art I am making small pieces made out of cut-outs of the Robin Hood logo from packages of Quick Oats. The image of Robin Hood, the beloved hero of good-will thievery, is commented upon by a title-quotation: The Price of Myths. This title-quotation comes from a chapter of a 1948 book by D. Ewen Cameron. As backing for the art I am using recuperated book covers that provide a handsome, colourful, and sturdy background. I am using different colours and sizes for the backings, and two different sizes of the logo (as present on the original packages) for smaller and larger versions of the pieces. The works are available framed and unframed.

My Early Paper Works

by Maksymilian Kapelanski

I. Original Communion (pour Véronique)

 

I made my first large piece of paper in 2001 from rejected materials. The creative process was of an organic-spiritual nature, from the careful choice and recuperation of the materials for recycling, to the dramatic transformative process including ripping the paper by hand and soaking it, and finally the slow emergence and drying of the end result. But this “original communion” was to suffer a tragic end. Due to a heartfelt misunderstanding as if taken straight from a Shrek movie, the sheet of paper got destroyed, literally ripped to pieces. Later in the night of the event I had a dream in which I could see the many pieces suspended in the air by an internal positive force, each morsel spiritually luminous and emanating a healing warmth. I was transported. Over the years, I realized the significance of this first work, which received its title - Original Communion (pour Véronique) - "posthumously".

 

II. Paper for the Canadian artist Adrian Williams

 

In 2002 I came into contact with a Canadian artist who was looking for handmade paper to use as material in his works. I was living in an apartment formerly occupied by a Japanese crafts artist who had been assiduously making soap and paper. Though all the fuses in the stove kept burning out from its former overuse in boiling the soapy concoctions, and the walls in the kitchen were covered in a greasy, soapy substance, the place had a special air of inspiration to it. I got right down to making recycled handmade paper for Adrian, and delivering it in batches by rackety bicycle to his apartment. Always spying on me from the apartment below was an old, very colourful woman with expressionistic make-up and a flair for early 20th-century fashion from Paris. She was more than curious, and I admit the paper making activity was a little suspicious.

 

III. The Character Tablet (for the Hospitalized Woman)

 

The craftswoman that formerly occupied my apartment had left behind some Japanese books, along with some wet cotton in Mason jars for making paper. As I myself was already producing paper for Adrian, I had the idea of turning the books into pulp. When I attempted this, I intentionally made the first sheet extremely thick and did not press the water out of the pulp. While initially the problems were molding of the pulp and folding of the drying paper, I finally achieved an interesting result: a very large, superbly thick paper, pretty much an off-white board, with an uneven texture and aleatorically distributed portions of Japanese characters.

However, this was the only paper that Adrian rejected, saying it was too specific to Eastern culture for his artistic use. When I left his apartment a little disappointed, I bumped into a photographer friend who immediately got interested in what I was carrying. He was inspired by what he saw, and bought the thick sheet, saying he would make a gift of it to a hospitalized female friend. I always wondered what she thought of it, and I hoped she felt the healthy, sturdy energy of Japanese ethos emanating from it.

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.