jamming hearts

it is not the pass time of this revolter to publicize herself. we are not about publicity! that would get me kicked out of the club… actually, we’ve been spending time discussing how to get this endeavor to grow without selling out. (stay tuned for our principles of unity soon – ish). but that’s another blog for the day we wrap our heads around that issue. however i wanted to tell you all about a little exercise in empowerment and agency recently conducted in my hood: a little culture jamming for the plateau neighborhood to celebrate independent businesses and act to remind them that we love their kitsch presence despite the growing additions to the area’s gentrification. we love you greek restaurants, ice cream selling deps, grungy bars and we love your smells and sells wafting into carre stlouis in spring and summer.

Jamming Hearts

it’s lighthearted perhaps but the act itself holds a lot of significance. to break out of the passive consumer pattern that the mainstream media presses on us all, we need to listen to our inner urges to express ourselves out on the streets. if you love it, say it. if you hate it, say it. if you feel oppressed by rampant neoliberalist practices that no doubt affect your everyday life (and my street!), ACT. whether you prance around putting heart signs on doors, sticker a billboard, refuse that 24 magazine at the entrance of the metro, resist the mainstream’s imposing influence on your individuality. man i felt good after running around prince arthur at 6.30am.

a bientot, selin.

ps. i’m slightly annoyed at not being able to embed this youtube video. tsssk new wordpress.

spring is here and i spent winter making media. you?

it’s been a long hiatus, i’ll be honest. it was cold and taking out my camera to take pictures just about froze my fingers each time. i started running from warm place to other warm place, fleeing from the icy air, zipping into buildings. perhaps i wasn’t walking around like the situationist i’m usually proud to be, but that doesn’t mean i didn’t seek, find and love those pure montreal moments where you know your community is alive and well, thriving despite the threats of corporate takeovers that are everywhere…

case in point: the dollarama and bank that are opening up on stlaurent. boooooo.

but let’s talk about happy things and community media is one of them.

montreal rocks for alternative and community radio, video, zine, internet (hello, who are we but part of that?). you name it, montreal has it. i’ve been dabbling in these different media all winter and i can tell you that 24hrs in my day has not been enough to participate in all the different ways i wanted to. the usual avenues of mainstream media are completely closed off to individuals in the community. we are but passive listeners, viewers and sheep audiences. we’re a demographic that may sell advertising revenue… what a tasty description of humanity, no seriously.

community-based media though seeks to give a voice to the voiceless, provide the tools of media and dissemination then let you represent yourself, get your issues out in the open, express your creativity. this kind of media makes you an active member of culture, gives you the power to express yourself.

tried and tested, i can personally attest that places like CUTV concordia based community outreach media education and production, the lovely and colorful CKUT community radio station just across from the royal vic, zine productions in montreal (that i found through art matters, on facebook -no she didnt- yes i did, and in the coop bookstore ) want you to get involved. they do, and i did, and it was overwhelming,and it was also empowering, and finally, i was hooked. but there’s much more out there, university radio stations galore, zines everywhere looking for contributions (or smarty pants, start your own zine!), cultural associations that grow and want you, yes YOU, to get in on all the action.

if you’re frustrated with not having your personality reflect in the world around you, why don’t you start expressing yourself? if we keep adding to the ranks of alternative media production, will we tip the scale and take over media altogether? what a delightful revolt that would be.

yours in mediatic production,

selin.

ps: some zines i love. msguided, experiential publication for the travelling woman. and behold lickety split, pansexual smut zine extraordinaire.

I like Urban Blight!

One of Montreal’s many charms is the opportunity it offers for wandering around vast areas of urban blight and decay without facing the risk of getting stabbed or shot on gangbanger turf, which is the risk you’re taking (so I hear) if you try similar walks in Detroit or Buffalo and other rustbelt towns of America.

Today I embarked on a totally aimless walk, starting from my home in Verdun, taking in Point St. Charles, Griffintown and Old Montreal.  It was such a great walk it made me damn near euphoric.  What a city!  What surprises and marvels await the psychogeographer on almost every corner!  Much of the route was familiar, but much of it was new — especially the parts through Point St. Charles.  Let me reiterate how many churches there are in this city.  In Point St. Charles alone I counted at least six.  Several of them were tall and imposing, their stone facades elegantly aging from years of harsh Montreal wind, snow and rain. 

