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Mawt Trood and a visual story of Le Hull, the urban and the ugly.

Adrian Di Giovanni, guest blogger

“Behind the wall, in Hull, which is the ugliest town I have seen on the face of this earth, if you look beyond the shadows of the buildings, all you will see are tenements” 

For all you Remixed devotees out there, a bit of urban history, et quelques p’tits mots en français, now that the big opening bash is behind us! 

If there are two things I’ve come to learn about Ottawa as a city in 4+ years of living here, it’s that, one, Ottawa is a diamond in the rough kind of place, and when you find those rare gems you are all the more grateful for it. Two, Ottawa’s true beauty, its heart and soul, lies in its rivers, which the city that fun forgot too often turns its back on. 

The word on our sister city Hull (the Vieux Hull part of Gatineau) has been less forgiving. In the mid-1990s, for those of you who can remember that far back, a Quebec politician caused a minor political storm, when she called Hull the ugliest town on earth, evoking a ramshackle mix of government buildings and tenements. 

To hear local visual artist Mawt Trood describe his upcoming Remixed exhibit, there’s no mistaking the ugly in Hull. Trood’s works, which will be on display at My Sweet Tea, feature a series of illustrations of various storefronts and locales in Vieux Hull. They are places that from the outside Trood affectionately describes as “vraiment ghetto.” Probe a little further though and you’ll see that his fascination with Hull, the urban and the ugly actually goes much deeper. The works are in fact a tribute to that age-old artistic conceit of finding beauty in the ugly, or at least the deeper meaning beneath its brutal façade. Mawt Trood creates his illustrations by hand on computer, using a Viacom tablet and programs he largely taught himself to use. In creating a new series, he usually begins by drawing an aerial grid of a neighbourhood and, from there, creates panoramic illustrations of specific buildings. Visually, the illustrations are an attempt to capture a series of contradictions or balances in contrast. Crooked telephone poles, and a tangle of electric wires evoke a sense of nature or the organic, in the rawest of urban settings. No-stroke lines are used to capture both ’big picture’ panoramic shots, but also the tiny, distinctive details that form a geography. Minimalist colours, 5 or less, and shading are manipulated to create depth.

In seeking to give shine to these otherwise rough locales, Mawt Trood is also driven by a larger sense of history. Behind the drawings are the tender stories of neighbourhoods, the comings and goings of everyday life not apparent from the beaten exteriors, which Trood hopes to capture before they are swept away, for good or bad, by the next wave of gentrification – or as it is more vividly called in French “embourgoisement.” A dumpy looking dépanneur stands in as a community centre, and stocks household items not typically found at a corner store for the residents of the nearby old age home. The cheesy (quétaine) bar where people from all walks of life, young and old, gear up for some good ole-fashioned Karaoke on Friday nights. A stand-alone barbershop. Then there’s the Patate Dorée frites stand, the truest of Quebec institutions – “il n’y a rien de plus québecois que ça” – that, in the 1980s, would dish out free French fries to neighbourhood kids as they wiled away those last afternoon hours playing aimlessly in the streets. 

In Vieux Hull’s case, there is a special urgency to Mawt Trood’s work, as the grid is literally in the process of being redrawn. Less remembered, perhaps, is that in 1969 the federal government committed, within 25 years, to put one quarter of all of government buildings on the Hull side. Some of the shops depicted in Trood’s exhibit have already been expropriated and slated for demolition, to make way for new government buildings or parking lots, as part of a last belated push to meet that target. Mawt Trood draws inspiration, both visually and in subject matter, from a wide variety of illustrated books, that include childhood favourites like Michel Rabagliati’s “Paul à Quebec” and Alain Grée’s “1000 Questions,” period pieces like Miroslav Sasek’s 1960s “This is New York,” and Pascal Blanchet’s throw-back “White Rapids,” the true story of a town that was destroyed to make way for a hydroelectric dam in the Saguenay, and ends with the townspeople throwing the keys to their houses off a bridge into the waters below.

Trood also recommends “Le soleil se lève à l’Est,” a recent documentary on the Hochelaga- Maisonneuve neighbourhood in East-end Montreal. And that’s not mention Piet Mondrian, one of the all-time great grid-smiths and champions of a minimal colour, architectural worldview. 

Special for Remixed, Mawt Trood is also planning four illustrations of Chinatown, featuring Shanghai, Raw Sugar, So Good, and an aerial grid of Chinatown. These are all places that he sees as Chinatown’s heartbeat. Trood was gracious enough to give me a sneak-peak of the Chinatown map, and I can tell you it’s all shaping up nicely. (Actually, my immediate reaction came thanks to my stomach: ‘mmm looks like a Singapore noodle grid.’ What can I say, we were coming on suppertime but, fortunately, my comment was met with laughing approval.) Mawt Trood is especially happy that the Chinatown map will connect up with the earlier one of Vieux Hull, where Booth Street meets the bridge over the river. Talk of Booth Street, naturally, got us onto Lebreton Flats, the most tragic story of gentrification in Ottawa’s history, and possibly its biggest failure to see the beauty in urban life and its many daily stories. (If you don’t know the history, check out this “Fields of Lebreton” clip.)

