(Photo credit: Richard-Max Tremblay)

Walk in the Water

by Kathleen Vaughan 

A two-piece, multimodal project incorporating visual art, oral histories and audio work, Walk in the Water is a work of environmental justice, exploring Montrealers’ relationship with the St. Lawrence River that runs along our southern shores, via stories and maps of 200 years of human interventions into the shoreline at Pointe-St-Charles. Walk in the Water incorporates: 1) a wall-sized, touch-sensitive textile map that plays back audio excerpts of interviews with River experts and locals and a hydrophonic recording of the River itself, and showcases six moments of human change to the shoreline, and: 2) a ‘displaced’ hourlong audio walk that invites listeners to consider – from the location of their choice, necessarily ‘displaced’ from the actual, inaccessible shoreline – the history of the St. Lawrence along Pointe-St-Charles as emblematic of how many western urban Rivers have been treated through the arc of industrialization, de-industrialization, neglect and now, at last, reconsideration. 

Once First Nations’ seasonal hunting grounds, a site of early settler settlement and then the cradle of Canadian industrialization, the Point’s shoreline had six major moments of shoreline extension over the past two centuries. The edgelands were infilled with industrial, construction, military and medical waste as well as ‘garbage’ — the city dump was once along its shores – contaminating the soil. People can no longer safely reside along the water here, nor even easily access the River: physical barriers of railways and an urban highway prohibit casual enjoyment of this simultaneously underloved and longed for space. Walk in the Water invites people to develop a deeper understanding of and so a stronger relationship of care for the St. Lawrence River and the other-than-human creatures that live or travel along its shores, aiming for knowledge, engagement and ultimately advocacy for our precious St. Lawrence – and water ecosystems everywhere.