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Actions: What You Can Do with the City

Centre Canadien d’Architecture, Montreal Nov 26 2008 to Apr 19 2009
Maider López   <I>Paint Grows Soccer Field, Sharjah Art Museum, United Arab Emirates</I>  2007   Maider López Paint Grows Soccer Field, Sharjah Art Museum, United Arab Emirates 2007

Maider López <I>Paint Grows Soccer Field, Sharjah Art Museum, United Arab Emirates</I> 2007

With Canada’s parliament stuck in crisis and economic reports placing the nation squarely in a recession, many citizens may be wondering what they can do to affect positive change in their communities.

In an interesting stroke of timing, “Actions: What You Can Do with the City,” a new exhibition at Montreal’s Centre Canadien d’Architecture, is focusing on the ways that urbanites, at least, can work in, around and beyond usual political infrastructures to improve life in their metropolises.

Curated by CCA director Mirko Zardini and CCA curator Giovanna Borasi—they of the zeitgeisty exhibition “1973: Sorry Out of Gas” that also hit the museum this year—“Actions” looks at activities ranging from walking to wheelbarrow-riding as sources for reinventing daily life.

Many of the 97 international projects in the show spark a smile, whether it’s seeing children playing soccer in the United Arab Emirates or adults playing dress-up in the United Kingdom. But there is a definite political edge mixed with the levity. This is exemplified by Toronto group Urban Repair Squad installing illicit bicycle lanes and Los Angeles artist Sarah Ross building foamy suits that permit one to lie down on intentionally nap-proof benches.

Zardini underlines that sense of the political with his contention that all the actions presented are “rich in inventiveness and imagination, alien to our contemporary modes of consumption.”

Projects also range across institutional and time-based boundaries, with long-term success stories like the High Line (an elevated railway in New York City converted into a greenspace) juxtaposed against ephemeral swarming activities like collecting uneaten fruit from urban trees.

If you haven’t prorogued yourself—or maybe even if you have—there’s still plenty of ways to encourage and inspire the common good here. (1920 rue Baile, Montreal QC)

This article was first published online on December 11, 2008.

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