Images from the Future

Red Square, CUPE 3903 2008-09 Strike

I want to celebrate those unexpected but always welcome moments when your conception of what is possible expands. Magical moments when radical politics are expressed outside your circle of friends and familiarity and you realize that the circle is larger.

It’s a tantalizing discovery that presents a new reality and momentarily overtakes your imagination. That’s how I felt when I saw my first Always Question posters on campus. I felt equal parts of “I wish I did that” admiration and excited “Who did this?” curiosity.

Peter Munk poster by Always Question featured in The Newspaper, February 7, 2008

And evidently, the university administration felt something too, because when they saw the poster criticizing Barrick Gold founder and UofT donor Peter Munk, they had them torn down and issued a legal threat. Looking back, this encounter reflected an increasing pattern of behaviour, both in terms of critical student activism and repressive responses by administrators.

When a group of students organized a sit-in against rising fees on March 20, 2008, administrators responded by calling in the police and pressing baseless charges to tie-up activists (including students, campus workers and alumni) with non-association conditions and limits on their ability to organize.

Criminalization of Dissent Award earned by UofT President David Naylor, 2008

The response to this crackdown was inspiring, powerful and exhausting. The sit-in was a collision, not just between the opposing viewpoints of activists and administrators, but between different approaches to organizing.

As far as posters and graphics go, I haven’t saved much from that specific period. But looking at what I do have, it’s hard for me to separate them. They share a similar trajectory with some of the same people, aspirations, influences, and ways of organizing. From the inspirational 1971 parity campaign to the 2011 general assemblies, they are all images from the future, new realities that we are trying to bring into existence (and some pretty good satire).

ASSU Anti-Calendar Covers: Summer 2006, Fall-Winter 2006-07, Fall-Winter 2007-08, Summer 2007 (date refers to courses reviewed, so each were published the following year)

Critical Area Studies Collective: Dialogues Across Disciplines, 2007; Decolonizing the University: Life After Area Studies, 2008

David Naylor’s Corporate Agenda, CEO Salary, and Rosedale Mansion, 2007-08

Israeli Apartheid Week 2009 poster by Carlos Latuff; response after posters were defaced and torn down

Photograph from 1971 parity campaign, 2011 general assembly; posters from 2011 general assembly

Stop the Corporate Takeover by Munk Out of UofT, 2011

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