New Parc Jean-Drapeau interactive app celebrates public art

The Montreal company Portrait sonore believes music can open the eyes and ears of visitors to the story and beauty of little-known public art. The company's new app helps users explore the sculptures at Parc Jean-Drapeau, many of which date back to Expo 67.

Portrait sonore commissioned to design 'soundtrack' for park sculptures

(Succession Alexander Calder/SODRAC)

The creators of a new interactive app about the public art at Parc Jean-Drapeau are hoping the original soundtrack created for each of the sculptures will open people's eyes and ears to the significance of these works of art.

One of Montreal's favourite electronic musicians, DJ Champion, composed a score that uses heavy metallic sounds and creates an almost monstrous feel for the Alexander Calder sculpture, The Man, commissioned by the International Nickel Company of Canada for Expo 67.

Singer/songwriter Catherine Major scored a simple piano theme for Iris, a work done by Quebec artist Raoul Hunter for Expo made of four pre-cut aluminum sheets that curve in towards each other, producing an enveloping effect.   

Alexis O'Hara chose to see the Obélisque oblique, a work by French sculptor Henri-Georges Adam, as an antenna that had been picking up conversations for years outside what is now the Montreal Casino, but was originally the French pavilion at Expo 67.

Many of the sculptures at Parc Jean-Drapeau date back to Expo 67.  There's a story behind each one and now music to listen to as you look at the sculptures.

At a time when cities like Montreal and Quebec City debate what to do with degraded public art and spaces, the walking documentary argues for the place of public art in the city.

"This is art that is available in parks to everyone. It belongs to the people living in the city," says Antoine Bédard, co-director and sound designer.

"It changes your environment so it's very important for us to make sure people understand the importance of preserving those sculptures  It's sort of a political statement, but we hope to communicate our passion for the beauty we find in the city."

Parc Jean-Drapeau commissioned the app from a group called Portrait sonore. The trio behind Projet sonore, architect Sophie Mankowski, graphic artist Serge Rhéaume and music director Antoine Bédard believe we Canadians have a modern architectural and sculptural heritage to be celebrated.

So they began with a first app that they call a walking documentary devoted to Expo 67. The public art at Parc Jean- Drapeau is the third project.

This fall, Portrait sonore will be releasing other walking documentaries created to explain and enhance our experience of the modernity in cities such as Quebec City, Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver celebrating just in time for Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017 our modern architecture and art history.

"The look of Canadian cities today is inspired mostly by post World War 2 buildings," Mankowski says. These walking documentaries remind Canadians of that heritage.

About the Author

Jeanette Kelly works as the arts reporter at CBC Montreal. She's also the host of Cinq à Six, Quebec's Saturday afternoon culture show on CBC Radio One.