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Cohabitate : International Symposium by the Observatory of Cultural Mediations (OMEC)

June 1, 2, 3, 2022 Montreal
International Research, Action and Creation Symposium. 

These bodies of water that we are | Sound and Space Research | Sandra Volny & Simon Bélair

Sunday June 19th from 11am to 12:30pm

Sound dérive at L'Île-de-la-Visitation Nature Park

Places are limited, please register at:

Closing event

July 2, 2022, at the SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art

2:30 - 3:30 pm: Guided tour by Gwynne Fulton

4pm : Performance by Pilar Escobar

5pm - 7pm : cocktail


Sebastián Calfuqueo

Carolina Caycedo

Mei-Kuei Feu

Genevieve Robertson

Daniel Torres.

To learn more about the artists and their artworks, click here.


Gwynne Fulton is an image theorist and independent curator based in Tio’tià:ke/Mooniyang/Montréal. Fulton holds a PhD in Philosophy and Art History from Concordia University. She has organized film programs and workshops about the carceral state, illegalized migration, the visual geopolitics of oceans, and the targeted killing of land defenders in Colombia. Her writing appears in Esse arts+opinions, Mosaic, In/Visible Culture, ARP Books, and Dazibao editions.

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The river is a voice / that refuses / to stay silent /

What opens / in the language of / the waters ?

Río Herido/ Wounded River, Daniela Catrileo




In recent years, the Atrato river in Colombia and the Magpie/Muteshekau Shipu river in Québec have been recognized as the subject of rights. In Colombia’s transitional justice framework, the Atrato is acknowledged as victim of the armed conflict, rather than a stage on which the conflict unfolded, while the Muteshekau Shipu, “the viens” of the ancestral homeland of the Innu, has the right to take legal action. What does it mean for rivers to participate in legal and restorative justice processes? How do they bear witness to histories of conflict and colonization and what strategies of listening can we develop to hear what opens in their plural languages?


Taking as its starting point the political rights of rivers, Confluences brings together works by Sebastián Calfuqueo, Carolina Caycedo, Mei-Kuei Feu, Genevieve Robertson and Daniel Torres that engage struggles for water across hemispheres and legal systems. The exhibition is concerned with the political ecologies and ontologies of water, the social histories of waterways and ongoing legacies of hydrocolonial violence that link Canada to the Global South through extractive and hydroelectric projects. 


Confluences negotiates tensions between rites and rights: between, on the one hand, everyday acts of walking, drawing, and collective organizing as forms of resistance beyond the state—and, on the other hand, juridical acts that extend human rights to nature. River rights are a strategic mechanism for conferring protections of rivers and the communities that defend them. Yet, they need to be critically questioned. Delving into submerged knowledges, the works presented here agitate for what Ariella Aïsha Azoulay calls “nonimperial rights,” that flow not from document-based declarations extended by imperial state apparatuses to nonhuman subjects, but from rivers themselves.¹ Through film and video, photography, drawing and performance, the artists stage poetic and political gestures that help make audible the rivers’ own jurisdictional authorities and responsibilities. They reflect on what it means for a river to have memory, but also to be a voice that refuses to stay silent. By listening to the language of rivers, they ask us to consider our own obligation to place.  


These works gathered here mourn flooded shorelines, disrupted ecosystems, and displaced communities. Caycedo’s Serpent River Book snakes across the gallery floor, reactivating grassroots resistance to multinational hydroelectric projects along the banks of the Magdalena/Yuma. Robertson draws on the mineral memory of riverbed silt to reimagine a shoreline submerged by the Columbia river dam. Calfuqueo offers their body to the Violen estuary, in a performative ritual rooted in Mapuche cosmologies that challenges the Chilean state’s neoliberal privatization of water. While Fue walks carefully on other peoples’ land to cultivate gentle relations with river ecologies and communities, Torres self-reflexively questions how humans sense rivers and how the Atrato, in turn, might rise up to defend itself against human activity by proclaiming the flood as its cyclical birthright. Marking extended collaborations with rivers, these interventions unsettle our understandings of rivers, while holding themselves accountable to various forms of extraction—of images, knowledges, minerals and hydropower. This hydrocartography gives rise to multiple understandings of rivers: as a nonbinary territory that entwines human and nonhuman actors in a relation of asymmetrical reciprocity, a counter-archive of disappearances, a living form of memory, and subject of rights.


The exhibition’s title pays homage to Tio’tià:ke, the Kanien’ʼkehá:꞉ka (Mohawk) name for Montréal which means “where the currents meet.” It stages a meeting of the Cautín, the Atrato, the Magdalena/Yuma and Columbia on the largest island of the Hochelaga Archipelago located near the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers. This flowing together of rivers from different cosmopolitical contexts is a provocation for continued dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, bodies of water and legal bodies working to reclaim rights for the St. Lawrence river.


The unceded lands on which SBC gallery is located hold a long history of stewardship by Indigenous peoples, who are the traditional guardians of the waters known as Kaniatarowanenneh (big waterway) to Mohawk peoples and Kahnawáʼkye to the Tuscarora.² I honour their ongoing care of these waters. Mounting this work is one act in a larger commitment to conversations and actions that necessarily overflow the temporality of the exhibition. With Confluences, I acknowledge the longue durée of hydrocolonial capitalism in Québec—one of the largest global producers of hydro power—extending from the arrival of European settlers, through the expansion of industrial development and the imperial project of the seaway, which has dramatically reshaped the river’s course as it winds through ancestral territories, as well as the targeting of gender queer bodies, Afrodescendent, Indigenous and campesino communities who organize in common defense of water across Turtle Island / Awya Yala.



Gwynne Fulton, curator



1 - Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism, New York, NY: Verso Books, 2019.

2 - Darren Bonaparte, “Kaniatarowanenneh, River of the Iroquois.”, Wampum Chronicles, n.d.

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