day 13

today is the last day of my “street” work. tomorrow i will do a small performance in the gallery space. i hope there, in the gallery surrounded by people i have come to know, that i can lay down and let go of all the sorrow this work has engendered.


day 13

“niki pawaten emicimitan kihkwakan ochih pisim” is cree for: “i dreamt i held your face away from the sun.”

day 12

being here, in edmonton, at visualeyez, away from home, to be going home in three days. everything i have done here will be a memory, a trace of something that is no more, that is no longer visible, that i will have left behind. it’s always hard to reckon with how seemingly insignificant, how fleeting this practice of mine is. this place, this manner, where i choose to invest my life is so small. but inside myself i believe it is the small, the subtle, where we touch each other. and how can you measure that, how can you ever know what you have done?

day 12

traces of a chalk dream.

day 11

the chalk dream says, “i dreamt i imposed my law and found you guilty.”

i met with shawna dempsey this morning and we talked a bit about my work. shawna asked me how i felt about the work. i said, “good question.”

day 11

day 11

at this spot two men were handcuffed and taken away. there were two police cars, four policemen and two men who had been sleeping on the grass and two bags. there seemed to be no conflict, the men were quiet, the police went through their bags, took out some books. handcuffed one man, then the other. i walked by.

day 10

“niki pawaten kikaya enananiscipayihki” is cree for: i dreamt things fall apart. this is a citation from Chinua Achebe’s book called, “things fall apart,” which is a very powerful novel telling of one man’s experience of living at the onset of colonialism.

day 10

the oranges. i have been tempted to just put the oranges around town in various locations that i want to mark, so today i did just that. i am allowing myself to play and break my own “rules.” and so this is the perfect moment to say what a great pleasure it is to feel supported and understood by the visualeyez festival director todd janes. that freedom to shift, change, redirect, and yes, fail, is part and parcel of the creative process.  it is a real gift to feel this allowing, and this certainly isn’t something that every director feels comfortable with, so  i wanted to honour this and say thank you.

day 10

today at my cree lesson dorothy thunder helped me to translate this phrase… which was not so easy as the word “guilty” does not appear in the cree language. dorothy explained this was because there was no need for this word in cree until after colonization, that the judicial system where someone was found guilty did not exist.

day 9

day 9

there is a man. he is leaning against the wall. it is about 25 degrees celsius, hot. he is wearing a winter jacket, the hoodie up. i pass and ask him if he is not too hot. he smiles and says nothing. i turn the corner and come upon this scene… cardboard on the ground and a stuffed animal and some rolled up blankets. i open my back-pack and take out two oranges and go back to the man and place the two oranges into his hands, making sure i touch him, his hands, as i give him the oranges. i say these are for you. he smiles, and again says nothing. i understand either he can not speak, or he does not speak english. i leave, turn the corner and put an orange on the cardbord and take a picture. today i went back to the spot and the stuffed animal was tossed under the bushes, the belongings scattered, and no sign of the man. i remember hearing form chris in montreal that the homeless with mental health or physical disabilities were the most vulnerable, the most un-protected.

day 8

when i was writing this dream as an “author” i had the strange sensation of also inhabiting the dream. i mean i felt a surge of anguish, as if it was i, the mother, who was being physically cut from my child. to visualize my child’s hair held in a stranger’s hands, to visualize scissors swiping through my child’s hair, and then to watch the hair fall to the floor, felt to me, like a violent act of severance, that suddenly my child was cut from me and initiated into this other world i had no control over. at the same time as these emotions were going through me, i also felt responsible for the cutting of the hair and i felt ashamed of what i had done. and…i also wanted, at that moment, to cause “the school” to feel something.

writing the dream on the sidewalk in publiic at this location seemed to collapse the distance between me and my words. i felt the words were much closer to me, that i embodied the words. i have had this experience, to a greater or lesser degree, every time i write  the dream with chalk on the sidewalk.

