The island we live on is called Tiotia:ke in the Kanien'kehá:ka language, Mooniyang in the Anishinaabe language, Montréal in French, and Montreal in English. Throughout our process for the Les constellations de l’hippocampe project, we have been conscious that we are in a land with many names and many histories, some less represented than others.
What is Les constellations de l'hippocampe?
It is a public art project by the artist Raphaëlle de Groot, in collaboration with many people and organizations, which has been in process since summer 2021. The creation process itself is participatory. The resulting work will be installed at the MEM – Centre des mémoires montréalaises, currently under construction in the downtown area at the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Laurent.
The English translation of the title is The Constellations of the Hippocampus. In French the term «hippocampe» has a double meaning: it refers to both a major component of the brain, and, a seahorse.
The project is inspired by the functions of memory: the hippocampus is the organ of the brain that organizes information captured by our five senses (smell, touch, taste, sight, hearing) and then associates it with our emotions. Memory is a process of associating and assembling information, like a constellation that links a collection of distinct stars to create a marker in the sky, and with it tells a story.
The intention is to reflect a diversity of experiences of the city. Land has many memories. For this reason, the project has been developed through a wide participative network that includes a plurality of voice and expression.
What can be found on this website?
The site aims to reflect the evolution of the participatory process of the work. It is a procedural space that makes visible the contributions of many people at each stage of the project. These contributions exist in different forms; browsing the web pages you will find drawings, texts, audio recordings, sculptures, collages, and photographs. The content of the site bears witness to the many voices involved, those of both participants and collaborators.
We worked primarily in French, using English as needed depending on the contexts of participation and the people with whom we interacted. We are not able to translate all of the content of the site. The traces and testimonies are presented in the language used by the participants.
How did the participatory process work?
First, we asked almost two hundred people to describe the city in an embodied and emotional way, using their five senses. From their responses, we created a bilingual kit for designing “constellations”, called the ATLAS: an island of pictograms and words to be cut out and then attached to large sheets – the sky. In this second stage, we asked participants: “If you could write an idea, a story, or a message in the sky, what would it be?" This was carried out with about 100 of the participants who had already taken part in the first stage. We then invited new perspectives in, either through workshops in community organizations or by mailing the ATLAS to individuals and families interested in participating. Since both individual and group constellations can be made, the activity can be done alone or in small groups.
From these initial stages, other moments of participation were organized in connection with the making of the work currently in progress.
What approach guided this participatory process?
From the beginning we were looking for ways to connect with people whose voices are heard less often. Collaborating with Exeko and its team of mediators allowed us to meet people in situations of precarity and social exclusion. We also met with participants in outlying neighbourhoods like Montréal-Nord, Pointe-Saint-Charles and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. We met in public spaces, thanks to Exeko's IdAction Mobile van and the MEM's bikes, as well as in community buildings, schools, and a daycare centre. This process of gathering people’s sense memories as a way of describing the city began in autumn 2021. It continued to evolve over the winter thanks to input from facilitators, cultural mediators, social workers, and educators, who worked with us to adapt the activities. In some cases we supported our collaborators in taking creative ownership of the project and designing their own activities.
The network of participation grew organically from the participants themselves. Each encounter drew our attention to others whose particular perspective seemed important to the conversation about the experience of the city and its land. The traces of these conversations and what emerged from them motivated us to continue to invite new perspectives to take part in the ATLAS, the second participatory stage of the project. The participants were being invited to look at the body of material gathered during our meetings and activities, to choose various elements, and to draw connections between them, informed by their particular viewpoint - personal Montreal history, life-stage, personality ; as well as their professional life, responsibilities, and commitments.
The successive stages currently underway are exploring ways to materially translate the spirit of this process into the work by developing ways for participants to leave a trace in it.
Who are the participants of the project?
The list is still growing!
