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Montreal's a poetic paradise


It's a good time to be in Montreal. It's spring time to be precise. Montreal is experiencing a huge upsurge in social activism for the last three months. The biggest student strike ever, has been lasting for eleven weeks now, and nothing seems to be stopping it. Montreal's got revolutionary momentum and as we know from the history of the sole French-speaking society in North-America, this can mean true progressive social change at the end of the line.

I won't go into the detail of the student struggle here, since I want to tell you about something else today! Follow these guys for regular updates : @spirodon @JaggiMontreal @david_widge

As if the many creative student actions weren't enough for the government and corporations, desperate in their many attempts to squash it, and just a day away from May Day, a huge culture jamming action has just swamped the streets of Montreal. Already a hotbed of graffiti and street art, Montreal has been transformed overnight into a poetic paradise.

Montrealers wake up to a mobile poetic extravaganza

Like in London and many other cities throughout the World, Montreal's got it's bike-sharing service. It's a system made up of 5 120 bikes (called BIXI), connected to 411 stations. Quite a decent system, one must recognise. But since the system was established two years back, the company running the cooperative service has introduced advertising. All bikes and stations are now covered by sponsors, such as mobile company TELUS, credit union Desjardins, mining giant Rio Tinto Alcan and the City of Montreal.

In the night of Sunday April 29 to Monday April 30, the great majority of the bike stations were visited by culture jammers extraordinaire. Highly organised, the jamming teams managed to cover the logos of the thre sponsoring corporations. They literally plastered the bikes with hundreds of poetic messages. The result is stunning.

Example: http://w5.montreal.com/mtlweblog/?p=18761

But like the pros of culture jamming were not to leave people to wonder, they went as far as setting up a webpage (http://bixipoesie.ca/) and organising a photo contest on their Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bixi-Po%C3%A9sie/400334560000676). The masterminds behind the action put out a spoof press release in which they say that "based on the public outcry that the introduction of advertising and branding on the BIXI bikes generated, they have come to the conclusion to replace those ads with 500 different bits of poems, songs, stories, essays, etc...". The 500 snippets are all accessible on the bixipoesie.ca website.

To cap things off, the Montreal culture jammers have clearly indicated that this action was just a start. In the « to come » list of cities, they already announce poetic resistance for the cities of Toronto, Ottawa-Gatineau, Washington DC-Arlington, Minneapolis, Washington State University, London, Melbourne and Boston.

To follow the poetic jammers go here @BixiPoesie

Frédéric Dubois is a Montreal-based reporter and media producer.


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