Discothèque "Mousse Spacthèque", 1966. Jean-Paul Mousseau Archival fonds, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal

An event initiated by Romeo Gongora and organised by Anithe de Carvalho, Francine Couture, CUTV, Kester Dyer, Les Éditions de la Tournure, Géraldine Eguiluz, Les Filles électriques, Romeo Gongora, Ève Lamoureux, La Médiathèque littéraire Gaëtan Dostie, Pierre Lefebvre, Norman Nawrocki, Felicity Tayler, University of the Streets Café and many others!

The at once famous and controversial statement uttered by Canada’s former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau was a response to the political crisis that swept Quebec in the wake of the Quiet Revolution. The 1970s were a period of major transformations for Quebec society. For the generation to which Romeo Gongora belongs, revisiting the social and political issues which arose during this period is crucial in order to pursue a continuous quiet revolution.

Intended as a unifying event exploring questions of identity, Just Watch Me is aimed at all communities. Echoing the participative dimension and liberative spirit that were hallmarks of the Quiet Revolution era, Gongora and his collaborators will transform the Gallery into a social club focused on dialogue and collective creation.

This exhibition is made possible with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

The curator

Romeo Gongora

Romeo Gongora is a visual artist who is active internationally. His work explores questions of representation and the perception of difference.

In 2005, he completed a Master’s degree in visual and media art at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). He is the recipient of numerous grants and has shown his work at the Kin Art Studio (Kinshasa), the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Galerie de l’UQAM (Montréal), OPTICA (Montreal), VU (Quebec City), Gallery 44 (Toronto) and Dazibao (Montreal), among others.

Recently, he was invited to work at the Centre Les Récollets (Paris), Centro de la Imagen (Mexico City) and at the Centre culturel de Neumünster (Luxembourg). In 2007, he took up a two-year residency at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten (Amsterdam) and, in 2009, he represented Canada at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin).

I consider myself a researcher and my final goal is not an art object, but rather a research project that materializes in a transdisciplinary manner (installation, performance, photography, meeting, writing, etc.). With an emphasis on process rather than the final product, my recent work makes use of dialogue, empathy, and trust as production strategies. This process typically involves a period of research during which I work closely with different communities. The result is an in situ work of profound emotional intensity that aims to analyze the socio-psychological constructs of mental and physical environment.


The Mousse Spacthèque by Jean-Paul Mousseau

Francine Couture

Jean-Paul Mousseau’s creation of the Mousse Spacthèque, on Crescent street, is typical of the practice of Montreal artists who, over the course of the 1960s, decided to work in popular entertainment sites. In moving away from the gallery and museum world they lifted the barrier that modernist aesthetics had placed between principles of the avant-garde and those of mass culture. In 1966, Mousseau chose one of these sites by bringing his artistic practice to a new expression of the urban leisure economy: discotheques. He partnered with the owners of La Licorne discotheque, Gilles Archambault and Claude de Carufel, to found the Arfel Corporation, an entity which had more in common with the show business and cultural industries model than that of the visual arts. This context also provided an economic development framework for his concept, since Arfel Corporation offered a franchise service to its discotheque owners who, under Mousseau’s artistic direction, opened versions of the Mousse Spacthèque in Ottawa, Alma and Quebec City.

Through his previous experience as a stage designer, Mousseau had become familiar with the multi-disciplinary teamwork prevalent in theatrical productions. Furthermore, in frequenting the theatre world he also developed contacts with the media and performance milieus. When the Mousse Spacthèque opened, newspapers praised the innovative character of his visual installation and declared it to be a trendy place where one must absolutely be seen. “Montreal’s smart set was there,” they declared. This attention resulted from the media promotion implemented by Mousseau’s collaborators, who had borrowed their communication model from advertising campaigns. This initial notice in the show business and television world certainly helped to attract a larger public to the Mousse Spacthèque and to turn it into a significant fashion phenomenon of the Montreal urban cultural milieu in the mid 1960s.

