The Words, 2009 – 2010

(in collaboration with Dare-Dare)

This project considers the urban space as a collective space of reflection on the words that we all use.

More than 150 words were written on the sidewalks of Centre-sud district in Montreal ( They stem from a long investigation tracking their appearance and disappearance in the Petit Larousse illustré over the 20th century. (This investigation began with my astonishing discovery of Jean-Claude Raimbault’s Les disparus du XXe / Les 10 000 mots disparus et les 18 000 mots apparus au XXe siècle.) I wanted to stage the different semantic fields involved in these appearances/disappearances: order (appearance), celebration (disappearance), economy (appearance), idleness and laziness (disappearance), occult sciences (disappearance), and classification (appearance), fear (appearance), etc.

Which were these waves – appearance and disappearance of words – that over time confine a specific thought? These words that enter and exit our mouths, appearing one day – we don’t know exactly why – and sticking to us for many years: what are they carrying? Through this urban intervention, I wanted to engage a critical reflection about how words transform and limit our thought, or, better put, our capacity to think singularly.

Illuminated action in Centre-sud district, Montreal, December 2009. About ten performers invade the streets of the neighbourhood, wearing two neon-lit words that brings together linguistico-historical aberrations: biophilia (disappeared in 1919) – life insurance (appeared in 2001)… After the performance, I left the neon-lit words in different dark places of the city (overpasses, tunnels, etc.).

Stenciling intervention in the street.


White, black and pink spray paint, customized wooden alphabet-stencil. Very special thanks to Jean-Claude Raimbault for his book Les disparus du XXe / Les 10 000 mots disparus et les 18 000 mots apparus au XXe siècle. Thank you to the illuminated performers. A warm thank you to the inhabitants of Centre-sud in Montreal. Photo: Julie Faubert, Guillermo López-Pérez, Camille Grésillier.