Imagine, if you will, a mosaic.
Imagine, if you will, a mosaic.
Audre Lorde’s statement that “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”[i] becomes an interesting provocation for cultural heritage institutions and the ethical roles they inherit as repositories, preservers, and distributors of knowledge. Consequently, are fine arts museums as ritualized remnants of imperial history and Western aesthetics somehow exempt from, as Amy Lonetree argues, historical context or the “hard truths of colonization”[ii] as national and tribal museums? These are some of the questions that guide an interest in the curatorial judgement, exhibitionary protocol, and aesthetic consciousness that tend a collection of Inuit Art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, Quebec.
The museum’s first Inuit artworks were donated by collector and self-appointed curator Frederick Cleveland Morgan, who originally purchased three carvings from an exhibition sale at the Canadian Handicrafts Guild in Montreal[iii]. The Guild held annual exhibitions and sales that helped cultivate, promote and distribute Inuit art as an “authentic” and “pure” art form for local and international art markets[iv]. The purchase of Inuit items is significant in that both Cleveland Morgan and the writer James Houston held close associations with the Guild for many years.
As a Guild representative during the 1950s, James Houston helped establish a contemporary Inuit arts industry in the North which facilitated a commoditized taste for Inuit carvings and prints. Importantly, the Guild formed part of a larger colonizing network in the Arctic with the Canadian Government and HBC during a period of rapid socioeconomic shifts for Inuit communities. Although the industry brought economic and cultural revival, the Inuit collection at the MMFA bears witness to a lineage of colonial and administrative activity, forced settlement, and assimilationist strategies in the North[v]. These conflicts are deeply embedded in the collection itself, yet are under-represented in the didactic structure of the current exhibition.
The Inuit Art Collection at the MMFA forms part of the Quebec and Canadian Art Collection, and located on the fourth floor of the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion. The exhibition of Inuit art is currently on display, since its inauguration in 2011, is titled, Takuminartut: Contemporary Inuit Art, 1948-Present. The collection’s history of acquisition and display underscore critical issues of representation, the problematic of historical collections, and curatorial judgement in display strategy.
Importantly, it lacks convenient public access, community engagement and critical reflexivity. Importantly, the exhibition omits critical historical context against the representation of Inuit voices and bios, and the diversity of contemporary Inuit arts, crafts, and performance today. These works, significantly, provide commentaries and narratives that represent art worlds, evidence of cultural survivance, and the ongoing legacies of colonialism through present-day socio-economic realities. and This can be seen, for example, in the works of Annie Pootoogook (b. 1969); Jamasee Padluq Pitseolak (b. 1968); Heather Campbell; Tanya Tagagaq (b. 1975); and Shuvinai Ashoona (b. 1961); Oviloo Tunnillie (b. 1949) among many others.
This textual-curatorial intervention uses promotional posters as historical gesture, institutional critique, and instrumental re-framing of the Inuit Art Collection. They emphasize some of the complex and divergent narratives, discourses, and intentions that a collection represents. As such, banners and superimposed text across each of the posters in this project are tools which create a textual dialogue and evocation with the historical context of the collection, critical exhibitionary issues, decolonizing language, and forms of Inuit arts practices today. It is meant to underscore the entanglements and cultural incommensurability that a collection represents.
It is my intention that these posters evoke the sensibility and reflection that collections themselves also serve as ideological and material monuments of colonial pasts.
[i] This particular essay was written under the purview of Black feminism, institutionalized racism and gendered forms of power in representation. See Audre Lorde. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” in Feminist Postcolonial Theory: A Reader 25 (2003): 27.
[ii] Amy Lonetree, “Museums as sites of decolonization: Truth telling in national and tribal museums.” Contesting Knowledge: Museums and indigenous perspectives (2009): 322-339.
[iii] These include: a walrus by Levi Qumaluk (1919-1997) a seal’s head by Davidee Mannumi (1919-1979); and a snowy owl by Markusi Qalingu Angutikirq (1899-1979). See Louis Gagnon, “Contemporary Inuit Art: A Pioneering Collection”, in The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Collection: Quebec and Canadian Art, Edited by Jacques Des Rochers, (Montreal: The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2012), 268-276.
