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Travelogue F38

October 7, 2015

As can perhaps be seen from what precedes, a considerable portion of my stay was spent in the effort to memorialize my days and my passing. As with all efforts, I met, at times, with spectacular failure. When making something of nothing, it rarely proves enough to juxtapose two discrete entities or thoughts, for these can just as easily come to or, perhaps more accurately, remain at nothing. From my effort to link museum seismographs with the emergence of shadow and perspective in 15th century painting, nothing resulted. The connection proved sterile. Trying a different tack, I attempted to posit a connection between the Québecois avoidance of loan words and Canadian postal boxes. Another failure. So, trivial observations of this sort accumulated in my notes with nothing more to come of it than that: isolated incident.

Among their number I classed my recording of certain English words which seemed to have escaped the Québécois effort to transform loan words. Still, they were few in number, and examples like “smoothie” stood as an exception rather than a rule. Or consider that I found Canadian postal boxes so covered with printed motifs as to eliminate the need for graffiti, indeed the very temptation thereof, which, I granted, had perhaps been the very idea. My notes extended to the buildings, as well, and included a few lines to the effect that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Catholic Church’s main rival for spiritual dominion in the city proved to be the Anglicans and their ostentatious red doors and roofs. I even took note of a game of chess which I had played against myself in a tea shop, for no other sake than that of ostentation.

Otherwise, I continued my experiments on self and identity. This I did by changing select components to see how others reacted in kind; at different times and with different audiences, I became French or a scientist or younger and so on. As of yet, no conclusive results had emerged from my efforts, apart from finding that I felt freer with certain remarks about qualities and groups, for instance, comments on the Americans that a Frenchman might reasonably be expected to make.

My attempt to make something of my thoughts found its rhythm again off one of the downtown’s main thoroughfares. In this case, I found myself in the sculpture garden outside the Musée des Beaux Arts, which held a number of remarkable pieces: an angel in whose middle a hole had been blown open following some incident, hands emerging from said hole, which were also to be found in its head and face, a writing mass of searching fingers, its armature stripped and its base laid quite bare in places, such as the left arm where nothing more than a thin rod was seen; the lifesize, lifelike reproduction of a cow; a seated figure, arms wrapped about its knees, the whole formed of a light shell of metal letters welded together and nothing within, perhaps to be linked to our linguistic existence in the world, were it not for the lack of intelligible lexical units to be found in the letter strings.

From there, I began my slow circling back to my starting point in order to beat the evening back. My path took me past a number of large squares. Above just one such public square, seemingly for the duration of the summer, a series of mesh nets had been suspended: the first a horizontal plane, stretched taut, and a second suspended below it but bunched, in whose windings, as seen from different angles, it was possible to see an infinite array of overlays, superpositions, and the transition from lighter to darker zones, in function of the overlap between its different folds. I could not help but consider it, despite its simple design, an endlessly giving work.

Cities themselves might take part in this status, capable of continually generating new perspectives. For, if I found parts of Montréal in the state of ruin in which I had left them, it bore mentioning that ruin brings with it new vistas for overlay, superposition and transition. Where I found nought but vacant lot and groundwork torn up, wood scraps, bricks and refuse everywhere, the building gone, the workers had, perhaps unwittingly, opened up a new balcony for another, albeit with a ragged trim of exposed brick, a balcony that nonetheless opened onto difference.

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