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Allegories of commemoration Bonnemaison, Sarah 1995

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ALLEGORIES OF COMMEMORATIONbySARAH BONNEMAISONB.Sc., Concordia University, 1985B.Arch., Pratt Institute, 1983S.M.Arch.S., Massachussetts Institute of Technology, 1985A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment ofthe requirements for the degree ofDOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHYinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(Department of Geography)We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAOctober 1995© Sarah Bonnemaison, 1995in presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives, it is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)Department of e c a>& aThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate f) J i 9 gDE-6 (2/88)ABSTRACTIn analyzing the 1989 bicentennial in Paris, my point of departure has been thatthe French government, faced with the cool reception to the memory of theRevolution of 1789, was trying to make revolutionary heritage relevant tocontemporary concerns, by using allegorical techniques of spatializing andvisualizing history while consequently (yet paradoxically, since it ran againsttheir intentions) effecting a smooth passage for this heritage into the world ofcommodity and spectacle. To analyze this dilemma, I investigated themechanisms of representation and the tension between spectacle and politicallyengaged imagery. Drawing from the work of Water Benjamin, the thesisproposed to use allegory as a mode of political criticism and redemptiveinterpretation. The analysis of the programming of events, for example,revealed that it contained a moral tale of sacrifice, and praised the power of thememory of the Revolution to form a community, not based on ethnicity orshared history but on shared ideals. The analysis of the use of collage in theBastille Day Parade revealed that it reworked Republican notions of ‘fraternityin a post-colonial era to reflect contemporary discussions of métissage and take aposition on its relationship to democracy.By looking at this commemoration allegorically, the double meanings inscribedin the bicentennial program, exhibits, monuments and parade can be unpacked.But the allegorical critique is violent, it does not carefully excavate layers ofmeaning through a gentle and constructive hermeneutic circle, it requires thatthe objects that are being contemplated be in fragments. As the allegoristreassembles the fragments into new meaningful constellations, the constructionsremain open, driven by the impossibility of recovering what has been lost,always pointing to the instability of meaning.The analysis of the commemoration recognized that commodification andspectacularisation happen, but through reversal it also showed that the 1989bicentennial draws from a constantly evolving relationship to memory whichallows for investment on the part of the public. Because the commemoration isa powerful form of visualizing and spatializing history that occurs in publicspaces, many provocative images were taken up by the press and written about,which ultimately reconfigured present-day discussions about democracy andcitizenship.11TABLE OF CONTENTSAbstractTable of Contents iiiList of Figures viAcknowledgments viiiChapter OneIntroduction 1Redeeming commemorative spectacles 1History, memory and the crisis of meaning 8Allegory as a critical tool 15The major movements of allegory 18The role of images in allegory 20The spatialization of history in allegory 22Description of the chapters 24Chapter TwoThe Programme as a Moral Fable 7Sacrifice for the Nation 32Distanciation from the social drama 34Reflection on the ‘lessons of the Revolution’ 36Commemoration as a rite of re-enactment 39A symbolic society, visible and invisible 44Chapter ThreeRevolution and Narration .9‘La Revolution Française et 1’Europe’ 53Who organized the exhibit? 53Where was the exhibit? 55In what context did the exhibit take place? 58Historical Narratives and the Exhibit 62Original art objects on display 62‘Social context’ and the Annales School 66Common objects as art(ifacts) 69Fragments in the Exhibit 74The rhetoric of fragments 74Fragments as an undercurrent of the exhibit 80Ruins speaking of the cycle of destruction and creation 84Fragments of revolutionary mythology 86The storming of the Bastille as a mythical origin 87Destruction as an allegory of the fall of Communism 93111Chapter FourThe Architecture of Memory 96The Amphitheatre and Memory 100The political context of the amphitheatre 102The first memory: the construction of the amphitheatre in 1790 104The second memory: the Fête de la Fédération 110The third memory: the execution of Louis XVI 121The Amphitheatre in 1989 130The guests in the amphitheatre 131Chapter FiveThe Black Marianne on Bastille Day 136Jessye Norman sings the National Anthem 138Deconstructing the moment of the National Anthem 144Reading the Black Marianne 149What is being done with it? 150What is it doing for its users? 154In the shadow of French slavery 157The limits of the Declaration come to light 164Did ‘public opinion’ share this view? 167Chapter SixA New Landscape for the Capital 7.1The commemorative monuments 176The Louvre and its Pyramid 186Napoleanic transformation of the revolutionary museum 189The Louvre renovation 192The Grande Arche 197Opéra de la Bastille 204A Socialist Style? 208The power of the prince 210What does the president really think? 211The power to choose those who will decide 216The power of representation present in architectural monuments 217Chapter SevenCosmopolitan Tribes 220The Bastille Day Parade as carnival 221Topsy-turvy metissage 229Métissage brings fraternity into the political imagination 233ivFraternity within the Nation 237Fraternity during the Revolution 2381989 recalls the Rousseauist sentiment of 1790 243The dark side of brotherhood 245Cosmopolitanism 247Kant and cosmopolitanism 251The ‘Family of Man’ 253Solidarity with the former colonies 256The Senegalese float 256The “Universal Exhibition” of 1889 259Women in tricolour turbans 261The unbrotherly summit 264Fraternity across races 267Metissage and the anti-racist movement 268Métissage as a reaction to cultural relativism 269Metissage as a raction to nationalism 270Multiple identities 271Towards a pluralist universalism 272Chapter EightConclusion — the ‘paysage moralisé’ 74Postscript 282Bibliography 285Appendix 300Brief chronology of revolutionary eventsVLIST OF FIGURES2.1 “The National Guard of Paris leaves to join the army.” 332.2 The Elephant of Memory in Lille. 372.3 Descendants of the revolutionaries hold images of their ancestors. 473.1 “Habitation” from Larousse du XXeme Siècle. 513.2 Reconstruction of the ‘Bastille’ and the ‘Faubourg Saint-Antoine.’ 573.3 “Old Shoes with Laces” by Van Gogh. 713.4 Revolutionaries toppling a statue of Louis XV. 763.5 Fragments of royal statues exhibited in the Grand Palais. 773.6 Severed head of Louis XVI. 783.7 “A Family of Sans Culotts refreshing after the fatigues of the day.” 813.8 “May you be free and live!” 893.9 “Awakening of the Third Estate.” 913.10 “Destruction of the Bastille.” 924.1 Wooden amphitheatre built on the Place de la Concorde. 974.2 The Federation Festival on the Champs de Mars. 984.3 “To the good citizen workers of the Champs de Mars.” 1054.4 La Fayette taking the oath. 1124.5 Federative Pact of the French. 1124.6 Television image of the amphitheatre on Place de la Concorde. 1134.7 “Bird’s eye view of the French Federation.” 1134.8 “The Martyrdom of Louis XVI, King of France.” 1244.9 “Something for crowned jugglers to think about.” 1254.10 Execution of Louis XVI. 1274.11 Deputies gather at the altar during the Fête de la Fédération. 1334.12 The ‘Tribes of France’ form a circle at the Bastille Day Parade. 1335.1 Jessye Norman sings the National Anthem. 1455.2 Toussaint Louverture. 1586.1 Masonic pyramid in Parc Monceau. 1726.2 The three commemorative monuments. 1776.3 Bird’s eye view of the Champs Elysees, mid-l9th c. 1806.4 Plan des Artistes. 1816.5 “La grande traversée” of Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin. 1836.6 The Group of Seven in front of the Louvre Pyramid. 1856.7 The Louvre Pyramid. 1876.8 La Defense in 1954. 1996.9 La Defense in 1970. 199vi6.10 The Grande Arche at La Defense. 2006.11 Interior of the Bastille Opera. 2076.12 Opera on the Place de la Bastille. 2076.13 Caricature of President De Gaulle as a builder-monarch. 2126.14 Mitterrand looking at a model for the Très Grande Bibliotheque. 2156.15 Official portrait of Mitterrand. 2157.1 The Nation. 2227.2 Folkloric musicians under their departmental flags. 2227.3 Valseuse with child. 2247.4 Dancers with wooden clogs. 2247.5 Senegalese float seen from the back. 2257.6 British float with punk dancers and footmen. 2257.7 Paraders enter the circus. 2267.8 Russian float. 2267.9 Steel drummers on the locomotive float. 2287.10 Break dancer at rear of the American float. 2287.11 Caricature of fraternity at the turn of the century. 2367.12 “Fraternité.” 2487.13 Jean-Paul Goude’s sketches for “Les valseuses.” 2507.14 Poster published by “Comité français contre la faim.” 2557.15 The front of the Senegalese float. 2587.16 “Swan Lake” at the back of the Senegalese float. 2587.17 Caricature of “The Group of Seven and the Debt.” 266viiACKNOWLEDGMENTSWriting this thesis was made possible by the generous support of my fatherMichel Bonnemaison, and the department of geography at UBC throughproviding me with teaching assistantships. The intellectual support andcriticisms from members of my committee, Derek Gregory, Gerry Pratt and Rose-Marie San Juan, were always greatly appreciated and cherished. My discussionswith David Ley were vital in providing the impetus to bypass the numerouspitfalls that I experienced in the course of working on this thesis. His enormousgenerosity and patience of the path I have chosen to explore has been of greatvalue in times of confusion and doubt. The relentless support of Christine Macy,her engagement with the ideas pursued in this work and her help with mystruggles with the English language allowed me to formulate ideas with greaterprecision and depth than would have been possible otherwise.viiiCHAPTER ONEINTRODUCTIONWe live in a society where life presents itself as an immenseaccumulation of spectacles.’An appreciation of the transience of things, and the concern toredeem them for eternity, is one of the strongest impulses inallegory.2Redeeming commemorative spectaclesBetween the massive amount of money spent on official spectacles and localizedstruggles to redeem the past, commemorations remain a highly ambivalentproduct of the encounter between spectacle and memory. The quotations abovefrom Guy Debord and Walter Benjamin capture the ambivalence structuringmuch current discussion about spectacles and the landscapes they generate. Onthe one hand, spectacles have been interpreted within the nexus ofpower/knowledge as an effective way to make colonial order, capitalism, orreligious belief systems visible, based on certain truth claims of progress,economic growth, or the divine word.3 On the other hand, they have beeninterpreted with a redemptive intent as sites of “pilgrimage to the commodityfetish,” popular resistance, social interaction, and utopia.4 In this thesis, I discussthe questions surrounding spectacles in relation to the Parisian commemorationof the French Revolution in 1989.1 Guy Debord, Society of Spectacle (Detroit: Red and Black, 1977), sec. 1-8.2 Walter Benjamin, cited in Richard Wolin, Walter Benjamin: an Aesthetic of Redemption (New York: Columbia University Press,1982), 71.3 Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991); David Harvey, Condition ofPostmodernity: An Inquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989); James Duncan, City as Text: ThePolitics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).Walter Benjamin, Paris, capital du XIXème siècle (Paris: Le Seuil, 1989); Peter Jackson, Maps ofMeaning (London: UnwinHyman, 1989); David Ley and K. Olds, “Landscape as Spectacle: world’s fairs and the culture of heroic consumption,”Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 6 (1988); Stacy Warren, “This heaven gives me migraines; the,,problems andpromise of landscapes of leisure,” Place/culture/representation, ed. James Duncan and David Ley (London: Rutledge, 1993).1To be sure, as Timothy Mitchell argues, spectacles such as the nineteenth centurygreat exhibitions were far more effective in imagining and implementingcolonial rule than any other form of colonial propaganda. Mitchell uses letterswritten by Egyptians visiting Paris to read the exhibition against its grain, tomake strange what we would take for granted: the city in miniature, the realismof a reconstructed street, and above all, the western notion of ‘spectacle’.Mitchell calls this particular arrangement between the individual and an object-world the ‘world-as exhibition’. He does not refer to an exhibition of the worldbut to the world conceived and grasped as though it were an exhibition. Hisanalysis leads us to an awareness of how the ‘world-as-exhibition’ was notsimply a display of power and industrial progress but a way of seeing andimplementing colonialism.I believe that in the transition to a ‘post-colonial’ world, the ‘world-as-exhibition’ has not disappeared but merely adapted to the demands of currentglobal politics. The American media, as Noam Chomsky has forcefully argued, isa powerful player in building consensus on a political situation. Whether the‘world-as-exhibition’ is restricted to the media or whether it is a morecomplicated situation where geopolitical strategies make use of already-existinggenres, such as commemorations, there is no doubt that Western nations useculture to make their views known to the rest of the world.5 In contrast with theless visually oriented strategies of the World Bank, spectacles provide visualmaterial readily incorporated in the flow of the media networks that constantlyirrigate the globe.The spectacles of industrialized countries have consistently drawn from culturesthey have construed as exotic, marginal or pre-modern. In the great exhibitionsof North America “each large nation has taken arts of its crushed former peoplesand erected them as symbols of ‘national ethnicity’ to distinguish each from theother, and all of them from their European homelands.”6 This practicecontinues today. The British Columbian pavilion at the 1992 Seville Expodisplayed the art of the Native peoples of the West Coast; in Europe, the Scottishtartan, Brittany fiddler, and Basque beret are repeatedly pressed into service assymbols of British and French identity. Spectacles repeatedly reaffirm -- in a waythat is vital for localized struggles over memory -- the interconnectedness ofNote the recent decision of the Canadian House of Commons and Senate Joint Foreign Affairs Committee to make cultureone of the three pillars of Canadian Foreign Policy, the other two being politics and economics.”6 Nelson H. H. Graburn, Ethnic and Tourist Arts, Cultural Expressionsfrom the Fourth World (Berkeley: University of CaliforniaPress, 1979), 29.2global cultures. Indeed, the role played by culture is always growing as electronicmedia reaches out to ever more remote places of the globe. As Terry Eagletonsays, “in the contemporary debates on modernity, modernism andpostmodernism, ‘culture’ would seem a key category for the analysis andunderstanding of late capitalist society.”7What matters here is not so much the differences between the recentcommemoration and its predecessor of 1889 (the subject of Mitchell’s work), buthow Mitchell analyses the exhibition. He argues that Marx’s analysis ofcommodity fetishism has led cultural critics to denigrate spectacle asmisrepresentation, while neglecting to analyse the actual process ofrepresentation.To the mechanism of misrepresentation by which power operates,Marx opposed a representation of the way things intrinsically are, intheir transparent and rational reality. The problem with such anexplanation was that, in revealing power to work throughmisrepresentation, it left representation itself unquestioned.8For Mitchell, an analysis of spectacles should focus not on how they alienate thevisitor from the reality of life, but on how they promise the existence of thatreality. This shift in focus from what I call demystification to a Foucauldiananalysis of the mechanism of representation (and its effects on colonial life) goesentirely against the grain of most work done on spectacle to date. From theinfluential writings of Guy Debord (and its extensions in Virilio and Baudrillard)to the work of David Harvey, spectacles have been conceived -- like the whole ofthe entertainment industry -- as ‘misrepresentations’ of a ‘reality.’9 This dualitybetween misrepresentation and reality finds its parallel in the oppositionbetween ‘spectacle’ and ‘festival’. This opposition is most clearly expressed inthe work of Henri Lefebvre, where festivals are seen as participatory andspontaneous expressions of popular culture, while spectacle is conceived of as anexpression of power of the state, devious and anti-participatory.1°This dualitycan be traced back to the philosophy of Jean Jacques Rousseau who advocated thesimplicity and naiveté of rural festivals in order to criticize the ‘opacity’ of thetheatrical (and thus false and artificial) spectacles.’1 The work of Mitchell is set inTerry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 1.8 Mitchell, Colonizing, 18.Paul Virilio, L’espace critique (Paris: Christian Bourgeois, 1984); Jean Baudrillard, Simulacre and Simulations (Ann Arbor:University of Michigan Press, 1994); Harvey, Condition of Postmodernity.10 Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991).For an essay to situate the opposing forces structuring the thoughts of Lefebvre, see Derek Gregory, GeographicalImaginations (Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 1994). For the philosophy of Rousseau relying on the opposition betweenfestivals and spectacle see Jean Starobinski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Transparency and Obstruction (Chicago: University ofChicago Press, 1988).3opposition to this conception of spectacle that I would call ‘pre-Foucault,’ whichfocuses on the unveiling of spectacle while neglecting to analyse how themechanisms of spectacularisation actually operate.’2In Downcast Eyes, Martin Jay pulls out a thread from French philosophy runningfrom Descartes to Derrida, which, he argues, is characterized by a persistent“denigration of vision”. “A great deal of recent French thought in a wide varietyof fields is in one way or another imbued with a profound suspicion of visionand its hegemonic role in the modern era.”13 For Jay, the notion ofmisrepresentation and its criticism, would therefore fall in the “essentiallyocularphobic discourse.”14At the beginning of his book, Mitchell isolates the major features of the ‘world-as-exhibition’ which include “the remarkable claim to certainty or truth,” theway everything was ordered which “led to a political decisiveness” and thepresentation of the “world as a picture” which set up a relation betweenrepresentations and ‘reality’ -- a mode of power/knowledge he calls ‘enframing.’These mechanisms allow him to show that the same methods are then used todiscipline the colonies making them produce goods for the empire in an orderlyfashion, ensuring the reproduction of colonial control through subjectivityformation.I see the focus on the mechanisms of spectacle as a crucial first step ininterpreting contemporary commemorations, even if this method carries somelimits which need to be discussed. As Derek Gregory remarks, what Mitchelldoes not explore “is the way the process of enframing constitutes not only itsobject but also its observer.”5 By focusing solely on the mechanisms ofrepresentation and their effects, Mitchell elides the questions surrounding theformation of the modern subject (a theme that occupied Foucault in his laterwork) which leads him to describe an all-too-perfect colonizing machine. Thismakes it difficult to imagine how the Egyptians could ever have had the mentalresources to fight for their independence. Even though “anti-colonialmovements have often derived their