day 7 today i walked on the south side of jasper avenue. visible signs of homelessness were less apparent. this is what is unfolding so far: the title of the work, “i dreamt i ran away from home” refers to the thought that if you live in canada and you are not of first nation descent chances are your ancestors came here to escape “something.” to a certain extent i think of canadians as run-aways in search of a home. for this project i am writing using the dream “form” that are not dreams in the night-time sense or in the wishing for sense, they are dreams in the way memory and dreams become spoken narratives of something that can not be verified through the sense of touch, taste, sight, or smell. i am speaking to the cree people, to the ancestors of the cree nation, who are no longer here. i am speaking from my subjective perspective (i as karen elaine spencer) as well as from my collective role as the colonizer, i am speaking of my actions, my understanding of what took place that created this context of this land now called canada. i am hoping to make a space where the weight of things can be felt and lived with for awhile without the wall of defense or self-righteousness being raised. i am incredibly saddened that in making a home for ourselves we destroyed the home of others. and by home i mean all the romantic stuff that home refers to: a space of belongingness, safety, and pride. a place that is always yours that you can return to.

day 7

“i dreamt i cut your children’s hair” was chalked on the sidewalk in front of this church and also in front of a school. the words face the people as they come out of the church.

day 7

the little dream on paper reads:

“niki pawaten nisakaskinahtan kiton asiniyak” which is cree for: “i dreamt i filled your mouth with stones”

please note that the cree that is written in this blog is missing the accents. when i return home to my own computer i should be able to rectify this.

day 6

cree for: “i dreamt i owned everything,” on the sidewalk across from hope mission.

day 6

today i went out and retraced my steps from the morning before to check out the spots where i had left oranges. some of the oranges had been taken, some not. this spot was close to where i had left an orange the first day. quite close by was a group of people sitting with their belongings. i went over to them and introduced myself saying i was doing a project about oranges and ephemeral traces and would they mind if i put an orange beside their shopping cart and took a picture. they said that was fine, but they were just as important as oranges, and would i take their picture too. so i did. and now i have a location where i can drop the pictures off for them.

day 5

so…the posting the small-on-paper dreams i do in the afternoon. i walk around with about eight pages in my pockets and go to the “official” spots in the city where posters for events get stapled onto boards. there must be some kind of diligent supervisor who censures what goes up on these “official” sites becasue every time i go back to post another dream, the previous one has been ripped down. so now i have started to put some of the dreams inside paper dispensers.

day 5

this morning after cree lessons i walked around the city and placed oranges in places where the homleless sleep. it was my first time walking around so early in the morning and i was saddeded to see so many sleeping people lying on the ground, exposed, not hidden or protected by any covering. i did not put oranges beside any sleeping people, i just chose spaces where evidence of sleeping (or my previous walks had revealed) was found. in one location, about two seconds after i placed the oranges a man tapped me on the sholder and asked for change saying he was hungry. i pointed the oranges out to him and he took them. it was then i noticed he was with a woman, a girl really, who looked to be about seven months pregnant. she gave me a shy, sweet smile.

day 4

“niki pawaten ekiwewekinitan pihcayihk nasakay” is cree for: “i dreamt i wrapped you in my skin.”

because i get up so early to go to my cree lesson i have started to notice where people are sleeping. i have seen a man sleeping here, curled up on the rocks, his head resting on a folded up coat.

every day (except today) on my way back to the residency i have walked by a man sitting on the sidewalk, his back against the wall. he always asks me for spare change. when i tell him i have none, he says,” i’ll take an orange.” usually i don’t have oranges, but once i had peanuts so i offered him some, but he can’t eat peanuts due to a peanut allergy. so today i bought twenty tangerines. tomorrow i will place them around edmonton in places where people sleep. of course i will place a couple in his spot.

day 4

inside each one of these newspaper dispensers i placed the dream “i dreamt i owned everything.”

i especially like the relation created with the “homes and land” box.

day 3

“niki pawaten etapwewakeyimiyin” is cree for “i dreamt you trusted me.”

i wrote the dream behind the casino close to a place called “the learning centre.” i was hoping someone would go by and recognize the cree language…if anyone did they kept quiet about it. as you can see in the photo the dark cloud gathered strength and opened into a thunder and lightening session about fifteen minutes later, meaning the dream was quickly washed away.

day 3

day 2

this “dream” is written on the sidewalk across the street from a building that houses men who are awaiting trial (for sometimes up to two years.) on the sidewalk there are messages written to the men housed inside the building. messages addressed to specific men like: “i love you,” or “i am sorry.”

