In 2011, a collective calling itself Garbage Beauty took to the streets of Montreal, and changed the way we look at trash. Artists Vincent Box and Romain Boz created the group to change the way people look at discarded objects – to transform visual pollution into surprise and delight.
They had studied with Marco Chioini, then the head of the Société des calligraphes de Montréal. And using their calligraphic skills, they transformed the city’s garbage, adding beautifully rendered messages filled with humour and sensitivity. The group grew to include Olivier Rielland Nadeau and Étienne Savaria, and were involved in producing the first MURAL festival.
Today, Romain Boz continues to follow his unique vision, posting on Instagram under the name @_lorem_ipsum_.
On a discarded toilet we see the artfully rendered words “fake ass.” On a trashed mattress we read: “je me reveille et réalise mon rêve” (“I wake up and make my dream come true.”) A clock without hands reads: “the time is now.”
The juxtaposition is striking. Objects literally relegated to the curb are emblazoned with the disciplined work of highly skilled artists. In an age of digital reproduction, calligraphy is the work of individual human hands that requires years of dedicated practice.
Vincent Box says “calligraphers are like senseis.”
For him, the potential of this new form of expression can capture the public’s attention like no other: “Living in a big city, walking the streets, we’re surrounded by ads, posters, shop signs. We’re so used to seeing them that they don’t call out to us,” says Box. “But when you see something on garbage, it’ll catch the attention of 95 percent of the public, because that’s like a final frontier, the last place you would expect to see something written.”