Black Marianne: A freedom too far for France?

After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and the groundswell of affirmation for freedom of expression in France, you might have thought that all was well in the land of Liberty, Egality, Fraternity. At least as far as what the state is prepared to allow in the name of artistic expression.

Not so in the small town of Fremainville, in Northern France, whose mayor has removed the statue of a black Marianne from outside the town hall. Here is the statue in question.

260115-marianne-noire-620Beautiful, isn’t she? Marianne is a national symbol of the French Republic, an allegory of liberty and reason, and a portrayal of the Goddess of Liberty. You will be shocked to learn that most Mariannes are white.

And it appears the mayor, Marcel Allègre, wants to keep it that way. He claims that a black Marianne is a “Marianne of liberty, but not a Marianne of the French Republic. She undoubtedly represented something, but not the French Republic.”

So, absolute freedom of expression where the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists are concerned, but you can’t allow a black Marianne to represent the French Republic? The cognitive dissonance is staggering.

If the French are serious about freedom of expression, then I suggest the government overrules this stupid, racist mayor, and puts the statue back in place. Furthermore, I suggest they commission more Mariannes, representing all the ethnic minorities.

Including a few Muslim Mariannes, complete with headscarf.

Ecumenopolis

As promised yesterday, here are the photos of Nathan Coley’s exhibit at GoMA, The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh 2004. He began with a couple of pages torn from the Yellow Pages.

The work is based on Ruskin’s idea that “buildings and architecture are two separate things – one being purely functional and the other having meaning” (GoMA handout). So Coley made cardboard models of 286 churches listed in the Yellow Pages and assembled them in a higgledy-piggledy fashion on GoMA’s floor.

I added what could be construed as meaning, if you believe in that sort of thing, by positioning a tall white pillar behind a spire to represent the elevator to Heaven. I also cropped the bit showing the ceiling so as not to spoil the illusion. But I did leave in the Yellow Pages, so there would be a bible of sorts.

Here’s a bird’s eye view of this strange ecumenopolis.

I find this fascinating. Architectural models of any sort always draw attention, whether it’s Hitler’s model of the new Berlin or a model railway layout. Here, the absence of streets focuses attention on the buildings and how you might navigate between them. Should you want to. Not many people do.

A Sense of Space, Rendered Flat

One of the things I did when I fled to Glasgow on Referendum Day was to visit the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). It’s one of my favourite places, combining a fine neoclassical building with uncluttered, beautiful, modern interior spaces, and interesting exhibits. And it’s free.

There were a couple of artists whose work I photographed. The first is Sara Barker, with For Myself and Strangers. The other, Nathan Coley, I’ll leave till tomorrow.

Barker makes abstract 3-D sculptures out of wire and painted materials that change as you move round them – no view of the the work is ever the same, because your position/perspective is always changing. By photographing one of them, I rendered it flat, but a photo from another angle sees it differently.

It makes me think of the fight for independence, about the sense of freedom and space it opened up, now rendered flat. Still an absorbing picture, depending on your point of view, but without movement a set of partisan images.

American Student in Cunning Stunt

Deep joy to read that the younger generation is still capable of big dreams. I refer of course to the American student who attempted full-body penetration of a giant vagina in the German university town of Tubingen. Possibly he’s a Star Trek fan with the motto, To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before, engraved on his heart. Jim Kirk would certainly be proud.

The Guardian has a full account here. Unfortunately, the lad became trapped, and had to be rescued by 22 firefighters “by hand and without the application of tools”. Quite right too. Anything else would be unsuitable for a family blog.

gal03-pi-chacan

The vagina in question: Chacán-Pi (Making Love), by Peruvian artist Fernando de la Jara

While you have to applaud our hero for his ambitions, clearly he didn’t know what he was getting into.

Lest you should think this post is merely an opportunity for gratuitous smut and innuendo, I was struck by a comment made by Tubingen’s Green mayor, Boris Palmer:

He told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that he struggled to imagine how the accident could have happened, “even when considering the most extreme adolescent fantasies. To reward such a masterly achievement with the use of 22 firefighters almost pains my soul.”

It demonstrates a command of wit and irony to which most politicians in this right, tight little island cannot even aspire. It seems you get a better class of mayor in Germany. This excellent English-language interview with Palmer is well worth a listen.

And let’s spare a thought for the student, who probably wishes the internet had never been invented. There, but for the grace of the gods…

Here We Go Again

Do I dare to eat a peach? CropI renewed the domain subscription for Beautiful Railway Bridge today. I’d been putting if off till the last minute – the lights would have gone out tomorrow – for several reasons. One is irritation at being being bombarded with reminders by WordPress when I knew the deadline and didn’t want to think about it until absolutely necessary. And part of the reason for not wanting to think about it was a reluctance to question whether writing a blog is worth the effort.

Yes, I get a great deal of pleasure from making a good blog post. But there’s always the fight with the worst broadband service in Britain, the faff of putting in all the links, and the maintenance involved in making over a thousand posts accessible and easy to find. And most of all there’s the self-imposed guilt when I don’t post on a daily basis.

The maintenance thingy is a shambles. And the images are scattered between this and an unused blog, when I really want them all in one place. It will take literally years to get everything sorted out, but that’s me in perfectionist mode – it might be better to ignore the trait as much as possible. Knowing where everything is probably matters only to me.

Which is a roundabout way of saying I’m still here and attempting once more to post every day. Ish.