Diary of a Neighbourhood: The Writing on the Wall
Journal intime d'un quartier or Diary of a Neighbourhood is a literary work made public in an intimate way. Writer and artist Michael Toppings has paired up with Studio 303 and Productions Margaret Rind as well as the citizens of Jeanne-Mance Street between Pine Avenue and Prince-Arthur to have literature and installation art collide.
Bits of text have been written on the doors and windows of this stretch of the McGill Ghetto (or Milton-Parc, as some residents prefer) to bring to light and to life the silent voices of a neighbourhood.
Although most of the text is written by Toppings himself, bits of it are plucked from thinkers and authors, spanning from Jeanette Winterson to Nietzche. What really piqued my interest was that, while most of the snippets are in French, some of them are also in English, Spanish Chinese, Arabic and Braille. Here, the diversity of any given neighbourhood has been brought from inside the privacy of the home to the public street.
For me, Toppings is really tapping into a sentiment that I feel is growing exponentially in this city: the desire to know the people around us. If these last few weeks of banging on pots have shown me anything, it's that we are all just eager to go out, look each other in the eye and acknowledge each other's existence.
This is what I feel is at the very core of this exhibit, the desire to expose ourselves, to be known and seen for our normal characteristics and to be connected to others through difference. As the musings of what sometimes feels like whispered secrets of the inhabitants of a fictional neighbourhood invented by the author are displayed for all to see, it is easy to get sucked it and imagine who are the characters to who's thoughts we have such intimate access.
Of course, the author has thought about this curiosity and thankfully does not merely leave us hanging, as the texts are complemented with a series of interventions performed by various characters from either the balconies, stairwells or street of the exhibit that will go on until Sunday June 3rd.
When I went on May 28th, a town crier walked up the block in 17th century garb, with a megaphone in hand used to divulge the thoughts, desires and secrets of the inhabitants. Although the content was often poetic and beautifully diverse, the classic crier get-up really detracted from the credibility of the event.
However there have been and will be many more interventions of all kinds, including a variety of modes of expression. There is really no better setting than Montreal in bloom to take in some encouraged eavesdropping. I urge you to check out the schedule of events and walk down to Jeanne-Mance Street, even if it is only to quite literally read the writing on the wall.