View from the summit

Counter Productive: Quebec City Convergence for the Summit of the Americas
Published on April 1, 2002

Counter Productive: Quebec City Convergence For The Summit Of The Americas
Luca Palladino Et Al

Cumulus Press

Negotiations for a Free Trade Area of the Americas at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City last April took place behind several kilometres of fence guarded by 6,000 riot police armed with large quantities of tear gas. Some 60,000 people from all over North and South America came to Quebec City to protest both the FTAA and the secrecy with which it was being negotiated. Two new books bring us the voices of some of those protesters.

Counter Productive, another book under consideration here, presents a brief scrapbook of images, short essays and facts with a culturally savvy design, playing on the cut-and-paste typewritten look of street zines. It’s also “copyleft,” or copyright-free for free distribution, like many such zines.

The book’s effect is chiefly visceral, with more than half the pages given over to images: of the protests, of the police, of banners, signs, posters, graffiti. More than 5,000 canisters of tear gas were apparently used in Quebec – these are depicted over several pages in the middle of the book, in an uncredited piece called “Lacrimation.” That’s a lot of tear gas. According to the Summit Index in the manner of Harper’s Index (from which also comes the 5,148 mentioned above), each one of those cost $54. There’s plenty more of interest where that came from.

I read the book while listening to its included audio accompaniment, the hour-long CD Dissonance: Audiology of Dissent – or perhaps it’s the book that accompanies the CD, so much is to be found therein. Here are reports from the scene, spoken word pieces, music and analysis, interspersed with snippets of lectures by Colombian-Canadian activist Manuel Rosenthal, the whole contriving to remind us why we cared enough to go to the protest, or to support those who did. As we come up to the anniversary of the Quebec Summit, these two books provide a timely reminder that there is more to world affairs than the aftermath of September 11th. mRb

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