Student Life

Broken Pencil: Tales from the stall walls

Sneak a peek inside ConU’s washroom stall graffiti subculture

Confession: reading the messages and looking at the rushed art on the stalls in the women’s washrooms across campus is a guilty pleasure of mine—at least it used to be. A little investigative journalism venture in preparation for this article led me to realize how much of the graffiti I’ve been reading since first year has been covered up. Most of the current comments—or “tags,” if you will—I’ve found are in the women’s washrooms on the ground floors of the LB and EV buildings, plus a single, lonely and forgotten anti-Trump doodle in the H building.

First off, to the pair who, likely separately, tag-team wrote: “In a society that profits from your self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act … and loving yourself is a REVOLUTION,” in the first stall on the left side of the EV building washroom: thank you. And to whoever wrote: “❤️❤️❤️❤️for the [person] reading this” in the third stall of the LB washroom: ❤️for you too.

While some may view these empowering tags as vandalism, for others, they can be that extra push you need to make it through the day. (Think The Handmaid’s Tale when Elisabeth Moss’s character is locked in her bedroom and sees the phrase about perseverance carved into the baseboards of her closet by a previous handmaid—but the struggling student version).

The stalls also house a variety of art, life advice and stickers. In the fifth stall of the LB building washrooms, there are two Sharpie sketches of people—one with longer hair and the other with what appears to be a hijab on; the sketch is headlined with: “Everyone has their own beauty❤️.” The same stall also has a tag that reads “Work is long when you’re wearing a thong.” Found in some stalls are also the thoughts we dare not say aloud. One person writes: “I’m an attention addict, but I don’t show it,” while another person confesses: “I’m constipated.” The mixture of subconscious confessions, with body positive support and comedic anecdotes that all corroborate the nuanced experience of life is raw and refreshing to read.

Many tags have humourous undertones of solidarity, particularly with comments like “BLOODY FEMININITY,” written on the lid of the menstrual product disposal box in the last stall on the right-hand side of the EV building washrooms. “You are enough,” is written in the second stall of the LB building facilities. For me, reading messages like these warms my heart.

When having a bad day, week, month or whatever, reading an honest tag about something similar, a funny anecdote or even just reading that someone else is also not okay, is oddly comforting. The one, unifying theme found in all the stalls is the need for solidarity and support between women, female-identifying, and non-binary people. Whoever wrote: “To all my sisters, we need to love each other and be there. Stop bitchin’,” in the second stall of the LB building washrooms—you know what’s up.

Note: The Concordian recognizes that the graffiti and art mentioned in this article likely violate vandalism policies at Concordia University, and we are by no means encouraging anyone to go out and start attacking washroom stalls with writing utensils (wink).

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda.


Breaking down walls and heightening accessibility

Redefining Montreal’s urban landscape in Surfaces

Montreal is alive with street art, from huge murals and intricate details, to vibrant colours and distinct graffiti. In artworks across the city, there is a re-understanding of the landscape and surrounding environment. Traditional ways of viewing and accessing art are challenged.

Surfaces, on display from Aug. 23 to Oct. 28 at the Promenade des Artistes in Quartier des Spectacles, is a multidisciplinary urban exhibition showcasing works

from some of Montreal’s most successful street artists. Displaying 14 works by 16 artists and collectives—including Miss Me, Omen, Zek One and Shalak Attack—the exhibition features distinctive and varied works.

The exhibition’s pieces are primarily displayed on large, individual panels, paired with signs that provide information about the respective artists and their practices. Two sculptural works are also displayed; one made of individually detailed concrete cubes and the other is a car, decorated with writing. There is diversity and variety in the distinct style of each artist, which showcases the versatility of the street art format and provides something for every viewer.

Miss Me, a prominent figure in Montreal’s urban art scene, is known for her explicitly political and feminist art. At Surfaces, the artist’s panel consists of five mostly nude female figures, all with their faces covered by a ski mask with cartoon-style mouse ears. The bodies are adorned with drawings and statements, including “IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU” and “Stop blaming women for the misbehaviours of men.”

Cedar Eve is an Anishinaabe artist and a Concordia fine arts alumna, having graduated in 2012. Her piece in Surfaces depicts brightly coloured, surrealist figures in spaces of transformation and metamorphosis. The work is connected to her First Nations identity and is inspired by stories shared with her as a child.

In the case of both these artists, the political and the personal are explored and shared through their work. Taking up space in a city and displaying these powerful messages is also arguably a political move.

Accessibility is a regularly discussed and dissected issue within the art world. Who can access art? How does privilege and class influence accessibility? Institutions, such as art galleries and museums, often appear as exclusive spaces for select communities, and are not always physically accessible for all. Further boundaries can be found in the realms of academia. Art is often not accessible in this way either, as many viewers often feel discouraged by the potential condescension within the artistic community.

Street art explores and challenges these questions and the normative institutions of viewing art. Painting on structures and areas within the city also fights the concept of ownership and select viewing, heightening accessibility for all. This aspect was clearly considered by the curators of Surfaces, who aptly display the 16 works in a public, outdoor space rather than inside a gallery.

Surfaces will be on display at the Promenade des Artistes in the Quartier des Spectacles until Oct. 28. The exhibition is outdoors and open to the public.

News Uncategorized

Our Lady of Grace mural inaugurated Tuesday: photo gallery

The rain didn’t stop camera crews, photographers or residents from attending the inauguration of A’Shop and Prevention NDG’s collaboration mural of “La Notre-Dame-de-Grâce/Our Lady of Grace” on Tuesday afternoon.At 10:30 am, people were already huddled under the eaves of the Couche-Tard on the corner of Sherbrooke Street and Madison Avenue in front of a City of Montreal plexiglass podium for the ceremony.

Roughly 85 people showed up to hear Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough mayor Michael Applebaum, city councillors Richard Deschamps and Susan Clarke, Terri Ste. Marie, director of Prevention NDG, and graffiti artist Fluke, who spoke on behalf of A’Shop, a Montreal artist-run collective with a focus on graffiti culture.

The mural was created using some 400 aerosol spray paint cans rather than paint brushes, and stands six stories tall. It depicts the agricultural roots of NDG as well as points of interest in the city, including Saint-Joseph’s oratory, the two metro stations and the Orange Julep.

Inspired by the work of 19th century Art Nouveau Czech artist, Alphonse Mucha, the mural was created by A’Shop artists Fluke, Antonain Lambert, Dodo and Bruno Rathbone in collaboration with Prevention NDG’s Guillaume Lapointe.

“This magnificent fresco underscores the Ville de Montreal’s preoccupation with matters of cleanliness, beautification, collective participation and alternative solutions to graffiti. Montreal increases its number of murals, year after year, as it invests in its community’s way of life,” Deschamps said in a press release. “Aside from embellishing neighbourhoods, murals garner the respect of residents and passer-by and serve to enhance the feeling of safety in our neighbourhoods. It is definitely an added value.”

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