Public Parking
A journal for storytelling, arguments, and discovery through tangential conversations.
Editor's Letter
Monday, March 25, 2024 | eunice bélidor

I am sitting on the windowsill of my studio in the Résidence des Récollets, in Paris. It is 22h12, Paris time, and I am wondering if I should spend the rainy day tomorrow working on various curatorial projects waiting for me back home in Montreal, or if I should wake up early and go to my hot yoga class. Ever since I knew I was coming to Paris, I searched the web to see if they had the type of hot yoga I have been doing for the last 15 years. The studio in Montreal no longer exists, and my body and mind have been aching ever since. 

I started my yoga practice at 17 years old: my yoga teacher would come once a week to my high school to teach us beginner’s Hatha Yoga. Back then, I was a weird kid – meaning it was odd to other Black students that I would do yoga, not eat meat, devour Madonna biographies, and read about Buddhism. But what yoga gave me was a gateway to mindfulness and creativity, an outlet to think beyond the education and the system I was brought up in. Yoga opened my eyes to new perspectives and allowed me to think of myself as something or someone else.

Eventually, that something else became telling stories through art, and that someone else became a curator. It gave me the space to become queer; as bell hooks stated: “I think of Tim Dean's work on being queer and queer not as being about who you're having sex with—that can be a dimension of it—but queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and it has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.

Aside from yoga, I was not doing any sport. I was walking a lot, but that was it. I did however LOVE dancing; I took dancing lessons in high school and not only was I good, but it made me feel good. I loved expressing myself through dance, and getting out of my brain, for once. Yoga and dance were my first experiences of embodiment, but it was only much later that I would understand how important and necessary it was for me.

Fast forward to my undergraduate years, studying Art History with my boyfriend, who was part of Concordia’s cross-country team. He was spending his time running, and I was spending mine reading fashion magazines. Reading a copy of Jalouse, I read tips for the “modern young girl”: one of them was to exercise to feel sexy and confident. Thinking it would not hurt to lose a few pounds, I joined the gym, and would go with my boyfriend from time to time; all the student-athletes had a free membership to cross-train, so we went together as emotional support. 

The gym was the perfect environment for me: I could be on my own, in my world, with my music. I would not compete with others. I could stay as long or as little as I wanted. I did not care about my weight anymore: all I cared about was the mental well-being it provided. Surprisingly that year, my grades got higher, increasing my GPA. Being in my body was good for my brain, but it was also a way to ward off anxiety. My mind was clearer, I was in a better mood, and I was, like Jalouse said, more confident: I was not afraid to hike the Pin de Sucre in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, try river surfing, or ride a bike.

My friends and classmates started to notice how often I would go to the gym; they would make comments about sports and arts not going together, how “as artists, physical activity was not part of their everyday life; how in high school Phys ed was not their best subject”. My boyfriend and I became known as the “sporty couple”, two Art History students running and working out.

One of my boyfriend’s cross-country teammates was Didier Morelli: physical activity has always been important in his life, helping him achieve high endurance performances. In Wavelength – Longueur d’ondes (1967): Man and His Belly Button, L’homme et son nombril, presented during the 2017 edition of VIVA! Art Action, Didier pushed his body hard, attempting to form circles out of different objects, including a metal rod. Recovering after the fact, he told my boyfriend how their running coach, who saw the performance, was speechless to know that Didier was going to run with the team the next day, as a cool-down.

