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POLICE POLITIQUE PROJECT : installation, performance, photography

The «Police Politique» project started as an impromptu performance art intervention that was repeated several times between April 2015 and May 2016. These were followed by a series of 145 photo portraits I took of people wanting to join the project’s newly created Fraternity Against Political Police. The portraits were later combines with photographs and video of the street performances as an installation within the Art&Anarchy Exhibit, May 2017.

Street Performance

On April 2, 2015 — at the 75k-strong anti-austerity demonstration in Montréal, I found a discarded protest sign that lay in the mud in Square Victoria. The cardboard protest sign is hand-painted in three colours. It has an armband taped to its back side that I slid around my forearm to reveal is as a shield.

According to an individual I met during the demo, the “PolicePolitique” shield “belonged to a girl from Université de Sherbrooke who came to the Montréal demo on bus #4”. Why the protest sign was abandoned is unknown.

I decided to honour the shield’s initial purpose and carry it in the demo. What better role could an oppositional artefact have than to be back on the streets? The Police Politique protest shield was carried in subsequent demonstrations but I am taking the concept a bit further. Police brutality and protest repression has become commonplace in Montréal. The gratuitous violence grows in intensity and is encouraged by the current government and most corporate media editorialists in their collaborative effort to denigrate the oppositional movement against austerity. The police are political. Political profiling against oppositional movements in Québec became obvious in 2012. As a result, it seems entirely appropriate to continue carry the shield during protests to highlight this fact.

The goal is to (re)mediate the shield into a photographed performance of me with the shield alongside police during demonstrations. The task was to encourage people to take photos of me with shield and to share the photograph online through social media using the #PolicePolitique. The photographs shown below.

Portrait Photography

This photo portrait project uses found oppositional artefacts : the “Political Police” shield, a plastic Anonymous mask, a paper mask representing anarchopanda worn to contest bylaw P6, the red tuque of the Montreal Police Fraternity (MPF) and the black flag they often hung from patrol car windows. All were acquired during demonstrations in Montréal.

The (re)mediation and the combination of these four or five oppositional symbols transforms them. Their combination mingles police and political repression of the struggle against austerity and the police to protest against that same.

The MPF tuque is a symbol that blends the Fraternity’s fight against austerity to preserve their pension fund from government cuts, as well as a symbol of police repression. The Montréal police wear this tuque (as well as a variety of camouflage pants) as a pressure tactic, while they kettle protestors and make mass-arrests during Printemps 2015 demonstrations against the same austerity measures they themselves oppose. During the May 1st demonstration in Montréal, I found the MPF car window flag, I later included in the portrait series.


The Montréal police violently repress demonstrations against austerity (among others) while simultaneously opposing the negative effects of austerity on their own pension fund. In doing so, the Fraternité des policiers et policières de Montréal and its membership use political profiling as a pressure tactic and bargaining tool for their own self-interest.

This undisciplinary installation of 148 photo portrait prints, a video performance montage and protest sign reproductions juxtapose five oppositional artefacts : cardboard protest shield, plastic Anonymous/Guy Fawkes mask, paper Anarchopanda mask, as well as, the Montréal Police Fraternity’s red tuque and black flag. The interplay of these divergent artefacts reveal a narcissistic Montréal Police Fraternity and its corrupt use of protest (its own, as well as the protests of those they simultaneously repress) to gain political clout. The artefacts assembled and remediated within the installation were all acquired during demonstrations in Montréal since the “police politique” protest sign shield was found in Square-Victoria at the beginning of the anti-austerity demo on April 2, 2015. The street performances took place between April 2, 2015 and May 1, 2016. The performance’s red tuque and black shield are a foreground intrusion to the background actions of Montréal’s municipal police.

The police’s lame tactic of wearing their red tuque/cap during patrols actually opposes nothing. It seeks to consolidate power by maintaining the status quo. It is a public relations prop in an attempt to recover from their sullied reputation, using its corporate logo and red headgear as beacons of despair.

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printemps CUBEcois

PRINTEMPS CUBECOIS : archive, installation

4 metres x 5 metres x 5 metres
digital print, 49 archived banners, video, wood
« En voyant ton travail, je comprends l’importance des archives. Pas comme une mémoire poussiéreuse destinée à être étudiée dans 20 ans mais comme quelque chose de vivant qui nourrit la réflexion et l’action. Moi qui suis historienne, prof d’histoire etc, ça me fait penser le rapport à l’histoire autrement. Ce que tu as fait est inspirant pour l’action et la projection dans le futur. L’idée de safe space est excellente, et ça fonctionne vraiment. On s’y sent bien. Tu devrais proposer ton exposition pour l’animation de groupes de militants. Il y aurait quelque chose à réfléchir vraiment. En lisant ta note d’intention, j’ai pris conscience du rapport à la mélancolie ou à la nostalgie qu’aurait pu inspirer ton travail. Et au contraire ça rend joyeux et confiant. C’est vraiment réussi sur le plan esthétique. J’aime ta fresque. Je regrette de ne pas avoir eu le temps de l’explorer davantage avec les enfants. Là aussi c’est un super matériau pour animer une discussion sur la lutte sociale, la violence, la démocratie, etc ( la prof en moi se réveille et voit tout le potentiel à exploiter dans ton travail). Je rêverais de voir ce cube exposé sur la place des arts en plein festival !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ca frappe l’oeil ! » — Judith R.
While viewing your work, I understand the importance of archives. Not like a dusty memory destined to be studied in 20 years, but like something living, something that nourishes reflection and action. As a historian, history teacher, etc., it makes me think of history in a different way. What you have done inspires action and projects forward into the future. The idea of a safe space is excellent and it really works. We feel good inside the cube. You should offer your installation for activist group workshops. It offers many things to really think about. While reading your artist statement, I became aware of the melancholy or the nostalgia that your work could have inspired. But on the contrary, it inspires happiness, confidance. It really succeeds esthetically. I love your fresco. I regret not having sufficient time to explore it more closely with the kids. That too is superb material to conduct a discussion about social struggles, violence, democracy, etc. (the teacher in me awakens and sees the potential harness from your work.) I would wish to see the cube on exhibit at Place des arts during the festival season!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is striking!” — Judith R.
Artist Statement / Démarche artistique :

