Vox Populi 1985-1989, The origins of VOX, Ciel variable, and Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal – Marcel Blouin

[Spring/Summer 2016]
Early this year, Centre VOX marked its thirtieth anniversary by looking back at its beginnings, when Vox Populi – the group that gave rise to VOX – was created, as were Ciel variable and Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal. Here, we reprint the essay that Marcel Blouin wrote to commemorate a period of activism and engagement in changing living conditions for young people, which was to become an extremely fertile time for the future of photography in Quebec.
L’équipe de Vox Populi en pleine préparation de l’exposition
Je(u)ne c’est quoi ?, présentée
lors de l’événement Plein la gueule, oct. 1985 / The Vox Populi team preparing the Je(u)ne c’est quoi ? exhibition for the Plein la gueule, Oct. 1985. De g. à d. / from L to R: Marcel Blouin, Jean-Marc Ravatel, Cynthia Poirier, Danielle Bérard et Sophie Bellissent photo : Alain Chagnon

L’équipe de Vox Populi en pleine préparation de l’exposition
Je(u)ne c’est quoi ?, présentée
lors de l’événement Plein la gueule, oct. 1985 / The Vox Populi team preparing the Je(u)ne c’est quoi ? exhibition for the Plein la gueule, Oct. 1985. De g. à d. / from L to R: Marcel Blouin, Jean-Marc Ravatel, Cynthia Poirier, Danielle Bérard et Sophie Bellissent. Photo : Alain Chagnon

[Excerpt]
It was Lucie Bureau who thought up the organization’s name. She was working at Radio Centre-Ville, a multilingual community radio station broadcasting from St. Lawrence Boulevard in Montreal. The name came to mind because she was producing “vox populi” pieces about social and cultural issues. We had fun with these terms: vox populi, vox dei, “Voice of the people, voice of God.” We weren’t naïve. Post-Marxism was all the rage at the time, and we were agnostic and “postmodern,” though we weren’t using the term. We had neither God nor Marx for an idol. The “voice of the people,” anyway, was a clear reference to the fact that we wanted citizens to be able to speak up. And these citizens weren’t just other people; they were us, too.

Certain writings and currents of thought had marked our way of seeing the world. We had known about the end of the hippie movement, of course, but we weren’t part of it. It was both obsolete and still alive in our imaginations. We admired the protests of the 1960s, but we understood that our elders were now concerned with “paying the mortgage” – and had been since 1980, the year of the referendum in Quebec on sovereignty-association. With Paul Lafargue’s Le droit à la paresse and André Gorz’s Adieux au prolétariat, we could address the transformation of the working world other than by claiming what could be summarized as “living a life of honourably alienated proletarians.” Beyond the worker and union struggles, as the “post-proletarian movement” era began, Alain Touraine’s books initiated us to the concept of the “movement”: social movement, youth movement, women’s movement, environmental movement. This was a new approach. On our bookshelves was also Saul Alinsky’s Manuel de l’animateur social: une action directe non violente (the translation of Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals). Even today, this book is an essential reference for those who want to learn about how to instigate non-violent protest.

With the advent of what we were then calling the “new technologies” and the robotization of factories, philosopher André Gorz explained that “the more this happens, the less work we need to do to produce the same quantity and quality of goods and services.” This was either good news or bad news, depending on the direction taken by society. Given this observation, as the coordinator of a collective of jobless youths, I came up with a slogan – a joyous, gentle, reflective, and deliberately naïve claim, “Work less so we all work and live better,” which was not unrelated to the current and pertinent reflection on “degrowth.” We printed the slogan on t-shirts, which we wore proudly…

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