By Nina Robertson
45°30’12.7″N 73°34’30.2″W are the geographical coordinates of a commemorative plaque erected in 1922 on the McGill Campus [Trigger and Pendergast, 1972]. The plaque reads:
Near here was the site of the fortified town of Hochlaga. Visited by Jacques Cartier in 1534. Abandoned before 1600. It contained fifty large houses. Each contained several families who subsisted by cultivation and fishing.
The project traces this location by following the geophysical, geological, geographical, genealogical, historical and personal narratives available to me. It is the result of extensive classic (internet, library, museum, book) and experiential research and resulted in an installation which aims to ‘place’ the participant/viewer in the site and within it’s narrative.
The onsite research is a story into itself. One blustery day I headed out to find the commemorative plaque with the intent of spending a few hours there, to get an embodied sense of the place and perhaps do some initial photographing and recording. I naïvely thought that knowing the rough location I would be able to find the plaque quickly and easily. Instead I spent an hour and a half wondering around the area in the rain looking for it. Eventually I called the city and was passed though four departments before it was clear that it wasn’t easy information to access. Approaching my wits end and exhilarated by the mystery I wondered into the McCord Museum to see if anyone there might be able to help me. After speaking with the receptionist for half an hour I was given the number of a curator who handled ethno history and who, in the end, had no idea where the plaque was. At this point it was getting dark and I decided that my last option was the McGill librarians who might know something about it. This it turned out was a good guess and in the dark I finally found Hochlaga Rock as it is called. Subsequently I visited the site three or four times to get a felt sense of the place, free-write, record and photograph for the final installation.