Next up, Mawt Trood has set his sights on Vanier, the next great frontier for Ottawa hipsters and gentrification and, if you ask me, a diamond in the rough kind of place par excellence. A tour of West Coast cities – Victoria, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and San Diego – with two-week stops in each is also on the drawing board for summer 2015…. So stay tuned for more! Mawt Trood was invited to participate by one of Remixed’s guest curators, Zara Ansar. Zara curates/operates the Ottawa Velo Vogue site, and the Plaid Parade. Check out more Mawt Trood originals, including professional graphic design and animation projects at:

Chinatown Remixed Up Close & Personal

Enjoy this short video by Jackpine, featuring Chinatown Remixed participating artist, Claudia Guiterrez. Visit Jadeland Restaurant (number 12 in the Artist Walking Tour Passport) and treat yourself to good food, drinks and fine art!

Don’t forget to get a stamp from Jadeland, Our Porter Airlines Contest continues until June 17th.

Thank You Chinatown!

We want to send a HUGE thank you to everyone who took part in our May 17th festivities at Chinatown Remixed 2014. The festival’s success is the result of a collective effort of the artists, guest curators, performers, musicians, djs, workshop instructors, and businesses. 

We are also indebted to the many volunteers who worked tirelessly from dawn to midnight. You all rock! We are grateful for the financial support from our Jade sponsors – Ottawa Chinatown BIA, the City of Ottawa, Porter Airlines, our Pearl sponsor – Cultural Interpretation Services for Our Communities, our Lotus sponsor – Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company, Broadhead Brewing Company and Kelly Funeral Home, our In-kind sponsors – Busy Girl Design, Canadian Red Cross, Evangeline Flowers, Indie*Go, Ottawa School of Art, Showboat, and So Good Restaurant, and our partnerships – Canadian Museum of Nature, HighJinx, My Sweet Tea, Shanghai restaurant and ZenKitchen restaurant.

And, last but not least, a big thank you also goes to the community and the Kids with Cameras who participated in the opening celebrations. 

Chinatown Remixed continues until June 17th. You’ll have a month to visit the 38 art installations in the participating stores, restaurants and other businesses along Somerset Street West. Remember to bring your Chinatown Remixed passport to collect stamps. For every 3 stamps, your name will be entered into the draw for two free tickets anywhere Porter Airlines travels. Check out our web site ( for contest rules and to download the Chinatown Remixed Artist Walking Tour Passport. 

Chinatown is a vibrant and wonderful neighbourhood to live, work and hang-out. Without you, there would not be a Chinatown Remixed.


The Chinatown Remixed Collective

Happy Chinatown Remixed Day!

Chinatown Remixed starts today!

Come down to Ottawa’s Chinatown, get inspired, meet your neighbours,  grab a bite to eat, maybe even a bubble tea?

Don’t forget to ENTER our PORTER AIRLINES CONTEST. Print your own passport or better yet, come down and get your very own passport booklet. Gather Stamps, contest ends June 17th. 

Enjoy this short video of participating Chinatown Remixed Artist, Colin White by our pals at JackPine. To see more of Colin Whites artwork, visit Nasa Food Centre, Number 31 in the Passport! 

Share this video and come by Chinatown Remixed!


6th Annual Chinatown Remixed: Jesse Burcsik is lighting up Chinatown!

By Yasmin Nissim

Jesse Burcsik is excited. And you should be too! He has been working with various mixed media for 10 years now and has also been part of several collaborative artistic efforts. Chinatown Remixed, however, will be home to his very first personal vernissage. A passionate and imaginative individual, Jesse is looking to bring together a physical and virtual community experience through “Illuminated Peoples”, a live-art exhibit you can take part in from sundown until 11PM in the Zen Kitchen parking lot.

Billed as the “Letter Project”, I had first thought that this live-art experience would somehow involve writing letters, but it’s much, much bigger than that! Using a variety of colours of LED wiring, 8-foot scaffolding and a lot of batteries, Jesse has individually mounted and illuminated each letter in the word “Chinatown”. The fun part is what he would like people to do with all of these neon-lit characters.

People will be encouraged to take down a letter and walk around Chinatown Remixed, taking pictures with their chosen character and tagging their photos with the appropriate title, which Jesse will provide. While people are out adventuring with their letters, a real-time projection of the photo feed being populated by participants for each individual character will be displayed back at Zen Kitchen. So even if one of the letters is off on a walk, the space it occupies will have an awesome projection of its journey.  Jesse has partnered with Matt Cameron for this portion of the project. 

Jesse’s goal is to help people see that they are part of a larger community than they may realize. By bringing people together both online and in the physical world through their participation in this project, he’s hoping to encourage them to forge new connections, while unifying the networks and links they already share.

There is an underlying social message inherent in Jesse’s project that touches on the way people interact with each other and the importance of social media and technology to these relationships. But this is also a fun experience that doesn’t require any prior knowledge of art, and it’s accessible to anyone interested in participating. This is one of the best parts of Chinatown Remixed and live-art experiences such as Jesse’s: you aren’t just observing the art, you’re part of it!