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Montreal's New Pink Floyd Exhibit Is A Mind-Bending Journey But Don't Get High For It (PHOTOS)

There's a lot of rock history to take in! 🎸

MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Guitars played by Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett. Right, Sofia stands in front of stage props from 'The Division Bell' tour.

Guitars played by Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett. Right, Sofia stands in front of stage props from 'The Division Bell' tour.

Pink Floyd stage props, instruments and even one founding member of the band are back in Montreal for the first time since the psychedelic rock group sold out shows at the Olympic Stadium. A new retrospective exhibition opens at Arsenal Contemporary Art gallery on November 4, showcasing Pink Floyd's evolution and influence.

"Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains" puts the rock band centre stage. It's not just about the band, but by the band.

Founding member and drummer Nick Mason was integral in the development of the exhibition, which has toured Europe, finally landing in Canada (albeit exclusively in Montreal). "Montreal always supplied us with very large audiences, sometimes very noisy audiences," Mason said, remembering the city fondly on opening night.

A pig inflatable at the entrance to the exhibition. A pig inflatable at the entrance to the exhibition. @sofsilva.mtl | Instagram

Visitors don headphones at the entrance of the exhibition, along with a handheld device that plays audio depending on where you are in a room. If you approach a TV, the voices on-screen fade up, so you can hear what they're saying until you walk away.

There's a screen to check out for each year leading up to Pink Floyd's major success, starting with 1967. Band members recount stories about various songs and their experiences while touring. Each video features anecdotes about what was going on behind the scenes as they began to take over the music charts with their original sound.

People uninitiated with the band will get a clear picture of why they became so popular and how anti-establishment themes came to feature in their lyrics. Major fans will get an intimate glimpse at the inner workings of the group.

One room showcases the original art and meaning behind iconic album covers.One room showcases the original art and meaning behind iconic album covers.@sofsilva.mtl | Instagram

You'll hear iconic anthems as you enter a room filled with the original photos behind some of the band's most famous album covers. The art from the "Wish You Were Here" release, featuring two men shaking hands while one of them is on fire, was intended as a visual pun. A nearby plaque explains that the image riffed on the "I've been burned" expression popularized in the '70s, meaning "I've been ripped off."

A pig inflatable and other memorabilia from "Animals." Right, Replicas of the lightbulb suits on the cover 1988 live album, "Delicate Sound of Thunder."A pig inflatable and other memorabilia from "Animals." Right, Replicas of the lightbulb suits on the cover 1988 live album, "Delicate Sound of Thunder."@w.princetagram | Instagram

The inflatable pig, an emblem of the band that was intended to critique the wealthy upper class, shows up throughout the exhibition accompanied by other ginormous, mind-bending artworks floating overhead like they would have at a live show.

The exhibition spans well into the 1980s with later posters showing how the band's aesthetic evolved.The exhibition spans well into the 1980s with later posters showing how the band's aesthetic evolved.@sofsilva.mtl | Instagram

While drugs notably influenced the band's creative output (and their fandom), visible in the trippy blow-up art on display, dosing beforehand is not advisable. You're going to need all of your faculties to take in the breadth of information dispensed on wall plaques.

The exhibit is meticulously designed and assembled, but it's also a largely personal journey since the whole thing is silent if you're not wearing the exhibition headphones. A large room toward the end gives visitors a multimedia show blending colourful floor lights and a musical montage with archival footage of the band.

A huge room with a triple screen and floor projections.A huge room with a triple screen and floor projections.@sofsilva.mtl | Instagram

The exhibition ends in a gift shop that's stocked with some pretty cool stuff. T-shirts featuring band members and trippy '70s designs average around $50. There's also Montreal-specific merch, like magnets ($6), mugs ($20) and Christmas ornaments ($30) sporting a Pink Floyd poster for an Olympic Stadium show. You can also pick up reproductions of the band's album covers ($20) and even an original eye-catching design on holographic paper signed by Nick Mason ($100).

Some of the merch available in the gift shop, including signed original posters.Some of the merch available in the gift shop, including signed original posters.@sofsilva.mtl | Instagram

Overall, it's a well-designed walk through Pink Floyd's emergence and evolution. If you go in expecting a traditional take on an avant-garde band, you won't be disappointed.

Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains

When: November 4 to December 31, 2022

Where: Arsenal Contemporary Art, 2020, rue William

Cost: $27.83+ (Tuesday to Wednesday); $36.53+ (Thursday to Friday); $45.23+ (Saturday to Sunday)

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