My mothers family is from Cornwall, and from the St. Lawrence River area. Memories of jumping into the cold waters of the St Lawrence in front of my great-grandmothers home, of being pulled by the strong currents and of watching, scared, the large vessels thrusting on. The St Lawrence River had made great impressions on me. It is apparent to me why I am so affected by this moment in time; July 1st 1958. The moment in time, when 10 villages were lost. Flooded to make way for the future.
Louis Helbig's aerial photographs outline the remnants of these villages. In the National Gallery of Canada video,October 2 & 3, 2013, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, images of Louis Helbig's Sunken Villages project are set to the voices of some of those affected by their flooding and destruction in the 1950s. The emotions lie closer to the surface than the remains of the villages in the St Lawrence River.
One pilot interviewed remembered: (Helbig, Sunken Villages):
There was one thing, when they were cutting down all the trees, and the seaway, when the river was still there. They had started cutting down trees and moving buildings
(...)on the south side, there was a point, when you were coming down the river, there was one big long pine tree down that point.
The pilot would tell you stare on down to the pine tree.
I was coming down on one trip, and the pilot mentioned, steer on to the pine tree.
I was coming down there, last trip, when he mentioned, steer on the pine tree. No pine tree. They'd cut it down. So I questioned them, I guess, what pine tree?
so... He looked out, and noticed it was gone.
That was the first time I'd seen a grown man cry. That was his last trip.
The Lost Villages of Mille Roches, Moulinette, Wales, Dickinson’s Landing, Farran’s Point, and Aultsville; the hamlets of Maple Grove, Santa Cruz and Woodlands; and the farming community of Sheik’s/Sheek’s Island, were not lost through carelessness, they were disposed of with Government approval “for the common good”. Over 6500 people were displaced in the name of progress for the sake of the St. Lawrence Seaway and International Hydro Electric project. Casualties of progress, the villages and hamlets disappeared beneath the waters of the newly created Seaway.
about the author
I like to think that the large works on paper on which I assemble different drawing methods represent a kind of inventory or document about the state of the our urban rivers.