Adam, Adèle, Adélie, Alain, Albert, Alexandra, Alexandre, Alia, Amanda, Amayas, Amina, Anaïs, Anastazia, André, Andrée-Anne, Ange-Blandine, Anissa, Annie, Anick, Anis, Anna, Annabelle, anonyme, Asma, Anthony, Ariane, Arik, Aube, Audrey, Bananas, Basel, Batone, Bella, Benoît, Bernard, Bianca, Brenda, Brian, Brigitte, Camellia, Camile, Camylam, Carlyde, Carole, Carolyn, Catherine, Céline, Chantal, Chantale, Charlie, Charles, Charlo, Charlotte, Chayzee, Chloé, Chris, Christelle, Christian, Christine, Ciaznee, Clara, Clarens, Claude, Coralie, Cyr, Danielle, Dany, David, David-Alexandre, Dean, Delphine, Denise, Diane, Dominic, Dorothée, Duy Manh, Edmond, Eduardo, Elena, Élias, Elie, Elizabeth, Ella, Emerise, Emelyne, Emmanuel, Emmanuella, Emmy, Erika, Esraa, Estelle, Eva, Fahed, Faiz, Falone, Felissa, Fira, Flora, Floralia, Florence, Francesca, Francheska, Francine, Francisco, François, Françoise, Gabriel, Gabriela, Gabierah, Gaïtan, Geneviève, Georgette, Gérald, Gérard, Gerry, Ghita, Giancarlo, Gilles, Guylaine, Gwendolyne, Hana, Hannaniah, Harleen, Heidy, Hillary, Hoi Yuen, Ibrahim, Ignace, Imane, Isabelle, Isak, Iyass, Jack, Jacqueline, Jade, James, Jasmine, Jean-François, Jean-Manuel, Jean-Philippe, Jephté, Jennifer, Jenny, Jeremy, Jerry, Jessica, Jewee, Joaqhim, Joe, Johanne, Jonathan, Joris, Josée, Josh Adam, Jowayriya, Juan Angel, Julie-Anne, Justin, June, Kathryn, Kejing, Khattabi, Kiara, Kim-Sanh, Laure, Laurence, Leila, Leonardo, Lexie, Liam, Linda, Lise, Lison, Louis, Louise, Luis, Lucie, Luisa, Lydia, Lyna, Lynda, Mai, Madjid, Marc, Marcel, Marcus, Margot, Mahussé, Mahutin, Mariane, Marie-Anne, Marie-Claude, Marie-Ève, Marie-José, Marie-Paule, Marilie, Marina, Marley, Martin, Martine, Marwa, Mathieu, Mauricio, Maxime, Maylis, Mehdi, Mélanie, Mémoire du Mile-End, Michel, Michel-Ange, Mikerline, Mildo, Miori, Mira, Mirela, Mme Picard, Nathalie, Nathan, Naya, Nermyne, Nicholson, Nicolas, Nicole, Nina, Norah, Normand, Olga Lucia, Ophélie, Orlann, Otmane, Ouiam, Paola, Pat, Paul, Paul-Émile, Pauline, Philéas, Philippe, Pierre, Priya, Ramatoulaye, Raphaëlle, Raymond, Réjeanne, Rey, Richard, Robert, Rocio, Rose, Ryanna, Safiya, Salem, Sami, Samuel, Sandy, Sara, Sebastian, Serge, Sham, Shane, Sherley, Shining, Simon, Siwar, Snejanka, Sofia, Sophie, Sosuna, Soufiane, Stéphane, Stéphanie, Steve, Susie, Sylvain, Sylvie, Tatiana, Teym, Thai-Soeng, Thanaa, Théodore, Thoa-Phưỏng, Tisya, Urgel, Valaire, Valérie, Viergela, Vincent, Vlad, Walid, Yacine, Yaelle, Yahia, Yara, Youness, Youssef, Yutong, Yves, Zachary.
Thank you to everyone who shared their ideas!!!!
What groups and organizations were involved?
Auberge Madeleine + Cap Saint-Barnabé + CARI Saint-Laurent + Centre des loisirs de Saint-Laurent + CIVA - Centre d’intégration à la vie active + Compagnons de Montréal + CPE Tortue Têtue + École Arc-en-ciel + École des Roseraies + B7’s Farmhouse + La Maison des Amis du Plateau Mont-Royal + Railway brownfield /MHM Nature Park + De Lestre Park + Henri-Bourassa Park + Jarry Park + Lafontaine Park + Le Ber Park + Morgan Park + Saint-Clément Park + PAS de la rue + Place Émilie-Gamelin + Place Simon-Valois + Press Start + Alley behind Mission Old Brewery
Is it still possible to participate?
Several activities will be hosted in the summer of 2022 related to the construction of the public artwork, notably through opportunities to interact with its material: metal. We are also planning a participatory on-site installation of the work in autumn 2022, as well as other inaugural events as part of the opening of the MEM.
A guided meditation is also available via this link (in French).
What role does participation play in the process of creating the work?
At every stage we try to open up and share our creative methods, and to put them in service of encounters. This allows us to value the relational space that has already shaped the meaning of the work. The project was chosen based on a proposal meant to be evolving, in which the form of the work emerges through different types of participation, exchange, and interaction, developed with collaborators who have been involved from the very beginning, when the project was still in competition. Later, this group grew to include members of the MEM team, cultural mediators, community organizations, schools, and an early childhood center. A network of ideas, sensibilities, gestures and practices has been developing at each stage, together producing an imagined memory of the city, sourced from perspectives that are often missed or are difficult to represent (emotion, affect, sensation). Each encounter brings new ideas to the reflection, design and construction of the work.
How did the project take shape?
The commission of this public artwork is part of the transformation of the Centre d'histoire de Montréal into the MEM - Centre des mémoires montréalaises, and its new location. As with all public art projects in Montreal, the artist was chosen through a jury-based selection process put in place by the City of Montreal’s Public Art Bureau. Each project has its own particularities, since the goal of public art is to integrate works of art into public spaces or municipal buildings, taking into account not only the characteristics and constraints of the location, but also contextualizing the space. These considerations inform the commission given to the artist. For the MEM - Centre des mémoires montréalaises, the objective was to support a work developed in a participative way, since the idea of civic participation is at the heart of the future centre's mission. Not many of the Public Art Bureau’s projects lend themselves to this type of process!
