I remember it like it was yesterday. One evening of a demonstration in 2012, when I was going down the Berri coast for the umpteenth time towards Place Émilie-Gamelin where the demonstrations converged all the time in Montreal, an acquaintance approached my friend and I, offering each of us a different militant poster.

One of the two we liked so much more than the other that we drew lots to see who would have it on their wall when they came home that evening. It was a picture of a large pepper shaker, molding little red squares, with the only words, “Pepper is for steak.” I would learn it long after, it was a work of the French-born artist and illustrator Clément de Gaulejac.

The year 2012 remains fresh in the mind of Clément too. While he had already lived in Quebec for ten years, it was by taking the path of political posters during the maple spring that he felt that he was really rooted in the province. His serigraphs floated above the crowds of students, teachers and anyone who identified at all with this struggle which had the rare talent of bringing together a whole constellation of worldviews. It was necessary to block the increase in tuition fees, it was necessary to protect the right to demonstrate, which was done, whatever the disappointed big dreamers may have said in the following years.

I sat down with the artist in a cafe on the border between Le Plateau-Mont-Royal and La Petite-Patrie, and by chance I ran into this friend with whom I discovered him this evening- there 11 years ago. She would say to me, by way of goodbye this morning: “You have to get together with friends, it’s precious!” This is exactly the role of political posters claimed in this “visual essay” by Clément de Gaulejac, that of bringing people together with a smile.

The images brought together in the book, each of which was printed in a hundred copies during its production, have been part of the artist’s approach for 10 years, beyond 2012, he who also likes to do in art and sharper thinking. As in his award-winning essay You see what I mean, where he takes on the philosophical question of the encounter of words with images, taking Plato himself as his starting point. In Reasons Reasonable, more accessible, he retraces 10 years of popular artistic commitment. I read it, looked at it, and felt like a Chapleau-style review of the year, but in a black-and-red left. The artist confirmed this to me, since that’s what he nicknamed his book while working on it, “my Chapleau”.

I smiled. Contesting from the inside, then getting fed up and wanting to turn off the oil tap yourself. Clément is a guy with whom it is good to chat, I have known that for a long time. A dinner with friends had made us meet a few years ago, and we had liked to praise together the talents of the French punk group Ludwig von 88, who likes to give as much in satire and irony as in anguished social criticism. Clément de Gaulejac is all that at the same time: laughing, enjoying, but also worried about the world in which he lives. After the trigger of 2012, which was the spark plug for so many speeches whose breath still punctuates public debate and Quebec essays, his drawings have continued, not without hesitation, to sometimes target federal environmental policies, sometimes pandemic authoritarian hardening.

I made this 10 year bridge for the first time in my mind. In my opinion, only twice in my adult life has a single question punctuated absolutely everything in Quebec: in 2012 and in 2020. Indeed, after the two referendums on Quebec sovereignty, which certainly had the same weight, but which belong to another generation from an existential point of view, what is referred to these days condescendingly by some as “the crisis of the red squares” as well as the two years of COVID were such times when it was little almost impossible to talk about anything else. Like two poles in Clément’s work, his drawings invited, and still invite, to never forget the duty to contest what seems to go without saying in these periods when speculative oxygen is to be cultivated like a precious garden.

We discussed right-wing caricature, which he believes to be dominant in Quebec, which takes up stereotypes of the feminine and the masculine, for example, whereas by associating himself instead with Extinction Rebellion and Québec solidaire, Clément de Gaulejac has taken the turn of the commitment on one level in the following years 2010. Purified, his posters sometimes stand on their own, sometimes require a caption, but always strike and above all make people laugh, as the author and essayist Valérie Lefebvre points out. – Mow in a touching afterword. The break in tone is also so telling between the book and Valérie Lefebvre-Faucher’s final words: we go from something like a starting flag throughout the elegant work, to a soft welcome to the end, which is anything but a finish line.

This book does not plant its flag. He carries it, multiplies it and scatters it.