Côte-des-Neiges residents share housing stories through art performance

A free, bilingual performance called The Address will bring together tenants, landlords, activists, and urban planners to share their own answers to this complex question this weekend.

The Address is a collaboration between artists, residents of Côte-des-Neiges, ethnographers, and producers

Sofia Blondin, left, and Veronica Mockler are the co-founders of Visible, a community art organization that helps citizens voice their concerns through performance. (Submitted by Sofia Blondin)

What's it like to live in Côte-des-Neiges? A free, bilingual performance called The Address will let the people who call the neighbourhood home answer that question.

The Address invites the audience to move through different rooms and hear from real residents of Côte-des-Neiges about their experiences with housing in the neighbourhood.

The live performance will also feature video projections and audio of interviews of other residents.

"We spend a lot of time with these people. We're asking a lot of them. They're not actors — they have their daily jobs, they have families, and they have their life," explains Veronica Mockler, co-founder of Visible, a community art organization in Côte-des-Neiges that created the exhibition.

When residents were first approached for the project, Mockler said they were surprised that others were interested in their everyday lives and community at first.

"I think the citizens do come to see that they have something interesting to say and their lives are worthy of the public's attention. It's kind of a slow process and they need to trust us, so it took a year and a half to come to this [point]," she said. 

Veronica Mockler conducts research for The Address in Côte-des-Neiges. As a part of the artistic process, Mockler and Blondin went around the borough, documenting and interviewing over 30 individuals about their experience with housing. (Submitted by Veronica Mockler)

The Address is a collaboration between Visible and Amplifier, an organization that collects ethnographic data in Montreal neighbourhoods and highlights narratives and stories from residents.

A year and a half ago, Amplifier reached out to Visible after conducting research on Côte-des-Neiges and its residents' main concerns. They found that housing was the main issue.

"They heard about our work that we were doing already in Côte-des-Neiges, which was citizen performances, and they said, maybe we can collaborate with these artists and create a piece where citizens will be expressing themselves about housing issues," Sofia Blondin, an artist and co-founder of Visible, told CBC's Homerun.

"The people of Côte-des-Neiges are very surprising, and many of them share stories of migration. They are strong and all so diverse, but still, there is a unity in that diversity and there's a lot of respect, a lot of friendships."

The Address will run at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 25, and at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 26 at the Centre d'éducation interculturelle et internationale at Cégep Marie-Victorin, 4975 Paré Street.