I was inevitably skeptical entering the old desanctified church where the opening-night party of POP Montreal was being held, but a few moments later the adage “it’s the inside that counts” came to mind (plus I think organizers were trying to be ironic in that postmodern sort of way: playing with our assumptions on the use of space itself). Inside it was, for lack of a better word, really cool.
POP Montreal is one of the world’s largest arts festivals in the vein of Austin’s South by Southwest. Event organizers describe POP Montreal as a “cultural event that champions independence in the arts by presenting emerging and celebrated artistic talents from around the world.” The five-day festival showcases over 600 artists. Last year 50,000 people passed through a door at one of their many, many venues in downtown Montreal, from bars to schoolhouses to the old church.
This is certainly much more than a music festival. Film buffs will enjoy the FILM POP events. Last night, we sat in on a screening of “Andrew Bird: Fever Year,” a documentary that has scorched the film festival circuit in the U.S. and abroad. Installations offer some insight into the future of more traditional arts like painting; the Picassos of the 21st century may be renowned for their multi-dimensional work, incorporating a still painting with a projected image on top (still trying to wrap my head around this).
If you’re more pragmatic, how about an economically minded discussion of music? In a public conversation between US music producer and Georgetown grad Guy Picciotto and Quebec producer Howard Bilerman, the role of music in commerce seemed to be the indisputable theme. How does the fusion of music and advertisement affect our relationship to both music and commodities? Does the music, or song, become irrevocably attached to a product, so that the two are in some ways synonymous? And, most importantly, how do these concepts manifest themselves in modern marketing strategies?
Artists and festival-goers mingle at POP Montreal with no barriers whatsoever. If anything, it is one giant discussion on the role of arts and humanities in the modern world. There is certainly something to be enjoyed, if not learned, in Montreal this weekend.
POP Montreal continues through Sunday evening. Check out their website for a full listing of events and to purchase tickets (although many events are free) at http://popmontreal.com/ .