I’ve recently felt the need to get back into a wheatpasting frame of mind, folks. I’ve combined that with using the Rasterbator to turn some of my photoshop-produced images into giant-size posters.
Sometimes I see streetart as having a certain provocatory role. I have the opportunity to insert something into public space to draw out a reaction, which is what my goal was with the Mirrors series.
Bill 94, which prohibits the wearing of face-covering veils in government buildings (including hospitals and schools) is a big deal in Quebec. It’s so much of a big deal that some 95 per cent of Quebecers and 75 per cent of Canadians support its implementation. I’m opposed to Bill 94 myself simply because I see it as a non-issue. It’s the creation of a worry where none exists, and it’s pretty damn xenophobic. All sorts of public service organizations in Quebec have reported that the supposed problem of niqab-wearing women refusing to unmask for drivers’ license photos, for identification purposes at voting booths or when pulled over by traffic cops simply does not exist. The one case which fueled this bill, that of a niqab-wearing recent immigrant expelled from a technical college, seems to be merely an aberration blown up into some sort of representative case study.
Hence, this wheatpasted poster (which is the biggest I’ve ever made and which, at about 1.5×1.8 meters tested my ability to hang it up on my own.) I know that certain connotations come to mind when I see a woman wearing the niqab. It brings to mind images of a woman with a very conservative, controlling husband, but it also makes me consider it as a cultural means of accoutrement (just like yarmulkes, kirpans, saris, turbans, or Temple undergarments). And aren’t we blessed to have the variety of cultures at play in Canada that we do? That’s what I’m trying to do with this wheatpasted poster…bring out people’s feelings and reactions. There’s plenty of space for comments to be added.
And Quebec is a weird kind of society. It’s fighting a battle to preserve a frozen-in-time version of its own culture from the ever-evolving English North American one, and at the same time it’s the site of a growing reaction against its own immigrant population.
Art as a means of social commentary consists of two interlinked elements- the art itself and people’s reactions to it. If this stays up long- which I hope it does (speaking of which, I made a better batch of paste my second try around, but it still turned out lumpy overnight. Is there a good troubleshooting solution to avoid this, or should I just switch to white glue?)- I’ll try and document people’s reactions to this.
It’s interesting that we as a society make certain immediate assumptions about a woman’s character when she has her face covered. That’s one of the reasons why I thought I’d take an image that is controversial and reaction-inducing in our society and make it larger than life.
UPDATE: It’s already been defaced and torn down. I only wish I had set someone up to take some time-lapse film of people’s reactions to it…