[iv] This can be seen for example, through the use of promotional and instructional posters and pamphlets, primarily in the 1950s, in addition to artist co-operatives organized and designed to increase the marketability of Inuit Art and artists and the self-sufficiency of Inuit communities. See Emily Auger, The Way of Inuit Art: Aesthetics and History in and Beyond the Arctic, (Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company, 2005), 125-128.
[v] The early twentieth century, in particular, witnessed the arrival of whalers, fur traders, missionaries, artists, and government that sought to institutionalize the North in an effort to secure arctic sovereignty. The erection of churches, hospitals, and residential schools was a governmental strategy that aimed to assimilate Inuit peoples through forced settlement and cultural displacement. The creation of dependent Inuit societies served to disrupt a traditional Inuit way of life. For a detailed discussion on the topic of colonization in the North, see Alootook Ipellie, “The Colonization of the Arctic,” eds. Gerald McMaster and Lee-Ann Martin, Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1992): 39-58.
Ipellie, Alootook. “The Colonization of the Arctic,” eds. Gerald McMaster and Lee-Ann Martin, Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1992): 39-58.
Auger, Emily. The Way of Inuit Art: Aesthetics and History in and Beyond the Arctic, (Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company, 2005), 125-128.
Clifford, James. “Museums as Contact Zones,” in Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997): 188-219.
Lonetree, Amy. “Museums as sites of decolonization: Truth telling in national and tribal museums.” Contesting Knowledge: Museums and indigenous perspectives (2009): 322-339.
Lorde, Audre. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” In Feminist Postcolonial Theory: A Reader 25 (2003): 27.
Otter Lake (Lac à la Loutre), also known as little St-Pierre Lake, fed into the St-Pierre River flowing to the St Lawrence River. The lake has now disappeared and can only be heard underneath the city through the sewers. The Lake spanned almost seven kilometres, its width at certain points being up to one kilometre, and covered the areas that are now Ville St. Pierre, Montreal West, Nôtre-Dame-de-Grace, St. Henri and Atwater. The name of this lake is said to have come from the Indigenous populations who surrounded it in reference to its shape, that of a baby otter inside a larger otter shape (the island of Montreal). The Iroquois cultivated the shores of the lake but with the arrival of the French and the fur trade in the 17th century the lake became used more and more for coureurs and voyageurs.
This projects aim was to follow the shores of this mysterious lake and document the sights and sounds. Through this experience we can see and hear what exists in these locations today.
There is so much mystery surrounding the exact location of Otter Lake and throughout my research I was only able to find certain points where the lake was known to be located. My goal was to see what this lake looks like today in all the points where I know the lake used to be. Initially I wanted to follow the shoreline but this was difficult due to the mystery surrounding the exact location of the lake as a whole and also the construction happening over many areas that the lake covered. So I mapped different points I found in my research and went to discover all those points. It was through this journey of exploring areas that was I able to rediscover parts of this forgotten lake in the present.
Video #1: Parc du Lac-a-la-Loutre
This park is an homage to Otter Lake, a lake that was completely lost due to the development of the City and the Lachine Canal. It is said that the park now rests on top of where part of the lake used to be. This park is the only remaining reference to the lost lake that spanned about seven kilometres from Ville St. Pierre through Notre Dame de Grace and St Henri and was one kilometre wide at its widest point.
Video #2: Parc du Lac-a-la-Loutre Fence
The fence of the park follows the shoreline of the forgotten lake. There is a lot of mystery around where the lakeshore was exactly located, this is the only point that is certain. This park is located at the corner of Courcelle and Saint-Ambroise.
Video #3: Underneath the Turcot Exchange Wide
Part of Otter Lake is known to have been right under the Turcot Interchange. It followed the railway tracks closely around this location and right around here is the point that the trains crossed the lake on their way to Lachine.
