October 4, 2011

I put temporary tattoos on my neck and wrists. The text reads “workequalsworth=innocence” and “travailegalvaler=l’innocence” in repeat. Romy and I put on our t-shirts that read “I have mental health problems with oppression and stigma” and “J’ai des probleme  sante mentale avec l’oppression & la stigmatization” and head to Berri-UQAM.

On passé par la tous les jours/We pass by there every day

There Diana meets us to photograph our actions. We walk to Dollarama for some plastic baggies. Then we walk to the florists store a few blocks down. Already I feel a shift in class structure and economy. We buy 11 or 12 old roses on sale. I was thinking each one could represent a bullet. As we leave the store a young woman runs up to us, “I have mental problems too!” She wants to take a picture with us. She tells us about her life, she is misunderstood, she is from a small town, she just finally got a welfare check, she is going to Pops, she is a rapper. She starts crying. She draws a half moon on the sidewalk with pink chalk, “that is my symbol.”

We part ways and head to the square. We start placing the roses into the fence. We place a T-shirt there also. An older, middle class woman approaches me from behind, “Why are you doing this?” she asks in French. I turn to explain about the shooting, to see if she had already heard about it. She looks frightened… of my neck tattoos? She walks away. Another man, who occupies the park, approaches me. “Why are you doing that?” Again I explain my motivations. He says, in French, “You know if I did that the police would say I am vandalizing and give me a ticket.” “Yes, exactly, or arrest you. That is why I am doing this. Did you see yesterday the news articles we put up here?” His expression changes, he is suddenly more serious, “That was you? I was wondering who did that. That was very good. Very important.” We talk some more, then he asks about the t-shirts. “Would you like a T-shirt?” I ask. He says yes and I give him one. He runs his hand over the text, “These are really well made.” and then adds, “They must have cost a lot.” “Yes they did.” I say. “How do you pay for these?” Here Romy jumps in the conversation, “We are artists, we get paid…” she continued on. I gave him some tattoos to take. Afterwards I wondered what he was going to do with the shirt.

As we walked away from the fence and crossed the street, a man approached the fence and began dismantling the flower and shirt.
(Photos by Diana Le Nezet and Romy Ceppetelli)
This person re-appopriated our intervention as the items had a value that allowed for recirculation (unlike yesterday’s poster-sized news articles, which stayed untouched for hours).

About workequalsworthequalsinnocence

Working with animation, video, painting, drawing, installation and intervention, my interdisciplinary practice examines the complex position of culture within neoliberal capitalism and critiques modes of social control, while exploring the potential for art to function as a site of resistance. I am specifically interested in how modes of violence are perpetuated collectively through popular narratives, concepts of justice and denial of accountability. Frequently engaging with communities and collectives, my practice eschews individual authorship in favour of collaboration. This has included an ongoing commitment to working with women and youth who are in conflict with the law, through the creation of art projects in prisons as well as at numerous centres that support marginalized people. In 2008, I completed an MFA through the Public Art and New Artistic Strategies program at the Bauhaus University (Weimar, Germany). My work has been shown nationally and internationally in festivals, screenings, artist run centres and museums. I am currently employed as an Assistant Professor of Studio Arts at Concordia University. http://jessicamaccormackrmack.tumblr.com/
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