In the late 1980s, the Canadian Pacific Railway abandoned a rail yard on the outskirts of Montreal's Mile End district. Within a few years, the return of animal and plant species encouraged the citizen community to reinvest this site, now known as the Champ des Possibles (CdP). Despite community efforts to rehabilitate this wasteland, hydrocarbon and heavy metal pollution persists in the soil. If these substances are toxic, decontamination by excavation would harm the existing biodiversity. The proliferation of these pollutants in the soil nevertheless presents ecological and health risks that are too worrying to be ignored. The municipality and the association Les Amis du Champ des Possibles have therefore agreed on a decontamination plan for the end of 2022, consisting of excavating part of the land. However, few citizens are aware of the presence of these hazardous materials, whose existence deserves to be communicated and discussed.
Experimental Investigations and Activation of Contaminated Soils at the Champ des Possibles consists of imagining an in situ urban laboratory combining experimental exhibition and artistic interventions in order to articulate an aesthetic, critical and social reflection on soil pollution and the management of decontamination at the CdP and throughout the city of Montreal. The project consists of experimenting with the agentivity of the contaminated soils while exploring their interactive and material properties. Through two experimental avenues, this research creates a dialogue between the materiality of the site, its biotope and its users. This project explores the socio-environmental and ecological problems of the CdP by the implementation of new modalities brought through urban exhibition.
The project consists of two propositions. First, Cycles of Attraction: Perceiving Heavy Metal Contamination through the Activation of Magnetic Residual Materials in an Urban Art Device Practice by Brice Ammar-Khodja examines the correlation between the anomalously high presence of heavy metals and magnetic particles in the soils. Secondly, Fluorescent Forensics: Detection and Animation of Hydrocarbon Contaminated Urban Soils by Philippe Vandal explores forensic aesthetics of soil analysis with ultraviolet light, activating the fluorescent properties of hydrocarbons.
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Brice Ammar Khodja is an artist, graphic designer, and Ph.D. candidate based in Montreal and Paris. His research problematizes the relation between form, matter, and function. Examining active materials, and residual matter he explores the socio-environmental and political interconnections pertaining to materiality and urban pollution. Specialized in digital arts and design, he develops multimedia installations that question the symbolic, spatial, and sensory relations. He is currently pursuing a thesis jointly supervised in Concordia University – Montreal (Individualized Program) and EnsAD, EnsadLab – Paris (Reflective Interaction research group, SACRe program).
He is a member of the Speculative Life Research Cluster (Milieux Institute), the Centre for Sensory Studies, and the Concordia’s Canada Excellence Research Chair in Smart, Sustainable and Resilient Communities and Cities. Brice is a current member of the international research-creation network Hexagram.
Co-director of the typography magazine Pied de Mouche, Brice Ammar-Khodja, creates workshops and educational tools for the general public.
His works have been exhibited at Ars Electronica, MUTEK, Centre Pompidou, Biennale internationale du Design, la Cité internationale des Arts, V2_Institute for Unstable Media, Musée historique de la Ville de Strasbourg.
At the intersection of technological, ecological and artistic concerns, Philippe's work bridges the gap between bio-inspired critical design, environmental chemistry and situated tangible media interventions. He is interested in prototyping and exploring devices as both scientific tools and sensitive frameworks to intervene, visualize, remediate, and think with local sites contaminated by industrial and urban activities. Addressing issues of socio-environmental justice, his work seeks to align with critical landscape studies, waste and discharge, and environmental realism. He is interested in the practical, socio-cultural and political capacities and limitations of remediation to engage with materials, sites and communities at risk.
Philippe's work has been presented at the International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA2020: What is Sentience?), VAV Gallery, Art Mûr, Currents New Media, and Eastern Bloc. His collaborative work has been presented at Centre Pompidou, Ars Electronica, Rencontres Hexagram, Ada X, and Mutek. He is a student member of the Topological Media Lab, Speculative Life Cluster Biolab (Milieux), Hexagram, and is a student researcher in the Concordia Research Chair in Critical Practices in Materials and Materiality. Philippe has completed a BFA Major in Intermedia Cyber Arts at Concordia University and is now completing a MA in the INDI Program.