The basis for the Parc Industriel project is a reflection on that which we count on leaving as a legacy for the generations to come; and implicitly, on the driving values of today’s society. This reflection tackles such themes as over-consumption and hyper-productivity, activities whose ecological consequences (often little-known, or avoided completely) are neglected. It also proposes that we consider the relationship we have with material objects, which is most often one of replacement rather than re-use, and with the environment as a whole.
The project takes the form of a trip through time, a visit to an archaeological site buried in the wilderness that unveils the remains of an ancient civilization – one that happens to be our own. The theme is not meant to be an accusation - it simply tells the story, in a detached, curatorial tone, of this civilization to be discovered. However, during the visit, we are constantly aware of our own image and we cannot avoid making observations. This trip takes us into the future, re-creating the present as if it were part of the past. This temporal “jump” gives us the perspective of a fait accompli, allowing us to look at the facts from a neutral, even humorous point of view, one that encourages reflection and gives us the distance we need for self-criticism.
Throughout history, the archway has been a symbol of victory and supremacy. As Otto Van Spreckelsen (architect of the Grande Arche de la Défense near Paris) said, its sacred vocation is to be “a window to the world... a view of the future”... a critical view that we will propose at the site of the Parc Industriel on Sherbrooke street. An arched doorway built from masses of compressed metal and paper leads us to a body of polluted water, surrounded by columns of recycled material that remind us of Stonehenge (a metaphor for how truly infinitesimally small our existence is). These columns stand as witnesses to our civilization, reminding us of the ephemeral nature of knowledge and the objects around us, as well as of our own megalomania and our tendency towards destruction.
A 40-foot stairway takes us up to a platform overlooking a bin where we will invite the public to throw away an ordinary, everyday object. Cell phones, computers, lamps etc... such will be the contents of this “grave” for modern Man. Like a ritual, this sacrificial gesture will reveal how the object has come to be so all-important, by showing us the astounding quantity of consumer products that we generate and that have come to be our masters.
The site has true archaeological value. The museum at Pointe à Callière and the Ministry of Culture and Communications hope to be able to unveil the foundations of the old parish residence. Part of the area protected by the Maison Notman, this gesture forces us to take a stand on our heritage and to constantly be aware of that which we will leave behind and the environmental consequences of our actions in the past, present and future.
Of course, the site will open up the street as an alternative public space, but another installation (a sound environment), will broaden its horizons to include the whole city and even the world. A number of speakers (again, recycled material) will be placed around the children’s play area, broadcasting pre-recorded sounds from a different neighborhood in the city. We will hear the muffled, day-to-day life of another public space, with foreign languages and music from different cultures giving us the illusion of a faraway place. Globalization and cosmopolitanism blend into the project, making us aware of others who are living in the same present moment. This installation is a continuation of ATSA’s ideas for the crossing of cultures and identities, and the multiple possibilities that a space can offer with its spatial and temporal organization.
This project is part of a broader context of education and responsibility regarding the environment. To this end, street kids will work with Pops (thanks to Alvaro and l’X, who already make their own compost) and will be paired with horticultural students from the Louis Riel School for the design and maintenance of the site. Many other organizations will also participate, including the Éco-quartier network, Équiterre, Greenpeace Montreal, Environment Canada, the Centre d’écologie urbaine, and Compo-Richelieu, providing us with a wide scope of ecological information to be incorporated on-site, and by animating our “Eco-Saturdays”, giving workshops, hosting kiosks, projections, etc...
As meals are fundamental places and times for exchange, and to make the space even more inviting, picnic tables and barbecues will be installed and made available to all. These “community dinners” will make the site all the more convivial, reflecting one of ATSA’s primary mandates – that is, to revive a sense of community in abandoned urban spaces.
A stimulating aesthetic, architectural, historical and temporal experience, the Parc Industriel project will generate awareness and discussions about who we are and what we plan on leaving for our children – in a humorous, accessible manner, but one that still has full impact. As with other archaeological sites open to tourists, the Parc Industriel will be a public space. It will also be a place for amusement and reflection, a meeting place, a part of nature. The development of the project responds to each of these aspects, with its fantastical and educational aspects, and with the green space it will provide.