Art in Action, screening at Cinema Politica next week, is a conscious and inspiring film about one ambitious couple and the growth of their art and humanitarian group: the Action Terroriste Socialement Acceptable.
The film proves what can be accomplished as long as you’re crazy enough to get it done, because the ATSA is out there, and they’ve worked hard to become your neighbourhood-friendly terrorists.
You may have heard of them already. The ATSA has been around for 13 years and have given Montreal a good dose of militant art installations and events. The art could be described as anything but pleasant, but the message it delivers is a much needed deep-kick to the status quo.
“We are trying work against passivity, we want people to shape their future,” says Annie Roy, co-founder of ATSA, “and art is a very intelligent way to empower people and change the world.”
Part of the ATSA mandate is to “promote the active and responsible vision of artists as citizens contributing to the sustainable development of their society.” Basically, they’re all about art that vilifies over-consumption while fighting for greater equality and social consciousness. In true fashion, Art in Action is a captivating ride of a documentary that follows the founders of ATSA across three vigilante-spirited years of art and humanitarian action.
Art in Action starts through the metal caging of an empty shopping cart, as it scours the calorie-heavy aisles of a generic grocer. This consumer-challenging tone then turns to the ATSA’s history of artistic muckraking. There’s a feeling of youthful rebellion with a strong sense of purpose. Co-director Magnus Isacsson films the ATSA as they take on our fuel-guzzling culture by turning an SUV into an object of terrorism. They char its metal carcass and leave it in the street for all to see. This chilling image comes to symbolizes the “violence” inherent to over-consumption.
“ATSA is a redirection of violence into a very socially acceptable object which is art,” explains Roy, noting that much of what ATSA does stems from an anger with the passivity of the world. “I don’t want to fight violence with violence.”
So instead the ATSA fights “violence” with art. Another example is when they dress cannonballs bubblegum pink, in an old American fort aimed towards Cuba, to emphasize America’s capitalist armament, and the tenacious spread of the “American Dream.”
Art in Action follows three years of the group’s multi-day charity and art event, “Etat d’urgence.” Once every winter, Parc Berri is taken over by all walks of Montreal life in the spirit of providing clothes and food to the poor, all while incorporating socially conscious thought through various art installments. The whole thing reads like a festival for the disfavoured out there, and is endearing to the core.
“Art is a very important educative tool,” said Roy, “for everybody to know themselves and be able to express themselves – it encourages peace.”
In the film we learn that ATSA isn’t some radical cell. At the heart of things is a loving couple: Roy and her hubby Pierre Allard (the other co-founder). They have two kids, a home, nights doing homework and dishes after supper &- a world that director Isacsson doesn’t ignore as inconsequential, but rather includes as salient.
“It was totally an encounter of love between each other, and to break the edge and protest in the street,” said Roy about the beginning of her relationship with Allard and the beginnings of the ATSA, “to make art that would put infront some very serious matters, it was really a matter of expressing this rage and revolt, and we didn’t know where it would bring us.”
The film may not be the most exiting at times, but it is insightful throughout. Plus, it’s guided by a director who obviously cares about the story and the people in it as much as the entertainment value of what he produces, and this is always a refreshing change of pace.
Art in Action screens alongside Dream Listener, a film about a Montreal artist’s exploration of homelessness, at Cinema Politica Monday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m. in H-110. The filmmakers for both will be in attendance. As always, it’s free.