organizational forms from the military12 For others who have investigated the mechanism of spectacle, see Natalie Zemon Davis, ‘Women on Top,’ Society and Culturein Early Modern France (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1975); Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (Cambridge,MA: MIT Press, 1968); Louis Mar, Le Portrait du Roi (Paris: Editions du minuit, 1981); and David Freedberg, The Powerof Images: studies in the history and theory of response (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 14.14 Ibid15 Gregory, Imaginations, 37.4and their methods of discipline and indoctrination from schooling,”16 Mitchellcannot abandon the image of colonial power as a central authority because itwould lead him to conceive of resistance as existing outside this power.Resistance, he says, is formed within the organization of the colonial state. Buthis description of resistance (like the Egyptian fieldworkers who would rather beblinded than leave their village) reinforces the bipolar construction of colonizerand colonized.In analysing the bicentennial, my question has been: how can we understand theinscription of history in the landscape (the techniques, references, erasures,rhetorical forms) without reducing the events solely to their spectacularization?I decided to investigate the mechanisms of representation in the landscape, butalso to draw attention to the uncontrollability of meaning once images circulatein the public realm -- the way, for example, a certain event of thecommemoration becomes meaningful through associations with entirelydifferent events, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall or a grass-roots antiracistmovement. The very publicness of spectacles predisposes them towards aredemptive interpretation. For once a spectacle is produced, monuments arebuilt, and parades performed in the street, authorities lose their initial controlover meaning and, in the manner of a kaleidoscope breaking an image intocolorful fragments, possible audience interpretations multiply. By folding oneonto the other, I think it is possible to see how a government finds it necessary topublicly commemorate and at the same time, to understand why people like tosee commemorations.The choice of this particular commemoration was no accident. It begs thequestion of why spectacle should be redeemed, since the event beingcommemorated is the French Revolution (and, by extension the legacy of theEnlightenment), a period of history which has sustained severe criticism sincethe publication of Foucault’s first book in the 196OsJ7 My aim is not to redeemthe ideals of the revolution, but rather to hold in tension that possibilitythroughout my study in order to find strength to fight the current denigrationand dismantling of the welfare state in the West. There seems to be littleresistance to governments cutting funds for social programs, and presenting suchactions as a goal. This destructive wave, begun under Thatcher and Reagan inthe 1980s in the UK and the US, is now hitting France and Canada. One could16 Mitchell, Colonizing, xi.17 Michel Foucault, Naissance de la clinique: une archeologie du regard medical (Paris: Press Universitaire de France, 1963).5trace it backward to find reasons for its existence, but this is not my intention,rather to search for ideas and arguments to combat this conservative turn.’8That the duty of the state is to insure food, housing, health care, education andculture to its population is indeed a bourgeois concept in the most literal sensesince it was nurtured in Europe during the Enlightenment and put into practicein France in a forceful way by the Revolution. Terry Eagleton, in his study ofaesthetics in modern Western thought says that it is a mistake to reject thatperiod ‘en bloc’ and it would be wiser to “use what you can” to pursue the task ofemancipation which involves “freeing ourselves from ourselves.”From the Communist Manifesto onwards, Marxism has neverceased to sing the praises of the bourgeoisie -- to cherish andrecollect that in its great revolutionary heritage from which radicalsmust either enduringly learn, or face the prospect of a closed,illiberal socialist order in the future. Those who have now beencorrectly programmed to reach for their decentered subjectivities atthe very mention of the dread phrase ‘liberal humanist’repressively disavow the very history which constitutes them,which is by no means uniformly negative or oppressive. We forgetat our political peril the heroic struggles of earlier ‘liberalhumanists’ against the brutal autocracies of feudalistic absolutism.If we can and must be severe critics of Enlightenment, it isEnlightenment which has empowered us to be so.19Indeed, throughout the bicentennial there was an underlying polarity, which onthe one hand pushed for an image of the French Revolution as a time ofviolence, intolerance and destruction, and on the other as the foundation of thewelfare state and human rights. The socialist government dealt with thesituation by reclaiming the origins of welfare institutions as their ancestors oftheir government -- thereby creating a parental link between the socialist partyand the French Revolution. Regarding the dark events of the Revolution suchas the Terror and the repression on anti-revolutionaries, the government (andPresident Mitterand in particular) recognized and acknowledged the suffering,the horror and then, in an operation of reversal, turned the dark aspects ofhistory into a “lesson” about the need for tolerance in our contemporary societyand the need for the application of human rights in everyday life.18 For a reference on those who have traced this conservative trend, see Stuart Hall,The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherismand the Crisis of the Left (London: Verso, 1988).19 Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 8.6The organizers of the bicentennial commemoration were in an ambiguoussituation: they wanted to render the Revolution meaningful to people for arange of reasons (the most obvious being the revolutionary legacy inherited bythe Socialist party), but as the bicentennial events entered the public realm, theybecame caught in the machinery of the media and cultural industries whichmercilessly turned revolutionary sentiments into consumer products. Eventhough the organizers tried to program many ‘non-spectacular’ events, publicopinion agreed that the bicentennial commercialized and debased revolutionaryhistory. It became painfully clear that the state’s involvement in creating aspectacle commemorating the French Revolution inescapably resulted in thecommodification of culture.History, in the bicentennial, was turned into a commodity because the state usedthe same techniques to make the Revolution meaningful today that industryuses to make products desirable -- the cultural industries and media.Furthermore, the state had to address double meanings in order to deal with acomplex and contradictory heritage of the Enlightenment and the Revolution --as sowing the seeds of modern oppression and, at the same time, of modernnotions of political criticism and emancipation. As a result, the commemorationtended toward indirect, metaphorical and allegorical modes of representing thepast to avoid didactic rhetoric pleading the pros and cons of the revolutionaryheritage, which would have led to explosive debates as to whether or not therevolution was a ‘good thing’. But the techniques used to bring therevolutionary heritage to life also allowed for its smooth passage into the worldof the commodity. The cultural industry and its close cousin, the media, latchedon the pictorialization of history, reified it in stereotypes, and diffused it in theform of cultural commodities such as puppets dressed in revolutionary clothesand period films -- all of which were seen as debased spectacle.To be sure, the organizers hired an ad man, Jean Paul Goude, to design theBastille Day Parade (the major event of the commemoration), an act that wasseen by many as the ultimate ‘packaging’ of the Revolution for publicconsumption. Yet Goude proved to be a master allegorist, mining history,grabbing fragments and permutating them with contemporary images instartling ways to make Paris mean the French Revolution. Certainly, Goude wasfamiliar with these techniques from advertisement, a practice that functionsallegorically. Indeed, advertisement uses all the tricks in the book of allegoryfrom the traditional figuration (placing a young woman next to an olive tree to7advertise virgin olive oil) to the more surprising diachronic juxtaposition of theold and the new (a Marlboro advertisement depicting a stiff from the saddlecowboy riding in a shiny new ‘four by four’). But in the context of thecommemoration these tropes of advertising were themselves used in a new andmore disruptive context.As Mattei rightly remarked, the television took “the essence of memory” awayfrom the commemoration which not only implies the influence of the media onculture, but more importantly the fragility of that memory, the tenuousness ofour links to the past. Indeed, there is a growing concern in the postmodernliterature about the ways in which we treat history: a strange mix of worshippingthe past while commodifying it. I now turn to this apparent contradiction inorder to develop a theoretical handle on the relationship between thepictoralization of the history by the commemoration and the memory associatedwith the sites of the city where these events took place.History, memory and the crisis of meaningIn his book on the ‘culture of amnesia,’ Andreas Huyssen argues that theapproach of the end of the twentieth century coupled with the end of themillennium has turned our gaze “backwards ever more frequently in an attemptto take stock and to assess where we stand in the course of time. Simultaneously,however, there is a deepening sense of crisis often articulated in the reproachthat our culture is terminally ill with amnesia.”2° The field of architecture hasbecome ever more interested in memory and the dismantling of the ‘Ironcurtain has brought an urgency to projects such as the Holocaust MemorialMuseum in Washington D.C. and Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Extension to theBerlin Museum.2’ The museum and heritage industry is expanding into realmssuch as vernacular architecture and regional cultural landscapes that would havebeen thought as unworthy of notice in the past. Anniversaries andcommemorations have become one of the organising principles of the culturalindustry.In an unprecedented effort to interpret the past, the observance ofcultural anniversaries has become both a cult and an industry.[During the 1980s], between fifty and a hundred major cultural20 Andreas Huyssen, Twilight Memories, Marking Time in a Culture ofAmnesia (New Yorki Routledge, 1995), 4.21 For an analysis of Libeskind’s museum see Huyssen’s “Monuments and Holocaust Memory in a Media Age’ in Twilight,249-60.8anniversaries, both individuals and events, have been celebratedeach year in the five most anniversary-minded countries, namelyBritain, France, Germany, Austria, and Italy.22Anniversaries have become a major feature to dictate timing across the wholegamut of cultural productions and an important source of revenues. Thetendency of postmodernism towards “a growing nostalgia for various life formsof the past”23 is perfectly illustrated by this profusion of commemorations. Theway the bicentennial of the Revolution was celebrated, with its disproportionateemphasis on the old, fits squarely with this “nostalgia” of the past.Thus, we are faced with a seeming contradiction: on the one hand, ourrelationship with time has broken down, producing a landscape of spectaclewhere fragments from the past are assembled and history is but one moreconsumer product; on the other hand, we are so fascinated with the past that‘resurrectionary’ enthusiasms mark our era, such as ‘historic re-creations,’ entireregions volunteering to become ‘ecomuseums’, and music lovers recreatingbaroque and even medieval music with an excitement for the past matching thatour great-grandparents had for the future. But as Samuel remarks “there is nolonger, as there was in the nineteenth century, a historical school of painting.Memory-keeping is a function increasingly assigned to the electronic media,while a new awareness of the artifice of representation casts a cloud of suspicionover the documentation of the past.”24 Samuel is right in pointing to thegrowing artifice in the way our society conserves the past. The artificiality of thetrace creates a “cloud of suspicion” which, I believe was very much presentduring the commemoration. The availability of information regarding therevolution through Minitel (a form of internet), for example, turns memory intoa series of bits of information that ultimately seem arbitrary.This brings me to the question of why the study of our relationship to the pasttypifies theoretical inquiry in our era, while cultural practices that work with thepast to create new cultural objects (such as postmodern architecture, monumentsand commemorations), are recognized as irredeemably commodified?22 Johnston adds that in 1983, Franz Kafka received no less that eight centenary conferences held on three continents andduring that same year the painter Raphael received at least a dozen 500th anniversary exhibitions in Europe and inAmerica. William Johnston, Celebrations, The Cult ofAnniversaries in Europe and the United States Today (New Brunswick,NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1991), 4.23 Andreas Huyssen, After the Great Divide (London: MacMillan, 1981), 181.24 Raphael Samuel, Theatres ofMemory, vol 1: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture (London: Verso, 1995), 25.9A simple but persuasive answer to this question springs from the progressivelyabstract nature of history and the degradation of places of memory. Pierre Norasays that, in the West, people feel history vanishing before their eyes -- that“there are lieux de memoire, sites of memory, because there are no longermilieux de memoire, real environments of memory.”25 This break originates, heargues, in the disappearance of peasant culture, the repository of collectivememory.Lieux de mémoire originate with the sense that there is nospontaneous memory. [...J Modern memory is, above all archival.It relies entirely on the materiality of the trace, the immediacy ofthe recording, the visibility of the image. [..J The less memory isexperienced from the inside the more it exists only through theexterior scaffolding and outward signs -- hence the obsession withthe archive that marks our age. [...] No society has ever producedarchives as deliberately as our own, not only by volume, not only bynew technical means of reproduction and preservation, but also byits superstitious esteem, by its veneration of the trace.26As traditional forms of memory disappear, the need for collecting what remainsin the form of images, recordings, and documents increases, as if they will beproofs of our existence at some sort of “tribunal of history. What Nora does notinvestigate however, is the way technical processes used to document andconserve memory are transforming our relationship to temporality.I am struck by the sense of loss that runs across the discussions of history andmemory, from the loss of traditional modes of representations such as historypainting to the loss of personal memory to electronic media. The milieux dememoire described by Nora were not simply pre-industrial forms of memory,they were communal forms of remembering. From storytelling around thefireplace to people gathering to play and sing in the living room, these milieuxare vanishing from modern lives to be replaced by abstract form of memory suchas taped music and museums. The postmodern forms of memory, for PierreNora, relate to present experiences in unequal ways. “Memory could be sensedpractically everywhere in a thoroughly traditional society; it would be hard tofind anywhere in a consistantly postmodern culture where all past momentswould be equidistant, equally available and remote, from the present.”2725 Pierre Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire,’ Representations 26, (Spring 1989): 7. The literature onmemory has many facets. Among them are issues of monuments as memorial icons, the history of memory in literature asin Marcel Proust and other writers, the medical literature on memory and amnesia, the role of women in sustainingmemory through oral traditions and the politics of memory in the identity of minority groups and independencemovements. The articles in this issue of Representations gives a cross-section of this literature and indudes manyreferences.26 Nora, “Between Memory,” 13.27 Natalie Zemon Davis paraphrases Nora in her “Introduction,’ Representations 26 (Spring 1989): 3.10Huyssen draws a comparison between our difficult relationship to the past andthe end of last century “with its sensibility of decadence, nostalgia, and loss thatwe deem symptomatic of a fin-de-siècle.”28 Julia Kristeva takes this comparison astep further -- in the postmodern lightness and arbitrary treatment of history, shesees a return of the ‘melancholy’ strain of modernist literature.29The crisis of meaning that drove modern literature into the secretsof its inner illness now appears as the occasion for a good time; theconverse of meaning is no longer ‘abyssal’ meaninglessness but thepleasures of indeterminacy; the comic dance of representationswithin the exhilarating space that dead meaning has left behind.30For Kristeva, the ‘melancholy’ associated with the loss of meaning has beentransposed with its alter ego, the buffoon. “Following the winter of discontentcomes the artifice of seeming; following the whiteness of boredom, theheartening distraction of parody.”31 Although for Kristeva, postmodernmelancholy adopts comical, buffoon-like, aspects, it shares with modernism thehorror of meaninglessness (the broken link between words and thing) which isthe source of melancholy driven by a sense of loss. It is this melancholic senseof loss of meaning that provides me with a departure point to investigate theplace of memory in commemoration.For Walter Benjamin, a sense of loss was a result of facing a chaotic world wherethe relation between word and things has ceased to exist. Through hisinterpretation of the past, he believed it was possible to restore language to itsoriginal richness. As Terry Eagleton explains,it is part of the mission of philosophy in Benjamin’s view to restoreto language its occluded symbolic riches, rescue it from its lapse intothe impoverishment of cognition so that the word may dance onceagain, like those angels whose bodies are one burning flame ofpraise before God. [...] Meaning is ripped from the ruins of thebody, from the flayed flesh rather than from the harmonious figure.It is this kind of dismemberment, in the milder form of the shocksand invasions of urban experience, which the flâneur of the arcadesproject strives to resist.32Benjamin treats images as fragmentary ruins from the past that await theallegorist to become meaningful. “In this chaotic cosmos of desultory,28 Huyssen, Twilight, 1.29 Julia Kristeva, Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989).30 Max Pensky, Melancholy Dialectics: Walter Benjamin and the Play ofMourning (Amherst, MA: University of MassachusettsPress, 1993), 2.31 Julia Kristeva, quoted in Pensky, Melancholy, 2.32 Eagleton, Ideology ofAesthetic, 335.11miscellaneous fragments, the allegorist alone is sovereign.”33 In fact, theallegorist is entirely at home sitting in the midst of a landscape of ruins, for hestrives on combining and recombining the pieces to draw out meaning out ofmeaningless debris.If we follow the trajectory set out by Benjamin’s project regarding the philosophyof language, we soon reach the work of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari and FredricJameson, each of whom has turned to psychology to diagnose postmodernwestern society’s ‘abnormal relationship to language’. Benjamin, like the post-modernists, accepts that the relation between words and what they designate hasbeen broken. For Benjamin, this takes a religious form: he locates thebreakdown in the moment of original sin and the consequent fall from grace.Before the fall there existed no division between name and thing.