Manicouagan: 210 million years of astronomical, environmental and historic upheaval


Initiated in 2018 by French artist Paul Duncombe, the project Manicouagan originally set out to explore the vestiges of the geological cataclysm that had so indelibly marked the region some 210 million years ago when a meteorite came crashing down, creating one of the largest known impact craters on earth.

This land also bears witness to the ancestral Innu presence that dates back over 8,000 years, as well as to the social shifts that rocked Québec of the 1960s. Between 1959 and 1968, Hydro-Québec built the immense Daniel-Johnson dam at the mouth of the Rivière Manicouagan, whose source is in the crater. For Québec, this massive construction project, a veritable symbol of the “Quiet Revolution,” also represents the passage from the status of a colonized nation struggling for freedom to that of a colonized nation turned colonizer.

The exhibition brings together the work of six individuals, each of whom was invited to survey, study and experience the region for a two-week period in 2021. While Innu poet and author Maya Cousineau Mollen probes cultural wounds and the fragility of peoples in a colonization context, Québec writer Louis Hamelin examines the area from a historical, ethnological and environmental perspective. French artist Paul Duncombe and geomatics specialist Erwan Gavelle, in turn, map the Réserve écologique Louis-Babel as a series of geological, geographic and ecological portraits, while undersea explorer Nathalie Lasselin invites us into the deep red waters of the reservoir, which harbours a drowned forest, the ghostly remains of an erased land. The entire project crystallizes under the unwavering gaze of Kanatakhatsus Meunier, a Kanyen’kehà:ka documentary filmmaker who highlights the lasting trauma brought about the perception of this region (by the majority Québec population to the south) as distant and uninhabited, and therefore open to exploitation. Collectively, these works elucidate a majestic land, witness to natural upheavals, social liberation, colonization, historical wounds, social conflict and environmental issues.


Éric Desmarais, curator




Co-produced by Sporobole and Station Mir/Festival ]interstice[, the exhibition is toured by Sporobole with the support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ) and the Conseil des arts du Canada (CAC).

The expedition was co-produced by Sporobole, Station Mir and La Tonne, with support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ), the Conseil des arts du Canada (CAC), the French Consulate in Quebec City and the Normandy region.

The entire team extends its warmest thanks to the Conseil des Innus de Pessamit, Station Uapishka and OrganisAction.


Credits: Paul Duncombe, Manicouagan, 2022, detail from the exhibition presented at Abbaye-aux-Dames, Caen (Fr) as part of the ]interstice[ #16 festival, produced by Station Mir.