Arts·Artspots

Just like Montreal's actual outdoor staircases, this public art is a bit of a headscratcher

From the archives: Michel de Broin discusses his 2003 sculpture, Revolutions. His public art commissions now extend all over the country.

From the archives: Michel de Broin discusses his 2003 sculpture, Revolutions

Michel de Broin. Revolutions. 2003. Aluminum. Public commission, city of Montreal, Parc Maisonneuve-Cartier, Montreal. (www.micheldebroin.org)

From 1997 to 2008, CBC's Artspots profiled more than 300 Canadian artists from across the country. We're sharing re-edited cuts of the vintage videos this winter.

Name: Michel de Broin

Hometown: Montreal

Artspots appearance: 2006

12 years ago...

Playful and paradoxical: those two words would apply to Michel de Broin's artwork just as well today, and the 2003 sculpture you'll see in this Artspots clip is the perfect example.

It's called Revolutions, and it's found outside Montreal's Papineau metro station, perched eight-and-a-half metres above Parc Maisonneuve-Cartier.

Made of aluminum and galvanized steel, it's de Broin's homage to Montreal's outdoor staircases — one of the city's most charming architectural features, provided you're not the one shovelling them.

Objects I create often work as paradoxes.- Michel de Broin , artist

The piece ties a staircase into a giant, Escher-esque knot. And in the video, de Broin explains the ideas that inspired it.

"The knot shape represents the idea of a continuity of a loop where everything that rises comes back down in a perpetual motion," he says.

"So what I've done with this piece that I feel is important is create a symbol that contradicts itself by its form. You are confronted with a paradox."

"Objects I create often work as paradoxes," he continues. "I don't think you can aspire to a paradox. But in a way a paradox is a form of resistance because it makes us think questions, but doesn't necessarily advance us. It's something that stops time briefly."

Michel de Broin's "Black Whole Conference." (Michel de Broin)

Today...

Just one year after this episode aired, de Broin won the Sobey Art Award — and while he maintains an interdisciplinary practice, when you revisit this Artspots clip, it's interesting to think how his public art commissions now extend all over the country.

In Calgary, you'll find Bloom — a 23-metre-high starburst made of blinking lampposts. Winnipeg is home to Monument, a granite statue of a draped statue that suggests a masterpiece that will never be unveiled (or maybe just a couple of friendly ghosts).

And back in Montreal, there's his most recent public work, commissioned for the city's 375th anniversary year.

Michel de Broin. Dendrites. 2017. Corten steel, galvanized steel. International Civil Aviation Organization Plaza, City of Montreal. (www.micheldebroin.org)

Dendrites, near Place Bonaventure station, is a pair of steel sculptures. From a distance, they might look like extraterrestrial tree trunks, and trees — alien or not — are meant for climbing.

Each structure is outfitted with steps — a nice little callback to Revolutions' spiral staircase.

Watch the clip.

Made of aluminum and galvanized steel, Revolutions is de Broin's homage to Montreal's outdoor staircases 1:57
Michel de Broin. Solitude. 2002. C-print. (www.micheldebroin.org)
Michel de Broin. Superficial. 2004. Mirrors, glue, cement. Produced by FRAC Alsace and Langage Plus, France. (www.micheldebroin.org)
Michel de Broin. Arch. 2009. Ultra high performance concrete, Stainless steel. Collection de la Ville de Montréal. (www.micheldebroin.org)
Michel de Broin's One Thousand Speculations, a 7.9 metre-tall disco ball, appears inside Toronto's Hearn Generating Station at Luminato 2016. (CBC)
The 23-metre high sculpture Bloom, by Montreal-based artist Michel de Broin, is one of the features of Calgary's St. Patrick's Island park. (Genevieve Normand/Radio-Canada)
Michel de Broin. Encircling. 2006. Asphalt, yellow paint, road sign. Scape Biennale, Christchurch, New Zealand. (www.micheldebroin.org)

From 1997 to 2008, CBC's Artspots profiled more than 300 Canadian artists from across the country. We're sharing re-edited cuts of the vintage videos this winter.

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