Vox Populi: 1985-1989
From Social Militancy
to Photography Exhibition
2016.02.09 - 06.25
In celebration of its 30th anniversary, VOX is revealing unpublished archives that contextualizes its activist origins and its transformation into a centre for the presentation of photography.
Think of 1985, and what generally comes to mind? Dayglo colours, pseudo punk, mullet haircuts, the world’s first test-tube baby and the rise of neoliberalism. We tend to forget that 1985 was also International Youth Year, as proclaimed by the UN General Assembly. This celebration aimed at building young people’s capacities by providing incentives for them to engage fully in social life, in tangible, constructive ways. Ironically, the youth of the time were the age group hardest hit by the economic crisis that wrought havoc worldwide. In Quebec, most young people were collecting unemployment insurance or welfare cheques, and experiencing all manner of inequities. Economic precarity was a hallmark of the tail end of the baby-boom demographic, which came to be known as the “sacrificed” generation.
Driven by firm determination and a commitment to advance the cause of young people, several militant members of the Saint-Louis du Parc unemployed youth collective founded Vox Populi. Its mission was to “make accessible, to disadvantaged communities, the means of communication they need to improve their quality of life.” The collective used demonstrations, occupation of the unemployment insurance department office and a government minister’s office, radio broadcasts, travelling exhibitions, and multidisciplinary events to express its indignation at the socially unacceptable situation facing Quebec’s young people. They also made demands for a new form of work organization strongly inspired by Paul Lafargue’s The Right to Be Lazy and André Gorz’s Farewell to the Working Class. Before long, photography emerged as a key tool for social action and dissemination of their ideas. The collective organized an initial touring exhibition of photographs, Sans honte et sans emploi (“Shameless and Jobless”), and began documenting various political and community events. They then created two tools that were vital to the future development of Vox Populi: Ciel variable magazine, in 1986, and the inaugural edition of the Mois de la Photo à Montréal, in 1989.
VOX wishes to thank for their precious contribution Pierre Blache, Marcel Blouin, Lucie Bureau, Alain Chagnon and CIBL. We also want to say THANK YOU to the artists, founders, members, administrators, collaborators, granting agencies and partners who for the past 30 years have been committed to making a difference with regard to VOX’s future.
And THANK YOU, dear viewing public, for your continued support!