Thesaurus of No-place and A Film About Emptiness

Thesaurus of No-place and A Film About Emptiness

June 8, 2022
10:30 am - 12:30 pm

Online and in person at 4th Space


A Research-Creation Project on Vacant Spaces in Montreal

June 8th and 9th: Video excerpts, interactive thesaurus and images of vacant spaces on show at 4th Space

June 8th

. 10:30am- 12:30pm 

Presentation of the research (live and streamed)

by Salma el Hankouri and Andres Salas; moderated by: Christine White

Register here

June 8th

Workshop about the Thesaurus of No-place

. 1:30pm - 2:00pm Visit of the exhibits to watch footage, reflect 

. 2:00pm - 3:00pm Workshop

. 3:00pm - 4:00pm Presentation of A Film about Emptiness (work-in-progress) 

June 9th

. 10:30am- 2:00pm Open house

. 2:00pm - 2:30pm Presentation of A Film about Emptiness (work-in-progress) 

. 2:30pm - 4:00pm Focus group discussion

At the term of a research creation project around the notion of vacancy, the Grey Areas Desk of the Office of Rules and Norms has produced A Film about Emptiness and a complementary Thesaurus of No-place. We wish to invite a broader community to become acquainted with our process and work-in-progress, provide us with feedback, and interact with the concepts that we have developed around the notions of emptiness and vacancy.

The initial point of this research was to collect different strategies for accessing vacant spaces through a series of interviews. However the pandemic and our reflections on “why and how emptiness exists in the city” soon diverted our interest. It became indispensable to think not only of how people connect with empty spaces, but also of how they are disconnected from them. We then decided to explore the concepts of Emptiness and Vacancy through a film that would be our pretext and strategy for accessing vacant spaces and contributions from various artists, thinkers and social activists.

The concepts explored are those of Emptiness, Space/Place, Memory, Territory/Land, Resource, Ownership, Expropriation and Time/Transience/Permanence. By visiting vacant spaces, we revisit erased histories and invisible territories which these places - or lack thereof - remain the guardians of. Empty space or emptied spaces remain inhabited by their past and potential for reinvention. They remind us that emptiness is a temporary and subjective state.

Index of places:

Hôtel Château-Mirabel

4000 St. Patrick

Drive-in Cinema in Laval

Centech (former Rio Tinto-Alcan planetarium)

Former Berri-UQAM bus terminal

Indians of Canada Pavilion of Expo 67

Goose Village

Notre-Dame Library 

Creative researchers:  

Sarah Brown: Sarah Brown is an interdisciplinary artist and architect whose practice lies at the intersection of art, architecture, community engagement, activism and bureaucracy. She is the co-founder of the Office of Rules and Norms and currently leading its Grey Areas and Future Generations desk. She also works as a consultant in project development and strategic planning for artists and cultural organizations. In her previous role as Advisor, Strategic Initiatives and Special Projects at the Faculty of Fine Arts, her work focused on connecting students and emerging artists with cultural and community partners through innovative trans-disciplinary projects and initiatives. 

Salma El Hankouri: سلمى Salma is a Ph.D. candidate in the Interdisciplinary Humanities at Concordia University. Her doctoral research focuses on the manifestations of Indigeneity in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal, including issues of identity and decolonial praxis. She is interested in the ways Indigenous cultural revival and sovereignty transpire through the arts, and how contemporary urbanity structures Indigenous-settler relations from a non-white/settler/global Indigenous perspective. As an affiliate at CIÉRA (Centre interuniversitaire d'études et de recherche autochtones), she currently investigates themes tied to urban ethnography and global Indigenous studies. She holds a master’s degree in human rights and international law with a focus on Latin American studies, and a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Swansea University (Wales), Britain.

Andrés Salas: Andrés Salas is a Humanities PhD student at Concordia University working at the intersection of mining, critical infrastructure and alternative epistemologies. Andrés is a visual artist from Colombia, living and working in Montreal. He is actively committed to the communities where he has worked and lived, developing artistic projects that explore local dynamics but deal with global problems. He was recently awarded with a doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Christine White is completing her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts at Concordia University with a major in Intermedia and minor in Sociology. She is a community activist, artist and researcher who intervenes in public space through socially engaged art programs. In 2014, Christine was invited to collaborate with PedalBox Gallery in ləkw̓ əŋən Traditional Territory/Victoria BC where it quickly became one of her favorite ways of working. Bringing this concept to Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal, PedalBox now explores its second iteration beginning in the summer of 2021. This includes working with the Shock Value Collective to host mobile projections, transport pop-up installations and transform into a pop-up office space.

This initiative was made possible by the generous support of the Peter N. Thomson Family Innovation Fund and the Faculty of Fine Arts of Concordia.


The Office of Rules and Norms (ORN) is an arts-based transdisciplinary collective that engages with regulations, the rule of law and cultural norms. These engagements reveal, comprehend, play with, subvert, and transcend current ways of understanding and acting in relation to regulatory forces in order to make room for more equitable alternatives. In its attempts to query legal and behavioral urban infrastructures, the ORN specifically deploys art and design practice, culture, and methods along three axes:
Art as Subversion | Intervening in grey areas of regulation
Art as Pedagogy | Making public various forces and forms of influence
Art as Decision-Making | Reorienting modes of knowing and deliberating