Billie McLaughlin is a Canadian conceptual artist, who’s work uses sculpture, installation and performance art to explore imposed gender constructs, neurodiversity, queer identity, childhood development and the act of play. McLaughlin is interested in encouraging conversations about self-identity and the feelings that surround the concept of “otherness”.
Daniel Bombardier, also known as DENIAL, is a Canadian pop/mural artist whose aerosol and stencil artworks critique contemporary politics, capitalism, consumerism, and the human condition amongst many other subjects. DENIAL is known for his prolific guerrilla-marketing campaign that began in the late 90’s, which takes public aim at ideas involving social-justice, pop-culture, mass-media and the use of public spaces.
McLaughlin and Bombardier are dedicated members of Windsor’s art and music community with a history of collaboration and passion that has always spirited forward local creativity. McLaughlin has a decade of experience as an elementary school teacher, specializing in theatre and visual arts, and as a research assistant at the University of Windsor. Bombardier’s art career began in 1999 during his involvement in the graffiti and street art movement. His studio is based in Windsor’s downtown core and he spends much of the year traveling, painting murals, and exhibiting throughout North America and internationally.
This beautiful, yet frenzied, metal sculpture suggests that a tornado has passed through a multitude of cinematic references. BLOCKBUSTER seems to have barreled over a variety of time periods and endless film genres, gathering up every relevant pop-cultural reference in its creatively destructive wake and putting it on full display for visual celebration. BLOCKBUSTER presents a unique three-dimensional vantage point to the preconceived DENIAL mural from 2020, which sits adjacent to it in WIFF ALLEY. It offers the viewer further exploration into the film world, deconstructed by Bombardier’s feral imagination. McLaughlin states that Bombardier’s iconic mural in WIFF ALLEY was one of the guiding forces that led her to seek out DENIAL to collaborate on the BLOCKBUSTER project. She also credits Bombardier for suggesting the tornado concept in the first place.
Within BLOCKBUSTER’s interior hides a crude industrial frame securely anchored to a custom-designed metal base which is intended to serve as a metaphor to the extensive, often under-represented, team of creatives working behind the scenes in the independent and professional film industry. The framework they provide is regarded as an integral part of film production, yet rarely gets showcased as often as the glossy final product on the silver screen.
McLaughlin’s sculptural aesthetic of crude construction juxtaposes the precision of Bombardier’s designs in an absurd and whimsical contrast. BLOCKBUSTER intends to challenge traditional ideas about graffiti and public art. Bombardier invites the viewer to get caught in a whirlwind of nostalgia and enjoy the challenge of trying to identify all the iconic moments in film as seen through the lens of his imagination. A multitude of brightly painted aluminum signs have been bumped and bent as they are playfully carried down WIFF ALLEY.
McLaughlin expressed that Bombardier’s established art career, prior significance in WIFF ALLEY and his recognition as a global artist made this collaboration an excellent opportunity to grow under his mentorship. McLaughlin says that this experience also allowed her to expand her skill set by offering a chance to act as a project coordinator, as she was able to assemble a local ensemble of industry leaders in engineering and metal fabrication to bring her and Bombardier’s vision to life.
LOCKDOWN is an interactive sculpture that invites viewers to pause as they walk down WIFF ALLEY and place locks onto giant film reels holding up the word “CREATE”. McLaughlin’s sculptural aesthetic and signature use of manufactured construction materials, gives this hybrid work the support to exhibit Bombardier’s iconic designs that are trademarked by his unique and intricate aerosol and stencil work that is already recognized throughout the downtown core.
At first glance, LOCKDOWN appears to be a freestanding infrastructure only intended to hold a sign. However, McLaughlin and Bombardier purposefully designed LOCKDOWN to represent the set facades used in early theatre and film production before the technological advancements in Computer-Generated Imagery. Bombardier’s glossy and brightly coloured designs grab the viewer’s attention, and represent the finished film production. In contrast, McLaughlin’s crude and industrially manufactured frame is meant to represent more than merely offering a platform to showcase DENIAL’s work. Similarly, to their collaboration on BLOCKBUSTER, only steps away, LOCKDOWN serves as a metaphor for the unseen and underrepresented team of creatives that support film production.
Three years later, as our community learns how to exist in a post pandemic era, McLaughlin and Bombardier want to offer LOCKDOWN as an invitation to Windsorites to celebrate our survival as a community and encourage everyone to bring a lock down to WIFF ALLEY.
The Windsor International Film Festival, better known as WIFF, is a cornerstone in the downtown creative arts scene. WIFF Alley is the corridor that links multiple screening venues, acts as an event space, and is a vital footpath to theatre patrons. Artist Daniel Bombardier’s iconic cinema inspired mural serves as a popular backdrop for photo opportunities year-round. Professional and amateur photographers are capturing our community’s milestone moments against these compelling visuals. The recent involvement of the Downtown Windsor Business Revitalization and the Downtown Windsor BIA presented opportunities to bridge the gap between Bombardier’s mural and the alley’s entrance at Chatham Street.
Travel and tourism centres are known globally for similar attractions that invite visitors to bring locks for a specific reason. McLaughlin attributes film as one of the creative art forms that highlights every aspect of life, no matter how big or small. She believes that the community is going through many different things and wants an open space to commemorate all of them. This community gathering place, inspired by DENIAL’s 2020 WIFF Alley mural project, offers Windsorites and visitors to our city, an opportunity to take the lead role and “lock their moment in time”.