Celebrating Leonard Cohen on Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche, for me, is all about checking out as many random things as I can with friends, running into people I haven’t seen in a while and taking the metro home at a time it doesn’t usually run just because I can. This past Saturday was all tgat, but also a chance to celebrate and remember the unforgettable Montreal poet, songwriter and icon Leonard Cohen.

After some time spent at a church and the obligatory run through the Belgo Buildings, we braved the sea of humanity in Place des Festivals to make our way to the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (or the MAC) where the exhibit Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything was showing. The line looked daunting at first, but moved quickly for a Nuit Blanche line.

The first room we entered turned out to be the one we would spend the most time in. It was all about Leonard’s music career, with concert footage from each era mixed in with interviews and archival photos and video simultaneously projected on three walls.

It was on a loop but it took about an hour for the whole loop to start again. It was chock full of great footage and I saw a good chunk of the crowd singing along at several points and caught myself doing the same.

After being treated to a quality mini musical doc, we checked out the rest of the exhibit. There were rooms with presumably equally as thorough videos on Leonard’s poetry and writing and one with an organ where each key played a recording of Leonard saying something.

I would have liked to spend more time in these rooms, but the Nuit Blance bustle and the fact that it was close to closing time (pun intended) for the museum meant I would have to do that some time in the future (okay, enough, two is pushing it). Seriously, though, I will make a point of returning to fully immersing myself in this exhibit before it closes.

While the use of technology was impressive throughout, there was one section, separated into two rooms, that took it to the next level. In the first, there was one screen with a choir singing Leonard Cohen songs (what else). Rather, they were singing parts of Leonard Cohen songs.

When you went around the corner, there was a larger room with what seemed like over 20 screens in a circle facing inwards. Each one had a different person on it and they were all singing or speaking different parts of the same song the choir in the other room was singing, in sync.

If you got close enough to one screen, you heard that person either taking part in the song or moving around, rustling pages or clearing their throat quietly. It was very intimate and human and technologically slick at the same time.

Pretty sure all or at least most of the people were local, too. I recognized one person I know and a few others seemed very familiar.

And then there was the hologram. Yes, in a room made up to look like Leonard’s from some non-specific time in his lengthy career, there was a balcony with a Leonard Cohen hologram sitting down and looking out on the city.

While everything on Nuit Blanche was free and this exhibit normally isn’t, I don’t mind paying to take it in again and fully experience it. From what I already experienced, it’s unique, a great tribute and worth it.

Really glad that Leonard was part of my Nuit Blanche this year.

* Featured image by Stephanie Laughlin

** Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything runs at the MAC until April 9, 2018

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