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Growing up Everywhere
by Valerie Lamontagne

I have journeyed back in thought - with thought hopelessly tapering off as I went - to remote regions where I groped for some secret outlet only to discover that the prison of time is spherical and without exits.
- Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory

If you ask me where I am from, the answer is neither short nor simple. Most people come from one place, or perhaps move to another place, granting them a dual history split down the middle by immigration, displacement or moving "away". I am French Canadian by birth, and Anglo Saxon by education. I was born in Montreal and moved more times than the number of school years from age five to twenty. We inhabited cities, small towns and farms, good neighborhoods and bad, in English Canada, Québec, the U.S. and Europe. Often we moved back and forth. Why? My parents were idealists, farmers, hippies, and later artists. They traveled (and my sister and I followed) to where there was work and opportunity. Looking back, I could not imagine having "grown up" otherwise.

Although people often comment on the difficulty of living a fragmented childhood, the excitement of discovering new places always far outweighed the challenges of molding oneself to new environments. In fact, I came to realize that identity is relative. In one city you're "it", in the next you're a "loser". Also, as anyone who travels knows, there is a great freedom in being in a foreign context where you may re-invent yourself, especially when going through sticky adolescent transformations.

I do notice that my transitional past has had an impact on my adult choices, tainted my vision in one way - with the desire to witness change from the centre of the hurricane that is time. I moved back to Montreal as a young adult, at a time when others my age were leaving "home" for the first time, and I have stayed in place ever since. I have become ceaselessly fascinated and emotional at the transformation of the familiar, never having imagined that one could actually stay put and watch the streets and people change. I am nostalgic for people and places - but to a healthy degree. Sometimes you can only truly see the present when removed from it. And, as a friend once mentioned, "It's not where you live that really matters, it's the fact that we are living it at the same time."

Valérie Lamontagne is a Montréal artist, art critic and curator. She is a co-founder of MobileGaze.com, a Web site featuring art and interviews with artists and digital media producers. She loves animals - because they'll follow you anywhere you go.

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