Guy Laliberté, founder of the widely-acclaimed Cirque du Soleil, is the most famous clown in Canada, possibly the universe. You might have heard about his 11-day civilian-in-outer space expedition in 2009, which I guess also makes him an astronaut! But did you know that Laliberté is also a photographer?
On Sept. 1, 2011, the proud Montrealer made his world premiere of Gaia, a series of photos he took whilst hanging out (or floating around) the International Space Station. Sixty of his best shots are now displayed outdoors in the first-ever exhibition along the Promenade des Artists, a new public space sandwiched in the Quartier des Spectacles near the soon-to-open Adresse Symphonique.
Gaia means “Mother Earth” in Greek – I heard it means simply “Earth” in Aztec culture, so somebody please let me know. It is also the middle name of one of Laliberté’s kids. But basically it gets its meaning from the fact that all the photos were taken by Laliberté while floating in the high heavens and looking down (or up?) at our planet. If you can’t get enough of these images, you can take them home with you, albeit in a smaller book-size format. The full-colour tome also entitled Gaia is available for sale on-site at the One Drop booth (corner of Jeanne-Mance and de Maisonneuve, Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.), or at most major bookstores in the city. All proceeds go to One Drop and Fondation Desjardins, which work to raise awareness on water and the “threat to humanity created by shortages of drinking water.”
Said Laliberté, “When I gazed at Gaia – the Mother Earth of our ancestors – from above, I saw her fragility in relation to the universe, but also her great strength in relation to humanity. She has inspired in me the desire to live and have given me the will to take good care of her… I humbly share Gaia, for the very first time, with the people of Montreal.”
Printed on weather-proof vinyl on massive sheets of aluminum, the slightly hypnotic, highly abstract photos take on an installation feel, contrasting with their urban surrounding. You can roam the Promenade des Artistes 24-hours a day (the area is closely monitored by security). Plus there are fancy night-lights that allow you to discover each photo up-close any time of day, even while the rest of the city is sleeping.
The Gaia Exhibition: Photos by Guy Laliberté, Promenade des Artists, September 1 to October 10, 2011