this dream says: “i dreamt i wrapped you in my skin.” as i was writing the dream in chalk i thought the dream could be taken as somehow tender, but my original thought for the dream referred to how canada took the children of the first nation community and placed them in boarding schools where their language and culture were forbidden. i was thinking this is also part of the role of the law, to create a culture where difference is erased to create a culture of assimilation.

day 1

ask any homeless/street person how many jaywalking tickets they have been issued. then ask any man wearing a business suit the same question.

day 1

dream on paper repeated four times stapled to a construction site plywood wall on jasper between 108 and 109 street. i will be returning to this location to add other dreams and cree translations.

day 1

i arrived in edmonton last night. today i think the gallery (jessica from latitude 53) found a woman who will attempt to teach me cree one hour a day for the duration of my stay (fifteen days.) while in edmonton i want to create small interventions directed towards the first nation population that speak of the colonial project from a first person, dream perspective. as if the telling of the dream allows images to appear that are normally too threatening or taboo to speak of.

the envelopes with a handwritten dream inside photographed here were put into people’s mailboxes along l’avenue mont-royal.

for “la rue des rêves” first atelier we had pens and paper and envelopes. the idea is to write a dream on paper, put the paper in an envelope and then anonymously place the envelope in the mail-box of someone along l’avenue mont-royal. while sitting in the park watching everyone around me i had the urge to address the dreams to specific people who were in the park…for example on the envelope, rather than saying ” a dream for you” it could read:

dream for a girl with bright red hair

dream for a man wearing a white button-up shirt

dream for a woman walking her dog through the park

dream for a man who eats alone

dream for a solitary girl who sits under a tree

dream for a man carrying a baby in a snugly

dream for two friends who are laughing together

and then inside each envelope would be a dream that resonated with each person’s situation. i only did one specific dream in this way because i had to wait for madeleine to come and help me with my french spelling and grammar. but it was satisfying to give a handwritten dream tucked inside an envelope to “the solitary girl who sat under the tree,” although i felt rather shy afterwards.

the next atelier is between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m. on friday the 25th of july in the parc des compagnons at the corner of boyer and l’avenue mont-royal.

a beautiful day for our first atelier in the parc des compagnons.

yup. on sunday at 7:40 my voice will appear in conversation with dave bronstetter talking about dreams and “la rue des rêves.” i was figuring what dave does is kinda like what we were doing, listening to people in a one to one relation, cept the cbc does have a bit more sophisticated recording devices, unlike our old fashioned tape-deck marantz with a mike attached, and dave did not come to me, i had to go to dave, but all in all, very similar.

so its: cbc radio one “all in a weekend” 88.5 fm montreal aired on sunday the 13th of july at 7:40.

la rue des rêves/audio

July 10, 2008

from now until august 31, 2008

the audio component of “la rue des rêves” can be heard from 12:30 to 1:00 and from 8:00 to 8:30 every day from the loud speakers situated along avenue mont-royal either between boyer and christophe-colomb in front of the inter-marché or between cartier and chabot in front of the parc des compagnons.


you can go to the tourist kiosk in front of metro mont-royal and ask for the “dream i-pod.” however, you will need to leave some form of collateral in exchange for the i-pod…which of course will be returned to you when you return the i-pod. there are three installments of the “dream-ipod” with different dreams selected for each installment.


you can go to the paysages éphémères website and download the mp3s yourself. there are three installments of the “dream-ipod” with different dreams selected for each installment.

in addition: the plateau mont-royal library, just across the street from the mont-royal metro, is playing “whispered dreams” in the library at the rate of one dream per hour.

the rue des rêves would like to extend a warm thank you to marco antonio luna barahona from homeless nation for his technical expertise in the audio department, to laurence roux from paysages éphémères for her undying optimism and patience through the months spent on this project, and to vesna dell’olio from the bibliothèque du plateau mont-royal for her openness and kindness in allowing the silence of the library to be broken.

perruche of la rue des rêves writes her dream in the alley-way behind mont-royal avenue.

la rue des rêves

part of the paysages éphémères

vernissage july 2, 2008

5:00 at the parc des compagnons, mont-royal avenue corner of cartier.