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Art Souterrain Kicks Off In Montreal's Underground City This Weekend — What To Expect

The urban art festival will line 6 km of pedestrian tunnels.

Montreal artist Haji Maa will perform at this year's festival launch on April 2 (left); A neon light installation by France Dubois at a previous edition (right)​.

Montreal artist Haji Maa will perform at this year's festival launch on April 2 (left); A neon light installation by France Dubois at a previous edition (right).

Next time you step into Montreal's Underground City to escape the frosty weather outside, you could be thrust into a flurry of engaging new art installations.

Art Souterrain Festival launches on Saturday with works by 40 local and international artists spanning 6 km of downtown tunnels and more than 30 free arts-based activities.

"It's a unique opportunity for visitors to connect with the world of arts and culture," said General Director Frédéric Loury.

"Visitors will first be drawn in by the format of the works, which are not on a human scale." Some of the artworks will be "monumental" in both size and subject matter, he said.

The theme of this year's edition is "Resilient Voices-Pathways," which focuses on diversity and inclusion. Loury wants viewers "to reflect with sensitivity" on questions around identity and what it means to belong.

"The subjects tackled by the artists cannot leave anyone indifferent. They question our relationship with the 'other,'" he said.

'The other' represents anyone marginalized by a society's dominant race, gender, sexuality, or economic class, among other identity factors.

One performance by Peruvian artist Lucía Vergel Loo, titled What your eyes [don't] see, will reflect on the artist's experience adapting to Canadian society. Every Saturday in April, Loo will engage with traditional objects from her home country to share her inner fears and discomfort as a newcomer.

Another installation called "(Un)Masking" by artist María Ezcurra will showcase masks and costumes designed to express personal identity, instead of hide it. The unusual masks are made from household items, like tea bags, sponges, and nylon stockings, and explore how the pandemic has affected the lives of women, mothers/children, and immigrant communities.

Ezcurra crafted the masks to express cultural and social differences, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced people to wear face coverings that not only hide their features but also make them look the same. She will host a free workshop in English for attendees of all-ages to make their own self-expressive masks.

The festival launches on April 2 at 5 p.m. with an evening of Rituals: Healing Elixirs.

Artists will accompany visitors on a guided tour of the underground route, interspersed with six original performances, including a meditative DJ set by Secondsight (Haji Ma) and live tattooing by Éli del. Club Kombucha will be on-site to offer refreshments.

Visitors who attend the festival are sure to come away reflecting and feeling something, said Loury.

Art Souterrain 2022

When: April 2 – June 30

Where: Between Centre de Commerce Mondial de Montréal (747 rue du Square-Victoria), Édifice Jacques-Parizeau (1000 Pl Jean-Paul-Riopelle), and Cité Internationale - OACI (999 boul Robert-Bourassa)

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