Through September 30, Circuit Gallery in Toronto is presenting Michel Huneault’s new work, Intersection. This multimedia solo exhibition uses audio, video and photography to examine migration and the quest for safety. Since February 2017, Hunealt has been documenting the flow of asylum seekers coming to Canada from the U.S. at Roxham Road, in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, 60 kilometres south of Montreal. In his 16 visits, he witnessed 180 attempts to cross the border from people originally from 20 different countries. To safeguard the privacy of these individuals, Huneault overlaid their silhouettes with fabric that he photographed during the 2015 European migrant crisis. These various fabrics—blankets, clothes and tents—were offered to migrants for warmth, protection and shelter.
The Monteal-based artist described the work: “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.”
Later this fall, the project will also be adapted into an interactive virtual reality piece produced by the National Film Board of Canada.