Video #4: Underneath the Turcot Interchange Close
The crumbling Turcot Exchange looms over the location of the former lake. The lake was filled using the dirt excavated for the Lachine Canal that would be an easier was of crossing the island.
Video #5: View Across Highway 20
As cars drive along this stretch of Highway 20 their view on one side are the Turcot Yards. This is where a large part of the lake was before it was filled up. Accessing this area is difficult. This view shows what exists now on what was probably the shore or edges of the lake. We can see the big piles of earth showing the constant construction happening in the area. Imagine standing here and seeing a green swamp and lake.
Video #6: View of Turcot Yards from Above
Trying to get many different views of the Turcot Yards is a difficult task. There are so many things blocking access and a view of the area whether it is the highway, fences, walls, or trees. Here it is from above along Rue Saint-Jacques, through the many trees that block the view.
Video #7: The Turcot Yards
The Turcot Yards are directly above where Otter Lake used to be. The ground was raised six feet since the days of Otter Lake and construction continues due to the ground not being solid. There have been debates about how to use this abandoned area. There are many who have begun arguing that the lake ought to be brought back.
Video #8: Saint-Pierre Exchange
This is the location where Otter Lake ended and it is now known as the St-Pierre Exchange where construction often closes the different parts of the interchange and keeps being delayed.
Video #9: Lachine Canal
The Lachine Canal runs close and at times intersects with the location of the former lake. Due to the shallow and swamp-like nature of the lake it was covered up to make way for the canal that would be a sure way of moving through the island easily. The land that was dug up to make the canal was used to cover up the lake. Now with these debates about bringing Otter Lake back they are saying that water from the canal would be used to fill the lake.
Many people do not know that this lake even existed, let alone the Indigenous presence that surrounded it. The land we live on has a history that so many are unaware of, even histories that are below the surface and hidden.
Disrupting the Visual Narrative of ‘Historical’ Indigenous Peoples: an Intervention on Le Collectif Au Pied Du Mur’s Mural in Pointe-Saint-Charles – Estelle Wathieu
The district of Pointe-Saint-Charles (South-West of Montreal) is located on unceded, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) traditional territory.
In September 2013, the Collectif au Pied du Mur inaugurated on Knox Street (Pointe-Saint-Charles) their first and only mural named La Pointe – All Dressed in the presence of 300 inhabitants of the district.  The project dated back from 2003  when a development project (Action Populaire d’Aménagement) that aimed to improve the urban environment of the neighborhood was initiated by Action-Gardien, la Table de concertation communautaire de Pointe-Saint-Charles, an association gathering around twenty community organizations of Pointe-Saint-Charles. Inspired by this initiative, the anarchic group La Pointe Libertaire started their own mural in 2006, but they were instantly sued for vandalism, the wall on Knox Street being the propriety of the Canadian National Railway. After finding an agreement with the railway company, the collective partnered with the Carrefour d’éducation populaire of Pointe-Saint-Charles in 2012, received $20.000 from the artist organization ROUAGE / Engrenage Noir  in order to realize the mural painting, and the City of Montreal and the borough of the South-West funded the last $25.000. From November to May 2013, the collective prepared their intervention. Once they agreed on an outline, they presented the project to the inhabitants of the neighborhood during public presentations. The design of the mural being approved by the community, the mural was painted between May and September 2013. 
La Pointe – All Dressed: a positive evolution in the discourse around the origins of the neighborhood
The theme of the mural was the history of Pointe-Saint-Charles, the fight of its inhabitants for collective autonomy and their hopes for a more egalitarian future. In this sense, La Pointe – All Dressed contrasted sharply with another public artwork that was unveiled on Wellington Street – only five hundred metres away from the first mural – in September 2013. This mural was designed by the artist Annie Hamel for MU, a charity organization producing “turnkey” (to use their own words) murals in Montreal, and depicted eight King’s Wards, the young women that were sent from France by Louis XIV in order to get married to colonists and increase in this way the colony’s population. The mural of the St. Gabriel Elementary School was commissioned by the Maison St. Gabriel Museum to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first thirty-six King’s Daughters in Montreal. The King’s Wards having been welcomed by Marguerite Bourgeoys and her secular religious community, the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, at the Maison St. Gabriel in Pointe-Saint-Charles, they symbolized for many inhabitants the birth of the neighborhood. However, this narrative completely denies the Indigenous presence on the land before the contact with the European settlers. Before the colonization, Pointe-Saint-Charles was a good fishing and hunting area well-known from the Indigenous peoples that lived on the island of Tiohtià:ke (Montréal). By representing them in their mural, the Collectif au Pied du Mur took a first step towards decolonization – something made possible by the collective decision-making process that was chosen for the realization of this project.