Point St. Charles and Griffintown were Canada’s first industrial slums.  Back in the 1800s, thousands of Irish immigrated to these neighbourhoods every year.  The peak of immigration came during Ireland’s terrible potato famine.  You can learn more about the history of these neighbourhoods here.

My walk reached its dizzying heights during the 15 minutes or so that was spent traversing part of Griffintown and then entering Old Montreal around McGill street.  There are very few cities in the world — perhaps none — that offer such rapid and striking contrasts.  In Griffintown there are wooden buildings literally collapsing to the floor, old brick factories in various states of disuse and decay, and then a few refurbished buildings converted into lofts, and just a few smouldering embers of community…  The Darling Foundry…  Some multimedia firms…  An eatery here and there…  But not a bus or metro in sight!  Then, just a stone’s throw from all this, you enter the beautiful and well-preserved splendour of Old Montreal, with its sophistication and grandeur culminating in the silver dome of Bonsecours Market. 

Oh yes, and back in Griffintown,  there are old stables in the neighbourhood, did I mention that?  And tiny little houses standing proudly amidst nondescript warehouses.  Oh, and then the Bonaventure Expressway looming over it all, cutting the area violently in two…  Yes, it’s ugly, but the sheer chaos of it also has its own kind of beauty. 

Drift around the frozen grounds

I took the green line from my home eastwards.  I wanted to get out and walk around somewhere, but I wasn’t sure where.  Initially I was ambitious enough to think I might be able to go all the way to the end of the line and then meander home.  Then I looked at the Montreal metro map, and I realized the Honore Beaugrand would be a helluva long way.  And it would be a cold, cold walk.  So I got off at Metro Prefontaine.

I said to the guy at the Metro depanneur, “Do you have double A batteries?” He pointed grumpily to some batteries and did not say a word.  They were not the right kind of batteries,  I announced with disappointment.  But I was trying very hard to be polite. And trying to speak French nicely!  But he simply refused to say a word.  I exited, fired off a furtive shot of the metro station itself, then ascended to the rue Hochelaga.  I thought I would have limited camera options given that my low-battery indicator was flashing almost the entire time.  But as it turned out, the camera did not die for about an hour.

I feel like a thief when I walk into other people’s neighbourhood and try to “capture” it.  There seems something predatory and voyeuristic about walking quiet, residential Hochelaga streets and claiming to be making “art” out of it, or whatever this is.  Two men were unloading a van emblazoned with the logo “Les Musclés.”  I wanted to fire off a shot of them carrying boxes into the open door of the apartment.  But I did not. So sadly, Les Musclés resisted capture.

Would they have put up a fight?

At the Parc Baldwin, a resident descended from her stairs and overtly watched what I was doing.  She said nothing.  I said nothing.  I fired off shots of the park as quickly as possible, then pocketed my camera, and pulled my gloves back on.

What am I doing?  Why am I doing it?  I keep asking these questions.  I am not always sure what psychogeography is supposed to mean, at least not the way I do it.  Sometimes it seems like nothing more than trying to get something pretty out of Montreal. 

I am going to call my own meagre efforts “drifts” rather than the grandiose term psychogeography.  When I told a friend what I had been doing that day, I said, “Drifting.”  I am re-branding this supposedly anti-corporate activity.  Will this new brand “sell” the pleasures of our activity to others?

At the Ecole Secondaire Jeanne Mance, I was impressed with the sheer volume of graffiti over the walls.  I thought that surely this building must be abandoned.  But then I looked up and saw flowers — obviously tended — in an office window.  Then I saw that there were lights on.  Then I saw two girls smoking by the doors, looking at me.

I also captured the flight of a plastic bag. 

After an hour of drifting, I needed the salvation from the cold offered by the 24 bus down Sherbrooke.  It is only slightly below zero these days.  No less than minus 5 or 6.  Drifting is going to get a lot harder before it gets easier!

