In realizing her own struggle to communicate her artistic passions, Nadia Duguay observed similar patterns of misunderstanding across different outsider groups in her city. With the development of Exeko, she and her team now work to create performative conversations and skills-based courses in which various marginalized populations can begin to understand each other.
“Dissatisfaction is a motivation to use creativity toward positive thinking and positive actions.”
In her art school days, Nadia Duguay's public art performances constantly seemed to be met with misunderstanding. Those formative encounters with miscommunication make her work with Exeko all the more satisfying.
Founded in 2006, Exeko is a highly adaptable means of empowering marginalized social populations of Montreal, cooperating with local outreach to the homeless, youth, prisons and First Nations. Separated from mainstream tools of understanding and communication, these groups will often end up developing highly creative means of expression. Nadia and co-founder François-Xavier Michaux noticed this creativity in their tattoos, the clothes they wear, the poetry they write, and the graffiti they paint, and thought “Why don't we suffuse culture and art as a tool of special engagement?”
"Creativity is not only art," says Nadia, "but also finding new solutions to social and personal problems. If you cut that out, you cut an important link between society and the individual.” By day, Exeko volunteers hit the streets with physical theatre, social observation, and what they call "live translation”—a program that brings students into an academic or political setting, and interprets the spoken rhetoric into common language that everyone can understand. They also create curriculum and educational programs to teach specific communication skills, interpretation tools, and individual agency.
By night, an Exeko van staffed with artists, philosophers, musicians and journalists follows Quebec's Street Patrol into the city center. These mediators engage people on the street with training in critical thinking, communication and creativity—tools needed to actively create the personal and political changes they desire.
“Our goal,” says Nadia, “is to give them a positive model—saying 'you're not alone in that you're not happy with society,' but to show them that their dissatisfaction is a motivation to use creativity toward positive thinking and positive actions."