Québec libre !

Armand Vaillancourt, sculptor

"One of his best known sculptures, Québec libre ! is representative of the relationship between Vaillancourt's art and his political convictions. It is a huge concrete fountain, 200 feet long, 140 feet wide and 36 feet high sitting in the city's financial district at the Embarcadero Center. The night before its inauguration, Vaillancourt inscribed Québec libre! in red letters, to note his undying support for the Quebec sovereignty movement and more largely, his support for the freedom of all people. The following day, seeing that the city's employees erased the inscription, he jumped on the sculpture to reinscribe the sentence many times.

Some years later, the fountain became the object of a polemic involving U2's singer Bono. During a free concert, Bono climbed the sculpture to write Rock & Roll stops the traffic, referring to the power of rock. 20,000 people were in fact in attendance and blocked some of the neighbouring streets. Reacting to the act, the city's mayor declared that she deplored the sculpture's vandalism and that this kind of act could be punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. Vaillancourt was then contacted to learn if he supported the gesture, which he answered by going to U2's concert in Oakland the following day, where he wrote "Stop the madness" on the stage, in front of 70 000 people. He defended Bono's gesture, after a speech on injustice, declaring that graffiti is a necessary evil as young people do not generally have the same access to newspapers, and media in general, as politicians do to express themselves."

all images by Armand Vaillancourt