Laurence

line of resistance

an ode to family business in black and white

As I walk so frequently the length of Sherbrooke street from Loyola campus, the remnant of Jesuit architectural traditions now turned into a strange blend of modern architecture and old history, walking past the at first quiet homogeneity of residential streets, until I cross Cavendish, the few blocks of chain stores, and then the lovely chaos of random storefronts. Small family businesses a bright eclectic mix of languages and ethnicities, standing along this tree lined street, their presence a gentle defiance of both concrete and capitalist redundancy. The greeting by name when buying vegetables at Rocky Montana, the organic French bakery, next to the EcoVert coop. Tantalizing used books next to the refurbished retro 60 furniture store. A line of restaurants crossing various oceanic divides all gently strung in a non sequential chain of delightful eatable items: Indian, Jamaican, Korean, French, Italian, Persian. Intersperse graffiti across the brown to red brick hue of walls. A grocery where all the items take me back to Asia, across the street from the best middle eastern market, with shishas perched next to backgammon sets in the glass window… the simple tangible presence of lives being lived, amidst cultural diversity, resisting that creeping sense of mass consumption and uniform production of identity.

by sarah

Verdun

Verdun is not far from the centre of Montreal but is boxed in by the expressways Decarie and Ville Marie, so it feels a bit out of the way. Some people say it feels like a village. If so, it is a lively one. Rue Wellington is seldom quiet. The resto-bar beside my apartment, La Belle Province, has a steady crowd of regulars, and weather permitting, you can hear a good number of them talking or shouting or laughing or arguing outside while they smoke.

I’ve tried to express a few words about Verdun.  In this short video, I claim that people are too busy working to be ostentatious in Verdun, but watching it after the fact, I must conclude that I am a possible exception.

Here are a few things I’ve found out about Verdun since living there.  I am recalling all this from memory, which might be hazy.

It was founded around 1670.  Bars have always been banned in Verdun.  The original Irish and Italian workers were expected to buy from the “depanneurs” and go home and drink.  Even today, the law dictates that to buy alcohol in licensed establishments you must also buy food.  Verdun is approximately 85 per cent francophone.  The local paper is the Messager de Verdun.  It comes to our door every week. 

The tour of Verdun continues in slideshow format.

I hope you have enjoyed the tour of the neighbourhood I currently call home.

Laurence

st. henri subtlety

walking from home, across the decarie divide between ndg and westmount, through the dripping stone clad curvature of the cn underpass, underneath layers of the ville marie expressway to the left appears the framed bright orange sign for home depot, while straight ahead at the traffic lights the burnt remnants of a church stand against the evening sky… in the past weeks of living back here in montreal, just up along the crest which divides st. henri from ndg and westmount, i have found myself frequently walking down glen street, despite the starkness of cars passing overhead, and the gray dominated pallet of the highway. the strange contrast of aging houses, set so close to the rising length of polluting passing cars, and the cardboard copy conformity of that sprawling phenomena, a home improvement store, with its spreading flat shape, demarcated against the renovated loft space, home to artistic endeavors has a strange and subtle appeal.

there is something tangible about simply walking here, in a community with few pretensions, the little park across from the burnt shell of the old catholic church, on this chilly november evening is just about to be livened by a colorfully clad little lady running towards the swing set, as her mother watches. the evening sun, slowly covers the walls of homes with a warm yellow hue, as people rightfully remain indoors, and my hand slowly stiffens around my camera. over the years these streets down here have changed, as old industrial building are transformed into space for new media installations and art galleries. but the local portuguese restaurant still remains, and if it were not quite so cold, i would walk down to notre dame, for the best deal on either breakfast or poutine, depending on which end of the day takes me there. it seems simpler to exist here, though starbucks has encroached on the bus stop booth, as all over the city, it is framed by layers of graffiti. the neighborhood depanneur stands across from an old boarded up building, coated in layers of posters, and paint. perhaps being on the other side of the tracks allows you to gaze up at the farce of capitalism, rather than perching above with all the expected disdain for simplicity. i can’t help but feel at home amongst the rebellious clash of monotonous graffiti, the stark open space between the old industrial building, slowly being rebuilt and reused, and paper cut out wallflowers adorning the back wall of someones home.

a few more thoughts written by sarah.