Turcot Interchange inspires Montreal artist Étienne Tremblay-Tardif

Étienne Tremblay-Tardif explores the history of the Turcot Interchange in a new installation at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art at the 2014 edition of the Biennale de Montréal.

Biennale de Montréal installation questions Turcot Interchange's rebuilding plans

(Jeanette Kelly/CBC )

Étienne Tremblay-Tardif grew up on Île-aux-Coudres, an island in the St. Lawrence River near Baie-St-Paul.  

It’s an island with one main two-lane road winding 20 kilometres around the island and the only traffic jam is the wait for the ferry to the mainland.

But ever since he moved to Montreal, Tremblay-Tardif has been fascinated by traffic reports about congestion on the Turcot Interchange.

The now crumbling concrete transportation hub inspired his work Signage Matrix for the Refection of the Turcot Interchange.

(Jeanette Kelly/CBC )

It’s the first work that visitors encounter when they go to see the main exhibition of the Biennale de Montréal​ at the Museum of Contemporary Art which officially opened this week.

Tremblay-Tardif has hung 300 prints, referencing newspaper articles, road signage, architectural drawings and plans, activist posters and pamphlets on a structure reminiscent of the clotheslines of the former neighbourhood that was torn down to build the Interchange in the 1960s.

His installation shows how the Turcot Interchange symbolized Montreal’s optimism and confidence in its future in the late '60s, and also contains examples of shortcuts in the construction industry which led to the deaths of seven workers. 

"The history of the interchange is absolutely central to politics, the ideas of the future of the city, the Expo 67 culture of display, nationalism and the idea of progress at the time," he says.

No vision in new Turcot

Tremblay thinks the current plans to rebuild the Turcot lacks the vision of the first project, and he wants his art installation to provoke a conversation about how we build cities today.

Mark Lanctôt is one of the curators for the Biennale de MontréalHe says the work raises important questions about how we see the future of the city.

"The idea that the Turcot Interchange in the '60s was this thing right out of the Jetsons, [and now] it's become this crumbling, scary, potentially life-threatening structure which will be replaced by something quite plain — there's not a lot of ambition. It has no vision, no space age. It's going to be a a road with another road going through it. It's gonna be a corner," Lanctôt says.

Tremblay-Tardif will continue to work on his piece through the destruction and rebuild of the Turcot Interchange, which is supposed to be completed by 2020.

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.