by Margot Vignal, project participant
with introduction by Raphaëlle de Groot, artist
I met Margot at CIVA (Centre d'intégration à la vie active), located in Little Burgundy. Since November 2021 Jeanne Painchaud, a collaborator with the hippocampus project, had been leading a writing workshop for a “social integration through art” course with Martine Allard, a teacher attached to the CREP (Centre de ressources éducatives et pédagogiques of the CSDM). In the winter of 2022, Martine introduced me to the intergenerational group of young adults and seniors with whom Jeanne was working. Alongside the writing workshops, I invited them to participate in the different stages of Les constellations de l'hippocampe through parallel artistic workshops. The first was a sense-gathering workshop. I used the poetic map I had developed to present the idea of the project: to imagine Montreal as a living organism and ourselves — beings who occupy this body-territory — as sensors and transmitters of its memory systems. Our senses and sensations would then be somehow interconnected through an imaginary hippocampus (that small organ known as the "seat of memory" in the brains of mammals). The poetic map illustrates this idea with a constellation that links the five senses, organs of the human body, and other symbols alluding to sensations, all on a silhouette of the island of Montreal. A scar is also represented in the map. As Margot looked closely at the map, her eyes opened wide. She exclaimed, "Could I make a constellation of all my scars on my body into a galaxy?" And so for several weeks she worked out the creation she presents to you now here in her words.
— Raphaëlle de Groot
I’ve got a feeling inside of me that my world's about to change, running all through my veins like electrical energy.
I had my first surgery at a very young age. It was called rhizotomy. It is used to treat muscle spasticity caused by strange connections between the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles in the back. I was scared in a good way because I knew that it was the start of a great life it seemed like I’d been searching for forever.
Three years later, I had surgery on my hip and right leg to help me walk better. I walked so much as a kid and, after all those years, I felt like it became easier.
The year after that, I had surgery on my arm and the left side of my body. That was to help me with my muscles, to use my hand and my arm better. I couldn't open my hand all the way when I was younger but as I grew and used it more and more, it got better. Doing physio also helped a lot.
When I started working on this project for my art class, with the help of an awesome assistant and photographer — my amazing twin — I was scared and excited to open up this part of me. For many people, it can be difficult to understand that someone at such a young age can have so many scars on their body.
My scars are an open road connecting me back to what I went through in my life, of not wanting to do anything, how I got here after so many ups and downs. Knowing what life had for me, it was very hard for me to feel okay. So many nights crying myself to sleep and being so tough on myself, trying to be better than what I could do or be, I became very depressed. I knew I had to change the way I saw myself in the future, and this art project was perfect to help me tear down the wall I had built up for so long.
I needed pictures to draw out my scars because I wanted to make them as real as they are for me on my body. When I saw the photographs my sister took, I couldn't find words to describe what I was feeling inside. I was seeing some of my scars for the first time. When you can’t move as much as other people, imagine looking at your back or under your arms! I couldn't help but weep with happiness at how powerful the pictures were that she had taken. I saw in them how I grew up getting through so much, a little girl who had big dreams and now, me, becoming a woman who has more to do in life — lighter in a way. They allowed me to see myself better as a person, stronger than I ever thought I could be. They gave me more strength to be okay. Every picture you see is something that I am proud of.
I fight for what I believe in because anything is possible. Overthinking may be one of the biggest causes of your unhappiness. It creates problems in your head that may not even exist in real life. Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.