La classe du Chantier : Identity.s of our walking bodies

Project orchestrated by Sophie Cabot with Collège de Maisonneuve

Look back at October 27, 2022

Identity.s of our walking bodies (Identité.s de nos corps qui marchent)

On Thursday, October 27, 2022, students from Collège de Maisonneuve walked through the streets of the Hochelaga neighbourhood towards the Viauville wasteland located at the mouth of Ontario Street in Montreal. This artistic walking experience was orchestrated by artist-in-residence Sophie Cabot in collaboration with literature teacher Marie-Hélène Charron Cabana as part of the Chantier de recherche on eco-friendly art practices.

The exploration of walking coupled with readings proposed by the teacher – an excerpt from the book Marcher, une philosophie by Frédéric Gros and Leslie Kern’s essay Ville féministe, notes de terrain –  was intended to get the group participants to connect to their multiple identities and the urban environment. As they walked through the different spaces of the city, the students were invited to pay attention to their emotions and sensations and to note their observations on a map created by the artist. The traces of their journey and passages from their readings will be reinvested in an essay as part of the course. In addition, the textual and visual documentation of the walkers will be assembled into an installation in the L’imprimerie Vitrine, presented from December 2022 to February 2023.

*Note on the Viauville wasteland: The sector including the Vimont woodland and the former CSF wasteland are the object of a citizen’s mobilization against an important industrial-port project which threatens the environment and the health of the inhabitants of the district. Il s’agit d’un projet de plateforme intermodale que l’entreprise Ray-Mont Logistiques (RML) souhaite installer sur le site de l’Assomption Sud Longue-Pointe.
Source: Coalition Climat Montréal, Mobilisation 6600 Parc-Nature MHM

Learn more about the history and ecosystem of the sector

Learn more about mobilization and stay on top of citizen actions

Sophie Cabot, artist in residency

Entering the wasteland always creates surprises and emotions. Is it the vastness of the place, the abundance of vegetation, the sensation of others having passed before us? I would say that it is all of this and the contrast of the wild state with the structure of the streets. A change of space, a place of permission.

We had just enough time to put down bits and pieces of the daily grind, some were able to let them go. On the other hand, the experience happened so fast, that I didn’t have the opportunity to meet each of the students. Our communication will be through their writings in addition to their sketches on the maps I had prepared to facilitate the identity meetings. The traces, the notes scribbled on the spot, are what I call records of presence. These witnesses of furtive and revealing moments of a deep experience, attached to what connects to others, to life as it is. To all these identities that live within us!

Marie-Hélène Charron-Cabana, teacher

On October 27, I had the pleasure of realizing, with about a hundred of my students, an art walk in collaboration with the artist-run center L’imprimerie and the artist Sophie Cabot. The walk was a time of discovery, followed by intense feelings of peace and happiness at the finish point, located in the Viauville wasteland where Junko’s impressive Starfox was welcoming us. Under the autumn sun, the smiles of my students gave me the courage and strength to undertake the rest of the session with serenity. After the activity, the students had to write an essay about their art walking experience. I was deeply moved by the realizations and reflections they had made during the activity and since. This experience with Sophie Cabot and L’imprimerie led them to realize how anxiety drives their lives, how they don’t know their city and only walk through it in a hurry without seeing it, and to think about what they want for their future and for Montreal. Although some of the youth were reluctant to take it, this inspiring walk through the Hochelaga neighbourhood proved to be a transformative and beneficial experience for them. I am truly happy to have chosen this collaboration which allowed me to discover an artist, an artist-run center, texts by authors, as well as to extend my teaching outside the walls of a school. It has therefore also transformed my relationship to teaching.

Geneviève Cadieux-Langlois, Programming Director

In preparation for the walk, Sophie Cabot and I met with the three groups of students in their classrooms at the Collège. Our first observation was that less than 6 people out of a hundred students lived in or knew the neighbourhood where their school is located. This walk turned out to have a greater potential for discovery than I had imagined. It reminded me that the daily life of a student is governed by a rigid routine, where letting go and voluntary wandering of the mind are not very conducive. I perceive this experience as a space-time arrangement of respite and connection with oneself for the participants. I had the opportunity to join several small groups of walkers along the way. Often, at intersections, I could see their indecision: “Which way are we going, ma’am? I would tell them that everyone was responsible for finding their own way. I told them that I had chosen to follow the students I met without looking at our map, I told myself that from one meeting to the next, I would certainly get there. Dismayed by my answer, the students ended up making their decisions by telling me bits and pieces of thoughts that the walk evoked in them.

Reflecting on this, I interpreted this activity as an alternative means of learning to empower people. I found it valuable in a school context to have an experience that opened up to the Vauville wasteland, a place of mobilization and citizen resistance that allowed youth to project their emotions and ideas onto a changing territory. Many questions about the political stakes of this space made me feel that an awareness was being created. I am happy to have been able to support the artist to concretize this event and to preserve traces of the students which will be reinvested in the Vitrine at L’imprimerie soon.

Florence Leblanc-Dubois, Communications Manager

Equipped with L’imprimerie’s phone, I had the mission, as I was walking, to take some pictures of the students for our social networks. Caught up in my mental turmoil, I left, almost running, to hunt down the students… who had obviously not chosen the same streets as me. I don’t know Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. So it was through a race for photos and an attempt to orient myself that I groped my way east.

On the way, precise images catch my eye. Flashbacks of an evening with friends come back to me. The place now soaked with sunlight takes its place in my mental cartography. I cross a cat. A mural. I walk down a street I don’t know. I follow a group of students and discover the Maisonneuve market.

From now on, it is this day of October 27 that acts as a flashback. When I stray from the very regular path between the metro and L’imprimerie, I rediscover the places where I stopped. Almost happy to see that they are still there, so close, and that they are waiting for me at the corner to make me smile.

Katya Konioukhova, photographer

Thursday noon, the cafeteria of my college is full of students. It makes me feel nostalgic. We move outside to join the others. How many times have I been to this parking lot almost 15 years ago now? We go for a walk with Sophie, Geneviève, Florence and all these students. I was able to exchange a few sentences with them, taking their picture. I was so curious to see what was written down on their cards. I could see them crouching down to write down words or signs, maybe?

They stop, look around, look for street names. Some walk alone, some accompanied, but most keep crossing each other on the way. I think that sometimes they are in a hurry to get there, as if it was a race. But then I see them taking their time. And I, I rediscover the neighborhood with them, it makes me think of all those long walks I took at the beginning of the pandemic, to get lost and find myself.

© L’imprimerie, centre d’artistes, 2024