Interdisciplinary Arts

Centre d'archivage du savoir sensible

Félix-Antoine Boutin | Création Dans la Chambre

We hid precious messages in the sand

This monumental interactive installation is by theatre director Félix-Antoine Boutin, a reflection on the transmission of family lore, traditions and non-academic knowledge. Artists and passersby share secrets, stories and objects they hope will be imparted to future generations.

Story

COMMUNING

Her white snapback on backwards, Safia Nolin is casual yet focused. You can hear the noise of a skateboard rolling on the asphalt at Place de la Paix, the musical murmur of a radio, the rumble of a large Pacific Western bus. Amid this urban hustle and bustle, a ceremony slowly unfolds before our bemused eyes. Taking in the signs of the city and the elder homeless Inuk man who exclaims his surprise, the display is quiet, forgiving, purposeful. What we see are three chests of drawers arranged in a semi-circle around a platform, alluding to a marble columbarium. What we are about to see is a series of small processions and made-up rituals to reactivate the concept of passing on, our notion of the sacred. What we will do once the event is over is write little texts, create small trinkets, lift the clear panel of the drawers and bury our memories, wishes and secrets in the sand.

Before the ceremony, Otsi'tsaken:ra (Charles Patton), a Mohawk from Kahnawake, came to inaugurate the OFFTA festival across the street on the ground floor of the Monument-National. He said: “The responsibility of my people is to preserve and pass on our culture. Nobody cared about us before, but we are now told to share our message. (...) With these words, I launch this event.” Quebecers and Western society on the whole have lost a sense of consistency, our knowledge across generations, the religion that provides succour and marks the important moments of life. “But instead of mimicking the Amerindian way, we will create our own rituals,” suggested Stéphane Crête, a secular “celebrant”. He was also curious about Félix-Antoine Boutin, the young theatre director behind this “archival centre of perceptible knowledge” and the ceremonial event that accompanies it.

Under one of the rare appearances of the sun this spring, the show begins. Amateur performers, mostly middle-aged women, young children and teenagers, are all dressed in black with white lace collars. They start to move toward the centre of the giant marble-colored chest of drawers, parading pretty banners bearing the inscriptions “Cemetery of lost knowledge”, “Dance along the chosen path” and “Embrace the ghosts”.

Seen:

  • A little girl lying on the central platform. An older lady brings her back to life, and washes her face.
  • A group of children recreate the movements of the woman, who seemed to mimic manual activities of yore.
  • The little girl unties the woman’s laces.
  • The woman lies down, but the children straighten her up and proceed to wash her as well.
  • Two other women cover her in red sand.

Heard:

  • A small orchestra and an out-of-synch whispering choir.
  • Family memories, poetic and quivering, conveyed through speakers.
  • A prayer for immortality: “Remember that it is through the wounds of its ancestors that a people arises / Remember that in the cracks grow the biggest trees / We often need to be lost in order to find ourselves.”   

And here we are.

Utopia

Émilie Laveau lives in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood. It is June 2017 at Place de la Paix in Montreal, and she is knitting men’s slippers next to a huge chest of drawers designed by theatre director Félix-Antoine Boutin and his team. The giant cabinet is comprised of drawers that are filled with soft sand, purpose-built as a repository for secrets and objects alike, to encourage the sharing of family recipes, forgotten memories or fundamental values. Émilie and other members of the Cercles de Fermières have been invited to teach knitting and crochet. “It works!” Émilie exclaims. “People come to learn how to knit, to create arrowed patterns, to spool knit. It’s amazing, there are even men here.”

***

We feel as though we have lost the skills and knowledge of previous generations. We see ourselves as caricatures of post-modernity, estranged by social media and the constant flow of information. We live in a global city, Montreal, where diversity, fluidity and perpetual renewal abound but perhaps our memories and our origins are stifled, a loss that undoubtedly lessens our burdens and liberates us. But must we forget everything? Are our modern, somewhat alienated lives dependent on our capacity to forget? How can the city become the crucible of our entire being, of our urban adult selves, or even our childhood selves and our roots? Are we capable of honouring our ancestors as part of our horizontal, opulent lives? Are we capable of sharing? Of creating a bridge between past and future?

(Cassandre Lambert-Pellerin is a young ethnologist from Quebec City specialized in cultural heritage as well as non-institutional and intergenerational knowledge transfer. She notes that not only are we capable of remembering and imparting traditions, but do so already. “For example, the 100th  anniversary of the Cercle de Fermières was recognized as a historical event by the Government of Canada. Part of its mission is to teach handicrafts and textile arts, and the association continues to recruit women of all ages from across the province, both in cities and the countryside. Moreover, artists are increasingly using traditional forms as a medium for their work, such as an exhibit about the meals served at harvest time, an interactive display on the role of lullabies and rocking chairs (1), the renewed interest in traditional Quebec music, the success of the Chasse-Balcon concerts (2), the popularity of arts and crafts workshops, etc. Tradition is alive, there is no need for nostalgia. This is not an identity issue: it’s cultural expression!”)

