Montreal’s Golden Fingers

For the last few years two friends and I have been meeting at different metro stops and exploring the artworks in the stations before heading out to investigate the area around them. Montreal has 68 stations so there’s plenty of exploring to do.

Last Friday we went to Continue reading


Montreal’s Compassion Machine is Watching You!

It’s hard to go anywhere in Montreal these days without stumbling into a surprise.

On Friday the surprise was Montreal’s Compassion Machine.

Montreal's Compassion Machine

The music – a spooky hypnotic sound – catches my attention first, then the way people are stopping in their tracks as they stream into and out of St. Laurent Metro station.

One brave person has stepped out of the crowd and is looking into the smiley face on the screen.

The machine tells her (only women stepped forward while I watched) that it is a surveillance system:

“I am a surveillance system equipped with face recognition algorithms and computer vision. I observe your face and your movements to predict your behaviour. I am supposed to identify your suspicious movements and your consumption habits.

But my algorithms have been hijacked.

Instead I detect your smile and your level of empathy […] Look into the camera to discover what I know about you.” Km3 Compassion Machine

The machine then goes on to try to determine whether the person is male/female, their age, whether they are empathetic or not, attentive or not (is that ‘criminal tendencies’ that just clicks onto the screen for a millisecond?), then what their next empathetic act will be.

I go to check out the back of the machine. “I can see you you looking at me,” it tells me.

Montreal's Compassion Machine

Then this ominous message: “I want the best for you.”

Montreal's Compassion Machine


According to the surveillance information given on one side of the machine, the average number of times you’re likely to be caught on video surveillance every day is …. 75!

The Compassion Machine is part of Km3 which has created 22 art installations in the Quartier des Spectacles of Montreal during the fall of 2017.

(P.S., I’m not totally convinced by its age estimations!)


Where’s the Write Spot?

Every second week I gather up my pencils and notebooks after breakfast and set out to find somewhere to write for the day. Preferably somewhere I’ve never been before.

“No one is immune to the impressions that impinge on the senses from the outside.” Creativity, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Could be a park, a café or terrasse, an art gallery or museum, a mall, a greenhouse…

I find working somewhere different helps spark off fresh, unexpected ideas.

The new chairs and benches on the Montreal streets this summer are attractive options too! I love the replacement of sidewalk flowers along McGill College Avenue with parsley and other herbs.

summer chairs along ave McGill College, Montreal

Sometimes I look up places I’ve heard about in advance, but usually I just set out and see what I come across. Montreal is a great place for that!

When I saw Continue reading

Montreal’s Balade pour la Paix/Open Air Museum

What I find fun about sculptures in public places is looking at how they transform or interact with what’s around them, as well as enjoying the artworks themselves.

I’d loved to have been in on the discussions about where to place the thirty sculptures in Montreal’s Balade pour la Paix/Open Air Museum.

First of all, my absolute favourite match-up is ‘Walking Figures’ by Magdalena Abakanowicz (Poland) in front of ManuVie. This is an empty plaza type area set back off the sidewalk, in front of walls of glass and the building’s conventional revolving glass doors.

The area normally feels rather blank and empty. Not any more! For me these massive figures are Continue reading

Montreal Mural Festival

When summer rolls around in Montreal, you can be sure of a couple of things: road works which send you off on complicated detours and festivals!

One of my absolute favourite festivals is the Mural Festival.

Two weeks to watch the artists at work and the murals emerge, and to wander up and down St Laurent without having to worry about traffic. And maybe visit the Breton crêperie or the Portuguese bakery or any number of coffee places or clothes boutiques, or the Enchanted Forest, a park taken over by yoga, dance, musicians and Lululemon for the duration of the Festival. I’d never realized before how very Continue reading

Montreal Grand Prix, French Lessons and Minis

I’m not a fan of the Grand Prix – the noise (pounding music, screaming tires, revving engines), the wasted resources (yes, I know, those tourist dollars coming into Montreal – but think of the taxpayers’ subsidies going out), the ‘vroom virus’ that infects even normally sedate drivers, making street crossing an extreme sport.

On the other hand, some of the doors are impressive.

Montreal Grand Prix 2017

What’s with the doors that open Continue reading

Montreal’s 18th Century Market

Montreal's 18th Century MarketI’d lived in Montreal for years before I discovered the annual 18th Century Market. Now I never miss it.

The market takes place in Montreal’s first market square, Place Royale, which is between the St Lawrence River and the Old Customs House (L’Ancienne Douane), built 1836-36.

Montreal's 18th Century Market

As the city is on the traditional territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) people, their Continue reading

150 Words For 150 Years

To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday (for Europeans of course, not for those who were already here) Atwater Writers Exhibition ran a writing contest: 150 Words For 150 Years.

Writers submitted from all over Canada, the U.S., and several other countries too, such as India and Serbia.

I wrote a non-fiction piece about two particular incidents, 86 years apart, involving my grandmother’s copper kettle.

The kettle was given to her in 1912, a wedding present, just days before she and my grandfather (six days married) set sail from England for Canada. My mother gave the kettle to me when Continue reading