The massive CUBE explores the activation of an archive created by David Widgington during his MA Media Studies research-creation project at Concordia University. 40 protest banners (all previously used within demonstrations) envelope the inside and outside of the cube. A doorway gives access inside the CUBE to the « pièce de résistance » within. The mural-size protest scene collage uses a sampling of imagery taken from the Artéfacts d’un Printemps québécois Archive (its posters, banners, protest signs, actions, stencils, videos) that are printed/projected onto sewn strips of canvas. The scene is my own retelling — as a striking student at the time — of the 2012 student-led oppositional movement. It is an attempt at self-representation, which is key to building upon a movement’s own oppositional cultural heritage.The « Printemps CUBEcois » embodies the purpose for the Artéfacts Archive and its potential motivational role on protest movement choreographies in Québec and elsewhere. It is a non-nostalgic activation of an archive that seeks to nurture the oppositional consciousness that was so tenacious in 2012. The CUBE’s interior represents a safe space within which activists can meet, speak freely and find the strength necessary for collective acts of resistance and dissent.

David argues that oppositional consciousness during the debriefing period is better nourished when oppositional cultural artefacts are present. The artefacts encourage the review past actions, the discussion of evolving issues and the advancement of arguments. The CUBE provides a reaggregational gathering space for activists to reinforce solidarity, to build collective confidence and, ultimately, to consider future oppositional performance.

Ideally, the oppositional cultural heritage, activated via the « Printemps CUBEcois », will help link the debriefing phase of the Maple Spring with current/upcoming battles against austerity. As a result, activists will be able to better confront the abuses of neoliberal capitalism and resist its systematic oppression.

Le CUBE explore la mise en action d’une archive créée dans le cadre de la maîtrise de David Widgington en Études des médias au Département de communications à l’Université Concordia. Quarante bannières contestataires (toutes utilisées dans des manifestations) recouvrent l’extérieur et l’intérieur du CUBE. Une porte d’entrée donne accès à la « pièce de résistance » de la grandeur d’une muraille : la gigantesque bannière « Ne rien lâcher ». Cette bannière spécialement conçue met en scène une manifestation représentative du Printemps québécois en utilisant un échantillonnage d’artéfacts visuels (images d’affiches, de bannières, de pancartes, d’actions, de pochoirs, de vidéos, etc…) provenant de l’Archive d’artéfacts d’un Printemps québécois, le tout étant imprimé sur des bandes de canevas cousues ensemble.

La scène est le récit de l’artiste — en tant qu’étudiant en grève à l’époque — du mouvement contestataire de 2012. Il s’agit d’une tentative d’autoreprésentation, un élément-clé pour bâtir l’héritage culturel d’un mouvement contestataire. Le CUBE incarne l’objectif de l’Archive d’artéfacts dans son rôle d’agitateur potentiel pour les chorégraphies futures des mouvements de protestation au Québec et ailleurs.
Ces installation et scénographie permettent une mise en action non-nostalgique d’une archive qui cherche à nourrir la conscience contestataire, si tenace en 2012, et en gestation pour les luttes à venir. L’intérieur du CUBE constitue ainsi un « safe space » où des activistEs peuvent se rencontrer, parler ouvertement et rechercher une force collective qui pourrait mener vers des actions de résistance futures.

Le « Printemps CUBEcois » sert d’espace de ré-agrégation et de compte-rendu pour se réunir, pour interroger ensemble nos actions, stratégies, tactiques, etc. Le but visé est de renforcer la solidarité et de bâtir une confiance collective, tout en se (re)familiarisant avec la performance militante antérieure. David Widgington soutient que la conscience contestataire est mieux nourrie lorsque des artéfacts culturels contestataires sont présents et accessibles. Les artéfacts encouragent la reconsidération des actions, la discussion des enjeux, l’avancement des arguments et, ultimement, la considération d’actions futures.

Idéalement, l’héritage culturel contestataire ainsi mis en place par l’entremise du « Printemps CUBEcois » aidera à boucler la boucle entre le Printemps érable de 2012 et les luttes actuelles contre l’austérité. En conséquance, les militantEs serons plus compétentEs pour confronter les abus du capitalisme néolibéral et pour résister à son oppression systématique.