There are people who may just be passing by a place, but will leave tangible, durable traces. Let me tell you about my meeting with Sébastien. He is the G in the BGL Contemporary art collective.
I had been very impressed with the model presented by BGL for their public art work project entitled "La vélocité des lieux" (the velocity of the place) when I saw it on display in the lobby of the Maison communautaire et culturelle de Montréal-Nord. This object, interesting in itself, announced a magnificent project. I therefore undertook to periodically document its construction during the summer of 2015.
I met Sebastien by chance on a scorching Wednesday when I arrived on the site to take progress photos. As in previous visits, I saw that a group of people was actively working on the construction. I noted that there was also this time a small team of video makers. I figured that the artists would be there for the shooting. Sure enough, when I approached the group, I was told that it was the case. His two partners, Jasmin and Nicolas, being up on the platform of a man lift, Sébastien kindly gave me a few minutes of his time.
In June 2012, the trio, which is well known on the national art scene, received an invitation, along with nearly 200 other artists, from the Public Art Bureau of the City of Montreal. Artists were asked to participate in a Canada-wide competition for the integration of a public art work at the crossroads of Henri-Bourassa East and Pie-IX boulevards. In October of that year, BGL received confirmation that their proposal was one of the five selected for the second phase of the contest. At this point, they had carved the first three-dimensional draft of the project out of cardboard with exacto knifes. In February 2013, three finalists were selected and were given a budget for the development of a pre-production mock-up of their proposed work. BGL’s very accurate model was elaborated by computer and provided a realistic rendering of materials. The members of BGL were ultimately proclaimed winners of the competition.
As their name is prominent in the Canadian Visual Arts world and since they are well represented in the major visual art collections, I thought, wrongly, that the group had previously won its share of public art competitions. Sébastien told me that to the contrary, after many failures, they had virtually pulled-back from such activities given the time and resources invested for meager results.
It is Nicolas, the only member of BGL based in Montreal, who is following the daily progress of the installation. BGL is in good company to make this happen. The group is supported by Boris Dempsey for the technical design and production of the work. It was he who suggested the entrepreneur who carries out the installation work that requires heavy machinery. In the end, many people will have contributed to this project, which also required the cooperation of many professionals from the Borough, the Central City administration and the MTQ. From the fairly substantial budget commanded by the nature of the project, far less will remain in the hands of the artists than the populist comments in the Journal de Montréal may suggest.
The work will be inaugurated on September 19th. I am convinced that “La vélocité des lieux” will become a lasting cultural and geographical landmark of Montreal-North.