So this morning was a bit strange. I’m deaf in one ear – and this creates a problematic tendency for me to sleep through alarms. So its about 7:55 when I finally realize I’ve slept through over an hour of loud, French radio. I needed to leave by 7:30 to make it to work on time. Astoundingly, I was out the door by 8:10 (but you should see what I look like), and raced to the Metro to catch a train to the West End of the city. When I got on, I realized I had finally encountered the art-project subway car that I had been hearing about for months. Totally out of it and in a very packed car, the experience was sorta surreal, even if I was aware that it was an art project and not some hallucination.
The ads were entirely removed from the car, and the walls were made this deep blue panelling that resembled some bizarre version of ’70s indoor “psuedo-wood”. There were city scape designs on all the windows. And the speaker, which was playing only in that car, varied between jungle beats to church bells to something that sounded like the soundtrack from Heathers. In between, they would play internal monologues that resembled what I’d imagine is going on in many subway riders mind: “Do I know that person? She looks familar. No, her hair isn’t quite right.” Some of the people on the car had obviously seen it before, but others looked very confused. It created this really interesting vibe in the car, as people kept looking at each other for some recognition that they weren’t going crazy and that this was actually happening.
I found a youtube clip of all things that details the car from a cell phone.. bad quality, but interesting nonetheless:
And I also found an article about the project from Spacing Montreal:
Spacing Montreal contributor Jacob Larsen was the first to tell me, at our last meeting, about his strange experience of riding in a metro car with a dark blue interior and creepy music playing over the PA system. Then, earlier this evening, my friend Mary told me that she too was in dark blue metro car when a woman’s voice could be heard saying, in Mandarin, “I think the next station is Berri-UQAM. It’s such a nice day out! That woman over there is cute. Oh, that other woman looks sad. But it’s such a nice day out!”
The spooky metro car is an initiative by the artist Rose-Marie Goulet called Point de fuite. The goal of the project, she said, was to reach out to “people who don’t necessarily have the opportunity to go to a place where they can see art, like a gallery or a museum. Why not have a work of art in our daily lives that can change attitudes, to provoke discussion amongst people in the metro?” In a nod to Montreal’s multilingualism, the audio clips in “Point de fuite” are in French, English, Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic.
“The ambient sound in the metro is very loud, up to 85 decibels, so we created sound ‘bubbles’ that interfere with our own aural space,” added Goulet. “The idea was to create another voyage, by sound and sight, beyond the trip that we take every day.”
So if in Montreal, try and find this car.. its in the middle of a train on the Orange line.. though I take the orange line many times a week and this is my first encounter, despite its existence for many months.