[...] In this sense the utter sinfulness of the creaturely worlddescribed in the allegories of the baroque epitomizes a confused,godless condition in which name and thing have become separated,in which objects and their proper meanings no longer coincide. [...]Through the technique of allegory, the writers of the baroque periodwere able to conjure a relation to meaning in an age that seemedinfinitely distanced from all meaning. [... This view] legitimatesthe unrestricted license conferred on the allegorist in hisextravagant forays into the world of objects and meanings.34Kristeva argues that the theme of meaninglessness (or loss of meaning)reappears in the contours of postmodernism. For Jameson, the rupture betweenword and meaning takes a psychoanalytic turn, as he looks to Lacan’s theory ofschizophrenia as a breakdown in language. Jameson applies Lacan’s descriptionof schizophrenia as a linguistic disorder to the characteristics of the postmodernpersonality.If personal identity is forged through ‘a certain temporal unificationof the past and future with the present before me,’ and if sentencesmove through the same trajectory, then an inability to unify past,present, and future in the sentence betokens a similar inability to‘unify the past, present and future of our own biographicalexperience or psychic life.35The effect of the breakdown in the signifying chain is to reduce experience to “aseries of pure and unrelated presents in time.” Harvey continues,This experience becomes increasingly vivid. The image, theappearance of the spectacle can be experienced with an intensity (joyBenjamin, quoted in Richard Wolin, Walter Benjamin: An Aesthetic ofRedemption (New York: Columbia University Press,1982), 67Wolin, Walter Benjamin, 68-69.Harvey, Condition, 53.12or terror) made possible only by their appreciation as pure andunrelated presents in time.36Basing his interpretation on Jameson, Harvey argues that the breakdown oftemporal continuity is giving rise to a peculiar treatment of the past. “Eschewingthe idea of progress, postmodernism abandons all sense of historical continuityand memory, while simultaneously developing an incredible ability to plunderhistory and absorb whatever it finds there as some aspect of the present.”37 ForHarvey, the postmodern introduction of historical references38 into an essentiallymodernist landscape projects “spectacle and theatricality.”39 In this schema,memory has been uprooted and history is treated as ‘portable accessories’ thatcan be combined and recombined into an eclectic mix of styles, historicalquotations, a diversity of building materials, and ornaments. All the critics ofpostmodern landscapes converge on the loss of meaning, whether it be the lossof connection between memory and place or between past and present.In this critical context, the word ‘commemoration’ (in its meaning of‘remembering together’) recedes into an idyllic past when this was indeed howpeople remembered. The influence of Lacan has reinforced the rejection ofcollective forms of memory (investigated earlier by Halbwachs) in favor ofunique and personal interpretations of the past. For Halbwachs, “while thecollective memory endures and draws strength from its base in a coherent bodyof people, it is individuals as group members who remember.”4°It follows thatthere are as many group memories as there are institutions in a society. Socialclasses, families, associations, corporations, armies, and trade unions all haddistinctive memories that their members have constructed, often over longperiods of time. But it seems that we are now at a loss to theorize sharedreferences and alliances across gender and class both in politics and inpsychoanalysis. If Lacan had reread Jung instead of Freud we would perhaps bein a better position to theorize collective memories of postmodern mentalities.41Starting from the recognition that meaning has been lost, I treat history asfragments (or ruins, to use Benjamin’s words) dispersed in the commemorative36 Ibid., 54.Ibid.38 For example, Charles Moore’s ‘Piazza d’Italia’ in New Orleans addresses a fictional resident ‘Italian community’ (long sincemoved to more upscale neighbourhoods). It was not, and in fact could not be, used for any ‘Italian’ events, as an Italianpiazza would have been. Surrounded by warehouses and office buildings, it signfies Italianness and carried with it thehope for eventual redevelopment of a depressed area.Ibid., 93.40 Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, ed. and trans. Lewis A. Coser (Chicago; University of Chicago Press, 1992).41 In the Braudellian sense of mentalité.13landscape. These fragments pile up ceaselessly in museums in the form oftemporary exhibits and revolutionary heroes ‘dressed up’ for the occasion likepuppets taken out of a closet to perform a show. Even commemorativemonuments, like the Grand Arch -- meant to express the state of the art ininnovative building technology -- was reviewed by the press in terms of the past;in this case, as an example of Mitterrand’s ‘Jacobin’ taste for planning.Fragments of historic Paris were identified and classified by the heritagecommission of eighteenth century buildings and the ministry in charge of thecommemorative monuments. Together, they turned Paris into a picture bookabout the Revolution in which every stone remaining from buildingsconsidered significant to the Revolutionary heritage would be called out andadded to a list of sites to be visited. When faced with a landscape filled withfragments, the point is not to remain in a state of melancholy over thistreatment of the past on the contrary, it is an invitation for a creative response toassemble the fragments into meaningful constellations.To do that, I take the reader on a guided tour following my own cognitive map toresist and subvert the all-too-programmed message of the bicentennial:consume French culture. “We are compelled to create new memory walksthrough the city,” Christine Boyer says about her own investigation of the placeof history in the contemporary city. In fact, the act of remembering as a way toreconnect memory and place has acquired a sense of urgency. “Rememberingand recollection today have achieved new importance as the contemporarymetropolis becomes a source of constant exchanges in and relays of information,and represents a physical site in which images and messages seem to swirl about,devoid of a sustaining context.”42 For me, to treat the commemoration asfragments that need to be reassembled like a puzzle is a way to establish a passagebetween the different layers and strata of the city that were split open intohundreds of crevasses during the commemoration.Drawing fragments into constellations in order to recover a lost meaning is acritical method derived from the age old tradition of the allegorist. ForBenjamin, the allegorical mode of criticism, emerging from a position ofmelancholy, runs through his entire production. Since I propose to draw fromthis mode of criticism, it is necessary to take some time and briefly investigatethe unique way Benjamin made use of allegories.Christine Boyer, The City of Collective Memonj, Its Historical Imagery and Architectural Entertainments (Cambridge, MA: MITPress, 1995), 28.14Allegory as a critical toolOne might wonder how Benjamin’s work with allegories can be appropriate foran analysis of the bicentennial of the French Revolution, an event nurtured bypostmodern rather than the modern references investigated by Benjamin.Earlier, I turned to the work of Julia Kristeva for one way to answer thisquestion. She says that modernist sensibility of melancholia has reappeared inpostmodern spectacle. A sense of loss of meaning, according to her, provides abasis to both modern and postmodern forms of melancholia.43 For this reason,the work of Benjamin is singularly relevant to a study of the commemoration,because it starts from a melancholic reflection on the loss of meaning. I haveinterpreted the laments that the media and cultural industries have emptied thecommemoration of its memory as melancholia -- a melancholy over the loss of ameaningful relationship to the past and the ability to remember together!commemorate.When we realize the central role played by the allegory as a critical tool inBenjamin’s writings, it is surprising how little attention has been devoted to thisaspect of his work. Susan Buck-Morss, who underlines the political features ofhis “Arcades Project,” dismisses the allegorical mode of interpretation for itspotential to “dissolve into idealism and that this philosophical fact underlies thepolitical impoverishment of the melancholy syndrome.”44 On the other hand,Richard Wolin sees in Benjamin’s work the redemptive power of the allegory,but seems to miss the complexity of its critical dimension. Melancholy Dialecticsby Max Pensky is the only analysis I have found, that keeps the complexity of theallegorical mode and yet clearly explains its critical dimension. For this reason Iwill draw from his work to explain how Benjamin uses allegory critically.Pensky argues that melancholy, both as a saturnine temperament and as aphilosophical position, is at the root of Benjamin’s allegorical strategies. In fact,“melancholy occupies the space that separates Benjamin’s ‘messianic’ and‘materialistic’ gaze -- it is a space that is carved between the subject and the objectby a question concerning the possibility of meaning; a space Benjamin soughthis life long to fill with the storehouse of images yielded up to him andSee Kristeva Black SunPensky, Melancholy Dialectics, 139.15constructed in his shocking, healing writing.”45 What constitutes melancholy?Generally speaking, melancholy can be understood as a ‘dialectic of loss andrecovery’. For the medieval thinker, loss was symbolized by the Fall. Accordingto Hildegard of Bingen for example, melancholy proceeds as a direct consequenceof the Fall.46 The conception of the loss of meaning as distance from God appearsin many of Benjamin’s comments about the allegorical way of seeing.Contemporary cultural critics have recognized the resurgence of allegory as acritical form. For example, Craig Owens, a New York art critic and editor ofOctober magazine, has delineated a relationship between Benjamin’s allegoricalmethod and the work of postmodern artists.47 His intent is to show that artists asdifferent as Laurie Anderson, Robert Smithson, and Robert Longo all share acommon project he describes as ‘allegorical’. But Owens does not make the linkbetween the ‘allegorical impulse’ and melancholy as a form of disenchantmentleading to a creative response and, as a result, his parallel between postmodernart and Benjamin’s approach to allegory remains undeveloped. Even ifmelancholy does not necessarily reach out for an allegorical mode of criticism,allegory, on the other hand, according to Pensky, always emanates from aposition of melancholy. And for this reason, he argues, the present-day return toallegory in the arts and literature testifies to the existence of a postmodernmelancholia -- identified as such by Kristeva in her book, Black Sun: Depressionand Melancholia.The only way to attack the paralysis associated with melancholia is to transformit into its opposite. This leads to the oldest and most fundamental paradox ofmelancholy.[Melancholy] is a source of critical reflection that, in its ancientdialectic, empowers the subject with a mode of insight into thestructure of the real at the same time as it consigns the subject tomournfulness, misery and despair. The very image ofmeaninglessness produced from a more hidden conviction, of anoriginary dimension lost, destroyed, or withheld meaning. Such adimension is thus cryptically encoded into the very objects ofmelancholy despair; as objects of contemplation, they become boththe key to a secret body of insight and the reminders of theimpossibility of recovering what was lost.48Ibid., 16.46 Ibid., 31.Craig Owens, Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power and Culture, ed. Scott Bryson, Barbara Kruger, Lynne Tiliman andJane Wernstock (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).48 Pensky, Melancholy Dialectics, 19.16In my work, I present the bicentennial as a spectacle that has lost its originalcommemorative meaning, but which carries within it the ‘key to a secret body ofinsight’. There is, in Benjamin’s work with allegories, a sense that one candecipher meaning out of the object one is contemplating, as if the meaning wasactually there, written in invisible ink. Benjamin’s belief that meaning is‘cryptically encoded’ into the objects recalls the era of ‘signatures’ Foucaultattributes to the Renaissance, when objects carried the marks, the signatures of alarger divine order.49 In this way of seeing, meaning is not imposed on theobjects, it is drawn out of the objects.But in our time, this sort of deciphering is a constant reminder of theimpossibility of recovering what is lost. In effect, one can see the desire torecover meaning, a desire that will necessarily always be frustrated as the essenceof imagination. “In a dance of failed or jumbled meanings allegory representsthe tension of melancholy itself. It contains within its motion the incessant,stroboscopic alternation of meaninglessness contained in the act of signification.The ‘resurrectional jubilation’ of assigned significance occurs only within theimaginative space of the object as already dead.”5° For Kristeva, this structuralambiguity or alteration between meaning and meaninglessness, life and death,exaltation and despair, lying at the heart of allegoresis, is nothing other than aninsight into the very structure of imagination itself.For Benjamin, criticism is not contradictory to melancholy, for if melancholy isderived from a subjective inwardness, “Benjamin demands a postsubjective,socially engaged form of thinking and writing.”51 To write a critical text is not toassign meaning to, but to discover it within, fragments -- disclosing “theoriginary points of encapsulations of messianic memory and anticipation withinhistorical time.”52 The allegorical critique is made possible by establishing atension between the object one is contemplating (in Benjamin’s case, theTrauerspiel) and writing a text about it. The two are essentially distinguished bythe arbitrariness of the object of contemplation (the ruin or fragment) and theobjectivity of the text. The critical text would then “indicate its relation toredemption by revealing and fulfilling the theological ground upon which theMichel Foucault, The Order of Things (New York: PantheonBooks, 1970).50 Pensky, Melancholy Dialectics, 28.51 Ibid. 18.52 Ibid., 109.17arbitrariness of the former rests.”53 Ultimately, the critical text completes theruined work. Benjamin’s work is unique in its use of an allegorical mode ofcriticism to draw meaning out of the allegories of German tragic drama. In asense, Benjamin’s “negative dialectics” can be situated in regards to both thewritings of Nietzsche and the philosophy of Hegel. “Like Hegel, Benjaminintended to dissolve the rigid Kantian structure of possible experience into thespace of history and to show how knowledge and experience were thorouglyhistorical phenomena.”54 But in order to understand Benjamin’s complex modeof allegorical interpretation of history, it might be wise to describe its majormovements and to show how I intend to use it in my own work on thebicentennial.The major movements of allegoryOne can identify three major movements in Benjamin’s allegorical mode ofcriticism.55 The first movement, devaluation, is the melancholic recognition ofthe world which, as we just saw, necessarily precedes the allegorical technique.This is when the “subject beholds a world that has been drained of all its‘inherent’ meaning.”56 In this world, the relation between word and things hasceased to exist. The awareness of a crisis of meaning feeds the melancholia.Such melancholia often encourages flight into a place of solitude, an imagecherished by the romantic artist, but Benjamin accepts the voyage into the depthsof melancholy in order to confront it. In his own words, “for those racked withmelancholia, writing about it would have meaning only if writing sprang fromthat same melancholia.”57 As Pensky remarks, the movement of ‘devaluing’ theworld of appearance has clear affinities to what Marx describes as alienation. “Inboth cases, the decay of an immediate unproblematic relation to the sensuousworld results in a crisis of meaning. In both cases too, a creative response isengendered in which the objectively present features of a concretely structuredworld interact dialectically with a knowing and feeling subject.”58 The responseis not only creative, it also bears a political potential for criticism, stemming froma greater awareness. This is when the allegorist is no longer able to sustain “themythic illusion of the unproblematic ‘objectivity’ of meaning in the appearanceii., 110.Pensky, Melancholy Dialectics, 65 Pensky also sees m Benjamin’s rejection of neo-Kantian phenomenology and theunwillingness to regard contemplative subjectivity as constitutive of the critical discovery of truth, a shared terrain withboth Lukas and Block.Pensky summarizes the three movement in allegory as outlined in Hans Heinz Holz, Prismatisches Denken,” in UberWalter Benjamin, ed. Theodor W. Adorno (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1968).56 Pensky, Melancholy Dialectics, 116.Walter Benjamin, quoted in Pensky, Melancholy Dialectics, 19.58 Pensky, Melancholy Dialectics, 116.18[of the] world, and recoiling with horror from the emptied world that resultsfrom this refusal, transfigures the abyss, reconceptualizes it, and by so doingdiscovers the actual course of historical happening itself.”59The movement from the devaluation of the world of appearances to a creative,critical response leads to the second movement of fragmentation. Together,devaluation and fragmentation are prerequisites for the third movement ofallegorical construction. Fragmentation, in Benjamin’s work, is represented bythe petrified landscape, in which allegory emerges as the expression of naturalhistory. As Benjamin explains, “in allegory the observer is confronted with thefacies hyppocratica of history as a petrified, primordial landscape. Everythingabout history that, from the very beginning, has been untimely, sorrowful,unsuccessful, is expressed in a face -- or rather, in a death’s head.”6° As Benjamindiscovered in the Baroque, “if nature has always been subject to the power ofdeath, it is also true that it has always been allegorical. Significance and deathboth come to fruition in historical development.”61 In this way, allegoricalproduction is based on the vision of depth separating death (symbolized bynature) and meaning.For the allegorist to reconstruct meaning, the objects of contemplation have to bein fragments, the flesh must be pulled away from the bones so there is no longerany superficial illusion of beauty. The fragments become the material of theallegorical construction which seeks to make a coherent image from them. “Thispiling up of redeemed but now empty fragments shatters the mythic context ofwholeness and completeness in which the fragments were initially presented.But so liberated, they become enigmatic and in this way point even moreurgently to the crisis of meaning, the image world of natural history.”62 In thisway, nature itself becomes the landscape of the allegorist in which piles offragments and ruins represent the historical catastrophe.63For a cultural geographer to treat the contemporary landscape as a ruin, full ofIbid., 115.60 Benjamin, quoted in Pensky, Melancholy Dialectics, 115.61 Ibid., 118.62 Pensky, Melancholy Dialectics, 121.63 The theme of uncovering layers of meaning in landscape interpretation has been central to the new cultural geography.The work of James Duncan, for example, sees the landscape as multiple texts. The trust of his interpretive method is touncover the underlying multivocal codes which makes the landscapes cultural creations.’ Duncan aims at findingmeaning with the certainty that meaning can be uncovered if one uses the tools of hermeneutic interpretation. Bycontrast, Benjamin attempts to recover the lost meaning but this aim points to the mystery of meaning, away from anycertainty of its existence. James Duncan, The City as Text: The politics of Landscape Interpretation in Kandyan Kingdom(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 184.19disconnected fragments, is to give form to the melancholy expressed by the criticsof the postmodernism. In this work, I treat the commemorative landscape as if itwere fragments, rescued from the depth of Revolutionary history to be scatteredby the commemoration. It is important to see the landscape as a ruin, for it is aprerequisite to the third, constructive, movement of the allegorist. If the objectsof contemplation are driven by the arbitrariness of the fragment and sorrow, thecreative response on the contrary, is not arbitrary, it is directed toward therecovery of meaning.This third movement is where the fragments of the puzzle are brought togetherby the allegorist. This happens in the course of critical or creative construction(such as writing or the production of art). Benjamin describes the passage fromcontemplation of the fragment to the recovery of its meaning in the followingmanner:The memory of the pondered holds sway over the disordered massof dead knowledge. Human knowledge is piecework to it in aparticularly pregnant sense: namely as the heaping up of arbitrarilycut pieces, out of which one puts together a puzzle. [...] Theallegorist reaches now here, now there, into the chaotic depths thathis knowledge places at his disposal, grabs an item out, holds it nextto another, and sees whether they fit: the result never lets itself bepredicted; for there is no natural mediation between the two.64Unlike other thinkers of his time, Benjamin resolutely refused to integrate thefragmentary insight into a broader ontological vision -- a “structural totality’ asAdorno later called it -- in which the history of melancholia would betransformed into the history of Dasein.”65 By assigning subjective meanings tofragments, construction resists totalities and remains open, always driven by theimpossibility to recover what has been lost.The role of images in allegoryIn the field of the allegorical construction, fragments are conceived of as images.In fact, the very act of writing bears with it the gap between the emblem and theact of inscription; it replicates the gap “between deathly nature (Being) andmeaning, between whose poles the allegcrical intention tirelessly travels.”66 Therealm of the allegorist is filled with images seen as enigmatic emblems. Theimages are waiting to receive an assigned allegorical meaning by getting attachedto moral qualities, to people or places, or to other fragments. The power of64 Benjamin, quoted in Buck-Morss, Dialectics of Seeing, 241.65 Pensky, Melancholy Dialectics, 117.66 Thid., 120.20redemption comes from the lack of natural connection between the differentfragments brought together into a constellation.For Benjamin, history is recalled in the form of images. “Only this [...J ongoingpurgative labor which ‘mortifie& the past can reveal those few images thatmight have a positive effect in the present.”67 Benjamin wrote about all sorts ofimages, from the ‘magic lantern’ slides (‘phantasmagoria’) to the rotating imagesof the panorama which were experienced in the arcades. As Derek Gregoryexplains, images are central to Benjamin’s excavation of modernity,Benjamin uses the phantasmagoria as an allegory of modernculture, which explains both his insistence on seeing commodityculture as a projection -- not a reflection -- of the economy, as itsmediated (even mediatized) representation, and also its interest inthe visual, optical ‘spectacular’ inscriptions of modernity. Indeed,Benjamin was one of the earliest commentators to understand thecentrality, the constitutive force of the image within modernity.What he proposed to do, in effect, to harness the latent energy of themodern image, to turn it back on itself and thereby use that imageas ‘a critique of reason’.68I have adopted Benjamin’s technique of bringing images into constellations andsee in their diachronic juxtapositions a critical force that can be harnessed to shedlight on contemporary culture. The commemoration excavated the depths ofrevolutionary history for images or fragments that would bring the past to life,yet this method of juxtaposing images rendered effortless their passage into theworld of the commodity. To interpret the commemorative landscape, it is notenough to analyse the image, the critic must interpret the association of images.During the bicentennial, Paris was filled with images from the past: images ofand from the Revolution, the 1889 centennial and other commemorationsproliferated in the form of postcards, guidebooks, posters, pins, and in pressarticles. Diachronic juxtapositions between old and new were abundant,especially in shop window decorations and commercial advertisements ridingthe wave of the bicentennial year. I view the bicentennial as an accumulation(in Benjamin’s words, a ‘trash heap’) of these images waiting to be deciphered.In this, I avoid explaining the images through their filiation, as is donetraditionally in art history. I do not, for example, explain the allegory of Liberty67 Michael W. Jennings, Dialectical Images: Walter Benjamin’s Theory of Literary Criticism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press,1987), 38.68 Gregory, Geographical Imaginations, 233.21as performed by Jessye Norman on Bastille Day by looking at the history of blacksingers in France or the evolution of republican imagery in order to place a blackMarianne (symbol of a free nation) within an evolution of images. I bringhistorical references that particular image draws upon in conjunction with otherimages circulating at the same time showing, for example, how the image of ablack Liberty is inscribed first with the biblical imagery of the Exodus and then,when brought into a constellation with the figure of Toussaint Louverture (aHaitian revolutionary) acquires an additional meaning.The spatialization of history in allegoryIn the allegorical construction, images get attached to moral qualities, people,places, or other fragments. Attaching images rescued from the past to places isone of the most important operations of the commemoration. This aspect of theconstruction is the spatialization of history -- evident in nature in geologicalstrata. The spatialization of time might well be the most intriguing aspect ofallegory, yet is often left unnoticed -- showing once again, how space tends to betaken for granted.In the modern novel, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak argues, the allegorical form isnot only visual, it is spatial. Its shorthand definition would be “a spatializationdirected toward a meta-semantic system of signification. [...J I mean by‘spatializing,’ a language that emphasizes the metaphor of space and describesicons, rather than emphasizing the metaphor of time and describing processes.”69Spivak’s analysis of modern and contemporary novels such as those by ClaudeSimon, brings her to The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence (1915) to show a“construction of an iconic dictionary for the dissemination of psychological andhistorical significance.”7°In the opening sequence, Lawrence converts historyinto a handful of images by describing, in the manner of a panorama, the villagewhere the story of a family through four generations will unfold. Thespatialization of history “is a product of that generalizing tendency that weidentify as a basic characteristic of ‘allegory’. What the reader is provided with infact is a visual sign for centuries of a historic panorama... •“71 Seen in this way,the visual aspect of allegory is undeniably intertwined with the act of convertinghistory into space.69 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Thoughts on the principle of allegory, Genre 4, (Oct. 1972): 327-352, 351.70 Thid., 337.71 Ibid.22The spatializing aspect of allegory is crucial to my analysis of thecommemorative landscape. The commemoration re-read the urban landscapein such a way as to underline places of Revolutionary heritage. It also built newmonuments and in so doing drew from the history of each site in order to makeParis mean the French Revolution. Lastly, the ephemeral events like concertsand parades not only spoke about history, they often necessitated temporaryarchitecture which gave the event its “historical dimension” -- to use the wordsof the organizers. Events took place in public spaces in front of monumentswhich functioned like landscapes in allegorical paintings: they might be in thebackground, but without them one cannot decipher their allegorical meaning.The desire of the allegorist is to make familiar places appear strange. “Thelandscape, so intimately familiar, known in every detail, suddenly looksinextricably wrong.”72 All the pieces of the landscape seem out of place, asthough “arranged by some unnatural force” and what seemed related by logicnow appears as fragments, ruins scattered around in an arbitrary manner. But inthe eyes of the allegorist, the world as shattered and meaningless is truer, it isseen as a higher truth about the nature of things than what was concealed beforeby an illusionary order.In the end, for Benjamin, “allegory goes away empty-handed” and the allegoryturns upon itself to reach a greater awareness of the existence of God.73 Yet forme, the investigation into the commemorative landscape is a secularinvestigation. My intent is to redeem spectacle by creating constellations ofimages from the fragments excavated by the bicentennial. Like Benjamin, I usethe allegorical technique on allegories put forth by the commemoration. Inorder to treat these allegories allegorically, it is first necessary to break them apartinto fragments and then recombine then with places, people and even otherfragments. I will not follow the three movements as described by Pensky for todo so, would be to turn the analysis into a formula and remove the element ofsurprise necessary for the allegory to become meaningful to the reader. Therecovery of meaning is the driving force behind all the chapters and, likeBenjamin, my intent is not to find all the answers but rather to point to themystery of meaning and leave the magic of interpretation open.72 Pensky, Melancholy Dialectics, page number.Gershom Scholem explains, “melancholia as (dialectically) both hypertrophied subjectivity and messianic consiousness [...]touches upon one of the deepest and strongest impulses in the messianic tradition in Judaism, the vision of the Tikkun,which restores the originary flaw, ends the metaphysical Galut, and reveals that in the end, all creation was God’screation, all evil was deviation from God’s mind.” Pensky, Melancholy Dialectics, 133.23Description of chaptersMy overall argument is that the government, by trying to make revolutionaryheritage mean something to people today, used allegorical techniques ofspatializing and visualizing history,74 and consequently effected a smoothpassage for this heritage into the world of commodity and spectacle. To analyzeboth sides of this dilemma, I shuttle back and forth between Mitchell’s analysis ofthe “world-as-exhibition” and Benjamin’s redemptive interpretation of thecommodity. I use the first as a theoretical basis to investigate the mechanisms ofrepresentation and the ways the organizers attempted to make Paris mean therevolution. I use the second to explore the openess to interpretation by thepublic by bringing images into constellations with a redemptive intent. Thejuxtaposition of images from the past and the present should not be ‘explained’,there is no ‘therefore’. Each image is both irreducible and keeps its full grandeuras it is juxtaposed with the others. The links woven between them do not belongto the deductive mode but to the allegorical one which leaves open the magic ofinterpretation. Like perspective lines which are needed to structure a painting,but cannot be seen once the work is complete, I have used the formal qualities ofallegory as an underlying organization for the thesis chapters.One of the characteristics of allegory is its ability to carry a double meaning, ofwhich the hidden one makes a political, moral or philosophical argument. Thisis the nigma. The moral nigma, for example, is used by preachers who wantto transmit their message through biblical stories. In the bicentennial, theprogram of commemorative events can be seen as a moral nigma. It was morethan a simple matter of organising the events of the year, the program set up a“paysage moralisé” -- to use the words of W.H. Auden. The organizers sought tocommunicate the moral dimension of the commemoration through the contentand sequence of the events. In Chapter Two, I investigate the introductorystatement of the program, written by the head of the Bicentennial Commissionas a moral nigma -- I read it as a moral tale of origin, community and theprinciples of heritage.In Chapter Three, I investigate the tendency of allegory to contemplate theceaseless accumulation of fragments from the past. As Owens says, “allegory isWith reference to Boyers ‘pictorialization of space and time,’ Spivak’s “spatialization of history,” and Foucault’s “makingstatements visible.24constantly attracted to the fragmentary, the imperfect, the incomplete.”75 Thiscould be seen most clearly in the disproportionately large number of exhibitionsmounted to display objects from the revolutionary period. The largest of theseexhibits, which took place at the Grand Palais, surprised art critics with its lack ofdirection and curatorial commentary. I treat this exhibit as an accumulation offragments that need to be deciphered, and I create constellations of images drawnfrom the exhibit to create different stories about history.The aspect of allegory that I call the spatialization of history is explored in bothchapter four and six. In Chapter Four, I bring three images into a constellation inorder to recover the meaning of a temporary monument built on Place de laConcorde for the Bastille Day Parade. The diachronic juxtaposition of theseimages with the architecture show that the original meaning of the monumenthas been entirely reversed. In Chapter Six, on the other hand, I explore thespatialization of history through three major monuments built for thecommemoration: the Grand Arche, the renovation of the Louvre around thecentral motif of the Pyramid, and the Bastille Opera. Their placement in theParisian landscape reshaped the historical narrative associated with the history ofthe axis which links them.In Chapter Five, I look at one of the best known and most traditional forms ofallegory, as the personification of abstract ideas such as liberty or equality. In thebicentennial, this was noticeably accomplished by the choice of a black Americanopera singer to personify Liberty and the Nation. I also investigate the reverse ofpersonification, when historical figures are treated in a formulaic way so thatthey become ‘walking ideas’ -- in allegory, this is called figura. I investigate thisin the figure of Toussaint Louverture, a real person, who was taken up by thecommemoration to represent the idea of ‘equality’.Lastly, certain allegories group enigmatic emblems in an ‘unnatural’ manner,with no apparent rational interrelation. Surrealist painters, exploring ways todepict the landscapes of the Freudian unconscious, used this technique. In Paulde Man’s view, the apparent irrationality of allegories simply underlines themetaphorical aspects of language.“[He] recognises the interference of two distinct levels or usage oflanguage, literal and rhetorical (metaphoric), one of which deniesprecisely what the other affirms. [...] Yet because literal language isOwens, Beyond Recognition, 55.25itself rhetorical, the product of metaphoric substitutions andreversals, such readings are inevitably implicated in what they setout to expose, and the result is allegory.’t76The Bastille Day Parade, designed by Goude, falls in this category. In ChapterSeven, I investigate how the parade brought together images with no apparentlogic in order to tap into the imaginary. But it also had an allegorical meaning,one that would be deciphered by some but not all: the parade spoke of localizedstruggles for cultural identity and the interconnectedness of culture throughoutthe world. In treating the parade allegorically, I can show how the same imagewas interpreted in opposite manners by different audiences, which points to theinstability of meaning but also finally, to its redemptive potential.76 Paul de Man, quoted in Owens, Beyond Recognition, 83.26CHAPTER TWOTHE PROGRAMME AS A MORAL FABLEThe programme of the commemoration is a volume of over 300 pages listing allthe events planned for the 1989 commemoration of the French Revolution, notonly in France but throughout the world. The events include exhibitions, plays,musical performances, outdoor events, colloquia, television debates and films.Out of the 7,000 events listed, 5,000 were directly sponsored by the government,the other 2,000 came from corporate or private initiatives. The publishedprogramme costs 40 francs and could be bought at a number of informationcentres.The programme is introduced by Jean-Noel Jeanneney, the president of the‘Mission du Bicentenaire’, the name given to the temporary organizationresponsible for planning and executing the bicentennial celebrations.’ Theprinted version of the programme is introduced by Jean-Noel Jeanneney,Here it is, made available to everyone, the definitive programme ofthe commemoration -- not carved in stone since the unexpectedwill surely continue to intervene, but still, it is now fixed accordingto clear lines of action. I am ready to bet that the publication of thisportrait of the commemoration as we have constituted it in its fullrichness, by bringing us into the era of realization, will contribute todissipate the last skeptics.The reader will especially appreciate the implication of thisprofusion in terms of the French Revolution’s impact on so manyhearts and minds that still exists today: initiatives to honor itsmemory appeared from everywhere.A commemoration solely focused on France would be absurd. Aswe hoped, foreign countries are participating wonderfully. Overthe past few months, I have gone through many countries: I havebeen struck by both the enthusiasm of those who act, as the1 The full name of the organization is La Mission du Bicentennaire de la Revolution Francaise et des Droits de iHomme et duCitoyen.”27bicentennial takes on different colors depending on the type ofNation it is and its particular history. On top of the list is NorthAmerica, Japan, various Latin American countries, Senegal, andquite a few of our European partners: Italy, Germany and Belgiumare in the front row. But everywhere, as we will discover bybrowsing through the list of events printed in these pages, amultiplicity of intentions has bloomed.In France as well, different regions organize themselves accordingto different imaginations and passions: the Revolution’s historyoffers, in itself, the explanation. But in general, the rich panoramaof projects -- also reflected by the information accessible by Minitelfor the public -- will reassure those who feared that things wereorganized in too centralized a fashion, too Parisian.Nevertheless the events of the capital will contribute before allothers to give character to the celebrations: a natural thing, whenwe know the chronicle of the historic events. Even if the point isnot to recall the entire Revolution, the major dates of 1789 will bethe structuring markers. If we flip through these pages, by goingback and forth between these markers and the dense framework ofall the other events, we will see, I think, that the events prepared bythe Mission [...] will succeed quite well to confer to thecommemoration both its moral and civic dimension.When it comes to the National significance of what we will buildtogether, I cannot do better than to offer to re-read Victor Hugo’stext that the Mission has published in all the national newspaperson the first day of the year. It dates from 1875, but we find it quitecurrent. “All histories are about the past. [...J The history of therevolution is the history of the future. The Revolution has beenthe conquest of what is ahead. [...J It has brought us even morepromised land than gained territory; and as one of these promiseswill be realized, a new aspect of the Revolution will be revealed. [...JWhen will this be whole? When will the phenomena be finished,that is, when the French Revolution will become [...] first aEuropean Revolution, then a human Revolution; when utopiawill be consolidated into progress, when the sketch will become amasterpiece; the coalition of kings will have been succeeded by thecreation of a federation of people, and war among all, by peace forall. Impossible, unless one adds a dream, to complete from todayonwards what will be completed tomorrow, and to conclude historywith an unfinished gesture, especially when this gesture is full of somany rich future events. [...] Nothing more immense. The Terroris a crater, the Convention a summit. All the future is growing inthese depths... 