by Arianna Bardesono
Toward an understanding…
Les voisines, created by Arianna Bardesono, is an urban audio walk through Outremont and the Mile End that explores the distance a woman feels between herself and Hasidic women living in the city she calls home. Born out of a deep curiosity to understand, Les voisines aims at connection by exploring humans’ relationship to space, difference, culture and each other.
NOTES FROM CREATOR ARIANNA BARDESONO
November 23, 2017.
The pediatrician’s waiting room is a yellow rectangular room.
The chairs against the walls form an L along two sides.
I’m sitting on one, another mother sits a few chairs away.
I smile at the little boy that is with her.
His fleeting gaze grazes me, a person on the periphery.
My son Marlowe’s hands and eyes are focused
on a bead maze with swirling wires.
Primary colour beads swiftly sliding in all directions.
They’re a similar age, I think.
The little boy joins him. Two engineers fascinated by a new machine.
The coloured bead traffic quickens.
Hands collide on the same yellow bead, and a
moment of confrontation shifts seamlessly into play.
I smile and look up to meet the eyes of the little boy’s mother,
a young orthodox Jewish woman.
My words -like coloured beads- climb up through my throat,and are
instantly stopped up; discomfort jams them up against the rails.
I don’t look at her.
My eyes slice the air.
We are two floating icebergs, her and I.
All of a sudden, the voice of Poppy the receptionist shatters the ice.
I sweep Marlowe up and disappear into the safety of the doctor’s office.”
That day, in the pediatrician waiting room on Parc Avenue, this project began without me knowing it. What happened then? When my eyes went to meet hers, seeking to see and be seen, they found an invisible wall existing between us, a Hasidic Jewish woman and a goy (secular) woman.
Until then, crossing paths with a Hasidic woman in the street had been a common and unexceptional event. Our relationship in the anonymity of the street was simple: she ignored me and I kept on my path, invisible to her. But here, where proximity, human need, and motherhood made our connections so unequivocal, the safety of anonymity evaporated. Somehow the closeness of our children exposed the distance between us, revealing a wall of disconnect. Only this time I couldn’t miss that I was responsible for the bricks built on my side.
Being seen by her made me self-aware. I couldn’t bear all that exposure, so I kept my wall up: projected indifference was my brick and internal turmoil, the plaster.
Les voisines was thus born out of the need to destroy my side of the wall. It became a journey that has not yet come to an end. A voyage into a land unknown. A land that, while appearing impossibly different, exists only a few streets away from my neighbourhood.
Along the path, I encountered my own nostalgia for the past. I discovered the traces left by other immigrants that, like me, came to this land in search of a home. Slowing down to the pace of a stroll without purpose, I lost my bearings and awakened to the stories stored in this city’s fibers. The habitual and familiar faded in favour of the imaginary. Known borders dissolved and a new geography of memory and experience emerged. I was no longer an outsider to a part of my city. Dismantling my ignorance and unsophisticated assumptions about a community I had been living alongside, I discovered the meaning of urban coexistence outside of a drive for integration and assimilation. My walks helped me to forage more shards of “knowing” to add to the mosaic window I am trying build on this age-old wall of distance.
One step in, two out.
Although there is no definite destination, I will borrow Henry Miller’s words to wish you a memorable promenade. “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
NOTES FROM DRAMATURG SHAUNA JANSSEN
On the dramaturgy of walking and storytelling with the city
“Through the act of walking, connections between people and places are continually made and re-made, physically and conceptually over time and through space. Public concerns and private fantasies, past events and future imaginings are brought into the here and now, into a relationship that is both sequential and simultaneous. Walking is a way of at once discovering and creating the city.”
– Jane Rendell, from “Imagination is the Root of all Change.” 2011.
Most of the time walking in the city is practical, a means for moving from point A to point B. Over the years I have embraced walking in urban environments as a means for (re)discovering my relationship to a sense of place in the city. My passion for making art and stories that are produced by and with walking in the city – a storytelling that moves beyond the historical presence of the stage – has been informed by a number of theatre and sound artists, thinkers, writers and performance theorists such Janet Cardiff, Jane Rendell, Rebecca Solnit, Michel de Certeau, and many more. For me, walking and storytelling (vis a vis audio walks) are dramaturgical in a way that scenes are constructed as encounters of being in and with the public and private spaces of a city – a dramaturgy that draws focus to memory and place, exploring space, time, and particularly urban histories, where the city becomes a vital collaborator in the creation of our stories and urban meaning.
As an urban dramaturg I am interested in how the practice of dramaturgy can be applied beyond play scripts and dramatic literature to other cultural settings and performances, disciplines and spaces. In other words, how is the role of the dramaturg and dramaturgy expanding to inhabit other creative, performative, material, spatial, design and social practices; where dramaturgical practice is one of placing emphasis on connections (and perhaps contestations) between settings, bodies, materials, texts, histories, and architectures.
From Old English the noun “neighbour” derives its meaning from “near dweller.” With Les voisines, Arianna Bardesono invites walkers to wander into the social and cultural histories of the Montreal neighbourhoods of Mile End and Outremont; to trace and embody her own footsteps, proximities, and experiences of crossing both real and imagined social boundaries in the city, and what it means to be a “near dweller” searching for an encounter with difference, otherness, and a sense of connection and (be)longing in the city. –Shauna Janssen
Rain Cancellation Policy
In the event of rain, the walk will be cancelled. While these walks can be completed in a light shower, once visibility is lowered and safety becomes a concern we can no longer offer this experience. The Imago Team will be notifying you by the telephone number you provide on your ticket purchase form to reschedule you for another walk, to the best of our ability. If the weather looks questionable and you want to ask about the status of your walk, please contact the office at 514-274-3222.