Activists told to tone down anti-austerity rhetoric and enjoy the show
Concordia’s anti-austerity movement suffered a rude shock yesterday evening when they were politely informed their earnest attempts at picketing classes and facing down the state’s policies were unwelcome intrusions into what is, in fact, a staging of public art.
The emergency meeting was held late Monday night to rein in what the Fédération Etudiante Universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) called ‘overzealous affiliation’ by Montreal’s anglophone student community.
“This was originally conceived as a symbolic gesture mediated through the soothing powers of artistry,” said UQAM dance professor Louise Lorraine. “It was, how do you call it in English, danse interprétative. Is that the right word?” She then went to lecture the McGill and Concordia attendees on the wondrous performance that ostensibly pitted students versus police but depended on a beautiful collaboration between both.
Lorraine also explained the angry chants and threatening body language were carefully-coached performances, a “delicately calibrated dance” and example of art imitating life. She was referring to the 2012 tuition hike student protests that racked the province.
“Imagine our surprise when the government called us with reports that some were taking things a bit too earnestly, maybe even expecting another 2012.” She said her team’s initial confusion sorted itself when they studied footage of the performances and found outsider groups hopping on the proverbial bandwagon.
The revelation was accepted with disbelief by both Concordia Student Union (CSU) and Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) executives present.
“But what about the tear gas, the kettling, the honking drivers, the sheer mobilization?” bewildered CSU President Ben Prunty was heard to have said. “I thought Quebec was on the move.”
“We take our art very seriously,” shrugged the FEUQ representative who volunteered to let them in on the loop. “Have you seen the Plateau lately?” He praised UQAM’s fantastic costume design on its snazzy recreation of anarchist paraphernalia and Communist flags.
Asked after the meeting about what would happen now, Prunty seemed at a loss for words.
“How am I going to explain this to the students? And our philosophy department? That genie’s out of the bottle, man.”
“I’m not happy in knowing we spent all that time on the signs for nothing,” he added, but admitted he was slowly coming around to the idea: “I’ve seen theater in my day but this, this is art.”
Not everyone was appreciative towards the scale and complexity of the feat.
“This is bullshit. I moved from the West Coast and came here to protest the erosion of the social safety net,” said forlorn CSU VP Academic and Advocacy Terry Wilkings. “When I’m president next year, I’ll make it my chief goal to overturn the existing neo-liberal order and usher in the democracy of the streets.”
“Honest to goodness I don’t know how this could have devolved so quickly,” said Lorrain. “We sent them the memo all the way back in February. ”
She said it may have had something to do with the language divide.
“Maybe their French isn’t so good.”