Culture  Does art matter?

Ariella Starkman ventures to Concordia’s student art festival to find out

Art does matter. However, the Art Matters festival that promotes emerging talent by creating connections to Montreal’s creative institutions goes beyond just alluding to art’s importance. At the risk of sounding like an after-school-special, I was genuinely thrilled to read Art Matters’ mandate.

Art Matters welcomes the artistic participation of any undergraduate Concordia University student. It aims to create an atmosphere of celebration in artistic expression, exploration, and collaboration, while remaining open to all art forms, disciplines, and mediums, in any language, all while providing emerging artists with practical skills and tools to promote their art. As a student in Montreal, I was ready to seek out two exhibits that I could relate to and that had characteristics and themes that could be directly connected to this vibrant, youthful, and artistic city.

Enter Subject to Change, an exhibition that includes a diversity of mediums – painting, sculpture, design, performance, and video. I caught up with one of the curators, Christopher Spears, to discuss the idea of change, the re-evaluation of design, and the inevitable emotions you will feel if you come check out Subject to Change.


The McGill Daily (MD): Why does the show revolve around the idea of change?

Christopher Spears (CS): The show revolves on the changing context of the mediums in which we present – painting, sculpture, and video. We are interested in how design thinking may be brought out of a design context and applied onto different mediums.

MD: Your description of the show discusses how the works speak to the changing contexts explored in the exhibition. What context are you referring to? Is there a context you feel deserves or needs considerable investigation?

CS: We are referring to what we feel is the changing of design. Both Eli [the exhibit’s co-curator] and I have been having a lot of frustrating conversations lately, with each other and with our peers. I feel like there are a lot of changes going on in the real world that have an affect on the nature of design. I feel like the term design and how it is perceived may need to be re-evaluated, that the term design may be subject to change.

MD: What do you feel are some inevitable emotions or consequent reactions associated with the pieces in the exhibit?

CS: The terms chaos and calm come to mind, although these are conflicting emotions. On the top floor the viewer is surrounded by chaos and perhaps the reason for this is to make our peers feel uneasy about what it is or why it is.  However, design is what it is. I think it’s a great opportunity for people to envision the term design outside of their comfort zone.


I immediately connected with the conflicting emotions that seemed to resonate from the pieces in the exhibition.  I often feel an inner contradiction of being, between my desire to live fast and be young, and the duty I feel to embody responsibility and be sensible.  However, more often than not, students are reminded to carpe diem and not fear experiences that may take them out of their comfort zone.  And this is why I will be returning to Subject to Change on Thursday, March 8 for the opening party. The notion of challenging our comfort zones directly recalls moving to Montreal in the first place, and although scary and chaotic at first, change is ultimately rewarding.

Of particular interest was Julian Garcia’s piece, featured in Subject to Change is entitled “Final Draft (Still Life)” and consists of a rectangular foolscap on a black canvas.  A self-labeled “post-internet” artist, Julian finds his inspiration from the internet, which acts as a material environment that he greatly appreciates.  Furthermore, Julian would like Simon de Pury to visit the exhibit and Tom Hanks to keep him company on a deserted island.  Visit the artist at his website


MD: The name “Final Draft (Still Life)” is very interesting; it presents a contrast to the theme of “change” in the exhibit. Tell me more about the origin of the name.

Julian Garcia (JG): Well, the overall nature of the show as mentioned in the question deals with design and how it is eminently “subject to change” based on its usage. With that in mind, I named my piece “Final Draft (Still Life)” in order to highlight the fact that it captures a well-known piece of design amidst materialization. The image on the canvas is meant to give a still frame of what is happening inside the modes of production when a piece of ruled paper is about to be printed. At that point all one can see is a pristine set of lines that will provide a grid-like environment for the future user to appropriate. The title aims to highlight the stillness of this moment, to freeze an unattainable frame.

MD: What do you hope people will take out of viewing “Final Draft (Still Life)?

JG: I hope my piece delivers an interesting aesthetic experience, and makes people think about how easy it is grow accustomed to things that took a lot of time to design just right. I also hope that people think about how design has in many ways shaped our most basic conceptions towards simple actions such as reading and writing.

Already enlightened by Subject to Change, I was looking forward to My Pregnant Preteen Birthday Vacation with Dad.  An exhibit that showcases works embodying a specific moment, memory, or relationship. Each work uncovers the feelings, images, and occurrences during pivotal episodes of upbringing. I was essentially running out the door when I discovered a contributing artist – and friend of mine – created a depiction of all the men she’s slept with during 2010 and 2011.

Talula C.’s piece, “2010 & 2011” is a visual representation of each sexual encounter, inspired by the notion of “collections”.  The theme of the piece and entire exhibit immediately recalled my own memories and experiences, from encounters with boys, to the first year of being in Montreal.  It must be mentioned that a collection of visual representation of memory and experience, with Talula’s piece in particular, relates to the broader Montreal arts scene because of how enticing the scene truly is. Talula wouldn’t mind if James Dean resurrected and visited the gallery.  Her work can be found at


MD: What was your inspiration for this piece?

TC: The piece was inspired by the notion of “collections”. Obviously the men I’ve slept with aren’t a collection in the traditional sense, but a collection nonetheless.

I was thinking about the phrase “Kill Count” and by just drawing the heads, it references mounted animal heads – I the artist become like a hunter mounting my prized sexual encounters on the wall. As morbid as that seems, the piece is also tender and sweet. The piece is made up of lipstick kisses (with some detail drawing using lipstick) and the act of applying lipstick and kissing the paper – its kind of tender.

MD: What do you want people to take away from your piece?

TC: I hate this question. Everyone is going to project his or her own experiences and thoughts on the piece. I understand that what everyone takes away from it will be different and I’m fine with that. Some people are going to judge me. Others will think I’m empowered. Some will feel uncomfortable and some will think it’s hilarious and fun. And whatever the viewer thinks, well it speaks a lot more about them as a person than it does about me.

I like how the piece can be so many things. It’s feminist, but its fun, making it accessible for everyone to understand. It’s also kind of degrading. I’ve turned the male gaze onto itself, I’ve degraded these guys down to just heads. Some people are going to have an issue with the fact I’ve flattened the experience and that I’ve rated them – like something you would see in Cosmo’s hot guy section. I’m totally fine with all this though.

MD: Sexual encounters are certainly experiences that contribute to a coming of age and transition. Where do you see yourself now, after “2010 & 2011”?

TC: I love making pieces about guys. I’m a little boy crazy – aka obsessive – so maybe once I calm down they won’t be a subject I’m interested in anymore, [but] for now it works. Some of my best pieces have been made at the crucible of love and heartbreak.