Friday, February 13th, 5:30pm. Downtown is mildly frantic with preparations for valentine’s day. Stores and restaurants have trotted out multitudes of pink and red velvet, tulle, sparkles, bows, special deals. Buy, sell romance – everywhere the objectification and commodification of the heart. Underage underwear models loom three stories high on bright billboards. Below, bundled Montrealers struggle through the slush, a token of love in their gloved hands.
We meet at the place where the steps rise up from rue Mackay, between Sherbrooke and de Maisonneuve. It is cold; the sun has just set. You’re dressed warmly, from head to toe. So am I. Maybe – almost certainly – there will be snow.
We grip our mobile phones, our flashlights, the lights bouncing on the icy sidewalk and steps. The music begins. We start to walk.
love in a cold climate is presented in solidarity with #ShutDownCanada, a movement to press the Canadian government to radically reframe its policies concerning First Nations land rights, and to launch the much-needed inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
love in a cold climate will engage dancers and other participants in an unscripted collaboration with an underused, institutional space: the Hall Terrace. Until recently, the Henry F. Hall Building (1966) was the largest building on the downtown campus of Concordia University, Montréal. The Terrace, located immediately north and behind the Hall pavilion, is a remnant of modernist architectural principles and urban planning. Originally intended to be a social space and a connector between the campus and surrounding urban fabric, the terrace is today a bleak expanse of concrete and brick, dotted with a few picnic tables and uninspired lighting.
Baking hot in summer, a wind tunnel in winter, this space needs some love.
In less than fifteen minutes, the participants in love in a cold climate will transform the Hall Terrace’s impoverished spatial qualities, and bring out its many affordances, temporarily transforming it into a place of gesture, movement, and light. Moving through the corridor of space, from west to east, participants will use their flashlights, or flashlight apps, to illuminate the many textures and surfaces of the Hall Terrace. As a wordless song begins to play, we will approach the eastern half of the terrace, which will be temporarily darkened by covering the security lights. A small group of dancers, interspersed among the other participants, will expand on the act of looking and illuminating, through their bodies, engaging confidently with the space and the music. The participants will know in advance that they are being filmed and photographed, and that their role is to be part of a collective moment in which this space becomes something it has never been before. And perhaps they, too, become something they have never been before.
At the end of the five minutes of music, all participants will dim their lights. Then, they will be invited to share in a cup of hot chocolate or cider, which will be available on the terrace.
Cynthia Hammond and Shauna Janssen are frequent collaborators in creative, critical spatial practice. Janssen created Urban Occupations Urbaines in 2010 as a curatorial platform through which to respond to rapid urban change in the Griffintown neighbourhood of Montreal. Hammond is Chair of the Department of Art History at Concordia University. Michael Montanaro is Associate Director of the Topological Media Lab and Chair of the Department of Dance. The Topological Media Lab is a trans-disciplinary atelier-laboratory for collaborative research creation, housed at Concordia University.