Quebec painter, sculptor, and performance artist Armand Vailancourt imagineered the watery, concrete abstraction ensconced in San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center and christened it Quebec libre! Unbeknownst to myself and my family, the sculpture has elicited intense negative and positive reaction from residents and visitors since its inception in 1971. Playing tourists from SoCal, we were simply delighted to run freely around and under a bona fide work of art measuring 200 ft. long, 140 ft. wide and 36 ft. high. It only occurred to me to get the skinny on Quebec libre’s! controversial past for this photo story.
Per the venerable Wikipedia: Québec libre! is representative of the relationship between Vaillancourt‘s art and his political convictions.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.
Even U2’s Bono has been inspired by Québec libre!
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 contacted to learn if he supported the gesture. He answered by attending 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.
In 2004, SF Gate reported that Québec libre! ran dry for three years without water and lay on the block for proposed demolition during California’s energy crisis. Fortunately, the move was not approved by the Arts Commission which oversees the city’s civic art collection,. Debra Lehane commission member remarked, “There are people who love it and people who hate it. But it succeeds as a work of art if it provokes dialogue and discussion. Art that engages the public has had a measure of success.”
Still photography courtesy of William Lesko.
For more squares and angles visit: http://www.ceephotography.com/2013/03/12/cees-fun-foto-challenge-squares-and-angles/
- Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Squares and Angles (travelspirit333.com)
- Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Squares and Angles (thevoicefromthebackseat.wordpress.com)
- Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Squares & Angles (moreimagesfromme.wordpress.com)
- Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Squares and Angles (acrossthebored.com)
- Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Squares and Angles (francineinretirement.wordpress.com)
- Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Angles and Squares (mostlyinminnesota.wordpress.com)