a solo intervention / durational performance within the group project entitled sur l'expérience de la ville : interventions en milieu urbain

organized by Gallery Optica (Locations in Montreal: The plaza at the Musée d'art Contemporain, in front of the Concordia University Library / McConnel Building, the Snowdon Metro Station, the Voyageur bus terminal, the base of Mount Royal, the Atwater Market, in a private home at 6846 St Denis.)

Photography Credit: Mario Belisle

Over a period of eight weeks beginning in September of 1997, I sat on a wooden market bench placed in various places around the city of Montreal which offered a viewing time frame of transient foot routes as pedestrians uncovered the work - a subtle (dis)placement of expectation / a visual intervention into the norm of experience offered without prior explanation or warning. During these hours I was crocheting an object (memory / garment / cocoon / body bag). Two colours were used: yellow for the time that I was working in solitude and alternately purple, which traced my engagement with the individuals who chose to make contact or establish a connection with my being (out of context) involved in this activity. The thread, used traditionally in the making of Jewish religious men's head-coverings called Kippot or Yarmulkas is extremely fine and made from pure cotton.

Exploring the nature of the gestures (physical, politic, economic, affective, visceral) of the fleshly body/self in the creation of dwelling, I located my own body; its physicality, its memory(ies), its matter and actions as a place of evolving and evoking longing and belonging; dwelling in location and in the (im)material.

One particular interpretation that has me intrigued is the Judaic notion of dwelling (from the Hebrew shechinah) that locates home or shelter as including an understanding of the divine or the ma(r)king of the ordinary as sacred and refers also to non-material (but possibly inner and / or corporeal) sites/places that are temporary, shifting and in a constant yet changing relation with. I have also come across references from the Greek word ecology as meaning home in word and concept.

The places were publicized in part through a classified ad in Le Devoir, a local Montreal newspaper. The ad simply stated the location and times of my sitting, with only an image (detail) of my hands crocheting as a contextualizing agent.

The following is an excerpt from "Giving Voice: Storytelling, Interdisciplinarity and Healing" (Concordia University Magazine Vol 23, Number 1, March 2000).


Once, while I was sitting barefoot peeling beets in a white dress on rue Notre Dame marking the arson that had destroyed my home and the bulk of my life's work, a woman bending low under a full load of grocery bags made her way slowly across the street and stopped directly in front of me. Without so much as a hello, she said "I don't know what it is that you are doing - but let me tell you, I understand it." "But you know," she continued, "it doesn't matter how fast you peel those beets, or for how long, you cannot go faster than time." And with the gift of her words still resonating in my heart, she walked away.


A few years later while sitting barefoot again - this time at the plaza by the Musée d'art Contemporain - actively crocheting as part of another durational performative work, an elderly woman with a deeply lined face and kindly eyes stopped. Unlike in the previous story, this woman did ask me what I was doing. I responded to her question by saying that I was crocheting and that I would continue to crochet five hours a day, every day, for eights weeks in different public settings around Montreal. I crocheted in yellow when I was alone, and switched to the colour purple when someone cared to stop. This woman sighed deeply and began to tell of her life under the Chilean regime of General Pinochet. She spoke of how her family was scattered and how her memories still held pain and sorrow. She spoke for nearly an hour, addressing her words as much to herself, as to me. All the while, I was crocheting continuous circular rows in purple. When she came to the end of her expression, her eyes welled up with tears and with a voice full of all that she was feeling, said "I am so pleased that you changed to purple when I came to speak with you, because I deserve to be in someone's story."