[en traduction – bientôt en français]
During the creation of the initial prototype archive on FB, the artefacts were first categorized into albums by genre: posters, banners, protest signs, digital images, comics, stencils, videos, etc. Initially, the limited quantity of visual artefacts were primarily concerned with the government’s program to raise tuition fees for higher education. As the archive grew and upon closer examination, it began to exhibit a widening consciousness that opposes the privatization of public institutions. The artefacts revealed a growing inability to remain apathetic to corrupted relationships between politicians and corporate interests, nor unresponsive to the political and abusive use of “public security” and the judiciary as repressive forces against public demonstrations of dissent.Within each album, the artefacts were sorted along common systems of representation, which revealed a series of signifying constellations. Besides the obvious red square that signifies the student strike stronger than any other symbol, other well-known symbols prevailed within the archive’s popular imagery, like the combative raised and clenched fist or its adaptation of a raised digitus medius giving the finger to detractors. The omnipresent casserole that made its presence after the passing of provincial Bill 78 and municipal by-law P-6 signifies non-student solidarity with the student struggle and expresses opposition to the repressive laws designed to divide and weaken the student strike.
The growing role of Anarchopanda, Banane Rebelle, Anonymous and other oppositional ‘characters’ revealed themselves as their constellations grew. The combative relationship between the students and the state is conspicuous throughout the archive but is particularly apparent in the ‘posters’ and ‘digital’ albums. The important role of student union leaders and spokespersons — and the difference between them — are impossible to ignore as they too were well represented and deserving of their own constellation.
The demonization of Prime Minister Charest on dozens of posters and his ridicule in dozens more digital images disclose his position as the central adversary of the conflict, with his Minister(s) of Education(1) and Minister of Finance as secondary but equally reviled antagonists.
The police whose violent relationship with protestors during daily demonstrations is reinforced by constellations of their own. Their riot gear is prominent in the imagery, as are their tools of repression: shields, batons, teargas, tie-wraps, gas masks, pepper spray, etc. Their repressive behaviour are also well represented: images of violent arrests and others of students with hands cuffed behind their backs. Rows of police, some of whom are pig-headed, confront protestors. An overzealous Constable 728 and top spokescop Ian Lafrennière both figure prominently as symbols of political bias and abuse. Figures with serious injuries are reminders of unequal power relations between protestors and heavily armed riot police, who enthusiastic use of “less-than-lethal” weapons on unarmed like dispersal sound grenades, rubber bullets and teargas.
These, and other often-overlapping, signifying constellations reveal a consciousness that opposes the dominant language of supremacy that questioned the protest movement’s validity. The archive has grown into an indicator of oppositional (self)representation during what Stuart Hall calls its “construction of identity and the marking of difference, in [its] production and consumption, as well as in the regulation of [its] social conduct” (p4)(2).
(1) Line Beauchamp resigned as Minister of Education during the strike and was replaced by Michelle Courchesne.
(2) Hall, Stuart (1997) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage Publications, (p4).