Montreal, 1985

photo, zine, research-creation
Tiohtià:ke/Montréal, Canada, 2018

Photo credits / Crédits photo : Carl-Philippe Simonise, Po B. K. Lomami, Valérie Bah

Carl-Philippe Simonise, Po B. K. Lomami, Valérie Bah

If it weren’t for personal family archives, one would assume that Black folks have only recently landed on Turtle Island. Afro-descendants have been systematically erased from “official” archives through years of deliberate visual segregation and lack of representation.

“Montreal, 1985” is a project consisting of a speculative photo series, “chosen fam” photo album, and process-oriented zine The series affirms Black presence and resistance to systemic visual apartheid, in a city that falsely flaunts its cultural “diversity”.

Using speculative fiction and staging personal archives, this project attempts to fill in a gap left by the erasure of Black folks rom Montreal-tio’tia:ke’s visual landscape, while casting them in opposition to the white settler colonial project.

The story centers around a fictional crew of Black queer students, artists, and activists who gather on a winter’s night in 1985 to enjoy each other’s company. Someone mentions a controversial news story that ignites political tensions, strong words, and avoidance within the group. A surge of bad blood and bickering jeopardizes the gathering. Their evening takes them from their living room to the dance floor of Balattou, a long-established Black space. Will they find release?

Our creation process mirrored the narrative we crafted: Ideological disagreements within the context of intimacies and a joint cause. In other words, Black love and liberation through conflict and emotional resilience. Our process and conversations on representation, questions of historical “accuracy”, ethics, etc., were documented in a zine that challenges the convention of pricey art catalogues in gallery spaces.