A poster by the Montreal band Mise en Demeure was on the news as the police found it in Amir Khadir’s home whilst they were looking for incriminating evidence after they arrested Dr. Khadir’s 19 years old daughter Yalda Machouf-Khadir.
Yalda faces various major charges; however she was released on bail until her court appearance later in July. This event took place not long after Dr. Khadir, the Québec Solidaire MNA himself was arrested at student protests in Quebec City and was fined under the Highway Safety Code.
The Mise en Demeure poster was taken in by the police and caused media frenzy over the implications of a politician owning such provocative work; which lead to Le Journal de Montreal and Le Journal de Québec printing such unrestrained headlines as: “KHADIR ARMED,” and “CHAREST DEAD.”
Now, I fully understand that newspapers need to sell, a fact that is certainly getting harder and harder with so much online competition; however at some point outrageous headlines like those are just going to lose readers’ trust; because, well, the comic depiction of Khadir and Charest in the poster are just too trivial to be taken seriously.
To be frank Mise en Demeure didn’t seem to put much thought into their poster, because this work does not refer to revolution and liberty, but it has a clear message of anarchy, promoting a lawless society. Whether this comment on society is deliberate or stems from ignorance of the artist, I shall not venture a guess.
Let us examine the poster and why it is so lacking in thought and consistency. The original painting is that of Eugène Delacroix a 1830 work “Liberty Leading the People” homage to the July Revolution which toppled Charles X of France.
The original painting is full of energy and movement, achieved by loose style brush strokes and use of vivid colours. Delacroix is painting the classical idea of democracy whilst portraying the tenacity and bravery of ordinary French people coming together to regain their rights. Delacroix said: “If I haven’t fought for my country at least I’ll paint for her.”
Liberty herself certainly resembles classical figures of ancient Greece, half nude, and also in profile which was a technique used to depict important people well into the Roman times. So we can agree that Liberty is the dominant figure and the message she is conveying is that of freedom from tyranny, leading the way to equality. What is important to notice is that Liberty is above all the rubble, wounded and the dead, leading France into a peaceful, just and fair future.
Now have a look at the Mise en Demeure poster with Bananarchiste wearing an Anarchy symbol on his Banana costume, shouting back waving a black flag. The tricolor flag Liberty held represented the values of the revolution which were equality, classlessness and unity which is being lost to an angry banana leading the way to chaos and disorder.
Charest’s figure in the poster is an interesting one. In the Delacroix’s painting that particular lifeless man represents the cruelty embarked on the revolutionaries by the royal troops who would shoot protesters and then drag them onto the street in order to send a message to the rest, hence his shirt being dishevelled. What are we supposed to take from the martyrdom of Charest in the poster? Isn’t he supposed to be the bad guy? Is he representing the death of democracy?
Amir Khadir in the poster is being represented by the well-dressed, middle-class man wearing a top hat, holding a gun. Isn’t that an indictment of our politicians as rich liberals who might give us a hand if it suited their agenda?
What started as genuine protests against unfair hikes, and undemocratic passing of the Bill 78, is now being usurped by a few individuals who do not believe in the system altogether and have yet to propose a better alternative; and the danger leering over the horizon is the loss of support from ordinary people just like the occupy movement.
I take a small pleasure in the fact that whoever made the Mise en Demeure poster forgot to change the tricolor flag on top of Notre Dame in the far right corner, so important in showing unity of the people and predicting a democratic future in Delacroix’s painting.