« PIÈCE DE RÉSISTENCE » composite banner builds oppositional cultural heritage
The composite banner, « ICI COMME AILLEURS ON A RAISON DE NE RIEN LÂCHER » is a (re)mediation of visual artefacts taken from the Artéfacts Archive. The imagery that makes up the banner’s collage was pilfered from the Archive‘s posters, banners, protest signs, videos, stencils, etc to create a protest scene representative of the Québec’s 2012 oppositional movement or “Printemps québécois”. The banner honours the protesters while denigrating state repression that became commonplace during the protests. It is a creative work of self-representation, made by an MA student actively protesting during the six-month strike against tuition increases. Self-representation is key to building a movement’s own oppositional cultural heritage.
The « NE RIEN LÂCHER » banner is the “piece de résistance” within the larger Printemps CUBEcois installation that was mounted in the Concordia University Library Atrium during the Hemispheric Institute’s Encuentro 2014 MANIFEST!: Choreographing Social Movements in the Americas. It measures 13ft high x 17ft wide. It is a digital collage of images that was printed on four strips of 58″-wide canvas at the Fine Arts Research Textile Lab at Hexagram-Concordia thanks to Josée Hamelin, the Lab’s Textile Coordinator. But before it was printed, the protest scene was composed in Photoshop at 150dpi in a single rto-scale file that measured 150″ x 200″, which at one point during the scene’s creation weighed a wopping 12GB!! Each individual image was close cropped and saved as a separate file before being integrated as a layer into the final file. It was an effort in patience.
In the Hexagram Textile Lab, each of the four strips were printed on 10-ounce canvas during consecutive days on the natural fibres Mimaki TX2 printer. Each strip was left to dry overnight before removing the paper backing, rolling it onto a metal coil for its ten-minute steaming at 220º Celcius, then left to dry. The entire process took four days. I brought a sewing machine to the Lab that I borrowed from artist Chloé Germain-Thérien to sew the four-metre-long strips together. My only prior experience with a sewing machine was the stitching of the 50% scale prototype version of the banner. The biggest challenge was managing the bulky canvas strips as I aligned and matched the composite image of each strip for the pinning before passing them through the machine to be stitched together. I decided to sew the banner into two sections with Velcro strips added to their inside edges to bind the two together during exhibition. It made the sewing easier but it also facilitated the banner’s installation.
Once the strips were sewn together and their edges double, triple even quadruple folded and sewn for structural integrity, I brought the banner to the Concordia University Theatre Department’s Prop Shop at the Loyola Campus to add the grommet rings. Mairi Robertson, Head of Props, allowed me to use their grommet press to add the forty rings that will allow the banner to be attached to any structure for exhibition.
The « NE RIEN LÂCHER » collage banner is an expression of archival activation. To include as many archival elements as possible, three projection screens are integrated into the protest scene. On the lower left are a group of people holding a protest banner which is blank and upon which a slideshow of banners from the Artéfacts Archive are screened. Near the bottom centre is an activist carrying a blank protest sign, which changes every five seconds with a newly projected protest sign. On the lowernright side of the banner is an individual figure looking into a blank computer screen which comes to life with archival projected videos. The entire scene comes to life with the audio that accompanies the video. When first installed within the Printemps CUBEcois, the inside of the cube became a gathering point that was referred to as “a safe space that invited me to linger and look more closely at the [composite] banner, with the slide show and videos.” Viewers were drawn into the centre of the cube to view the composite banner by the audio that seeped through the forty protest banners that gave the cube voice with their slogans and indignation.
The ritualistic behaviour of protest performance binds performers together: chanting slogans, confronting police, carrying protest signs, locking arms to hold a position, etc. and wearing ritualistic attire: black clothing, the red square, exuberant costumes, face paint, etc. Stuart Hall1 writes, in relation to fan performance at football matches, that “banners and slogans, with faces and bodies painted in certain colours or inscribed with certain symbols, can also be thought of as like a ‘language’ — in so far as it is a symbolic practice which gives meaning or expression to the idea of belonging” (p5). The symbols chosen to construct the protest scene collage come from artefacts used during the Printemps québécois are themselves a language with meaning that is shared with oppositional performers who ‘belong’ to the protest movement that used them. Bill 78, Matricule 728, Banane Rebelle, Anarchopanda, le plan nord, the red square, Victoriaville, printemps érable, among many others are shared expressions of belonging to the movement. They are well represented in the archive and are integrated within the protest scene portrayed in the « NE RIEN LÂCHER » collage banner.