Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Le Petit parterre: Marking the Past

The park at the south east corner of Ontario West and St Urbain in downtown Montreal has been reduced to a 10,000 sq ft sliver of its former self. Le Petit parterre is a prettyish grassy terrace when its cherry trees are in bloom, it otherwise seems like a non-place. Even its name is in dispute: before 2009 its larger incarnation was Place Albert-Duquesne; since then it has only existed as part of le Promenade des artistes to the west or Le Parterre to the south. Its reduced size has now turned the northern half into a traffic island.

On this site, in 1962 there was living going on: bustling, sometimes difficult, but maybe, hopeful living. Chinese immigrants working in laundries, widowed French-Canadian women, tradesmen and their families, and a Chinese version of the YMCA.

The city demolished that block in 1963 along with many others during that decade. My intervention sought to make visible the traces of the lives lived on that block.
We began by marking the footprint of one building, 84-86 Ontario Street West, where Alice Vaillancourt ran a rooming house and where the CYMCI took in new immigrants and helped them learn English.

Next we walked around its periphery attempting to embody its size and imagine its presence.

Finally we read aloud the list of resident from 50 to 96 Ontario Street West and hung objects and tokens to represent their occupations on a clothesline.

- Jennifer Roberts

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