FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Communiqué de presse – PDF en français)
New exhibition reflects upon contemporary migration and the confusing quest for safety
Toronto, ON, August 28, 2017 — Circuit Gallery is pleased to present a solo show by Montreal-based photographer Michel Huneault, premiering his new project Intersection. Incorporating audio, video, and photography, Huneault reflects upon contemporary migration and the confusing quest for safety.
Huneault has, since early 2017, been documenting the steady flow of asylum seekers into Canada at the Canada-USA irregular border crossing point of Roxham Road, in the Québec community of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, 60 kilometres south of Montreal.
Between February and July, he made sixteen visits to Roxham Road, documenting the evolution of this phenomenon as both the public and the authorities were trying to grasp its meaning and scope. Over the course of this period he witnessed 180 crossing attempts by asylum seekers coming from a wide range of countries: Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, Syria, Palestine, Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Turkey, Libya, Yemen, Guatemala, El Salvador, Angola, Chad, the Philippines, Nigeria, Burundi, Mauritania, Zimbabwe, and, in the most recent spike in the number of attempts, from Haiti.
Intersection started like most of my projects, initially motivated by my curiosity and interests. In the last two years, I had completed other projects on remittance flows and the migrant crisis in Europe. This long time interest in migration came into sharper focus because similar events were happening at home. When I start my projects, they often have a more current journalistic timing, but I am not a photojournalist per se. I don’t get many assignments and don’t think of my projects as being for the media primarily. What I think I do is photography with a deep anchor in current events, while questioning classic forms of documentation. And then, periodically, I pitch timely excerpts of this work to my media clients. The turning point of this project for me was the photograph I took of the pregnant Nigerian woman who stood, frozen in fear, just steps away from the border. In the end she did not cross, and was taken away by the US Border Patrol. I sent that photo to my entire media client list, but nobody published it. That is when the project became clearer to me, when I grasped the complexity and the tension that I wanted to capture. —Michel Huneault
Public discourse on both sides of the border, indeed around the world, and at every level, from eloquent idealism to naked racism, has swirled and clashed around this phenomenon. American and Canadian government policies, practicalities, rhetoric, and images have defined and defied each other here, where desperate and frightened people cross a line they cannot see.
That moment when, on the side of a dirt road, people make a fundamental choice about what freedom means to them, when they would rather be under arrest in one country than “free” in another, is profoundly political and public. It draws into focus the character and identities of the countries as much as of the individuals. But it is also a moment of great personal risk and change. It is intensely private. By overlaying the outlines of asylum seekers with various fabrics he photographed in 2015 during the European migrant crisis – blankets given to stay warm, clothes donated, and tents erected to provide temporary shelter – Huneault respects that privacy and turns our attention to the moment itself, and to its global and humanitarian context.
I hope that Intersection will help us to reflect on the larger context of humanitarian principles and migratory flows, on why people take to the road and what they hope to find, on the obstacles they face, and on our collective responsibilities towards them. —Michel Huneault
This exhibition will also be adapted as an interactive virtual reality piece produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), to be released in the fall of 2017. To access the NFB’s award-winning content, please visit www.nfb.ca/interactive/
Michel Huneault is a documentary photographer based in Montreal, Canada. Before devoting himself full time to documentary photography in 2008, Michel Huneault worked in the international development field for a dozen years, a profession that took him to over twenty countries, including one full year in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He holds an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a Rotary World Peace Fellow, researching the role of collective memory in large scale traumatic recovery. At Berkeley, he was a student and teaching assistant of Magnum photographer Gilles Peress, and afterwards held an apprenticeship position with him in New York. His practice—often mixing photography with audio/video elements—focuses on development and humanitarian issues, on personal and collective traumas, and on complex geographies.
Huneault is the recipient of numerous awards including the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize (2015) for his long-term work on the Lac-Mégantic catastrophe, and the R. James Travers Foreign Corresponding Fellowship (2016) to continue his research on migration. In 2016 his project Post Tohoku, looking at the impact of the tsunami in Japan, was nominated for the Prix Pictet 7 and received a Prix Antoine-Désilets. Huneault’s work has been exhibited in various venues in Canada, France, UK, USA, Japan and the Netherlands.
Artist Website: Michel Huneault
Michel Huneault: Intersection runs September 7 through September 30 at Circuit Gallery @ Prefix ICA, with a reception for the artist on Friday, September 8, from 6–9 PM, and a talk by the artist on Saturday, September 9, from 2-3 PM.
September 7 – 30, 2017
Circuit Gallery @ Prefix ICA
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 124
Toronto, ON, M6R 2G5
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Artist’s Reception: Friday, September 8, 6-9 PM
Artist’s Talk: Saturday, September 9, 2-3 PM
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 5 PM
Visit Circuit Gallery for more information and to see more images:
ABOUT CIRCUIT GALLERY
Circuit Gallery specializes in contemporary photography. Established in 2008 by Susana Reisman and Claire Sykes, the Toronto based commercial gallery represents both emerging and established Canadian and international artists.