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BACK RIVER

SONIA BAZAR

23 NOV 2023 – 03 MAR 2024
5220 BOUL. SAINT-LAURENT
$8 SUGGESTED ENTRANCE

ARTIST PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE

Throughout the exhibition, Bazar will be in-gallery as part of their research-creation for BACK RIVER, creating a new sculpture and speaking with members of the public.

Performances will be from 12pm – 2pm on the following Sundays:

November 26, 2023

December 3, 2023

December 10, 2023

January 7, 2024

January 14, 2024

January 28, 2024

February 4, 2024

February 11, 2024

February 25, 2024

March 3, 2024

UPCOMING EVENTS

SOUL CANDLES: Ancestral Practice and Candle Crafting with Sof Kreidstein (Register for tickets here)
Sunday, February 18, 2024

BACK RIVER: Nuit Blanche au Musée du Montréal juif (Registration and details coming soon)
Saturday, March 2, 2024


PAST EVENTS

BEHIND BACK RIVER: Gallery Tour with Sonia Bazar and Dr. Anna Sheftel (Register for tickets here)
Thursday, January 11, 2024

BACK RIVER Vernissage
Thursday, November 23, 2023

Artist Talk with Sonia Bazar at Galerie McClure
Thursday, November 9, 2023

Weaving together themes of loss, memory, community, and urban landscapes, BACK RIVER contemplates what is forgotten, and how it can be remembered.

Sonia Bazar’s body of work presented in BACK RIVER is named for Montreal’s oldest standalone Jewish burial site: the Back River Cemetery. Established in the 1880s in the Montreal neighborhood of Ahuntsic, the cemetery is one of the earliest resting places for first-generation Jewish migrants to Canada. Built upon swampland and founded for a growing immigrant community, the cemetery today holds a peculiar and enigmatic place in the city’s landscape. 

Following the peak of its use in the 1930s and 1920s, Back River came close to abandonment in the late 20th century, followed by renewed interest to restore the historic site in the 1990s by the Jewish community. Still in use today for community burials, many of which are indigent, Back River’s flood-prone terrain combined with climate change make maintenance and conservation an ongoing struggle. Montreal’s urban growth has also been shaped by the cemetery. Its two sections – the old and the new – are bisected by rue Sauvé, with the Sauvé Metro station at the centre of the intersection that cuts through the site; the Metro line itself was built directly beneath the Back River in the 1960s.

The cemetery’s physical fragmentation and mired landscape mirrors its story, which remains relatively unknown by the local Jewish community or by Ahunstic’s majority French-Canadian and newly-arrived immigrant residents. Sonia Bazar’s work ruminates on the challenges of solving the puzzle surrounding the cemetery’s founding, evolution, and near-abandonment. With the artist’s own family members buried at the Back River, piecing together knowledge of this space becomes an act of personal archiving and placemaking. However, absence and scarcity of information about the Back River Cemetery remain a core part of its story and the memory of its occupants.

Through research-creation using archival sources and oral histories, Bazar invites us to become part of the cemetery’s contemporary archive as she reimagines its 140-year history through photography, installation, and sculptural work.

IMG_2686
Grave Rubbings, installed as part of BACK RIVER
(Photography: Zachary Lata)

CREDITS / ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

ARTIST
Sonia Bazar

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Alyssa Stokvis-Hauer

GRAPHIC DESIGN
Austin Henderson

Curatorial Team
Taryn Fleishchmann     Austin Henderson     Alyssa Stokvis-Hauer

TRANSLATION
Benoit Pelletier      Éric Fontaine

CONTRACTOR
Shopdogs MTL      Kayl Doble, Paint MTL

PRINTING
MFBB Lettrage Photolab      Yves Thomas

Sonia Bazar and the Museum of Jewish Montreal acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. We would like to thank BétonelDulux for their donation of exhibition materials. The artist would also like to thank Maryam Pourarya, The McClure Gallery, Dr. Anna Sheftel, Romy Shoam, Naomi Frost, the Board and Staff of the Back River Cemetery, Dr. Julius Erdstein, and everyone who participated in interviews.

ARTISTS’ BIOGRAPHY

Montreal-born artist Sonia Bazar works out of their studio in Ahuntsic-Cartierville. Sonia earned a MFA in Photography from Concordia University. Through sculpture, photography and poetry, her practice often examines the notion of alien landscapes and how the body belongs to space. Their practice has always had a heavy research component which informs their materials and process.

They have recently begun to explore research as art, finding ways to incorporate it into installations.

View the Artist’s website on the Back River Cemetery at BACKRIVER.RIP