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Workshops & seminars

Thesaurus of No-place and a Film About Emptiness

Research-creation on vacant spaces in Montreal

Date & time
Wednesday, June 8, 2022 –
Thursday, June 9, 2022
10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Registration is closed


This event is free


J.W. McConnell Building
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

Wheel chair accessible


At the term of a research creation project around the notion of vacancy, the Grey Areas Desk of the Office of Rules and Norms has produced A Film about Emptiness and a complementary Thesaurus of No-place. We wish to invite a broader community to become acquainted with our process and work-in-progress, provide us with feedback, and interact with the concepts that we have developed around the notions of emptiness and vacancy.

The initial point of this research was to collect different strategies for accessing vacant spaces through a series of interviews. However the pandemic and our reflections on “why and how emptiness exists in the city” soon diverted our interest. It became indispensable to think not only of how people connect with empty spaces, but also of how they are disconnected from them. We then decided to explore the concepts of Emptiness and Vacancy through a film that would be our pretext and strategy for accessing vacant spaces and contributions from various artists, thinkers and social activists.

The concepts explored are those of Emptiness, Space/Place, Memory, Territory/Land, Resource, Ownership, Expropriation and Time/Transience/Permanence. By visiting vacant spaces, we revisit erased histories and invisible territories which these places - or lack thereof - remain the guardians of. Empty space or emptied spaces remain inhabited by their past and potential for reinvention. They remind us that emptiness is a temporary and subjective state.

Index of places

Hôtel Château-Mirabel
4000 St. Patrick
Drive-in Cinema in Laval
Centech (former Rio Tinto-Alcan planetarium)
Former Berri-UQAM bus terminal
Indians of Canada Pavilion of Expo 67
Goose Village
Notre-Dame Library

June 8th and 9th

Video excerpts, interactive thesaurus and images of vacant spaces on show at 4th Space

June 8th

In person/online

  • 10:30am- 12:30pm 

Presentation of the research followed by questions

Salma el Hankouri and Andres Salas

Moderated by: Christine White

In person

  • 1:30pm-4pm Workshop about the Thesaurus of No-place 

  • 1:30pm - 2:00pm Visit of the exhibits to watch footage, reflect 

  • 2:00pm - 3:00pm Workshop

  • 3:00pm - 4:00pm Presentation of A Film about Emptiness (work-in-progress) 

followed by a discussion 

June 9th

In person

  • 10:30am- 2:00pm Open house

  • 2:00pm - 2:30pm Presentation of A Film about Emptiness (work-in-progress)

  • 2:30pm - 4:00pm Focus group discussion

How can you participate? Attend in person (note, we can accommodate up to 30 audience members comfortably in the space) or online by registering for the Zoom meeting or watching live on YouTube.

Have questions? Send them to


Sarah Brown: Sarah Brown is an interdisciplinary artist and architect whose practice lies at the intersection of art, architecture, community engagement, activism and bureaucracy. She is the co-founder of the Office of Rules and Norms and currently leading its Grey Areas and Future Generations desk. She also works as a consultant in project development and strategic planning for artists and cultural organizations. In her previous role as Advisor, Strategic Initiatives and Special Projects at the Faculty of Fine Arts, her work focused on connecting students and emerging artists with cultural and community partners through innovative trans-disciplinary projects and initiatives.

Salma El Hankouri: سلمىSalma is a Ph.D. candidate in the Interdisciplinary Humanities at Concordia University. Her doctoral research focuses on the manifestations of Indigeneity in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, including issues of identity and decolonial praxis. She is interested in the ways Indigenous cultural revival and sovereignty transpire through the arts, and how contemporary urbanity structures Indigenous-settler relations from a non-white/settler/global Indigenous perspective. As an affiliate at CIÉRA (Centre interuniversitaire d'études et de recherche autochtones), she currently investigates themes tied to urban ethnography and global Indigenous studies. She holds a master’s degree in human rights and international law with a focus on Latin American studies, and a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Swansea University (Wales), Britain.

Andrés Salas: Andrés Salas is a Humanities PhD student at Concordia University working at the intersection of mining, critical infrastructure and alternative epistemologies. Andrés is a visual artist from Colombia, living and working in Montreal. He is actively committed to the communities where he has worked and lived, developing artistic projects that explore local dynamics but deal with global problems. He was recently awarded with a doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Christine White is completing her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts at Concordia University with a major in Intermedia and minor in Sociology. She is a community activist, artist and researcher who intervenes in public space through socially engaged art programs. In 2014, Christine was invited to collaborate with PedalBox Gallery in ləkw̓ əŋən Traditional Territory/Victoria BC where it quickly became one of her favorite ways of working. Bringing this concept to Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, PedalBox now explores its second iteration beginning in the summer of 2021. This includes working with the Shock Value Collective to host mobile projections, transport pop-up installations and transform into a pop-up office space.

The Office of Rules and Norms (ORN) is an arts-based transdisciplinary collective that engages with regulations, the rule of law and cultural norms. These engagements reveal, comprehend, analyze, play with, subvert and transcend current ways of understanding and acting in relation to regulatory forces in order to make room for more equitable alternatives. The Grey Areas Desk explores the regulations and cultural norms in place to identify opportunities within them and understand how their interpretation can facilitate or lead to creative outcomes.

This initiative was made possible by the generous support of the Peter N. Thomson Family Innovation Fund and the Faculty of Fine Arts of Concordia.


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