In the evening of August 9 2008, Fredy Villanueva was shot and killed by police officer Jean-Loup Lapointe, at the Henri-Bourassa Arena, in Montreal Nord. Riots break out next day and the activist group, Montréal-Nord Républik, is born. The killing of Fredy Villanueva not only stirred up years of social exclusion and discontent, but also brought visibility to current tactics of police surveillance, institutional power asymmetries and racial profiling. Montreal Nord operates under the gaze of vectors of power. Security and surveillance cameras, CCTV, Google maps and street view, they all apply a vertical glance operated by assorted asymmetrical institutional mechanisms, forging a composite of vertical views. These mechanisms act in an ambiguous and invisible way, as social exclusion co-exists with uneven representation of the marginalized. I documented the Montreal Nord grassroots movement and their sites of resistance with a surveillance camera in order to multiplicate the sites of surveillance, and to rupture the unidirectional nature of the gaze, transforming surveillance into a dynamic relationship, undermining the distinction between watchers and watched.
I used counter video surveillance as a tool of reflection, exploring relationships of identity, site, history, and memory, seeking to challenge institutional power asymmetries in documentary practices at the intersection of everyday life, site-specific issues of social justice and political oppression. This ethnographic video study examines site specificity as a complex reflection of the unstable relationship between location and identity in urban landscapes, critically discussing various strategies of accessing the realms of memory, recollection, and identity, which commonly evades ethnographic representation.