Friday, 17 June 2011

Work, Gender and the (Re)articulation of Public Space: Reconsidering the Industrial History of the Lachine Canal’s Atwater Market Sector

This research project will explore the Atwater Market sector of the Lachine Canal in the southwest area of Montreal. Specifically, the relationship between the Market and the Lachine Canal—in both its past and present uses—will be examined in order to develop a heightened awareness of how social, cultural, political, historical, and economic factors help shape, and are also shaped by, the transformative nature of this public urban landscape. The central questions that have helped guide my research project and shape my Intervention are: what kinds of narratives, histories, and memories—both visible and invisible—are expressed in the spatial qualities of the landscape? In what ways are signs and material traces of the Canal’s industrial, working-class past embedded within the landscape—in both its past and present manifestations? How is the relationship between leisure, labour, and gender articulated—socially, culturally, historically, spatially, architecturally? How might the space be understood as a kind of “living archive” replete with various, and often conflicting, “situated knowledge(s)”? The aim of my Intervention is thus to make the Lachine Canal’s working-class histories and memories visible by using the railway tracks along the Canal’s banks as the setting for a re-reading and re-articulation of this particular landscape. By placing simple, everyday items that would have been used by the working class (men, women, and children) along eight railway tracks, I hope to re-imbue this industrial landscape with a sense of the human labour and lives that have shaped—and continue to shape—this complex and multi-layered space.  

-Alexandra Kelebay

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