Public consultation ≠ inclusive consultation
This public consultation process is in fact a laudable initiative, especially considering the short amount of time that the collective had to paint a mural of this scale.  From the beginning, the Collectif au Pied du Mur aimed to realize a mural in which the residents could recognize themselves and that would be anchored in the history of the neighborhood. Their desire to integrate and co-operate went so far as to invite the inhabitants of the neighborhood to paint with them on Fridays – within the few months of the project, two hundred children left their hand print on the mural and one hundred and fifty adults helped the team at least one time.  However, the fact that they visually represented Indigenous peoples on their mural without consulting beforehand any Indigenous community from Montreal  is questionable, firstly because Indigenous peoples are marginalized by the Canada settler state and that their depiction by descendants of settlers or immigrants that benefit from the current political system can be offensive and harmful for them. Secondly, because the mural was not meant to empower the Indigenous community, but the residents of Pointe-Saint-Charles. The valorisation of Pointe-Saint-Charles and its multiculturalism, as well as the celebration of its inhabitants and their commitment to the struggle for social justice were the stated goals of this mural.
The ‘historical’ and ‘assimilated’ Indigenous peoples: issues surrounding their visual representation in La Pointe – All Dressed
The absence of a dialogue between the artist collective and the local Indigenous communities of Montreal is not the only issue around the representation of Indigenous peoples in this mural. The way that the Indigenous peoples are depicted in the mural is also problematic. Represented on the left part of the mural, they are completely separated from the joyful crowd of the inhabitants of the neighborhood who are demonstrating for social justice. The Lachine Canal makes a clear distinction between the Indigenous past and the modernity symbolized by the industrialization. The risk with this representation is to participate in the discourse of ‘vanishing Indigenous peoples’ that does not correspond to the reality. Another issue lays in the attitude of the Indigenous figures that was chosen by the muralists. In fact, the muralists picture them with a ‘mean look’ that may diabolize the Indigenous peoples in general and convey the idea that they do not belong to the so-called ‘modernity’. But Indigenous peoples still live on this land, they are thus an integral part of the life of Montreal and Pointe-Saint-Charles. In 2006, 555 Indigenous peoples were living in the South-West of Montreal, one of the highest concentration of Indigenous peoples in Montreal . Admittedly, the Collectif au Pied du Mur acknowledged their presence, incorporating Indigenous figures in the crowd, but they represented them as assimilated, advocating for social justice with the others, and not for their own rights. The whole mural gives the image of silent and passive Indigenous peoples: whether excluded from the ‘modernity’ or completely assimilated. Their voices were silenced in order to celebrate the multiculturalism of the neighborhood and the political engagement of its inhabitants.
Disrupting the visual narrative of La Pointe All-Dressed: an intervention
“It is useless for us to become involved in a struggle to improve our image, because native people did not create these images, and they should not be concerned with trying to improve them so that whites will respect them. The society would simply create new racist images for us to work at… ” —Howard Adams, Prison of Grass, 1975 
Inspired by this idea, I chose not to imagine a new version of the mural painting that would that would not be problematic or offensive to Indigenous peoples, but to bring awareness to the issues related the representation of Indigenous peoples in La Pointe All-Dressed.