This discotheque offered visitors an immersive, total theatre-inspired environment and a synthesis of the arts brought about through the fusion of its spatial, light, colour, sound and rhythmic elements which incited participation. Addressing all the senses, it was also a manifestation of the 1960s cultural utopia with its pursuit of emotional liberation and self-fulfillment. A slideshow synchronized with the music swept across the space, creating a sound and light environment with which the dancers interacted through their choreographic moves. These projections also used display mannequins—these modern Venuses or Graces which embody a conventional masculine representation of desire. They echoed the projected mass cultural images of male and female faces or bodies which Mousseau had graphically altered. These representations were shown as part of a set of one hundred forty slides whose surfaces had been modified through collages, rubbings or pictorial tracings, creating rhythmic abstractions reminiscent of op art, geometric abstraction and action painting.

This environment would have been at home in today’s cities in which festive events serve to build the brand image of a lively and creative city. It is the forerunner of environmental works associated with these types of initative which temporarily transform building façades and public places by combining technological innovation and aesthetic research.


Francine Couture is an adjunct professor in the department of art history at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), where she was a professor form 1974 to 2010. Her research has brought her to the intersection of art history and the sociology of art. It focuses on relationships existing between contemporary art, art institutions, and social context. She has authored books and essays as well as edited collections of essays on the visual arts in Québec in the 1960s, on contemporary art exhibitions in Québec during the 1970s and the 1980s, and on the question of the longevity of contemporary art as it relates to the re-exhibition of artworks potentially having a variable form.

Fusion des arts inc.

Ève Lamoureux

Fusion des arts inc. devoted itself to exploring the relationships between art and society. This not-for-profit company, which was active from 1965 to 19691 was made up of Richard Lacroix, Yves Robillard, François Soucy, André Montpetit, Robert Daudelin and many other people with various affiliations. Fusion des arts was also an activity centre that brought together several organizations, such as the Atelier libre de recherches graphiques, the Guilde graphique and the Comité d’information politique.

Fusion des arts changed over the years in response to the cultural, artistic and socio-political developments of the period, which was characterized by a mounting political radicalization of some of its members. The initial activities were more formal experimentations that took on the autonomy of art, disciplinary specialization, the myth of the genius artist, and art as a consumer object. Cognizant of technological innovations and the advent of the mass media age, the group advocated collective creation activity as well as the democratization of an art which is placed at the centre of a social space considered as a vector for play and active audience participation. Les mécaniques, a performance environment presented at the Expo 67 Youth Pavilion, as well as both Montpetit’s and Lacroix’s political posters are telling examples of this.

Later, members turned their attention to projects focusing on cultural facilitation. Participation and providing people with a voice became increasingly central. The group also focused on theoretical research, which is well summed up by two questions Alain Badiou explored during a conference on Marxist aesthetics (1968): “What is art?” and “What should art be.” Two cells, “Art et techniques d’action sociale” (“Art and social intervention techniques”) and “Esthétique et art populaire” (“Aesthetics and popular art”), explored art’s social and political effectiveness, as well as the concept of popular art. The group’s secular, nationalist and Marxist orientation became more pronounced. The Comité d’information politique (Political Information Committee) organized two political film festivals in 1968. In addition to fundraising, notably for the release of the political prisoners Pierre Vallières and Charles Gagnon, the group sought to raise awareness regarding international revolutionary activities. In October 1969, Jean Lesage—leader of the opposition in Quebec City at the time—recommended that the government investigate the group. The members chose to end their activities.

Fusion des arts had revolutionary ambitions: contributing to individual and collective liberation through the use of art. It raised questions pertaining to political art: what are its forms and goals? What’s its impact? Where should it be deployed? What links should artists maintain with political organizations? With the state? What distinguishes engaged artists from political activists? These questions resonate throughout the 20th and 21st century and are inflected by each artist’s specific context. We are invited to consider the following: What do Quebec artists of the past and present have in common? In what ways do they differ?