22 Jeanneney, Jean-Noel, ed., Programme des manifestations du Bicentenaire de Ia Revolution Française, 2e edition (Paris: Mission duBicentenaire de la Revolution Francaise et des Droits de iHomme et du Citoyen/Mundoprint, 1989), 2-3.28The introduction ends with this lyrical text by Victor Hugo.3 The introduction tothe programme does more than present the schedule of 7,000 events structuredaround a “chronicle of the historic events” and explain why the importantevents (the “markers”) take place in Paris. The programme carries anotherintention: to speak about the moral value of national heritage.There is in this introduction a powerful moral tale at work. Jeanenney is “readyto bet” this commemoration will “dissipate the last skeptics” and will show the“French Revolution’s impact on so many hearts and minds [...] today.” He isconfident that the programme of events for the year will “confer to thecommemoration its moral and civic dimension.” What is more, this moral taleis not a personal lesson, but acquires a messianic dimension in his assertions that“the history of the Revolution is the history of the future,” “utopia will beconsolidated into progress”, and “the sketch will become a masterpiece”. It hasuniversal aspirations, as “foreign countries are participating wonderfully,” “amultiplicity of intentions is blooming,” and his statement that thecommemoration is about “first, a European Revolution, then a humanRevolution.” If we consider these quotes from the introductory text asfragments, they can be gathered into a constellation organized around a morallesson. They speak of the moral dimension of the memory of the FrenchRevolution, and its “impact on so many hearts and minds today.”The choice of what is commemorated in the body of the programme reinforcesthat there is a moral to this story of the Revolution. The historical “markers”emphasize the “good” revolution over other more disturbing aspects ofRevolutionary history and what is more, events that commemorate the darkerside of the Revolution are presented as an opportunity for a moral lesson.4Jeannenay is quite clear on this point. Striking a balance between gain andsacrifice, Jeannenay defends the choice of ‘positive’ dates for the programme. Hesays that,we have tried, throughout the commemoration, to celebrate the[revolutionary] principles without concealing the moments whenthey were violated by the revolutionaries themselves: momentsthat the heirs of the victims can legitimately commemorate, butthat the State should neither hide nor -- of course -- include in thecelebration. [...] Do not think that putting a plaque for Condorcet atTaken from Actes et Paroles, 1875.‘ The speech delivered by president Francois Mitterand for pantheonization of Condorcet to the Pantheon explicitly turnsthe memory of his life and his writings into a lesson for moral conduct in present day France -- I will come back to thislater in the chapter.29the Pantheon -- an exceptional gesture since there will be notransfer of ashes -- was a choice taken by chance or thoughtlessly. Itwill be an opportunity to speak not only about the contribution ofCondorcet to the Revolution, but also what caused his dramaticdeath.5 [...] We have tried to serve, within the strict limits of ourpolitical and social function, what you [might] call the intelligenceof the past.6We see in the programme one of the oldest characteristics of allegory: its abilityto carry a double meaning, of which the hidden one is a moral argument. This isthe nigma. Generally, allegories proceed from obscurity toward clarity, even ifthey keep the enigma (the mystery) until the very end. Bertolt Brecht’s poem“The Stone Fisherman” is an example of an enigma with a political meaning.The big fisherman has appeared again. He sits in his rotted boat andfishes from the time when the first lamps flare up early in themorning until the last one is put out in the evening.The villagers sit on the gravel of the embankment and watch him,grinning. He fishes for herring but he pulls up nothing but stones.They all laugh. The men slap their sides, the women hold on totheir bellies, the children leap high into the air with laughter.When the big fisherman raises his torn net high and the stones init, he does not hide them but reaches far out with his strong brownarms, seizes the stone, holds it high and shows it to the unluckyones.7The meaning of this parable, in which “the leader does not give his people whatthey need, but instead gives them ‘stones’,” becomes clear only as the readerpieces together the puzzle at the last line.I will interpret the programme not as a political enigma but as a moral one. Themoral enigma is traditionally associated with a preacher at the pulpit who drawsfrom biblical stories to speak about present situations. The preacher’s parablesare moralitas, referring to hidden but intentional moral meanings. It is noaccident that the organizers of the bicentennial had to turn to the tools of theArrested as a moderate, Condorcet committed suicide in prison, after which his body deposited in a common grave -- thereason why there are no ashes to be placed in the Pantheon. Jeannenay adds, “we have never tried to hide theviolations of the principles behind the principles themselves; no more than we have concealed the fact that those who,since the beginning of the process, have totally and deeply rejected the principles also carry a heavy part of theresponsibility in the bloody aberrations that occurred later.” Jean-Noel Jeannenay, “Apres coup. Reflexions duncommémorateur,” Le Débat, histoire, politique, société 57 (Nov.-Dec. 1989): 194.6 Jeannenay, “Apres coup,” 194.“ Angus Fletcher, Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1964), 32.30religious world to communicate their message of the moral value of a secularand rational state. In fact, the relationship between Christianity and therevolution is as old as the revolution itself. The revolutionaries wanted toreplace religious faith by a faith in rationality. To do so however, they usedmany techniques which had evolved in a Christian culture. Aware of thepitfalls, they constantly attempted to keep these two worlds separate and set up awar against the church. Over the ensuing two hundred years, the two realmshave remained relatively distinct in law and in state education.8 Yet as scholarsinvestigate contemporary civic rituals, the religious underpinnings of secularrituals soon come to light.9 I would like to propose that the moral tale of theprogramme uses Christian references and that an allegorical interpretation of theprogramme as a moral fable is essential to understand how the necessarypolitical and symbolic dimension was given to the bicentennialcommemoration. I propose that the moral enigma presented in the programmetaps into the depths of Christianity -- in particular the desire to formcommunities of believers at work in bettering life on earth, a morality basedprimarily on tolerance of the other (a theme that will appear time and time againin numerous events of the programme) and the concept of self-sacrifice.A number of anthropologists and psychologists have investigated the continuitybetween societies culturally dominated by religion and those dominated bysecularism. In psychology, Freud drew analogies between three kinds ofobsessive neurosis and three kinds of religious rituals in “Totem and Taboo.” Inthe United States in the 1940s and ‘50s, Otto Rank further investigated therelation between the Freudian unconscious and ritual as he collected fromfolklore the necessary materials to bear out this analogy. “The so-called ‘truesymbols’ of the dream (what we would call ‘Freudian symbols’) were indeedfound to be present in a wide variety of mythological vocabularies.”0Inaddition, Jung and his followers have inspired innumerable mythicinterpretations of literary works. In anthropology, Victor Turner remains amajor influence on those who investigate the ritual and spiritual aspects of8 In the current literature on popular images, the Christian roots of the revolution has been anaLyzed by Maurice Aguthon,Marianne au Combat: l’imagerie et la symbolique republicaines de 1789 a 1880 (Paris: Flammarion, 1979) and “La Maitie, liberth,égalité, fraternité,” Les Lieux de Memoire I: La République, ed. Pierre Nora (Paris: Gallimard, 1984); Raoul Girardet, “Las troiscouleurs, ni blanc ni rouge,” Les Lieux de Mémoire I: La République; Thierry Gasmer, “Le local, une et divisible,’ Las Lieux deMémoire III: Las France, vol. 2., Traditions, ed. Pierre Nora (Paris: Gallimard, 1992); Antoine de Baecque, La Corps de l’histoire,métaphores et politique, 1770-1 800 (Mesnil-sur-Estree: Calmann-Lévy, 1993).For an investigation into the strong Christian influence in conservative intellectual and political circles in the first half ofthe twentieth century, see Herman Lebovics, True France The Wars over Cultural Identity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UniversityPress, 1992).10 Fletcher, Allegory, 285.31contemporary industrialized societies.11 For Turner, the notions of “liminalityand “communitas” traverse most traditional expressions of Christianity frompilgrimages in modern Ireland or Mexico to alternative lifestyles such as hippiecommunes and rock concerts such as Woodstock. The width of his concept is hasshown to be useful to many different kinds of investigations from theatre to arthistory and when carefully applied to specific, historically bound situations it canlead to remarkable analyses.12Sacrifice for the NationJeanneney’s introduction to the programme speaks of “honoring the memory”of the Revolution, of making clear the “national significance of what we willbuild together.” What is the memory that is being honored here? Not all theevents of the Revolution, but only those that “confer to the commemorationboth its moral and civic dimension.” What is being honored is the sacrifice thathas been made for the good of the Nation. This is not the sacrifice of the AncienRegime, or the body of the king, so the new order could be created. It is the civicsacrifice in which everyone must participate.An analysis of the cover of the programme can shed some light on this civicsacrifice (fig. 2.1). It is a detail from a painting depicting the departure of theNational Guard from Paris as they join the army in 1792. The scene is located onthe Pont Neuf, across from the royal residence of the Louvre. Here, the Guardare at the moment of leaving, prepared to make the supreme sacrifice for a causeclearly greater than France itself -- for the Revolution and the ensuingredemption of Mankind, and legitimating the beginning of a new Republicanera. If this seems to be overstating the import of the image, we return to Hugo’stext, “It has brought us even more promised land than gained territory; and assoon as these promises will be realized, a new aspect of the Revolution will berevealed [...] when the French Revolution will become [...] a human Revolution;when utopia will be consolidated into progress, when the sketch will become amasterpiece; the coalition of kings will have been succeeded by the creation of afederation of people, and war among all, by peace for all.” This historical sacrificeSee Carol Duncan’s analysis of the MOMA in New York which uses Turners theory of liminality to decipher the ‘scriptinscribed in the sequence of rooms of the museum. Carol Duncan and Alan Wallach, “The Museum of Modern Art asLate Capitalist Ritual: an iconographic analysis,” Marxist Perspectives (Winter 1978): 28-51.12 See Richard Schechner, “Ramlila in Ramnagar and America’s Oberammergau: two celebratory ritual dramas,’ Celebrations,ed. Victor Turner (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1984), 89-1 08.32Figure 2.1“THE NATIONAL GUARD OF PARIS LEAVES TO JOIN THE ARMY” BY LEONCOGNIET, 1792The white frame indicates the portion used for the cover of the publishedprogramme of events, Programme des manifestations du bicentenaire de laRevolution Francaise. ed. Jean-Noel Jeannenay (Paris: Mission duBicentenaire/Mundoprint, 1989).33has been constructed over the past two centuries as uniquely symbolizing thefoundation/origin of French democratic republican government.Michel Foucault discusses the relationship between the construction of the civicsacrifice as a fundamental premise of the democratic republican state and thedevelopment of the apparatus of rational governmentality during theRevolution. In the 1780s, for example, five volumes were published to layout asystematic program of public health for the modern state.It indicates with a lot of detail what an administration has to do toinsure the wholesome food, good housing, health care, and medicalinstitutions which the population needs to remain healthy, in shortto foster life of individuals. Through this book we can see that thecare for individual life is becoming at this moment a duty of thestate. At that same moment the French Revolution gives the signalfor the great national wars of our days, involving national armiesand meeting their conclusion or their climax in huge massslaughters. I think that you can see a similar phenomenon duringthe second world war. In all history it would be hard to find suchbutchery as in World War II, and it is precisely this period, thismoment, when the great welfare, public health, and medicalassistance programs were instigated. [...J One could symbolize sucha coincidence by a slogan: go get slaughtered and we promise you along and pleasant life. Life insurance is connected with a deathcommand.13Here Foucault establishes a relationship between the demand for young men toenlist in the army, to sacrifice themselves for the Nation, and the notion that thegovernment is responsible for the welfare of citizens.14 Seen from this point ofview, the painting chosen for the cover of the program reinforces the linkbetween the birth of the Republic (as a government) and the sacrifice of men forthe Nation.Distanciation from the ‘social drama’In the introduction to the programme, Jeanennay does not speak of peoplereliving the revolution -- “the point is not to recall the entire revolution,” butfor the “events prepared by the Mission to succeed [... in] confer[ring] to thecommemoration [...] its moral and civic dimension.” In fact, for the13 Michel Foucault, The Political Technologies of Individuals, Technologies of the Self, ed. Luther Martin, Hugh Gutman andPatrick H. Hutton (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988), 147.14 The National Guard is departing for the battle of Valmy against the Prussian army. Their victory on 22 September 1792was the first victory by the army of the Nation (joining the regular army) against a foreign power.34commemoration to be successful in this, it must remove the emotional charge ofthe revolutionary events and structure its remembering so that its moral lessoncan be reflected upon. The program represents the structure given to thecommemorative ritual which organizes a potentially chaotic celebration andemphasize its moral dimension.The public life of the republic is organized around highly structured rituals likeinaugurations, the taking of the presidential oath, state funerals, and so forth;yet, in the case of this commemoration, the commemorative ritual refers to timeof ‘anti-structure,’ a time when everything seemed ‘between and betwixt.’Victor Turner calls such a time “social drama.”15 As Jean Davallon says,the commemoration refers to the social drama as something that belongsto another time, to a time of disorder that is present in all transitions fromone order to another. [The commemoration is the opposite of anti-structure] since, as in all rituals, it aims at establishing regularities,preventing crises, repairing accidents, explaining difference.16If the commemoration evokes too powerfully the moment of the ‘social drama’,the public might respond in unexpected and uncontrollable ways -- rather, theorganizers want people to draw the appropriate civic and moral lesson from it.Parades, fireworks, musical performances and other attributes ofcommemorative rituals regulate the disorder of anti-structure in the publicrealm. They represent a shared sense of order and a common language. Theysecure the potentially explosive differences of the ‘social drama’ within themargins of convention and the structure of the ceremonies.17But the event also promises wonder. As Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett says, “akey to the appeal of many festivals, with their promise of sensory saturation andthrilling strangeness, is an insatiable and promiscuous appetite for wonder.”18 A15 See Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-structure (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1969), especiallychapter 3, “Liminality and Communitas.” What Turner calls liminal’ and liminoid corresponds here to thecommemorative ritual and the anti-structural aspects of the historical events.16 Jean Davallon, “La commemoration: une pratique symbolique politique”, Politique de la méinoire (Lyon: Presses Universitairesde Lyon, 1993), 205.17 The distance created by the programme was further orchestrated by modem technology which made its content accessibleto the public through the Mmitel network. Minitel is a personal computer accessed through telephone lines whichallows anyone in France to obtain information such as phone numbers, train schedules, showtimes for theatricalperformances and to communicate through writing. By typing 3615, followed by the code B 89, at a Minitel terminal,anyone could access over 5,000 entries regarding the bicentennial — an information that was updated weekly.One could also reach into the depths of the revolutionary past by accessing historical files. For example, the originaltext of the cahier des doleances (a questionnaire done during 1789 asking people what they were unhappy about) had beencopied into one the files of accessible by Minitel. Anyone could find out what had been recorded in the cahier in a certainvifiage, town or city in France by reading a transcript. Accessing such powerful, and often emotional, historical materialby simply typing on a Minitel keyboard, made the past more more accessible and yet, at the same time, also morestructured, more organized.18 Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, “Objects of Ethnography,” Exhibiting Cultures: the poetics and politics ofmuseum display, ed.Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 428.35thrill of strangeness and the structure of ritual commemoration are notcontradictory, on the contrary, one depends on the other. The form of the ritualsecures the symbolic meaning of the event, in order for ‘sensory saturation’, ‘thethrilling strangeness’ and wonder to exist within its borders.Reflection on the ‘lessons of the Revolution’Reflecting on his work of organizing the commemoration, Jeannenay speaks ofthe moral lessons contained within it,the commemoration offered, particularly to the youngergenerations, an opportunity to reflect on the fragility of the[revolutionary] gain and on the sacrifices it had required, [...] withan opportunity to breathe life into the analyses and the ambitions ofthe revolutionaries, particularly in the line of Condorcet, byfocusing especially on attitudes towards those that are excluded,[such as] the poor and the immigrants.19This reflection on the lessons of history is perhaps the most powerful way thatthe symbolic meaning of the commemoration is secured. Many events in theprogramme invited such a meditation on ‘meaning’ of the revolutionaryheritage. Reflection on poverty, for example was the subject of an exhibit housedin a thirty foot high elephant called ‘L’éléphant de la mémoire’ (the elephant ofmemory). On entering the body of the elephant, visitors saw a slide show aboutpoverty during the revolution (fig. 2.2). The elephant is believed to be theanimal with the largest memory and during the revolution, it came to symbolizethe memory of the poor. The slide show drew from the story of Gavroche, thehero of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, who slept inside the elephant that stood onPlace de la Bastille.2° By recalling a well-known story, the exhibit invitedaudiences to reflect on poverty today.Reflection took a therapeutic function during the commemoration of the Jeu dePaume (the Tennis Court Oath) on June 20, the day when revolutionaries fromall three orders swore to stay united. The therapeutic function of reflectionDrawing from semiotics, Davallon remarks that the sense of distance, structured by the conventions of rituals andperformances, tends to favor the human body over language. He argues that in order to be effective, regulating disorderneeds to exist outside of language. For Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, “ritual searches to establish regularity where there wasnone [...] and its symbolism takes over at a time when language can no longer frame the event” (Ibid., 417).Nowhere was the sense of distance better illustrated than in live performances in museums about the revolution.The museum can be considered “a form of environmental theater — visitors moving through experience a mis-en-scenevisually and kinesthetically” (Ibid., 415). A key to the appeal of performances in museums is the contrast between liveperforming bodies and the dead objects surrounding them. “Performance oriented approaches to [pasti culture place apremium on the particularities of human actions, on language spoken and ritual performed” (Ibid.). Such approachesgrapple well with large and complex historical events and present them to relatively small groups of people in theintimate setting of the museum.19 Ibid. 188.20 In 1808, a papier-mache sculpture of the elephant was built on place de la Bastille to honor one of the revolutionaryprojects, then it was left to decay. This gave Victor Hugo the idea to make it a refuge for his character Gavroche.36Figure 2.2RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ELEPHANT OF MEMORY IN LILLE, 1989Photograph reproduced from 89, Le Livre du Bicentenaire, ed. Claire Andrieu(Paris: Le Chêne-Hachette, 1990), 108.37became clear in the speech given by the President on that occasion. AsDominique Julia argues, “the discourse called on the very old rhetorical exerciseof the magistra vitae, which consists in reflecting upon history to derive a moralvalue.”21 Mitterand argued for assuming the entire heritage, including thepainful memories of the massacres and not to erase the harshness, not to retainonly what is convenient. He was quite explicit in his account of the Terror, “theghastly images of Nantes, Lyon, the Carmes, the September prisons, the list islong. [...J The exercise of the Terror has made crime blasé just like strong liqueursnumb the palate, the Revolution is chilled.”22 The intention of such an analysisis to reintegrate in the heart of the commemoration what is impossible tocommemorate. Through the act of speaking out, by saying the unspeakable,what tore people apart in the past became what linked them together -- that wasthe therapeutic function of this reflection.Yet for the organizers, reflection on the past was most often coupled with anintention to provoke a reflection on the present. In the words of Jeannenay,“what is most disturbing is what remains to be conquered.”23 One of the present-day moral lessons intended by the programme is tolerance, especially towardsthose treated by others as less than equal. Many programmed events wereintended to entice participants to spread notions of tolerance. The Bastille Dayparade for example, was, according to Jeannenay, designed “to incite a lot ofpeople to fight with more vigor to understand the Other and to fight fortolerance on a day-to-day basis.”24Other events as well focused on tolerance. The installation of threerevolutionary personalities -- Condorcet, Abbé Gregoire and Gaspard Monge -- atthe Pantheon was intended “to focus on the attitudes towards those that areexcluded, the poor the immigrants.. “25 Condorcet was a philosopher and anaristocrat, politically a moderate, whose wife ran a salon influential inrevolutionary circles. He was a vigorous advocate of educating and informing avoting public and establishing a free public education system. He was againstslavery and a strong advocate of the rights of women. Abbé Grégoire was anelected representative to the Third Estate and a crucial link between the ‘lower21 Dominique Julia, “Les évêques et le Bicentenaire,” Le Débat: histoire, politique, société 57 (Nov-Dec. 1989), 197.22 Francois Mitterand, speech published in Le Monde on June 22, 1989. “Les images atroces de Nantes, de Lyon, des Carmes,des prisons de septembre, la lisle est longue. [...] L’exercice de Ia Terreur a blasé le crime comme les liqueurs fortesblasent le palais, la Revolution est glacée.”23 Jeannenay, “Apres coup,” 187.24 Jeannenay, “Après coup,’ 197.25 Ibid., 188.38(working) clergy’ and the revolutionaries. He was a defender of minority rights,especially of the Jews and ‘coloured peoples.’ In 1790, he was elected president ofthe ‘Societe des Amis des Noirs.’ By pantheonizing defenders of the rights ofblacks, Jews and women, the government invited reflection on contemporaryforms of exclusion and, implicitly, on work that remains to be done in that area.Lastly, Gaspard Monge, a symbol of the patriotic professor, the creator of thescientific establishments, was chosen to reflect on the links between science andethics. By choosing to highlight revolutionary ideas that correspond tocontemporary concerns, the government programmed reflection on “whatremains to be conquered,” from freedom of access to information, to racism andhuman rights, and to the ethics of biological research.Commemoration as a rite of re-enactmentLike any ritual, the commemoration is based on repetition. If there is a nationalheritage to speak of, it is because it has been repeatedly reinscribed throughdifferent civic rituals such as Bastille Day balls, oaths of office, and publicparades.26 Repetition is there to secure the fleeting meaning of thecommemorative act.Mona Ozouf calls this insistence on repetition “la logique du même” (the logic ofthe same), that is, the logic that pushes programmers of commemorations torepeat the same acts, in the same place, on the same dates. As Ozouf says, in pastcommemorations, “to change sites or to commemorate the ‘wrong’ date wasalways felt as a waste of sacral energy.”27 Ideally, the commemoration wouldreenact all the events of the revolution, one by one, in the actual places wherethe events took place. In the bicentennial programme, the site of the Champ deMars (the traditional place for the revolutionary commemorations) wasprogrammed by the mayor of Paris for an event celebrating the centenary of theEiffel Tower, not a revolutionary event. This was seen as a transgression, as apolitically childish act that prevented the parade from taking place in itstraditional site.28 As a result the parade was moved to the Champs Elysees, a site26 The history of rituals commemorating the French Revolution is discontinuous, since each time the monarchy returned topower republican celebrations were stopped. Fourteenth of July balls for example, were only reinstituted in 1880. Butthis only shows to what extent traditions are presented as if they have a long and continuous history. For an analysis ofthis phenomena, see Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1983).27 Mona Ozouf, “Peut-on commémorer la Revolution Francaise?”Le Débat, histoire, politique, société 26 (Sept. 1983): 163.28 See interviews of visitors to the exhibit at the Beaubourg Museum during 1989 for peoples reaction to the local politicssurrounding the choices of bicentennial in Patrick Garcia, Jacques Levy, Marie-Flore Mattei, (eds.), Revolutions,fin et suite(Paris: EspacesTemps/Centre Georges Pompidou, 1991), especially pp. 147-164.39which had up to then been associated with military parades and notrevolutionary events. For Maurice Halbwachs, the physical presence of the sitewhere the event occurred is central to the principle of collective remembering.For those who want to believe in the greater significance of what they arecommemorating,they have to be confident that they are seeing and touching the veryplaces where the facts subsequently transformed into dogma hadhappened. [...} If a truth is to be settled in a memory of a group, itneeds to be presented in the concrete form of an event, of apersonality, or of a locality. A purely abstract truth is not arecollection; a recollection refers us to the past. An abstract truth bycontrast, has no hold on the succession of events; it is of the orderof a wish or of an aspiration.29In that regard, the commemorative act is for participants to feel linked to therevolutionaries, not only to feel the same as them, but the same amongthemselves. Ozouf argues that the festive programmes, the planning ofparades, the projects for monuments and the speeches assert the followingaffirmations: those who we honor are the same (between themselves), we are allthe same (between ourselves), we are still the same as back then, we remain thesame.”30 As an example of “we are the same as back then,” in 1889, the Bastillewas entirely rebuilt as a stage set in order to reenact its storming on July 14th1789, after which it was symbolically demolished just as it was a hundred yearsearlier. Likewise, during the bicentennial in 1989, the planting of liberty treesthroughout the country was recognized as one such reenactment of the past. Theprogramme referred to the month of March as l’enracinement (taking roots)because on the 21st (the vernal equinox), 36,000 liberty trees would be plantedthroughout the country; reenacting one of the few revolutionary ceremonieswhich emanated from popular culture. One of these celebrations recalled andhonored the participation of the church during the revolution in the presence ofPresident Mitterand. As Dominique Julia says, “the Eveque of Poitier came(dressed in civil clothes) to plant a red oak from America in Saint Gaudent toreplicate the gesture done in May 1790 by a patriot priest called Norbert Pressac.”3’The calendar of the bicentennial year was structured around the major “good”historical dates of the French revolution. These were the Opening of General29 Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 200.30 Ozouf, “Commémorer,’ 162.31 Julia, “Les eveques,” 198. The inclusion of the church in the official celebrations of the bicentennial was, in general,resisted by the Catholic authorities, but the governments attempt to do so was still significant. I will talk about that inthe section on “reflection” below.40Estates (May 5, 1789), the birth of the National Assembly (June 20, 1789), thestorming of the Bastille (July 14, 1789), the Declaration of the Rights of Man andthe Citizen (August 26, 1789) and the victory at Valmy (September 20-22 1792).Through these few dates, one can see that the first part of the revolution isfavored over the period known as the ‘Terror’ (1793-94), the death of the king(January 20, 1793) is omitted and the “night of August 4, 1789,” when theabolition of all privileges was voted, recedes in the background. The only datethat refers to an event after 1789 is the battle of Valmy, an event associated withthe birth of the nation as a Republic. As the programme says, on that date “thecourse of history was altered by the Nation joining the regular army, which ledto the institution of the Republic.”32The French historian Michel Vovelle comments on the choice of dates whichfavor the portrayal of a ‘good’ revolution.In 1989, one chose to celebrate the year 1789, conceived as the privilegedframe of the ‘good’ revolution, the one of freedom, and the one of theRights of Man. This was a way to avoid pushing further to 1793 and 1794,or even to the break of August 10, 1792 [the storming of the Tuileriespalace]. This political choice that is understandable and can be justified interms of searching for a minimal consensus -- after all, the storming of theBastille and the Declaration of the Rights of Man [...J are no futile objects!33The question of choice is central to commemorations: ‘what do we choose tocelebrate, what do we omit?’ These are the questions awaiting the organizers ofany commemoration.In her analysis of the correspondence between the political parties and choices ofdates to commemorate in the Revolution, Ozouf says that the officialsresponsible for the celebrations that were politically located in the center, both in1889, in 1939, and in 1989 recognized that there were many revolutions. Theirchoice of dates from 1789 was not only emblematic and strategic, but analytical, asa consequence of a conscious selection. It is revealing that in 1989, one of theofficial presentations insisted that the Revolution was not one block. “For me, Ido not accept to say that the Revolution is one block. The hatred between menhas stood in the way of ideas.”34 On the other hand, in the commemorations ofthe moderate-left, “the French Revolution can be commemorated not as apromise but as a gain.”3532 Jeanneney, Programme des manifestations, 7.tviichei Vovelle, Combat pour Ia revolution (Paris: Editions la découverte/Sociéte des etudes robespierristes, 1993), 85.Herriot quoted by Ozouf, “Peut-on commémorer,” 168.Ozouf, “Peut-on commémorer,” 169.41By contrast, in the celebrations put on by the extreme left either during 1889 andmore clearly during the communist festivities of 1939, there is a desire forhomogeneity. All the major actors of the revolution are commemorated, oneafter the other along the progression of time, all the way to Thermidor (whenRobespierre lost power). There is no discrimination. “What distinguishes thesecommemorations from the official ones is their extraordinary capacity ofabsorption, to digest and abolish the contradictions existing in the patrimony.”36But among the most radical believers in the Robespierrist government of 1793;no one, Ozouf remarks, has thought to commemorate the death of Robespierreor, as for the terror, no one has paraded a guillotine. For the extreme left, theRevolution is not over. In 1939 the Workers Party protests against the term “TheAncient Revolution” and say that in reality “the revolution is permanent. It isof an eternal actuality. Our fathers saw the beginning, we would not even seethe middle. Because the causes that produced it are, for centuries to come, in theheart of people.”37 By contrast, on the side of the reformists, the Revolution isdefinitely finished, or should be. For the moderate left, Ozouf explains, by 1939the Revolution no longer appears as a promise but as a gain.In 1989, the program established by the Mission shared the ‘centrist’ tradition ofofficial commemorations which recognized the plurality of the revolution butlike the ones of the moderate left it attempted to recognize the gains even if theyarose from confronting the dark sides of the past in order to draw out a morallesson.On the one hand, we have a position represented by Michel Vovelle that saysthat all dates should be commemorated, and on the other, a position that saysthat only the dates relevant to our situation should be celebrated. In between thetwo, we find discussions about the type of assumptions involved in choosing.The weakness of the argument for commemorating all the dates, says MonaOzouf, “is to confuse commemoration with history. We could nearly sustainthat these two activities are contradictory. An historian who would occlude the‘September massacres’ would be undignified. On the other hand, to me, acommemoration that does is dignified.”38 Commemoration, for Ozouf, is36 Ibid., 168.Ibid., 168.38 Mona Ozouf, “A laise dans la commemoration, Forum de la Revolution, Special edition of Le monde de Ia Revolution francaise,Special edition for the exhibition Forum at Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou/Le Monde,1989), p. 2.42generated by a desire to bring people together, not distance them; that is whycommemorations do not need exactitude, she says, but “euphoria and poetry.”That the program insisted on the year 1789 and the site of Paris shows more thana search for “euphoria and poetry,” it reveals what Halbwachs calls a process ofconcentration. Landmarks are chosen, he argues, for the power associated withthese places before the events took place.In collective memory there are in general particular figures, datesand periods of a time that acquire an extraordinary salience. Theseattract to themselves other figures and events that happened atother moments. A whole period is concentrated so to speak, in oneyear, just as a series of actions and events, about which one hasforgotten its varrying actors and diverse conditions, gatherstogether in one man and is attributed to him alone.39As if following this analysis, the major dates of the program were clusteredaround events which took place during the year of 1789, and favoring Paris --traditionally the seat of power -- over other cities. For Halbwachs, ritualsdelibarately pursue the physical concentration of memories in places “so that,without moving, [an] assembly of believers could evoke them simultaneouslyand embrace them in a single act of adoration.”4°In the text, one reads that “the rich panorama of projects [...] will reassure thosewho feared that things were organized in too centralized a fashion, too Parisian.”This “rich panorama” is offered by the Mission as a cure to over-centralizationon Paris. But the emphasis on differences and diversity does not imply,according to Jeanneney, that Paris is unimportant -- on the contrary, he statesthat “the capital will contribute before all other places to give character to thecelebrations.” In other words, Paris is the part that represents the whole ofFrance, just like the crown represents the king. In that logic, Jeannenay argues“[it is a natural thing] when we know the chronicle of the historic events”implying that most of the revolutionary events occurred in Paris. Thus, thecommemorative ritual is spatially recentered and the memory of the revolutionradiates from there to touch people’s “hearts and minds” throughout the worldand gather them for the commemorative ritual.Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, 222.40 Ibid., 223.43The mapping out of the commemorative events is a construction. The Missionclearly wanted to make Paris the centre of the bicentennial, since it had been thetheatre of the establishment of the Republican government. What was retainedabove all from the stories of the Revolution were the major steps leading to theestablishment of a government that would vote the Declaration of the Rights ofMan and the Citizen. By placing the Declaration on centre stage, the programmeinsists on the gains of the revolution. “The month of August is dominated bythe celebration of the fundamental oeuvre of the French Revolution: it is a timefor homage.”4’ The Declaration, therefore, was constructed as the good event parexcellence for its proven success, as it has flowered worldwide in the rise oforganizations promoting of human rights.The choice of certain dates over others (since a choice is necessary) calls on one ofthe fundamental aspects of morality: the discrimination between between goodand bad actions. Such a discrimination is based on a set of standards by which aparticular group of people decides to regulate its behaviour -- to distinguishbetween what is legitimate or acceptable in pursuit of their aims from what isnot.A symbolic society, visible and invisibleThe opening statement of the introduction, “Here it is”, uses a rhetorical deviceusually practiced in public speeches. It calls out to the audience andmetaphorically points to the real presence of the object (the programme), whichis the subject of the speech. This device makes the reader aware that he or she ispart of a larger group of people who are also becoming acquainted with thedocument. By enunciating the real and visible qualities of the programme, thestatement “Here it is, made available to everyone” refers to a symbolic society ofparticipants in the commemorative ritual.Jeannenay’s emphasis on “what we will build together” goads the reader tobecome an active participant in the commemoration. But there is also the sensethat the symbolic society is surrounded by potential non-believers. A statementsuch as: “[the programme] is not carved in stone and I am ready to bet that thepublication [...] will contribute to disperse the last sceptics” acknowledges the41 Jeanneney, ed., Programme, 6.44existence of sceptics. Jeanneney shows that he is well informed of the coolreception indicated by opinion polis while at the same time, telling those whopersist in their skepticism that they are insensitive to the ‘richness’ of theRevolutionary heritage and its Charter of Human Rights.Once the “symbolic society” is established, the next step is to speak of thepowerful radiance of that society. The Mission was the name given to theorganization responsible for the programming of the bicentennial, it seems thatsuch a choice invites some comments. “The Mission” is a profoundly Christianterm that has been claimed for a governmental organization that, in principle, isentirely secular. To be on a mission is to be one sent, a messenger proclaiming agreater message and, in Christian tradition, sent universally, herein a beginningto the sacralization of the Revolution.Jeanneney’s introduction presents the memory of the revolution as having‘converted’ people world-wide, suggesting the power of its radiance. Yet theseconverts celebrate the commemoration in different ways: “the bicentennial takeson different colors depending on the type of Nation it is.” This is because the‘converts’ draw their value from the fact that they are commemoratingdifferently -- they have taken the heritage of the revolution into their own lives.In honoring its memory, the revolution has gone ‘native’ and these differencesare presented by the Mission as proof of its intrinsic power. Similarly to theritual of communion, which is about including more and more people in itssociety of believers, the introduction has the zeal of the missionary formultiplication. The statement “a commemoration solely focused on Francewould be absurd” underlines the inclusive nature of the revolution throughoutthe world. To restrict the commemoration to the French territory would beturning the bicentennial into a nationalistic celebration, rather the statementbrings the event into the realm of the global, the international society comprisedof all those who want to share the commemorative ‘ritual’. The exhibit ofposters announcing the bicentennial in countries outside of France shows thedesire for participation elsewhere. The colloquium on the image of the FrenchRevolution which gathered scholars from around the world is another exampleof making visible a ‘society’ that would otherwise be invisible.In order to speak of the symbolic qualities of the event that are beingcommemorated (the sacrificial body), Jeanneney praises the French Revolutionwith traditional rhetorical forms found in panegyric speeches. If he were to say45how important the commemoration is, he would be praising his own work;therefore, he praises other people’s genuine enthusiasm for the celebration,indirectly showing the importance of what is being commemorated. The phrases“struck by enthusiasm,” “a multiplicity of intentions have bloomed,” “countriesare participating wonderfully,” and “the revolution’s impact on the hearts andminds of so many people” all point to interest of others to actively participate inthe celebration of the commemoration.This rhetorical device of praising other people’s interest in your own work alsosuggests an “ever growing crowd” of believers. More and more people from“other countries” are participating “wonderfully”: they are adding to the numberof participants. As Louis Mann remarked, these people form a “society” that is(in the New Testament Pauline language) “both visible and invisible.” The“society” become visible as it finds its way into representations, either ontelevision during the coverage of the events of the bicentennial, or in crowds ofvisitors in museums, public conferences and in colloquium. The community ofbelievers in the Revolution is constantly being reaffirmed through celebrationsin and around the real and visible marks of the revolutionary heritage. Thesevisible marks include the celebration of late eighteenth century architecture withguided tours and exhibitions of architectural drawings; the display of books andprinted documents; even the posing of the descendants of famousrevolutionaries to have their photographs taken the café Procope (fig. 2.3). Byusing the words “promised land,” Hugo clearly makes an allusion to the famousbiblical phrase. The desire for the “human revolution” to follow “the Europeanrevolution” is striving for perfection “when the sketch will become a masterpiece.” But the overall sense is one of control over history: “to conclude historywith an unfinished gesture, especially when this gesture is full of rich futureevents. [...] Nothing more immense.” The sense of history as progress, telos isalso a reference to the Biblical view of fulfillment in the ‘end times’, tendingtowards an “utopia”. The words “nothing more immense” is the final point tothe rhetorical praise of the French Revolution: nothing can be as grand, nothingcan equate it.The success of the commemoration depended on the union between the politicalstrategies of the government and the symbolic strategies of distance, reflectionand repetition I uncovered in the programme. As a political strategy, thegovernment scheduled the Summit meeting that was taking place in France thatyear on the days preceding the most important event, the Bastille Day Parade. In46Figure 2.3THE DESCENDANTS OF THE REVOLUTIONARIES HOLD IMAGES OF THEIRANCESTORS AT LE PROCOPEOn the left A. Dusquene, a descendant of Robespierre, and on the right C.Arnoux, a descendant of Danton. Photograph reproduced from 89, ed. Andrieu,49.47addition the counter Summit of the poorest countries invited over thirtypresidents from third-world nations. By scheduling these three events, twopolitical and the other symbolic, at the same time, the political and symbolicdimensions could work on each other.42To read the programme as a moral enigma is to recognize that the unionbetween the symbolic and political operates within certain references that arespecific to the history of rituals performed by and for the French government.Even though we are far removed from the power of the ‘roi thamaturge’ kingsthat so fascinated Kantorowicz, civic rituals tap into these age-old sturctureswhen needed.43 And 1989 was such a situation. As many scholars havecommented, the bicentennial could not have begun under worse auspices. Thevery concept of ‘revolution’ only brought out cynicism and at the time, saw nogreat threat to human rights in Europe. People were more interested in day today rights than in the great ideals of the Revolution.Finally, the notion of reflection is perhaps the distinctive mark of the moraldimension of the bicentennial program. The organizers were so keen on themeditative aspects of the commemoration that, once it was over, Jeannenay said“maybe I have illusions: it seems to me that the collective reflection substantiallyoutgrew the celebration of the gains [of the revolution].”44 “Our conviction putforth was that the Revolutionary heritage, on the condition to choose (and whynot?) what fits our present notion of progress, would allow [us] to betterincarnate in everyday life a number of values, in particular brotherhood.”45In Chapter Seven, I will investigate the Bastille Day Parade as an allegory tospeak of tolerance, one that works with the irreverant and surprising form of thecarnivalesque. Now I would like to move in the rooms of the commemorativeexhibitions that brought together so many art objects that no one knew what tosay about them. Their sheer accumulation seemed significant, but an allegoricalcritique of this insatiable accumulation will draw out stories about the ways theexhibition invoked history.This process is investigated fully in Chapter Six, “Cosmopolitan Tribes.”Ernst Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies, A Study in Medieval Political Theology. Princeton: University of Princeton, 1957.“Peut-htre me fais je des illusions: ii me semble que la reflexion collective a largement débordé la seule celebration del’aquis.” Jeannenay, “Aprhs coup,” 187.“Notre conviction affiché était que l’heritage de la Revolution, a condtion de choisir, (et pourqui pas?) ce qui convenait anotre actualité d’hommes de progres, permettait encore de faire mieux s’incamer au quotidien un certain nombre devaleurs, en particulier Ia fraternite.” Jeannenay, “Apres coup,” 79.48CHAPTER THREEREVOLUTION AND NARRATIONAs we have seen in the previous chapter, exhibits formed a major part of thebicentennial program organized by the Mission. From children’s toys of the lateeighteenth century to scientific discoveries, the French revolution was narrated,interpreted, “put into representation” as Louis Mann would say, with animpressive array of objects and documents that were, until then, hidden in theback rooms of museums and the archival vaults of libraries.Most of these exhibits were traditional in scope. Focused either on an artist (suchas Jean Louis David) or a subject (for example, revolutionary architecture), theywere organized according to themes and/or chronologies. What retains myattention here, is the major bicentennial exhibition: “La Revolution et l’Europe”at the Grand Palais. It was by far the most ambitious and certainly largest one,with more that 1,100 works gathered from nearly 300 different sources. But thecurators decided to simply let the works “speak for themselves” withoutproviding any guidance to the visitor. A number of reviewers such as LindaNochlin and Philippe Bordes have rightly criticized this decision. PhilippeBordes suggests that it might have been caused by a fear to stir up the divergentinterpretations of the Revolution. He says that, “given the passionate politicalpolemics of France today, the organizers have evidently preferred to steer a safecourse.” As a result, the exhibit had an enormous quantity of objects strungalong a chronology of revolutionary events, which left the visitor to either turnto the weighty catalogue or rely on their own knowledge.With the existing context of new historical methods to analyze images and thecurrent debates about exhibit curating, there was a great deal of expectationsregarding the show. The “reality-effect” of history displayed at the centennial1 Philippe Bordes, Exhibition Review, The Burlington Mrigazine 131, no. 1035 (June 1989): 441.49analyzed by Mitchell, whether it be in the exhibition on the history of dwellings2(fig. 3.1) or the reconstruction of the Bastille, embodied everything that Frenchhistorians, starting with the Annales School onwards, have reacted against andattempted to replace. The Annales historians (Braudel, Furet, Le Goff, Le RoyLadurie and others) “regarded narrative history as a non-scientific, evenideological representational strategy, the extirpation of which was necessary forthe transformation of historical studies into a genuine science.”3 The moresemiologically oriented literary theorists and philosophers (Barthes, Foucault,Derrida, Todorov, Kristeva, Beneviste, Genette and Eco) “have studied narrativein all of its manifestations and viewed it as simply one discursive “code” amongothers, which might or might not be appropriate for the representation ofreality.”4 Finally, the hermeneutically oriented philosophers, such as Gadamerand Ricoeur, TThave viewed narrative as the manifestation in discourse of aspecific kind of time-consciousness or structure of time.”5With all the new approaches for studying history and theories regardinghistorical narrative, one would have hoped to see the fruits of these changes inthe major bicentennial exhibition.Since the five major commemorative exhibitions held between 1889and 1939 (these appear to have been swamped with print and clutter)that this exhibition might reasonably have been expected to providean intense visual experience -- the thrill of seeing a whole worldredeemed by 20th century art history from oblivion. The world isthere to see, but the light trained on it is remarkably dim.6In fact, there is a remarkable similitude between the five commemorativeexhibits after 1889, that were “swamped with print and clutter” and this one,described as “enormous” and “unintelligible.” It seems that, when it comes todisplaying art, all these commemorative exhibits insist on accumulation. BurtonBenedict compares this desire for accumulation to the native “potlatch” as hedescribes the ways Western nations strive to impress one another by a “massivedisplay” of objects. Seen in this manner, “symbols are used flagrantly to impress2 The architect Charles Gamier (and a group of collaborators) designed a special exhibit to show the history of dwellings fromthe Roman house to nomadic tents. For an analysis of the exhibition, see Alexandre Labat, “Charles Gamier et l’expositionde 1889 l’histoire de l’habitation,” in 1889, La Tour E(ffel et l’Exposition Llniverselle, ed. Caroline Mathieu (Catalogue of theExhibition at the Orsay Museum, Paris: Edition de la Reunion des Musées Nationaux, 1989), 130-161.Hayden White, The Content of the Form: narrative discourse and historical representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1987),31.Ibid.Ibid.6 Bordes, “Exhibition Review,” 442.50cCj.,.÷—I—.tiifl• •-,.Cr)0Q_I—-ir(OoJhi-.(Cl)Cl)Cr)U’“Th÷.rT-I.’3X--iCl)0‘—•I•7,O4;j,rivals and the general public, for the rivalry would lose its points without publicacclaim for the winners.”7But in order to find a way to interpret this commemorative exhibit, I find that Imust return to the sense of disappointment voiced by its critics. If we look at theexhibit allegorically, this disappointment is an expression of melancholy overthe fragmentary. I see, on the other hand, the ceaseless accumulation offragments from the past pointing to their own allegorical rescue. Indeed,allegory is consistently attracted to the fragmentary, the imperfect, theincomplete -- an affinity which finds its most comprehensive expression in theruin, which Benjamin identified as the allegorical emblem par excellence.”8 Forthe ruin was once a building and is now returning to nature, being reabsorbedinto the landscape; in that sense the ruins stands for history as an “irreversibleprocess of dissolution and decay, a progressive distancing from origin.”9I therefore propose to conceive the bicentennial exhibit as an accumulation offragments of the revolutionary period that can be gathered in meaningfulconstellations. Like pieces of a puzzle which come together to create an image,these constellations gather around the notion of “historical narrative.” Thehistorical narratives I draw out of the exhibit comprise a Marxist narrative, theconcept of scientific history put forth by the Arinales School and a story aboutfragments itself. These three constellations will shed light on the ways in whichthe exhibit was putting history into representation.But before embarking on these allegorical constellations, it is necessary to put theexhibit in context both historically and in the specificity of its Parisian site: theGrand Palais. Natalie Zemon Davis says that “whenever memory is invoked weshould be asking ourselves: by whom, where, in which context, against what?”1°I will take the questions one at a time. Who organized the exhibit leads us torealize that the story of the French Revolution was turned into a European story;the question of context attracts our attention on the connection betweencommemoration and the idea of showing art to the public, where the exhibitiontook place becomes significant when we realize that the building was constructedBurton Benedict, The Anthropology of World’s Fairs: the San Francisco Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 (Londonand Berkeley: Scolar Press, 1985).8 Craig Owens, Beyond Recognition,, Representation, Power, and Culture, ed. Scott Bryson, Barbara Kruger, Lynne Tiliman andJane Weinstock (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 55.Ibid.10 Natalie Zemon Davis, “Introduction, Representations 26 (Spring 1989): 2.52for the centennial Universal Exhibition of 1889; and against what is most directlyanswered by looking at the contemporary criticism of museography.“La Revolution Française et l’Europe”In a sense, the entire program of the bicentennial was structured around the ideaof recalling what happened during the revolution. But the exhibits had themandate to actually ‘tell the story,’ to narrate the revolution as a way to distancethe ‘social drama’ of the events of 1789 through storytelling. As I answer thequestions of who organized the exhibit, in which context and where, myinvestigation focuses on what it was that the curators seemed to react against.In the current debate about the role of narrative in the telling of history,” I thinkwe can agree with Natalie Zemon Davis that post-structuralist criticism hasbroken down the opposition between a supposedly “organic” flow of memorythat gives either unvarnished truth or, inversely, tells uncritical tales, and thehistorian’s more or less calculated accounts of the past. “Collapse the nature-culture distinction,” she says, “and both memory and history look like heavilyconstructed narratives, with only institutionally regulated differences betweenthem.”2 I want to underline this last point. The idea that history is equallyconstructed whether it is in a museum or a biography escapes authors like CarolDuncan who tend to regard public museums as places where historical “truth” ismore distorted than in other more marginal, personal or popular sites ofmemory.’3 It is important to investigate all sites of collective memory with thesame attention, not assume that publicly funded exhibits will manipulate thepast more than private collections because the latter are personal and simply“reflect” the individual taste of the collector.Who organized the exhibit?“La revolution française et l’Europe” was the largest of all the exhibits and thus,one might argue, it would be the closest to a comprehensive exhibit of therevolution. It was organized by the Conseil de l’Europe, as the twentieth in aSee Hayden White, “The value of narrativity in the representation of reality,” Critical Inquiry 7 (Autumn 1980): 5-27.12 Zemon Davis, “Introduction,” 2.13 Carol Duncan regards public museums as places where historical “truth is more distorted than in other more marginal,personal or popular sites of memory. See her “Art Museums and the Ritual of Citizenship,’ Exhibiting Cultures: the Poeticsand Politics ofMuseum Display, ed. Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press,1991), 89-104.53series of exhibits held in the various countries of the European Community,which means that exhibit was supported, financially and politically, by most ofthe countries of Europe. As a result, the goal of “La revolution française etl’Europe” was to “place a period of a country’s history in its European context.”14A total of 1,143 paintings, drawings, engravings, posters, sculptures, manuscripts,furniture and objects were borrowed from fifteen European countries. Thegeography covered by the exhibit needs comment for it is exceptional that thenarration of the Revolution is not centered on the French nation and thus raisesquestions about the positioning of France in the European context.It might seem that it would pass without comment that an exhibit put on by theConseil de l’Europe would display art objects from all member countries of theEuropean Community. But in his preface to the catalogue, the Minister ofCulture, Jack Lang, justifies the European nature of the exhibit by contrasting thepresent political context to those of the past two commemorations.In spite of the popular appeal of the centennial, the 1889commemoration was ignored by the other countries of a Europethat was just as monarchist as at the end of the eighteenth century.The situation was even worse during the 150th anniversary [1939],that coincided with the eve of the second world war, the triumph ofthe dictatorships.. 