Roadsworth: Crossing the Line @ Rendez-vous du Cinema Quebecois

When you hear that this documentary is going to be about someone who has "attacked the streets" of Montreal in the early hours of the morning it makes you hesitant. My fears were alleviated when I found out that the 'attacker' is Peter Gibson (who goes by the name Roadsworth), a stencil artist who with his spray paint and handmade stencilsadds some colour to the streets here in Montreal.

For roughly three years Roadsworth was the sworn enemy of the City of Montreal. He would reinterpret things they had painted on the asphalt. Crosswalks became giant boot prints and spray painted electrical plugs were now on parking spaces. Roadsworth was an artist who worked under the cover of night to reveal something new for us to see in the mornings. Just by existing, his artwork called to question who actually owned these public spaces. The City of Montreal believes they rule the roads and others believe them to actually belong to the public.

Director Alan Kohl follows Roadsworth along on his court battles with the city and then on to London, France and Amsterdam. He continues his art on the streets of these foreign cities/countries as well. Also through he defense of his art and his right to do it where he chooses. With all this we are pushed to questioning whether in freedom of expression in the art world truly exists.

Interesting look at an artist who was prosecuted at home and celebrated elsewhere. What is most interesting about the documentary for me as a Montrealer is looking back on images we were seeing on the streets and remembering how it made me feel to see them. They were fun and whimsical. You actually noticed them and started looking for them all over the Plateau. Peter Gibson, the artist, says that his art is not a criticism of the city, but rather a satire of it. He does believe that the space is poorly used and something better could be done with it.

Throughout the documentary, we see and artist who is forced to come to terms with what his art is and how it should be defined, but while he is sorting this out the court does it for him. Ultimately, his art is judged to be criminal and he must be punished. The argument used is that if this was allowed then all public property is open to vandalism.

A cool part is that the director Alan Kohl had to really be creative with his depictions of Roadsworth's art as it no longer exists…at least in Montreal.

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