1 The most comprehensive information about Fusion des arts can be found in: Québec Underground 1962-1972, Tome 1,Yves Robillard ed., Montréal, Médiart, 1973, p. 175-349.


Ève Lamoureux is a professor in the department of art history at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). Her research on art’s social and political role in the 20th century focuses on 3 main issues: engaged art and its contemporary québécois methods, specifically pertaining to the visual arts, community art, and cultural mediation. She is a member of the Centre interuniversitaire d’études sur les lettres, les arts et les traditions (CÉLAT) and of the Groupe de recherche sur la médiation culturelle (GRMC). She is the author of Art et politique : Nouvelles formes d’engagement artistique au Québec, published by Écosociété in 2009.

Fondation du théatre d'environnement intégral (FTEI)

Appelez-moi Ahuntsic by Maurice Demers
Anithe de Carvalho

In 1973, Maurice Demers set up the Fondation du Théatre d’Environnemen Intégral (FTEI), a not-for-profit association incorporated under the Companies Act. This association was a sort of cultural centre for popular artistic expression and socio-cultural activities. The FTEI sought to create conditions in which inhabitants would be able to create both their own culture and a new type of community life in an urban environment. To bring people who live in the same neighbourhood together, to foster friendship between them and envision an independent collectivity from a cultural perspective, these are among the new social functions of art as defined by Demers: enabling the emergence of the New Man, the advent of a new personal and collective identity. These goals were part of, among other things, cultural democratization. The participatory environment Appelez-moi Ahuntsic (1974) met these goals. It was imagined and thought out for a new public: the residents of the Ahuntsic neighbourhood in the north end of Montreal, who became the co-creators of the work.

It took five months to produce all the necessary elements for the final environment. Amateur and professional photographs, popular music and dance, short plays, costumes, masks and neighbourhood stories are just some of the components – taken from the stage and visual arts as well as the field of social sciences – that were developed for the event. Each of the collaborations served to bring about a celebration that aestheticized, symbolized and synthesized the months of individual and collective experience shared by the neighbourhood residents. The environment they created was presented in the Auditorium of the Cégep d’Ahuntsic.

As people entered, the first thing they came upon was a thematic exhibition “Discovering Ahuntsic.” Subsequently, they looked on as the amateur photographers received participation prizes from a jury. They could also watch a short play about the neighbourhood’s aboriginal origins that was put on by participants in the history workshop. The play featured a White man and a First Nations man trying to determine who founded the land of Ahuntsic. The show proposed a reexamination of history leading to a reflection upon the French colonization of American land conflicts with First Nations peoples. The audience was then invited to discuss the subject. Throughout the evening, the audiovisual team projected a slideshow of neighbourhood images on the auditorium walls and ceiling. Additionally, an overhead projector allowed the public to watch comic strips being drawn onsite. And then, the separation between the stage and the room gradually blurred: a band started to play and people danced.

At the end, Maurice Demers led a final retrospective activity in view of taking stock of this experience and to prepare for the next project. In short, one could say that after having thrown off the shackles of loneliness and individualism, Ahuntsic residents got to know one another and attempted to invent a residential neighbourhood in which a truly cooperative community, at once pleasant, united and friendly, can become a reality.


Anithe de Carvalho is an art historian specializing in québécois contemporary art. Her research focuses on the institutionalization of québécois participatory underground art in an era of cultural democracy. Her post-doctoral research addresses the scope of art since the 1996 Sommet sur l’économie et l’emploi du Parti québécois, and, more specifically, the role of artist as mediator/administrator in the private sector (in La culture en entreprise de l’organisme, a program offered by Culture pour tous). Her articles have been published in periodicals such as Espace, Etc., and Vie des arts. She is the author of an essay on Maurice Demers published in 2009 by Lux Éditeur. Her book on the institutionalization of the counter-culture will be published by M éditeur in the winter of 2015. As an independent curator she has organized various group exhibitions (Chaud et froid, 2009) and solo exhibitions in Québec, Portugal, and Cuba.