1- First, I initiated a discussion with two of the painters of the mural, Shaen Johnston and Marco Sivestro – who was also the coordinator of the project. They confirmed me that no consultation had been made with the Indigenous communities of Montreal, but that they would be open to have a conversation about the design of the mural.
2- Then, my physical intervention on the site of the mural meant to disrupt the visual narrative of the mural and to engage directly in a discussion with the inhabitants of the neighborhood. I put a poster on the mural saying in English and French: ”You are walking on unceded, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) traditional territory. Indigenous peoples are not only the past of this land, but its present and future.” (see below the video documentation of my intervention). I chose the form of a poster to keep with the activist spirit of the neighborhood where we can find many political posters in the public space. Moreover, in their book, the authors of the mural themselves encouraged the inhabitants to interact with the mural by adding posters to it.
3 – Finally, this textual intervention will document my critical approach of the mural, as well as my interventions. My hope here is to make my research available to a wider audience, leaving the door open to anyone who would like to engage in discussion with this site or the Collectif au Pied du Mur.
 Chagnot, Johanne, in collaboration with various groups. Art communautaire militant. Projets 2012-2013. Montreal: Engrenage Noir / ROUAGE, 2013, 36.
 For more information about the creation of the mural, see Le Collectif au Pied du Mur. The Pointe All Dressed. Montreal, 2013 (available at the public library of Pointe-Saint-Charles), and their website <http://lecollectifaupieddumur.tumblr.com>.
 This information comes from my inteview of Marco Silvestro, the coordinator of the projet and painter of the three Indigenous peoples on the left part on the mural painting.
 Measuring 80 metres by 5, the mural La Pointe All Dress is the longest permanent mural of Montreal. <http://lecollectifaupieddumur.tumblr.com/post/61412041445/inauguration-of-the-longest-permanent-mural>.
 Le Collectif au Pied du Mur, Ibid.
 This information comes from my inteview of Marco Silvestro, the coordinator of the projet.
 Indigenous peoples represent 0,8% of the total population in the South-West of Montreal, when the average is 0,5% and the maximum is 1% for the city of Dorval. Division des affaires économiques et institutionnelles de la ville de Montréal. Portrait de la Population autochtone à Montréal, 2010. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
 Cited in Francis, Daniel. The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture, Second Edition. Vancouver, BC, CAN: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2011. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 18 April 2016.
George Wade’s monument of John A. Macdonald was created in 1895 and is located at Place du Canada. Monuments like Macdonald’s have recently struggled with different tensions between their intended symbolism and interpretation. There are discussions concerning the role they play and what they represent in today’s society. More pressingly, the vandalism or defiling of these sites reveals a material manifestation of this problematic that signals the irreconcilability of the essentialist version of history they embody and the histories of violence or injustice that are conveniently left out.
If you are reading this in Montreal, you are on unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory. If you are reading this anywhere else in North America, you are on unceded indigenous land, too.
All public space is contested space and Cabot Square is no exception. Located in Montreal’s Shaughnessy Village on the block bordered by Atwater Avenue, Saint-Catherine, Lambert-Closse, and Tupper Streets, the park was first established in 1890. In spite of the obvious continuities of the space, it has undergone many changes and has been the site of various conflicts, ranging from competing nationalisms, to sports riots, to fraught relations between homeless and the police. In the last thirty years, it has become a gathering place for Indigenous people in downtown Montreal, offering a central location for community outreach programs.
My interest in Cabot Square lies in its design. Through my research I learned that many landscape architects have been involved with its transformations over the last 100 years. It may seem obvious, but parks are designed spaces. Every urban park design contains within it the desire to control behaviour and to order space and nature. Every tree in Cabot Square was planted by a human hand as part of a careful plan.
With this in mind, I wondered how the lines and values expressed in Cabot Square over the years participate in a colonial discourse. As a settler-Canadian artist, I wanted to call attention to the actions of settlers on unceded indigenous land. My intervention colonial by design: unsettling postcards of cabot square responds to this history of urban park design in North America.
