Montreal's famous MURAL Festival is well underway across the city, and loads of popular art installations have been popping up left and right. MURAL organizers have unveiled a number of eyebrow-raising festival highlights, including a huge fresco painting by artist Saype on a grassy bit of land at the northeast corner of Mount Royal Park.
The "Beyond Walls" art piece depicts two interlocking human arms, which will only be visible at the park for a "few days." MURAL said Saype's work "stems from a desire to share a positive message of solidarity and collective effort around the world by symbolically creating the largest human chain ever realized."
Now, "Beyond Walls" is not the only MURAL installation gaining major attention. The festival unveiled its most recent addition on June 13, which is currently standing tall on boulevard Saint-Laurent. Montreal… meet BIXO.
The massive sculpture, created by Montreal artist Junko, is located on the corner of rue Milton (directly beside MURAL's Milton Stage) and is made up of recycled materials, including BIXI bikes. "Some of you may have already seen it displayed on Saint-Laurent – but let us officially introduce the final product! Junko's sculpture made out of old Bixi bikes is better than we could've ever imagined! His mind! A huge thank you to BIXI for rendering this upcycling (no pun intended) project possible," MURAL wrote on Instagram.
The name BIXO — a combination of BIXI and Junko — is one that will certainly stick, and considering its size, it's an art piece you can't help but notice. MTL Blog reached out to Junko, who dished out some additional deets on the inspiration behind their latest creation.
"The idea behind the piece was to draw a connection between the role insects play in an ecosystem and the role bicycles play in working towards a more ecologically responsible future," Junko said.
The newest art installation taking over the downtown core definitely gives off Transformers-like vibes, which is a comparison Junko says they get "a lot." Although it was not the single source of inspiration behind BIXO, Junko's admiration for a "wide variety of sci-fi material," has undoubtedly inspired their work throughout their lifetime. "Giant robotic creatures is a pretty common theme, it's nothing new," the artist told MTL Blog.
BIXI, who sponsored artwork in this year's festival, collaborated directly with MURAL, who reached out to Junko to create the large installation. Considering how intricate the BIXO creation is — from the wheels, orange BIXI details, and miniature F-150 truck to its robotic limbs and tail — it comes as no surprise that the process took Junko an entire month.
BIXO, which is ironically taking up a parking spot on the busy downtown street, was also built with a variety of reclaimed waste materials in addition to scrap BIXI bicycles. The public bicycle-sharing system said that when MURAL comes to a close, BIXO will be safely moved to the BIXI warehouse.
Junko's work often follows a similar theme when it comes to the ecosystem. Several of their past works have also touched on environmental issues, including Earth Dragon, an art installation Junko created in January of 2022. The remarkable piece was also made up of entirely repurposed materials and stands tall atop a Notre-Dame-de-Grâce hill directly beside the McGill University Health Centre along Route 136. Earth Dragon is still standing tall, overlooking the city for those who have yet to feast their eyes on the stunning piece.
Similarly, the Montreal-based artist assembled the majestic Forest Spirit structure back in December 2021 — located in the Hochelaga area. "With the small amount of surrounding forested area threatened by industry and development, the Forest Spirit wanders, in search of a home," Junko captioned a shot of Forest Spirit on Instagram.
Although Junko is keeping their next move under wraps for now, it's safe to say their next creation will be just as grand (if not grander than BIXO), and we will definitely be keeping an eye out for what's to come.
Art Installation: BIXO
Where You Can Spot BIXO: Boulevard Saint-Laurent (corner of Milton — directly beside MURAL's Milton Stage)
What is MURAL Festival?
According to its website, "MURAL is a nonprofit organization based in Montreal, whose mission is to make street art more accessible." The organization produces the annual MURAL Festival, a public-art event that takes place alongside Montreal's bustling boulevard Saint-Laurent. The esteemed festival has gained popularity all thanks to its large murals, musical shows, digital installations and tech-centric exhibitions.
When is MURAL Festival taking place in Montreal?
MURAL Festival will take place in Montreal starting June 8 to 18, 2023. "The production of certain works may begin before these dates or end after," MURAL says on its website.
Is MURAL Festival free to attend?
The Mile End Stage Block Parties all require purchased tickets. However, MURAL Festival does offer many free activities in the Saint-Laurent zone, including the Milton Stage, per MURAL's website.
What is the MURAL Festival schedule?
The Saint-Laurent Zones will run from noon to 11 p.m. for the duration of the festival. Free activities taking place at Milton Stage will start at noon on Saturdays and Sundays during the festival and at 4 p.m. on weekdays. MURAL has indicated that there will be no programming at the Milton Stage on Monday, June 12, 2023.
As for the Mile End Stage, ticketed events will begin at 5 p.m. and close at 10 p.m.
Do MURAL Festival artists do live installations?
Yes. You can get up close and personal (to a certain extent, of course) and witness MURAL artists create artwork and live installations that will be visible to all passers-by.