Michel Huneault, Untitled 2, Roxham Road. 2017.
July 1 to August 31, 2018
Victoria Park and Diefenbaker Park along the Meewasin Valley Trail
– Stop! If you walk further, you’ll be arrested.
– I know; I am really sorry. You have to help us; we are entering.
In early 2017, the number of asylum seekers arriving at non-official crossing sites in Canada, specifically Quebec and Manitoba, sharply increased. In Quebec, the quiet Roxham Road between the United States and Canada became the location with the largest number of irregular border crossings in the country. Michel Huneault’s Roxham takes us to the moments when Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers intercept these individuals. Documenting 180 border-crossing attempts between February and August 2017, Huneault captured their stories in images and sound. In the photographs, the asylum seekers are shown in silhouette. Composite images of various fabrics shield their identity, preserving anonymity. These textures come from Huneault’s 2015 photo series during the 2015 European migrant crisis.
At these invisible borders, the confusion is palpable and emotions run high. Migration, an exceedingly personal decision, has been thrust to the forefront of public and political debates. Roxham Road is quickly becoming symbolic: it embodies the tensions between the international responsibility to welcome others and the duty to protect a national territory. The 10-metre-wide Roxham Road becomes a microcosm of the world’s crises, offering a personal glimpse into the confusing quest for a safe place.
Roxham is presented by AKA in partnership with Roadside Attractions, a public art project on view across Saskatchewan July 1 to August 31, 2018. Thank you to the City of Saskatoon and Meewasin Valley Authority.
In his practice, Michel Huneault combines documentary photography and contemporary visual art. Committed to a personal, humanist approach, he brings together still images and immersive elements in his work.
Before devoting himself to photography full-time in 2008, he worked in international development for more than a decade. That career took him to more than 20 countries, including Afghanistan, where he spent an entire year in Kandahar. Michel has a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of California Berkeley, where he was a Rotary Peace Fellow studying the role of collective memory after large-scale traumatic events. He studied under and assisted Magnum photographer Gilles Peress at Berkeley and in New York City.
Saskatchewan is geographically diffuse. While half of the province resides in urban centres, the other half are spread across small communities and reserves on Treaty 4, Treaty 6 and Treaty 10 territories. Given the sparse and scattered provincial population, long road trips are a fact of life for many Saskatchewan residents. This Prairie sprawl, along with the “boom and bust” rhythm of its resource-based economies, has shaped Saskatchewan people’s way of life and ways of thinking about working with the land. The free public services offered by libraries, museums and cultural centres, often situated in within the downtown cores of Saskatchewan’s many cities and small towns are critically important services serving as spaces for cultural exchange and participation. These places, which are typically free, build community by bringing people together for conversation, while also providing a site for refuge that presents opportunities to consider different perspectives and world views.
Roadside Attractions, organized by Dunlop Art Gallery and partners across the province, presents a network of contemporary art commissions across Saskatchewan during the summer of 2018. Each artist participating in Roadside Attractions considers the unique histories, geographies, and populations of various locations – factors that have shaped dozens of Saskatchewan spaces into meaningful places.
While emphasizing the importance of historic downtowns and public institutions in place-making, Roadside Attractions also seeks to encourage a sense of discovery among viewers. Original artworks positioned along a 20+ hour scenic Prairie road trip create a network of unique experiences with art across the Saskatchewan Prairie – encounters that range from public sculptures and site-specific installations to sound art pieces that accompany viewers as they journey through the province.