Colonization of thought: art, economy and politics

Melanie Gilligan, Self Capital (still), 2009, video, 27 min. Courtesy of the artist.

From October 16 to 20, 2012

Concept: Vincent Bonin, Marie J. Jean and the Épopée team in collaboration with the Festival du nouveau cinéma.

Québec is in the throes of an intense social crisis that began this past February with the student strike. While those protests originally demanded a moratorium on tuition fee increases, they grew rapidly into a multidimensional social movement that is challenging neoliberal policies and attitudes. In this context of social and political unrest, it appears important to us to organize gatherings and encourage discussion aimed at better understanding the impacts of politics on society, art and artists. The goal is to discuss the systemic effects of economics and politics, analyzing them from the perspective of their social as well as their affective impacts (at the intersection of biopolitics and capital).

This series of events was supported by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.



ConfErence by Melanie Gilligan
Presentation of her film Self Capital, 2009, video, 27 min.

VOX, centre de l’image contemporaine, 2 Sainte-Catherine Street East, Montreal, Quebec
Limited places available

Melanie Gilligan’s Self-Capital is a multi-episode drama in which a personified Global Economy undergoes radical therapeutic treatment for an acute psychological condition arising from her recent meltdown. Shot entirely at the Institute for Contemporary Art, London, the three-part video stars one actress playing every role: therapist and patient, customer and cashier. As a patient in therapy, she represents both the capitalist system as a whole and a person affected by contemporary economic crisis all at once. The work follows Global Economy, a.k.a. the capitalist social body, as she progresses through a series of “unorthodox body-oriented techniques”, suggesting that effects of the crisis such as job losses and governmental austerity measures are felt on a material and corporeal level, but also that worryingly contemporary psychological and political subjects are also increasingly reduced to and treated in terms of their bodily materiality today.


Conference and discussion with Erik Bordeleau (Montreal), Brian Holmes (Chicago), Santiago López Petit (Barcelona).

VOX, centre de l’image contemporaine, 2 Sainte-Catherine Street East, Montreal, Quebec
Limited places available

“The present is a period of ever intensifying economic determinism. In the financial markets the “performance” of all things are scrutinized and measured by their profitability (whether it’s the future repayment of a country’s debt or projections of a company’s profit) and more and more these markets overlap with the capitalist social world at large. Outcomes on the world’s financial markets increasingly direct politics from the global to the regional scale and yet since they reflect the decision making of millions of investors no responsibility or social accountability is assumed for the effects they compel. The social mantra of capitalism that all survival is dependant on competitive profitability hypnotizes many governments to sacrifice the needs of their population to the imperative to keep the economy buoyant. Here in Quebec the student movement successfully fought to halt the former provincial government’s program of increased fees, sending a powerful united message against the austerity ideology currently being adopted across the world. Their message was: No, we will not let profit be the measure of all things. Such widespread movements of refusal are absolutely necessary to oppose the austerity measures being deployed throughout the world.” Questions raised by Melanie Gilligan relating to recent events having taken place in Quebec will serve as a starting point for the panel discussion.


Insurgence (titre provisoire/Working Title), 2012, 130 min.
A film by the film collective Groupe d’action en cinéma Épopée.

Cinéma Impérial during the Festival du nouveau cinéma, 1432 Bleury Street, Montreal, Quebec

A documentary about the vast social mobilization in Quebec during the spring of 2012. Initially propelled by the student strike for accessible education, the scope of the movement soon broadened to take on the government, the impunity and violence of the Montreal police force, the exploitation of untapped natural resources, and the current economic system.

The wellspring of the “Maple Spring”’s strength is anonymity. It streams commonality through dispersion, right down to the solitude of the marchers. With each recognizing his or her own situation in the others’, emotional resonance is gradually transmuted, molten. Repression can only defeat collectives that remain serial; the commonality is resurgent, like a hive, at every street corner. Insurgence documents, from the point of view of the crowd, this social engagement that has profoundly changed the political landscape in Quebec.


Insurgence and Resonance
Participants from Quebec and beyond come together to discuss spontaneous political movements

Casa del Popolo, 4873 Saint-Laurent Blvd, Montreal, Quebec

Far from being a forest fire with a linear logic, the creative and protean power driving recent protest movements against neoliberalism “takes the shape of a music, whose focal points, though dispersed in time and space, succeed in imposing the rhythms of their own vibrations,” as the authors of The Coming Insurrection explain. At the heart of the insurgency, and far from the tense flow of images of disorder and chaos shown in the media, each individual undergoes a strange alchemy that is at once an energizing outpouring and a subtle resonance between people, a political joy kept alive by a shared sensory experience. How can we develop, nurture and support this transformative, revolutionary power spreading from person to person and around the world? How can we embrace this irreversible collective statement without losing sight of the dangers of social polarization?

The discussion will begin with an introduction to the Espai en blanc collective’s “Pressentiments” by Santiago López Petit. It will be moderated by the Épopée collective. Several players in the “Maple Spring” movement, including members of the Maison de la grève, will attend.