***

In the drawers of the giant cabinet made by Félix-Antoine Boutin and his colleagues are tips on how to fish for trout or scare off a bear; a Vietnamese haunted house made of paper; a list of names written in Inuktitut and transcribed in Roman script (Loisa, Mary, Stephan, Pierre, John, Johnny, William, Anis, Akisu); an ode to back alleys and childhood; a small doll made of string; a knitting pattern; memories of a childhood in the countryside. So many painful words, letters to the departed, desperate cries for love. Such intense desire to transcend time and exist beyond the present moment, as suggested in this excerpt from the ‘guidelines’ distributed to bystanders by Félix-Antoine Boutin and his team:

Remember all that touches you every day
Remember all that has always touched you
Remember all that will touch you in the future

***

WE WANT

We want to shake up the memories we have forgotten. We want to immerse ourselves in the ancestral knowledge of the city’s communities.

We want a city that slows down, and increases in density. We dream of slowness, of languor, of depth.

We want it to be the crucible of our entire being. We want it to become a cradle: transparent, open and inclusive.

We want a city in which young and old protect and acknowledge each other. We dream of intergenerational kindness, of endless love.

We want, as Félix-Antoine Boutin writes:

  • To unearth the child in ourselves
  • To dance along the chosen path
  • To embrace our ghosts
  • To exhume fossils
  • To transcribe memory
  • To leave a trace, an imprint
  • To choose our graves
We are Montreal.
We want to bring forth the future, the past and the present, today.


(1) http://www.lesincompletes.com/expo/les-bercantes/
(2) https://www.lachassebalcon.com/a-propos

Traces

Transmitting Knowledge in all its forms 

Centre d’archivage du savoir sensible by Félix-Antoine Boutin and his collective Création dans la chambre is an interactive installation that was displayed at Place de la Paix in Montreal. It was the impetus for a number of ad hoc performances and interventions.

Over a period of 10 days, one-off interventions were presented by artists and artisans such as David Boots, Jacob Wren, Audrey-Lise Mallet, Morana Prats, Sarah Dell Ava and Kohâ Lê, assisted by the presence of the Cercle des fermières, who organized on-site presentations and activities, and encouraged audience participation. 

Discover the ritual protocol that guided audience participation here.

ID card

Félix-Antoine Boutin | Création Dans la Chambre

Félix-Antoine Boutin | Création Dans la Chambre

After graduating from the acting program at the National Theatre School (Montreal) in 2012, Félix-Antoine Boutin founded Création Dans la Chambre in collaboration with the set designer Odile Gamache and the lighting designer Julie Basse, and other contributors, namely the architect Philémon Gravel. Through hybrid and often unconventional performances, Création Dans la Chambre reconnects the performing arts with the sensible by employing traditional processes that bring together elements of intimacy and spirituality with politics and existentialism. The collective has since created several performances which include: Un animal (mort), Koalas, Message personnel, Le sacre du printemps (Tout ce que je contiens), Les dévoilements simples (strip-tease), Archipel (150 Haïkus avant de mourir encore) and Orphée Karaoké. Since March 2015, Félix-Antoine Boutin has undertaken a research residency at the L’L (Brussels) in partnership with Montevideo (Marseille). The company’s latest creation, Petit guide pour disparaître doucement, stems from this research.

Share

Co-production and co-diffusion

OFFTA
LA SERRE–arts Vivants

Credits for the piece

Creation Félix-Antoine Boutin et Création Dans la Chambre
Architectural Design Philémon Gravel
Stage Design Odile Gamache
Lights Julie Basse


Video

Director and Editor Joël Morin-Ben Abdallah; 
Camera Isabelle Stachtchenko, Charlie Marois, Joël Morin-Ben Abdallah;
Sound Sophie Bédard Marcotte, Joël Morin-Ben Abdallah;
Filming was made possible thanks to the equipment provided by ON EST 10, solidarity co-op

Photos

Event Maxim Paré-Fortin
Portraits Félix-Antoine Boutin © Sylvain Verstricht, Création Dans la Chambre © Maxim Paré-Fortin
Performances and interventions Chloé Poirier Sauvé, Chloé Larivière, Vanessa Fortin, Hélène Gruenais, Camille Legeron

Follow the Alternate Routes

Use headphones