Part of this project also involves critiquing the absence of Indigenous recognition in the heritage document for Cabot Square, which starts with the development of the land for a park space by Sulpician priests in the 1860s. Inspired by postcards of Cabot Square (formerly Western Square) dating from the early twentieth century (see above), my project consists of four hand-drawn postcards. These postcards aim to unsettle the discourse of Cabot Square by engaging with some of the hard truths of settler-colonialism.
The four postcards, entitled handscape, unseated, people watching, and revisions destabilize the narrative of Cabot Square as it has been written. All four designs are intended to be uncomfortable or ‘off’ in some way. This is my attempt to disrupt the linear and comfortable narrative of the park perpetuated by municipal documents.
postcard #1: handscape (2016)
postcard #2: unseated (2016)
postcard #3: people watching (2016)
postcard #4: revisions (2016)
On April 20th, 2016 I did an onsite intervention in Cabot Square, placing the postcards in the earth. I also held postcards in front of various sites, such as the Cabot monument and neighbouring condo developments. After documenting these interventions, I handed out my postcards to passersby in the park and engaged in some enriching conversations about gentrification and urban wildlife.
Here are photos from that intervention:
— Gabrielle Doiron
Breitkreutz, Sara. 2014. “Stories of Place: Urban Community and Contested Space in Montreal’s Cabot Square.” MA Thesis, Concordia University.
Brück, Joanna. 2013. “Landscapes of Desire: Parks, Colonialism, and Identity in Victorian and Edwardian Ireland.” International Journal of Historical Geography 17.1: 196-223.
CBC News. 2015. “Missing and murdered indigenous women remembered in annual march.” October 4. Accessed 10 February 2016.
D’Andrea, Giuliano E. 1989. “When Nationalisms Collide: Montreal’s Italian Community and the St.Leonard Crisis, 1967-1969.” MA Thesis, McGill University.
Goeman, Mishuanna. 2013. “Introduction.” In Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations, 1-39. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Massey, Doreen. 2005. For Space. London: SAGE Publications.
Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy NETWORK (abbreviated to NETWORK in citations). 2013. “Final Report – Project: Learning from Cabot Square – Developing the Strategy for Community Safety and Wellbeing.” Montreal. July (Updated October). Accessed 12 February 2016.
—. 2015. NETWORK STRATEGIC PLAN 2012-2017. Montreal. Accessed 11 Feb 2016.
Nagam, Julie. 2013. “Charting Indigenous Stories of Place: An Alternate Cartography Through the Visual Narrative of Jeff Thomas.” In Diverse Spaces: Identity, Heritage and Community in Canadian Public Culture, 188-207. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Okeke, Shari. 2015. “New Cabot Square park aims to empower aboriginal Montrealers.” CBC NEWS, June 18. Accessed 10 February 2016.
The Cabot Square Project Facebook Page. Accessed 13 Feburary 2016.
Ville de Montréal. 2013. Énoncé d’intérêt patrimonial – Square Cabot – Arrondissement de Ville-Marie. Montréal, Division du patrimoine. 15 July. Accessed 11 February 2016.
The ancient Roman city of Pompeii was left blanketed in ash for many centuries after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. This exhibition offers a unique look at the objects and artworks that once resided in the lively city. The frescos, sculptures, and jewellery on display give a sense of the luxurious lifestyle led by many of Pompeii’s elite. The poor and rich alike enjoyed theatre performances and gladiator battles, demonstrating that, despite Pompeii’s population of only about 20,000 inhabitants, the vibrant city was extremely culturally active.
Living in the shadows of the luxury flaunted by the rich were the slaves, interwoven into the fabric of everyday Pompeian life yet residing firmly on its margins. Everyday objects and works of art representing and depicting the lives of slaves contrast with the conspicuous extravagance of the elite class to denote the enormous stratification present in Pompeian society.
“Pompeii” offers visitors a look back at the ancient city that has luckily been preserved for our benefit. The contemporary relevance and historical otherness of Pompeii can be glimpsed by the surviving objects which at once resonate with and stimulate further interest in our ideas about the distant past.