In 2018, I curated the exhibition code:body as part of the HTMlles festival. Laura Acosta and Santiago Tavera presented The Novels of Elsgüer (Episode 3) – Live Despecho, an immersive installation about how migrant bodies and their multiple representations yearn to belong. For this presentation, they needed a small room to be built inside articule’s gallery. The shipping of plywood, 2x4s and gypsum arrived around 6:30 am in front of the gallery on a Tuesday morning, and I needed to be there to receive the material. Unfortunately, the team at Home Depot did not want to bring it inside, leaving it all on the street. I had to bring each and every piece of it, one by one inside the gallery. I called on colleagues and board members, but it was either too early, or they were not available. By chance, the window cleaner came at around 9:30, and helped me with what was left to bring inside. I could not believe how I was able to do this, almost on my own. I kept thinking about the work a curator must do to present artists’ works the way they intend to. We think of our work as conceptual, drawing plans, writing texts, but I never imagined having to do such heavy lifting. I was grateful for the gym, for yoga, and for my abled body. I kept thinking about how wrong Home Depot did me, but it would have been worse if I had chronic pain, if I was visually impaired, if I was using a wheelchair.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, I knew I needed to do something for my growing anxieties; I developed a posology of what I needed to do to go through isolation, lockdowns, and gym closures. I cycle-synced my vitamins; I called my friends and loved ones; stood outside their window to see them outside the screen; I wrote a lot of letters and read a lot of books. Moving was an obvious thing to do: I bought a stationary bike and started using the Peloton app, I got a membership to The Class, I ran outside, and climbed up and down the stairs of the Complexe environnemental de Saint-Michel (or Frédéric-Back for the outsiders). Through movement, I developed the concept of Isolate with Style, a slow, online programming at FOFA Gallery where I would ask artists and curators to write letters to present themselves outside of their artistic or curatorial practice. It was also a way to connect, which was impossible to do physically. During the pandemic, exercise and movement kept me alive and sane, but also creative and solution-oriented. Exercise allowed me to be an affective curator, one that cared more about artists and curators as people than as creators of objects to be consumed.

Four years later, I am curious to know what exercise, physical activity and embodiment have done in the lives of other curators, writers and cultural workers. I have seen a change around me: everyone realizes the benefit of physical activity (or are we just getting older?). When I started as a curator, it was important for me to hear as many different other curatorial journeys: the more people talk about their lived experiences, the more accessible certain lives look like. When I tell students and future curators how I only went inside a museum for the first time at 18, I want to show that you do not need rich parents who have their own collection and a network of connected people to work in arts. The same goes with this editorial residency: if physical activity has done so much for me as a curator, if fitness helps artists perform their work, if walking helps us think, there must be something that we can discover. Since 2020, there has been more talk about care: curating based on care, institutions needing to care for artists. I have used fitness as self-care, and I am excited to feature essays from curators, writers and cultural workers who have done the same as well. You will read from JiaJia Fei, founder of the first digital agency for art, who works at the intersection of art, culture, and technology. Then from Maude Johnson, author, curator, and contemporary art consultant; and finally, from Adrienne Huard, curator, writer, Sundancer and performer. All of them are multi-hyphenated people, whose fitness journey has had major impacts in their lives and practices.

By the time you are reading this, my birthday has [recently] passed. As I do every year, I go for a run; this year, it was in the streets of  Montpellier, France, where I continued my curatorial residency with the Fonderie Darling. The run gave me the energy to meet with artists, curators, and students, and face what was a busy day. On the 5th of every 3 months, just before the shift in season, you will be able to read from our collaborators; these words be placed neatly between those of my fellow Editorial Residents, whom I am beyond thrilled to share the Public Parking platform with. Coincidently, both Amy Fung and Tammer El-Sheikh are people who made me push my writing and curating further, either by leading a writing workshop I participated in at Critical Distance, or by trusting my words as a guest to the York University Summer Institute they led. In both cases, I got there by foot, walking to clear my head and get ready for what lay ahead.

The above text was written by eunice bélidor, an independent curator, researcher, art critic, and writer. She lives and works in Tio'tia:ke also known as Montreal. bélidor is currently an editorial resident with Public Parking. This is her first piece of a four-part creative exploration with our publication. Look out for her upcoming contributions. 

Cover image:  Didier Morelli, Wavelength – Longueur d’ondes (1967) : Man and His Belly Button, L’homme et son nombril (2017) VIVA Art Action, photo by Guy L'Heureux.