Who is the artist?
Raphaëlle de Groot is a Montreal-based artist with a career spanning 25 years. Her artistic practice is known for its participatory methods, which make spaces where diverse voices, views, experiences and stories can meet and express themselves in concert.
Who is collaborating on the project?
Collaborators who met with participants across the city independently or with the artist.
Batone Neto, mediator and musician
Camille Deslauriers Ménard, multidisciplinary artist of game, words, puppet, tales
Eva-Loan Ponton-Pham, artist co-founder of Atelier La Coulée and film director
Exeko, cultural and intellectual mediation organization
Gabrielle Larocque, artist and researcher
Jeanne Painchaud, poet, children's author, artist and screenwriter
Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne, photographer and cultural mediator at the MEM
Marie Achille, art history student and cultural mediator
Sébastien Neveu, cultural mediator at the MEM
Valérie Richard, cultural mediator
Human gems with whom it was possible to develop a network of participation
Anne-Sophie Maréchal, teacher at École Des Roseraies
Annie Pelletier, educator at CPE Tortue Têtue
Brigitte Mironchuck, teacher at the Centre de ressources éducatives et pédagogiques du CSSDM (CREP) at Compagnons de Montréal
Dorothée de Collasson, co-director of programs at Exeko (summer 2021)
Élisabeth Bourassa, teacher at École des Roseraies
Emelyne Mbonabirana, community social worker at La Maison des Amis du Plateau Mont-Royal
Emily Laliberté, inclusive city program manager at Exeko
Emma Tilquin, project manager at Exeko (Spring 2021)
Estelle from the mobilization for the protection of the MHM railway brownfield/Nature Park
Fatima Berkati, cultural coordinator and support for social integration at CIVA - Centre d'intégration à la vie active (fall 2021)
Jerry Nadon, facilitator at PAS de la rue
Jessica Cleenewerk, team leader at the Day Activity Centre at Compagnons de Montréal
Laure Barrachina, educational and cultural program officer at MEM - Centre des mémoires montréalaises
Laurence Normand, social integration advisor / Women of the World Service at CARI St-Laurent
Leila Alice Arabi, teacher at Arc-en-ciel School
Lydia Lagrandeur, counselor at Auberge Madeleine
Marie-Claude Gagnon, director of the CPE Tortue Têtue
Marie-Paule Grimaldi, mediator at Exeko (summer 2021)
Martine Allard, teacher at the Centre de ressources éducatives et pédagogiques du CSSDM (CREP) at CIVA - Centre d'intégration à la vie active
Pierre Martin, executive director of La Maison des Amis du Plateau Mont-Royal
Priya, coordinator at Press Start
Design of the work
Collaborators working with the artist to develop ways of materializing the project concept.
Anne-Marie Paquette, lighting designer at L4 Studio
Eva-Loan Ponton-Pham, artist co-founder of Atelier La Coulée and film director
Gabrielle Larocque, artist and researcher
Simon Marcotte, designer
Making of the work
Antoine Caron, casting, de-shelling and finishing assistance
Atelier La Coulée
Athanasia Blounas, moulding and casting
Eva-Loan Ponton-Pham, support for the material development of the work and lead on all stages of production for bronze elements
Gabrielle Larocque, creation of the road sign medallions collection
Lola Dancose, collaboration in the creation of the bronze assemblages, welding and technical support
Marie-Claude Pastorel, casting
Marion Schneider, prototyping for laser cutting
Raphaëlle de Groot, wax and bronze assemblages
Simon Marcotte, technical supervision and production support
Gabrielle Larocque, editing assistance
Hannah Strauss, translation
Jeanne Painchaud, revision
Raphaëlle de Groot, concept and editing
Roxane Halary, production support and web design
Bureau d’art public
Isabelle Riendeau, cultural development officer
What is the MEM?
Resulting from the transformation and relocation of the Centre d'histoire de Montréal, the MEM - Centre des mémoires montréalaises is a new museum that will soon be opening in the Quartier des spectacles. It collects and displays testimonies from various communities to tell the city’s history.
Who is responsible for the project?
The Public Art Bureau of the City of Montreal is responsible for art projects integrated into public spaces (like parks and squares), as well as municipal buildings (like libraries, cultural centres, sports centres, and more). Once completed, the work will become part of the collection of the Public Art Bureau of the City of Montreal.
Where can more information be found?
About the institutional partners
About the artist and her collaborators
About the organizations in the participants’ network
How is the project funded?
Les constellations de l’hippocampe is funded through the Montreal Cultural Development Agreement, signed by the City of Montreal and the Government of Quebec.