Long before Europeans sailed to Canada and began to settle themselves in the new territory, First Nations tribes had already existed there. When Jacques Cartier sailed over to the New World and planted his famous cross on Mount Royal to mark French territory in Canada, Native villages were already in place and had been for a while.
If one would go walking around Old Montreal today, they’d see very little reminders that First Nations peoples had lived on this land before the arrival of the European powers. Not much remains of the memory that indigenous peoples were once settled here a long time ago and laid part of the foundation of the Montreal we live in today.
Our intervention consists of two main components: an augmented reality experience that can be accessed through a smartphone application combined with a walking tour. This augmented reality will fill in the blanks of Montreal’s creation story that have been overlooked: namely, the contribution of First Nations peoples. The sites we have chosen are the Pointe-A-Calliere Museum, Chateau Ramezay and the Lachine Canal. Upon arrival at these sites, members of the walking tour can hold up their phones and will be able to see the missing parts of the narrative.
We seek to challenge the current narrative in place with our intervention. With the combined walking tour and augmented reality, we hope to raise questions concerning why the contributions of First Nations peoples are diminished compared to those of European settlers.
Jacques Cartier Fountain (Monument à Jacques Cartier)
Commissioned by: Eugène Guay
Artist: Joseph-Arthur Vincent (1852-1903)
Inaugurated: 14 June 1893
Height: 9 metres
Location: Corner of rue Saint-Antoine and rue Agnès in Parc Saint-Henri (then Village des Tanneries de Rolland, present day quartier Saint-Henri)
The Monument à Jacques Cartier is situated in the Saint Henri neighbourhood of the South West borough of Montreal. At the time of Jacques Cartier’s arrival the land was unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory and used mainly by the Mohawk community for fishing and hunting along a significant body of water that, now altered and mostly covered due to a public health threat from industrial waste, was once the St. Pierre river. By the time of the monuments erection the Saint Henri municipality was 15 years old, growing out of the Village des Tanneries that began the development with tanning workshops that grew to large scale production facilities. In 1890 the city was offered a piece of land on which they would build a park to please the surrounding local bourgeoisie that inhabited the area. At its center the monument was erected, commissioned by the city and placed in a basin, functioning both as a decorative fountain and commemorative piece. With the turn of the century Saint Henri underwent a sudden surge in industrial development and by the late 1940’s the South West borough had become the leading industrial center of Canada, bringing blue collar workers and their families to the area. In 1992, due to weather damage that it suffered through the years, the monument was moved to the Métro Place-Saint-Henri station and placed in a light shaft drawing the attention of the many residents using public transportation for their daily commute. Today, the mostly residential neighbourhood shows traces of Saint Henri’s changing demographic through the years. Now experiencing the effects of gentrification the neighbourhood is receiving a flood of young professionals as well as students seeking once affordable housing close to downtown and university campuses. The Victorian row houses that encircled Saint Henri square at the time of the monuments inauguration still stand and remind us of the neighbourhoods history, but what of the land and lives of the people who came before Jacques Cartier?
This intervention was born out of a lack of contemporary critical discourse regarding the monument, especially in regards to its restoration and the subsequent replacement in 1992, receiving an Orange Prize from Sauvons Montreal for its supposedly significant contribution to preserving Montreal heritage. Our project aims to draw attention to the colonial implications of glorifying Jacques Cartier in occupied unceded territory and the colonial history that has been erased and rewritten as a valiant act of development and enlightenment.
We are challenging the narratives asserted by the symbolism inherent in the monument and those implied through the city-sanctioned narratives online and in print. We are calling attention to the missing narratives and asking you, the viewer, to determine the political and social motivations for their exclusion. We hope to facilitate better access to these narratives through highlighting previously overlooked details in written and symbolic white washing by providing additional resources and mimicry.
