Thursday 20 October 2011

I wish I wish I wish in vain ... (Dylan)

With colleagues and students in La Tartine, Paris, on barricade and revolution tracking visit circa 1979, in the context of a history course on European Revolutions at Portsmouth Poly- wonderful, long pre-modular course over three terms, time to think, time to do, days to track the barricades of 1789, 1830, 1848, 1871 - political and psycho geography as historical method. So this is now an allegory of the time for thinking. My head from behind, right hand edge: forgive the sepia, it gives an idea of the tobacco effect of the pre-gentrified Tartine

Below is a part of my pseudo-Atget series that I did while Molly Nesbit was working in Paris on her miraculously good Atget's Seven Albums, not only one of the best books on photography ever written, but one of the finest of the whole so called Social History of Art movement. I did a series on the Hotel de Beauvais in the rue François Miron, when it was still grim and unrestored and tnemented. But I was also doing a series on Parisian gay masculinities and guys on the streets, as well as in mural paintings of religious and military scenes. So in this rather simplistic collage I began a cruising-Atget series, now it would be called queering Atget. By the early 80s this was influenced by the late Nicholas Green, my first PhD student, but maître ès drague gaie, and author of The Spectacle of Nature. Somewhere I have negatives of Beauvais with him rather than this boy imported from the quais, and I will look for them.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Self Portrait 1974

More political prints

In the blogs before this I commented on the prudishness of public discourse and the regression of the right to speak, and even though some cartooning, like that of Steve Bell or others makes their target revolting, it rarely calls on a history of revolution to suggest a political solution - like this reaction to the Franco Prussian war of 1870. Captioned with the now rather horrible line of the Marseillaise 'Let an imoure blood slake our fields' - in the post colonial, post Vichy period it is a scandal that it's still there - here it calls for an internationalist solution, the decapitation of ALL the rulers involved:: Bismarck, Wilhelm and Napoléon lll.

These come from hundred of old negative I have of research done in the late 1970s around the Commune of Paris of 1871 and I will start scanning the colour negs soon. The above is a driect quotation from a print of 1792.

Below a nicely witty and direct attack on the French government of Thiers and Favre for its attack on Republican values, easy mix of the political and the sexual in the conventions of academic art forms and satire, so both levels work together.  Remember these prints could end their makers in prison and, outside the great private collections, ironically built as much by aristocrats like the Baron de Vinck as left municipalities in a later period, St Denis, Montreuil, they were systematically destroyed for over two decades after they were made...

Monday 17 October 2011

!7 October 1961 - 2011 50 years of falshood and cover up

Today is the 50th anniversary of the massacre of hundreds of French Algerians in Paris - demonstrating for the independence of their country from French colonial rule and an end to the brutal repression of their country. Covered up for years by the authorities, the bodies processed out of sight and evidence,  those who were responsible, Prefet  Papon,  were the same who had happily collaborated with and organised the deportation of the Jews to death camps under the Nazi occupation (Bousquet, Touvier) - and then doctored the archives to cover their tracks. Even the 'left' were anxious to keep it quiet. In J-P Rioux's text book on modern France the massacre got half a line as I recall. Indeed the first real exposition of the events and how they were hidden was by the crime writer, Didier Daeninckx in his brilliant novel Meurtres pour mémoire, (1984, translated by Serpent's Tale), and this while Mitterand was cosying up to his old friends - the 'distinguished' administrators who had perpetrated the horror. His publicity on Serpent's Tail states:
His 1984 novel Murder in Memoriam forced the French government to try Nazi collaborators, led to a life of imprisonment for Paul Touvier and made President Mitterrand declare 16 July a day of national reflection on fascism and racism.

Buy it - read it!!!

As I recall, even after Meurtres, it was hard to get cooperation to find documents. There was a bit of my own research that involved putting together figures of Parisian darkness, criminality and the great and the good between the 1930s and 1950s. I was trying investigate the pre-war fascistic prefet Chiappe (he died in a plane crash up to some dirty business for Vichy in 1940) and associate him with the post war 'heritage' of Papon et al, and the librarians at the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris were utterly obstructive, claiming that, if my interest was music hall, they had no reason to get me out dossiers on the Police! Daeninckx's novel, as well as being a real thriller, was an immense support.

The first really public coverage I recall was a section of the Pompidou Centre exhibition Face à l'Histoire of 1996 but by then the barrage of silence was broken.

Read Kristin Ross, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies - Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture, 1995

However it's worth recalling that the City of Light has long been, second to none, the City of Bloodbaths.

Prudish times

The habit and indeed right to be free of standing in awe of faith as such, whether religious, scientific, political or whatever, and the command to respect feelings as such, all of which are a part of new, reactionary ideologies are a more or less dreadful sign of our times, so here is a god old satire of the Paris commune by the great draughtsman and militant Pilotell, who came to London as an exile in 1871, where he prepared the album of his work from which this is drawn:  Note well that it includes revolutionary deities such as the Supreme Being of the 1789 Revolution.

Decidedly, if god existed, it would be necessary to execute him: