The quaint cobbled streets of Quebec City in Canada, transformed into an extraordinary canvas for a celebration of art and creativity, bring you into the world of Passage Insolites 2023. As it proudly marks its 10th edition, this cherished public art event reflects a decade of captivating installations that seamlessly blur the lines between art, architecture and heritage. From June 22 to October 9, 2023, the event takes us on a retrospective journey, offering glimpses into the past while revealing four unique circuits. These circuits showcase the creations of 40 artists, hailing not only from Quebec but also from across the globe. Coordinated by EXMURO Arts Publics and presented by the Ville de Quebec, the event is poised to create yet another mark on the cultural scene. STIR explores the core of this year’s celebration, delving into the interplay of creativity that defines Passage Insolites 2023.
With Felice Varini, a Swiss-based internationally acclaimed artist leading the ensemble, the landscape becomes a stage for art and architecture to coalesce at this art exhibition. Varini’s work integrates into the iconic architecture of Place Royale, capturing the essence of Passage Insolite’s spirit. The juxtaposition of Varini’s grand installations with the whimsical, miniature creations of the Swedish collective AnonyMouse forms a recurring theme that stimulates thought and wonder. Whether gazing upon vast landscapes or exploring intricate details, visitors are immersed in a world where scale knows no bounds.
With a programming philosophy that values parity and diversity, the contributions of indigenous artists set a powerful tone for the exhibition with six Wendat artists and one Atikamekw artist. The opening ceremony, led by the all-woman drumming collective Andicha n’de Wendat, is a ceremonial smudging held in the public square of Wendake, Quebec. This performance not only inaugurates the event but also evokes a connection to ancestral traditions, deeply rooted in the region’s history.
The event manifests in four distinctive circuits that celebrate its transformative journey over the past decade. The Passage Exterieur circuit showcases 18 public artworks, adorning spaces ranging from Old Port to Place Royale and Petit Champlain. The tenth-anniversary edition introduces the Retro Circuit, a nostalgic walk adorned with photographs commemorating iconic creations from past years.
Eruoma Awashish, representing the Opitciwan community of the Atikamekw Nation, graces the event with two distinct art installations. The interior work titled Kakike Ickote (External Fire) transforms the historic vaulted cellars into a realm where sculptural and textile pieces engage in a resonant dialogue with the space’s heritage. On the exterior, Kakiwimowok (They Whisper) introduces ravens who secretly converse with one another, a subtle nod to the mysteries that often go unnoticed in urban environments.
Local artists from Quebec and Canada also weave their stories into the tapestry of Passage Insolites 2023. Sculpture artist Ludovic Boney invites visitors to step through the threshold of nostalgia with Family Gathering. The installation recreates domestic interiors, evoking heart-warming memories and reminding us of the comfort found within familiarity.
Among the international artists participating in the event, Felice Varini introduces Double Interlaced Concentric Circles, a groundbreaking display of large-scale lines adorning multiple building facades. This optical illusion not only engages the eye but also challenges our understanding of architectural space.
From Sweden, AnonyMouse presents Little Quebec, an imaginary world where mice lead parallel urban lives. This whimsical portrayal offers a unique perspective on urban coexistence. Bebar, artist and designer from France, straddles the line between figuration and abstraction in artworks marked by bold compositions and cartoon-like lines. Similarly, Elisabetta Consonni from Italy captivates with Zeno’s Second Paradox, where an astronaut moves in slow motion through the streets, defying the laws of gravity.
Venturing indoors, the Passage Interieur exhibitions unfold at the epicentre of the event, 27 Rue Notre-Dame. Here, within the historic Maison Hazeur on Place Royale, five site-specific installations engage in a dialogue with the architectural and heritage context. The thought-provoking intersections of art and history enrich the visitor experience, immersing them in a dynamic interplay of the old and new.
The artistic journey continues at the Passage Insolites with creations like Baptiste Debombourg’s Dark Tide, where broken glass flows through a showroom like a wave, and Estefan’s geometric constructions in solid colours. From Brazil, Leiga employs abstract graffiti art to create vibrant wavy shapes, while Luzinterruptus from Spain floods the streets with Literature vs Traffic, an installation featuring thousands of backlit open books.
Adding a vibrant dimension, the Passage Mural circuit rejuvenates the graffiti haven of Ilot Fleurie. Under the collaborative efforts of Street Art in Action, Quebec Nova Murale, and EXMURO, 14 muralists breathe new life into the pillars of the Dufferin-Montmorency overpass. The Quebec-based graffiti artists, Christophe St-Onge Aubut and Nicolas Chalifour merge their talents to blur the lines between tagging and street art, creating a mural that speaks to the vibrant urban culture of the region. Meanwhile, Jasmin Bilodeau challenges our perceptions with The Era of the American Dream, a blurred sculpture that stands as a stark contrast to the urban landscape, igniting contemplation on societal ideals. The spirit of Passage Insolites is not confined to stationary displays; it pulses with vitality through the Passage Ephemere. This is a series that infuses the street with spontaneous art through monthly pop-up performances and interactive installations.
Celebrating a milestone, Vincent Roy, Co-Executive and Artistic Director of EXMURO Arts Publics, reflects on a decade of growth and creativity. He shares, “This tenth-anniversary represents a turning point for EXMURO. First, it is an opportunity to celebrate what Passage Insolites has accomplished over the last decade by reflecting on how the event has evolved over ten iterations. But it is also a chance to celebrate the many projects that lie ahead for us, and the event’s unlimited (and still untapped) creative potential! In the end, what these ten years have taught us is that locals and visitors in Quebec City crave the surprising and the extraordinary. And we at EXMURO have many more years’ worth of invigorating surprises in store!”
The journey of Passage Insolites 2023 has been a testament to the unending thirst for creativity and the resonance of art. It’s an invitation to explore the city anew, to wander through its streets and alleyways, and to engage with the unexpected. With guided tours enhancing the experience, the exhibition provides an opportunity to see art and architecture through a fresh lens.
In its tenth year, the exhibition continues to captivate hearts, provoke thoughts, and inspire connection, cementing its legacy as an artistic extravaganza that transforms the urban landscape into a playground of imagination and beauty.