“A Jacques Cartier né à Saint-Malo le 31 décembre 1491. Envoyé par François Ier à la découverte du Canada le 20 avril 1534. J’étant l’ancre, le 16 juillet de la même année dans l’entrée du Saint Laurent, il prit possession de tout le pays au nom du roi son maître, et l’appela la Nouvelle France”
Jacques Cartier is placed at the top of the monument dressed in attire appropriate and fashionable for his time period pointing west wards. The statue at its tallest is 9 meters high. He is standing on a tree stump atop an ornamental four sided pedestal briefly describing his biographical details as well as his having taken “possession” of the country in the name of France. Directly below the pedestal are fountain spouts as well as 4 presumably Iroquois heads, stereotypical long hair and adorned with a vague headpiece, from whose mouths water also spouts. Between them are laurel leaves painted in gold and at the base cattails grow seemingly from the basin accompanied by 4 beavers.
The inscription operates as a method of reinforcing European Terra Nullius narratives and notions of “discovery” rather than theft and genocide with regards to Canada’s settlement history. Using vocabulary that blatantly asserts Jacques Cartier’s taking possession of the land normalizes the act and redresses it as a valiant act of discovery and conquest, replacing the history of the indigenous groups to whom the land belonged. This narrative is further emphasized with the symbolic resonance of Jacques Cartier’s likeness pointing west and standing upon a tree stump. The Bureau d’Art Public, Ville de Montreal official site still today describes this as symbolizing a “country to be cleared”. This continues the narrative that prior to French arrival, the land was unclaimed, uninhabited, primitive, profane and therefor free for the taking. Beavers, the Canadian national emblem, refer to the fur trade initialized by Jacques Cartier upon his arrival in Chaleur Bay, one of the earliest examples of contact between France and the Micmac people. Laurel wreaths signify victory in regards to his achievements, being placed directly below the text. It indicates his success in possession as the inscription tells the reader he sought out to do. Alongside the wreaths are the floating bodiless heads of First Nations, essentially being stood on by Jacques Cartier, conquered and suppressed. Furthermore, as part of the fountain’s functionality, the heads were designed to spout water from their mouths, none too subtly reinforcing the damaging colonial perspective of First Nations’ as ‘savage natives’ needing taming. By juxtaposing the symbol of martial victory alongside the spouting disembodied heads the historical as well as contemporary erasure of First Nation’s people is encouraged. It does this by systematically portraying the hugely diverse and populous community as vague and remote, focusing instead on Jacques Cartier and his conquest. That this “history” continues to circulate without notice or questioning by the members of the surrounding residential community, even with the brutal way in which the heads have been functionally incorporated, is an attestation to the continued legacy of colonialism today.
As a result, our intervention aims to critique and refute these Terra Nullius narratives and propose a counter-narrative, disseminating it at the site of the restoration (Saint Henri Square), the location of the original (métro Place-Saint-Henri) as well as in pamphlet form at tourist information centers, local businesses and cultural centers. The metro station intervention would include a plaque visually identical to the one presently in place, as well as a pamphlet rack with our pamphlets, mimicking the exact layout, format and aesthetic as the city sanctioned pamphlets. At the monument a plaque would also be installed with a similar emphasis, one in which the text would urge the audience to consider the effects of language and narrow historical ‘truths’ on the past and living First Nations individuals and communities. All of the intervention texts would be in English, French and Mohawk.
Lastly the web component of our intervention includes the recreation and exact mimicry of city web pages, subverting the notion of ‘official’ knowledge, authority and perspective by posing as it. As a complimentary project an online gallery would subsequently be created (Digital Histories Gallery) which would serve both as a digital location for the documents relevant to our intervention, its primary source materials which would ideally be derived from the First Nations communities narratives, as well as documents such as Jacques Cartier’s diaries (as well as those of his contemporaries) all accompanied by critical observations pertaining to the documents in order to encourage problematization of established discourses. The gallery could eventually grow to also include maps, a word-cloud and an application from which the audience would be asked to include their own questions, comments and reflections.
Reproduction: Corner of rue Saint-Antoine and rue Agnès
Original: Métro Place Saint-Henri
Intervention by: Carmelina Imola, Misty-Dawn MacMillan, and Ari Isensee