Posts Tagged ‘wheatpaste


New Wheatpaste, and urban planning gripes

First of all, let me begin with a new updated version of the “Cirque Turcot” wheatpaste. I just gave it a slight tweak to make it look more like a circus poster.

I don’t think I’ve ever used this blog as a ranting podium for my commentary on certain urban planning issues. Then again, there is a first time for everything, and as I get back into the swing of another academic year and have less time for streetart I’d like to round out my often-infrequent posting with a bit of analysis and commentary on ongoing Montreal projects and decisions.

As of several months ago, the planning directors of Montreal’s McGill University decided that the streets of the lower campus were going to become a car-free zone- a decision which I wholeheartedly applaud. It was put forth with plenty of notice and opportunity for public consultation and input. What McGill’s planning board decided to do in tandem with this decision- prevent people from riding their bicycles on the lower campus streets- was not announced beforehand.

This policy flies in the face of both McGill University’s past lobbying for safe, accessible bicycle networks (which University representatives carried out during consultations for the Montreal Transportation Plan) and McGill’s own Master Plan, which calls for “…a greener, pedestrian-friendly Downtown Lower Campus, as free as possible of motorized vehicles” and for an increase in the number of bicycle parking spaces on and near campus.

The same Master Plan states that the Planning Office wishes to “…create people-friendly spaces that encourage conversation, reflection and the sharing of ideas”. I do not know how the Planning Office envisions this ‘sharing of ideas’ process taking place, but to me it involves a dialogue at the very least. And a dialogue has certainly not taken place. From what I have heard from friends who have attempted to contact McGill’s Planning Director, he has been ignorant and even hostile to their concerns. One friend who spoke to him personally said that he expressed an anti-cyclist frustration and mentioned his almost being hit by a cyclist in defense of his closing McGill’s Lower Campus to cyclists.

But maybe that’s just hearsay. The director of the Planning Office hasn’t responded to an email I sent him expressing my opposition to his decision and the means by which it was carried out yet, but if and when he does I will add it as an update. Maybe he won’t think a street artist is worth talking to, but that’s not the issue here. The issue at hand is a decision made without public input that flies in the face of McGill University’s record and actions on bicycle use.


Cirque Turcot

It’s forty-two years old, and no one really seems to know what to do with the Turcot Interchange.

When it was first unveiled in time for Expo ’67 (a time period which was marked by a flurry of megaprojects under the stead of Mayor Jean Drapeau that also included the Montreal subway and Ville-Marie Expressway) it was a towering marvel of modernist efficiency. It still is the largest highway interchange in Quebec. It handles more than 30 per cent of Quebec’s total truck traffic.

Now it’s crumbling, and the city, province and community groups are fighting over what to do next. The City of Montreal proposed a 10-year, 5-billion dollar plan which, in typical Montreal megaproject form, envisions a three-level Colosseum-like concrete megastructure taking its place.

The Quebec Transport Authority promptly rejected this plan and came up with a proposal to bring the expressway down onto embankments, a development which will require the expropriation and demolition of some 130 homes and which will create a new barrier cutting through the neighbourhood of St. Henri. This plan will also increase the highway’s carrying capacity by more than 10 per cent. This move has been resoundingly panned by environmental groups arguing that we should be trying to have less, not more, cars on the road.

A coalition of environmental and community groups, engineers and planners has put forth a third proposal, which calls for the preservation and maintenance of the beleaguered interchange and the gradual reduction of its carrying capacity. Public transit services are proposed as a means of taking up the excess slack. As it stands, the recession has placed a damper on this hot-button issue, and City politicians seem to be doing as much as they can to keep the issue under wraps. To make things more interesting, the head of Projet Montreal might be involved in keeping Turcot deliberations a secret.

This is an issue that needs to be brought back into the public eye.
That’s why I came up with a series of Turcot-themed posters. I give you the first in a list of alternate proposals. The magnificent “Cirque Turcot”, which promises to pay for itself in popcorn sales by 2044…

And to my readers…please make use of the fundraising widget on the right side of the page. It’s free to use and raises money for To Write Love On Her Arms, which is a great cause.


Princess Hijab

A friend of mine recently introduced me to a Paris street artist who goes by the name of Princess Hijab.
Princess Hijab’s style involves editing ads by painting hijabs and chadors on female and male figures…

…which she says is done as a cheeky attack on a pervasive, hypersexed consumerism through the use of symbols that are, particularly in France, being seen as anti-Western and anti-French. It’s the covering up of one ostensibly sexist image with a depiction of an article of clothing that’s seen by many Westerners as sexist and controlling.

She’s managed to offend quite a few Muslims and French nationalists so far, which to me is a sign that she’s pulling off some provocative and interesting street art.


A picture draws up a thousand controversies

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…


Easter is here…(money, power, chocolate)

What happens when Evangelical Christians start getting fired up about reclaiming the true meaning of Easter from all this Easter Bunny nonsense??

The Easter Bunny gets upset, of course. He’s got ears, you know. He hears things. And he’s not the kind of rabbit who you want to see upset.

Wheatpaste done this morning. Easter Bunny/Tony Montana mashup done just in time for the best food-themed holiday until Thanksgiving.