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Montreal Has A New Memorial For Our Beloved Whale

Although its visit was short, the Montreal whale truly left a mark on our city. 🐋
Contributing Writer
Montreal Has A New Memorial For Our Beloved Whale

It's safe to say that 2020 has been a year of ups and, well... downs. One such memory that comes to mind is the Montreal whale that made an appearance in the Old Port before its sudden departure from the waters. Although its visit was short, this animal made a lasting impression on our city.

Géraldine Laurendeau, a Montreal-based multidisciplinary artist, has created a sculpture piece called Cétacé, Mémoire de baleine, along with a poem, written in French, detailing the artist's interpretation of "a humpback whale coming back to meet its ancestors."

The installation is found at Parc de la Promenade Bellerive and will be on display until the end of October.

We got a chance to speak with Géraldine about her work and what this particular piece means to her.

Answers have been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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What made you decide to create a homage to the Montreal whale? 

[rebelmouse-image 26882829 photo_credit="M\u00e9lanie Dusseault Photographe" expand=1 original_size="5400x3600"] Mélanie Dusseault Photographe

This call for the project was the perfect occasion to connect the present with the past and talk about endangered species, a subject which I've been working on for a while.

The fact that the humpback whale came further into the St. Lawrence this summer gave me an opportunity to underline the impacts of human activities on our environment and how these transformations have consequences for biodiversity. The loss affects especially large mammals like whales.

Cétacé is also a way to talk about the constant modification of our landscapes, which also happens in nature. Landscapes, as we see them, have not always been the same. Understanding that should help us accept that it will transform in the future.

Do we have a part to play in that change, as humans? Obviously, the answer is yes.

In these changing landscapes, migratory animals are forced to adapt, some do well, but some get more in trouble. Whales have intelligence and they have their own reasons to do what they do, and we don't fully understand them.

They, as much as we, should have a safe place to live and we should care for them. 

What do you hope people feel when they see the artwork?

[rebelmouse-image 26882830 photo_credit="M\u00e9lanie Dusseault Photographe" expand=1 original_size="5400x3600"] Mélanie Dusseault Photographe

I hope they feel empathy for these animals. I hope it can help raise awareness.

I also hope that people will be curious and do research to learn more about whales and other sea mammals. I hope they let their imagination go free and create their own stories, develop their own reflection, search for solutions...

More importantly, I hope humans will sharpen acuteness when looking at the world around them, and develop their sensibility towards all living beings that are part of it.

How long did it take to create? How many people were involved in its creation?

[rebelmouse-image 26882831 photo_credit="M\u00e9lanie Dusseault Photographe" expand=1 original_size="5400x3600"] Mélanie Dusseault Photographe

From selection to installation, we had about one month to design, build and assemble the piece on site. I often work alone, but for larger projects, like this one, I had three collaborators who brought their expertise at different stages of the process.

I wish this piece could travel and be exhibited somewhere else in November or later. It would fit well in a gallery, a park, a museum, or even a garden!

But for now, since there is nowhere else to be exhibited, I plan to bring it back to the studio to serve as a base for experimenting further.

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