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A tale of two cities

A tale of two cities

The theme of lost waters is a compelling one with students across the globe telling the tales of water lost and found in two cities, Montreal and London, the story of urbanisation, shifting social and political landscapes and  a changing ideas about the rightful place of nature in the city. The lost waterscape in Montreal One of the inspirations for lost waters as a theme came from a research project by graduate student Adeline Paradis-Hautcoeur at Concordia. Adeline was fascinated by the fact that the city of Montreal was built, as most cities are, over a network of creeks, streams, and rivers. And of course Montreal is itself an island, surrounded by the great St-Lawrence River, which was pivotal in the colonization of Canada, and later, Canada’s rise as an industrial power. But the waterways which sustained the early settlements and first towns are today almost entirely invisible, buried to facilitate sewer construction, and the development of infrastructure and housing. Yet before that loss, these rivers were important sites of encounter between first peoples and colonizers, early industrial activity, and also leisure. So Adeline chose to study a lost waterscape, the Glen River. Adeline found that in addition to being home to some of the most offensive industries, such as tanneries, the Glen River was – higher up – also where some of Montreal’s richest residents had photographic portraits made of themselves, wearing their Sunday best. Thus the cultural history of the river tells a story of class, labour, and changing ideas about the rightful place of nature in the city. And this is precisely what’s reflected in the site of former Glen, which was buried in the late 1890s to facilitate street traffic from the factories below, to the managers who lived above. Adeline’s intervention took place in the railway tunnel you can see here. Inside, during pauses in the traffic, one can still hear the river gushing downstream, through the sewer grates in the road. Water seeps continuously, too, through the stones of the tunnel’s barrel arch. For one night, Adeline invited people to come to the tunnel, and using flashlights and flashlight apps, illuminate the places where water could be seen and heard. This poetic gesture began a conversation about art, water, and the urban conditions of Montreal. Forgotten rivers of London Trevor Turpin, a student on the MA Literature Landscape and Environment Programme at BSU presented a public exhibition documenting the Forgotten Rivers of London and remembering them through literature through an analysis of literary that spread from Chaucer (14thC) to 20thC writers. The exhibition documents four rivers that have been lost to view as the city grew, these sources increasingly culverted, diverted and lost to the public imagination. The exhibition was displayed at the University’s Corsham Court campus and will be displayed at the Museum of Bath at Work in July this year. He is currently negotiating with the Environment Agency for it to appear at their offices – either in London or the HQ in Bristol. He is also speaking with Thames Water. A poster based on the exhibition and project was featured at the annual conference of the River Restoration Centre in May was held in Northampton as part of a members only event. Contact: trevor.turpin12@bathspa.ac.uk. Photo 1: Adeline’s intervention took place in the railway tunnel you can see here. Inside, during pauses in the traffic, one can still hear the river gushing downstream, through the sewer grates in the road. Water seeps continuously, too, through the stones of the tunnel’s barrel arch. For one night, Adeline invited people to come to the tunnel, and using flashlights and flashlight apps, illuminate the places where water could be seen and heard. This poetic gesture began a conversation about art, water, and the urban conditions of Montreal.

 

corsham

 

Photo 2: exhibition of Trevor Turpin’s work at Corsham Court with viewers including Robert Clay, Kristin Doern, Olivette Otele, Kerry Curtis and Ian Gadd.

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