Though open for less than half a century, the Montréal-Mirabel International Airport, designated by the IATA code YMX, sits at the nexus of many narrative lines. From its opening on October 4, 1975 until its eventual demolition after years of economic hardship in May 2014, it connects parallel stories of displacement and forced migration. Montréal artist Cheryl Sim’s installation YMX: Migration, Land, and Loss after Mirabel, curated by Danica Evering and Matt Soar and co-ordinated by Treva Legassie, breathes life into these archival narratives and brings them into willful consonance and dissonance. In Sim’s exhibition, a darkened room holds a labyrinth of classic airport belt stanchions, normally used as queuing guidance and crowd control, but here re-purposed as a winding path for reflection. This path leads to the voices of Pierre Nepveu, a celebrated Québécois poet whose book Lignes aériennes relates his farming family’s displacement during the expropriation; Prem Sooriyakumar, who along with his mother and sister sought asylum at Mirabel from the civil war in Sri Lanka; and author Kim Thuy, whose Governor General’s Award-winning novel Ru echoes a vivid account of her own arrival at Mirabel from war-torn Vietnam. These memories—both exproprié and refugee—are complicated by archival footage of the airport and the land surrounding it. On the wall, news documentation in French and English highlights the Canadian government’s refusal to engage with Kanehsatà:ke’s stewardship of the land. In the middle, Nepveu’s Lignes aériennes lies flat on the soft glow of the airport’s luggage carousel signs. And there, at the heart of the labyrinth: two bright yellow Solari split-flap displays, formerly serving a more functional purpose as Gates 46 and 48 at Mirabel, now mutter to one another about land, policy, resistance, home, flight, and politics. Instead of an archive that complies with narrative definition, we propose that the embodied experience of an art installation allows for a more willful archive with multiple accounts converging and conflicting through many voices: visitor, artist, curator, media, Kanien'kéha:ka, refugee, archive, exproprié, airport, machine, and the land itself.
Co-curated exhibition by Danica Evering and Matt Soar, co-ordinated by Treva Michelle Legassie. Image courtesy of Danica Evering.