15Today, the situation is quite the opposite -- although several have maintainedmonarchies in name, all the European countries have elected governments,universal suffrage, and a constitution, and are in no way threatened by the‘republican’ content of the commemoration.16 The bicentennial exhibition istherefore presented as a celebration of European concord and consensus on thevalue of a republican form of government.The uniqueness of the present situation is cited in the exhibit catalogue as areason to transform the traditional narration of the French Revolution into astory of Europe at that period. “Even if the relations between the differentcountries (with a few exceptions) were violent and bloody,” the FrenchRevolution is placed within “its historical process, linked to the entire context,”in order to shed light on both “its necessity and its contradictions.”7As a result,14 Quoted in L’Express, 21 April 1989, p. 59.15 Jack Lang, “Preface,” La Revolution française et l’Europe 1789-1799, vol.1, ed. Jean-René Gaborit (Catalogue of the Exhibitionat the Grand Palais, Paris: Edition de la Reunion des Musées Nationaux, 1989), xvii.16 Some invited countries, such as Saudi Arabia, refused to participate in the commemoration of a historical event theydeplore. This information was reported to me by Catherine Greenblatt, who worked at the Mission du Bicentenaire inParis.17 Lang, “Preface,” xvii.54the narration acquires two levels: one about the commonalties linking Europeinto a “context” for the revolution, and another about the contradictions whichpulled people apart. The first level included issues such as how the Europeanroyalty exercised and maintained power, rural and urban life, the modernizationof industry, and the intellectuals of the Enlightenment throughout Europe. Amost vivid example of this commonalty was the section called “The Eve of theRevolution,” which showed a Europe essentially agrarian, from the North Sea tothe Mediterranean. The second level dealt with the way the revolution dividedpeople. The “necessity” of revolution was most evident in the section called“The Revolutionary Event” which showed a country split by internal andexternal forces. That these divisions held “contradictions” was visible in thethird and last part of the show, “The Creative Revolution”, which showed theresults of artists’ attempts to give an image to revolutionary ideals such asrepublicanism, citizenship, liberty and the Declaration of the Rights of Man.The list of contributors to the catalogue reflects the European nature of theproject. Interpretations of the images are written by authors from all overEurope, setting it apart from the usual practice in which one writer links all theimages into a narrative. Both the catalogue and the show insist on telling thestory of the French Revolution through a panorama of all European countriesbefore and during the revolution. The story is no longer one of nationalism butof a set of nations contained within the border of Europe.The show no longer defines the subject as a citizen who inherits the principles ofthe French revolution which are equated with the origin of the modern state,but as a citizen of Europe who is part of a complex and evolving historicalprocess. Citizenship is extended across national borders to include all of Europeand in that sense, if nations exist, they are inscribed in their plural form. Thisinsistence on the European nature of the Enlightenment and the revolutionreworks the commemorative narrative into a European one against, in a sense,the rest of the world. The founding principles of the French Revolution, like theDeclaration of the Rights of Man and republicanism, still hold their central rolebut they are expressly diffused within a European narrative through a process ofcontextualization.Where was the exhibit?The exhibit took place in the Grand Palais, a large iron and glass pavilion builtfor the centennial commemoration and universal exposition of 1889. In that55year, the story of the revolution was physically as well as narratively pushed tothe margins of the exhibition. The major narrative of the centennial expositionwas the story of colonial capitalism and this story was told through exoticpavilions from the colonies and shows about western art, technology andmachines. The history of the French Revolution on the other hand, was toldhors les murs, beyond the boundaries of the exposition grounds. There, acomplete reconstruction of the Bastille prison and entire boulevards operated asa set for re-enactments of the storming of the Bastille and other events thatoccurred in the Saint Antoine quarter, on avenue Suffren and in the VieuxTemple 18 (fig. 3.2). Built like a stage set, it created a believable and safeenvironment for theatrical re-enactments. The buildings from differentlocations were reproduced at a smaller scale and brought together on one site,creating its own sense of place. The square formed by the “Bastille” and a sectionof the “Faubourg Saint Antoine”, for example “looks forward” to the urbanismof Disneyland where world geography is compressed into a landscape of fantasy.The detailed realism of the construction was just as attentive and carefullyexecuted as the “Street of Cairo” inside the grounds of the exhibition analyzed byTimothy Mitchell. What Mitchell calls the “reality-effect” of thesereconstructions was the remarkable claim to certainty, to truth: “the apparentcertainty with which everything seems ordered and organized, calculated andrendered unambiguous - ultimately, what seems its political decidedness.”9The emergence of an historicized framework at these world exhibitions was aninnovation, but not an isolated one. As Tony Bennett shows, the developmentof the “historical frame” was concurrent with other practices, such as newpractices of history writing (whether the historical novel or the development ofhistory as an empirical discipline), which aimed at the life-like reproduction ofan authenticated past as a series of stages leading to the present.2° Alexandre duSommerard’s Hotel de Cluny of the 1830s for example, is relevant in thisdevelopment of museum practices for it aimed at “an integrative construction ofhistorical totalities, creating the impression of a historically authentic milieu bysuggesting an essential and organic connection between artifacts displayed inrooms classified by period.”2’ For Bennett, the two principles elaborated by du18 Caroline Mathieu, ‘Linvitation au voyage”1889, La Tour E(ffel et l’Exposition llniverselle, ed. Carole Mathieu (Catalogue ofthe Exhibition at the Orsay Museum, Paris: Edition de la Reunion des Musées Nationaux, 1989), 105.9 Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988),102-129, 13.20 Tony Bennett, ‘The Exhibitionary Complex,’ Culture/Power/History, A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, ed. Nicholas B.Dirks, Geoff Eley and Sherry B. Ortner (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 139.21 Stephen Bann, The Clothing ofClio (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984),85.56Figure 3.2RECONSTRUCTION OF THE BASTILLE AND THE FAUBOURG SAINT-ANTOINE FOR THE EXPOSITION UNIVERSELLE, PARIS, 1889Photograph reproduced in 1889, ed. Mathieu, 105.Sommerard, the galleria progressiva and the period room constitute “thedistinctive poetics of the modern historical museum.”22 But it is important toadd that this discourse on history was linked in more ways than one to thedevelopment of the nation-state. Museums of science and technology, heirs tothe rhetoric of progress in national and international exhibitions, completed theevolutionary picture in representing the history of industry and manufacture asa series of progressive innovations leading up to the contemporary triumphs ofindustrial capitalism.23When the bicentennial exhibit “La revolution francaise et l’Europe” took overthe Grand Palais of 1889, it operated a re-reading of the centennial. The largestexhibit would not be housed in a new building speaking about technologicalprogress (like the Grande Arche) but in one that was built for the last majorcommemoration. As a result, the 1889 discourse about progress which presenteditself as a break from the past, was replaced by a discourse on heritage andcommemorative tradition. If the centennial built perfect replicas, thebicentennial, by contrast, was keen on preservation and heritage. Continuitywith the past was also made visible by the content of the exhibit: there were alloriginals from the eighteenth century such as common objects, paintings,documents, and furniture, as if, through the marks of wear and tear, the visitorcame in true contact with the past. I propose that the claim to certainty, or truth,embodied in the exact replicas at the centennial was replaced by a search forauthenticity.24In which context did the exhibit take place?Today, public exhibits can still be seen as an instrument of government toeducate its citizens. That schools continue to bring children for museum visitsattests to the importance of the museum in establishing common culturalreferences and in forming children into like-minded citizens. The notion of themuseum as an open “public space” was one of the driving forces behind thedesign of the Beaubourg Museum for example.25 Yet, since the mid-1980s, anincreasing number of academics have looked at museums and the process ofcollecting with a critical eye. These analyses drew curating into the currentBennett, “Exhibitionary Complex,” 140.Ibid., 141.24 I will come back to this point in the section “Narration through originals.” For a reference on the search for authenticitywhen people visit museums or other cultural sites, see Dean MacCannell, The Tourist: A New Theory of Leisure Class (NewYork: Schocken, 1976).For a critical analysis on the notion of the “public” in Beaubourg see Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, “Counting the Public or thePublic that Counts,”The Museum Time Machine, ed. Robert Lumley (London and New York: Routledge, 1989).58criticisms of public institutions and their conservative view of culture andcultural production. Feminist artists, critics and art historians drew attention tothe neglect of women artists and to the stereotyped views of women’s art. Manybooks were published which made accessible the names and works of hundred ofwomen artists from all periods of the history of art.26 Cross-disciplinaryexplorations between anthropology and history provided additional tools for acritical analysis of museum studies.Carlo Ginzburg sees the common area of research between history andanthropology as a result of two crises: “the end of the structured, self-confidentnotion of history and the growing consciousness among anthropologists that thepresumed native cultures were themselves a historical product. Both crises areconnected to the end of [a] world colonial system, and to the collapse of therelated unlinear notion of history.”27 As a result, cultural anthropology hasinfluenced both historians and curators by taking a critical look at ethnographiccollections of native American and “exotic” cultures.28In North America, the voice emerged as a crucial issue in the design ofexhibitions. Whose voice is heard when a curator works through an establishedgenre of exhibition became a recurring question. Moving between anthropologyand art history, Sally Price attacked the cultural arrogance implicit in westernappropriation of non-western art in her book, Primitive Art in Civilized Places,while James Clifford’s influential article, “On Collecting Art and Culture”, waspublished in 1988. More recently, two edited volumes of articles -- ExhibitingCultures and Museums and Communities, the Politics of Public Culture --examined the often-controversial interactions between museums in NorthAmerica and the communities they profess to represent and serve.29 The essaysillustrate struggles and collaborations among museums and communitieswhich, in the past were seen as peripheral to the main currents of nationalhistory. For the moment, the issue of the voice has been largely restricted to theNorth American context, and in that regard will not be directly useful for my26 See Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,1981).27 Carlo Ginzburg, “A Comment,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 12, no. 2 (Autumn 1981): 278.28 One of the first was Victor Turner and Edward Brunner, eds.,The Anthropology of Experience (Urbana, IL: University ofIllinois Press, 1986).29 Sally Price, Primitive Art in Civilized Places (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989); James Clifford, ThePredicament of Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988); Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine, eds., ExhibitingCultures: The Poetics and Politics ofMuseum Display (Washington, D.C.: Smithonian Institution Press, 1991); and Ivan Karp,Christine Muller Kreamer and Steven D. Lavine, eds., Museums and Communities: the Politics of Public Culture (Washington,D.C.: Smithonian Institution Press, 1992).59own analysis. What, on the other hand, has found a warm reception across theAtlantic, is an interest in telling the stories of those who have been excludedfrom official history, such as women and the poor.3° Along with historiansfocusing on social history, these concerns have led to a number of exhibitionsattempting to put events in a socio-political perspective.Critical theory, inherited from Adorno and the Frankfurt School was, and still is,shaping most of the investigations into the “publicness” of European museums.The museum’s exclusionary practices were first investigated by Pierre Bourdieuin L ‘amour de 1 ‘art published in 1969. Through interviews with visitors in 21museums, Bourdieu and his team showed that, despite policies initiated since1959 by the Ministry of Culture under André Malraux31 to increase access tomuseums, in the late 1960s, 45% of museum visitors came from the upperclasses, 23% from white-collar backgrounds and only 4% from the workingclass.32 For Bourdieu, museums are places that confirm one’s social position byinviting in those who are already “initiated” to the “saintly sites” of culture andexcluding those who are not. As in the previous chapter, we see how blurry theline separating the realm of religion from official culture really is in France.Museums reveal, in their most minute details of morphology andorganization, their real function, which is to reinforce the feeling ofbelonging in some people and the feeling of exclusion in others.Everything in these saintly sites, where the bourgeois society gatherreliquaries inherited from a past that is not their own, ancientpalaces or large historical houses to which was added imposingbuildings in the nineteenth century, often built in the greco-romanstyle of civic sanctuaries, reaffirms that the world of art is opposedto the world of everyday life, just like the sacred to the profane:objects are untouchable, a religious silence is imposed on visitors,the equipment is of a puritan asceticism, seats are rare anduncomfortable, there is a quasi-systematic refusal of any didactic,the decorum is solemn, colonnades, vast galleries, painted ceilings,monumental staircases, everything seems to be there to remind thevisitor that the passage from the world of the profane to the sacredasks for, as Durkheim says, ‘a true metamorphosis’.3330 The work of Ferdinand Braudel and the Annales School provided a ‘basis” from which the new generations of historiansworked on cultural and social histories. For an account of this development see Roger Chartier, “Le monde commerepresentation,” Annales Econamie Sociétés Civilisations 44, no. 6 (Nov-Dec 1989): 1505-1519.31 About cultural development as a goal of national politics in France, see J. Dumazedier and A. Ripert, Sociologie de La culture etde l’état (Paris: Le Seuil, 1966).32 Pierre Bourdieu and Alain Darbel, L’amour de l’art, les musées d’art européens et leer public (Paris: Edition de minuit, 1969), 7.“Les musées trahissent, dam les moindres details de leur morphologie et de leur organisation, leur fonction veritable, qui estde renforcer chez les uns le sentiment de l’appartenance et chez les autres le sentiment de l’exclusion. Tout en ces lieuxsaints de l’art oü la société bourgeoise depose les reliques héritées dun passé qui n’est pas le sien, palais anciens ou grandesdemeures historiques auxquels le l9eme siecle a ajouté des edifices imposants, bâtis souvent dam le style greco-romain60In fact, a recent survey by Connaissance des Arts showed that over half of therespondents associate museums with religious spaces.34The paradoxical situation of modern museums, designed to intensify both accessand exclusion, was investigated further by Stephen Greenblatt in his work on thevisitor’s gaze. Museums put objects on display as treasures but the “fantasy ofpossession is no longer central to the museum gaze, or rather it has beeninverted, so that the object in its essence seems not to be a possession but ratherto be itself the possessor of what is most valuable and enduring. What the workpossesses is the power to arouse wonder, and that power, in the dominantaesthetic ideology of the West, has been influenced into it by the creative geniusof the artist.”35 In Greenblatt’s view, we are currently witnessing a shift from the“spectacle of proprietorship to the mystique of the object.”36 His workcomplicates the inclusion/exclusion model set up by Bourdieu in the late 1960sand introduces a discussion of the irrational (his ‘mystique of the object’) intowhat appeared to simply be a discussion about the politics of access to themuseum. A growing literature on fetishism and the museum object -- as well asthe notion of the trace and the ethnographic fragment -- is pushing these types ofinvestigations even further.37 As I showed in this brief outline, recent work onexhibitions works from within many disciplines, including history,anthropology, and the more inclusive field of cultural studies. Many curatorsare working with the current theoretical interest in exhibitions and areresponding with increasingly more layered and interesting shows. In this aspectof culture, it seems that the loop between critical analysis and production hasbeen creative and quick in its response. In this exciting and creative context, thelack of curatorial guidance in the exhibit “La Revolution francaise et l’Europe”appeared to be a suspicious silence -- a serious retreat from these discussions.des sanctuaires civiques, concourt a indiquer que le monde de lart soppose au monde de la vie quotidienne comme lesacré au profane: lintouchabilité des objets, le silence religieux qui simpose aux visiteurs, lascétisme puritam desequipements, sieges rares et peu confortables, le refus quasi-systematique de toute didactique, la solennité grandiose dudecor et du decorum, colonnades, vastes gallerie, plafonds peints, escaliers monumentaux, tout semble fait pour rappellerque le passage du monde profane au monde sacré suppose, comme dit Durkheim, ‘une véntable metamorphose’.’ FromBourdieu and Darbel, L’amour de lart, 166.“Le nouveau culte des ancientes?,’ Connaissance des Arts, vol.44, no.3 (1989): 122-132.Stephan Greenblatt, Resonance and Wonder,in Exhibiting Cultures, 52.Ibid.For a classic work on how objects recall souvenirs, see Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the miniature, the gigantic, thesouvenir, the collection (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1984). For particular ways in which fetishism of artifactscan operate in museums, see Peter Gathercole, The Fetishism of Artifacts, Museum Studies in Material Culture, ed. SusanPearce (London: Leicester University Press, 1989), 73-82.61Historical Narratives and the ExhibitI have outlined the significance of the exhibit site, its sponsor and its context, Iam now focusing on the way objects of the exhibit has put history intorepresentation. Since there was no clear curating intent, I treat the exhibit as anaccumulation of fragments from the past. Like ruins scatered in a romanticlandscape painting in which one has to guess what is the hidden story beingpresented to the viewer I too must guess what are the hidden narratives. Bylooking at the objects on exhibits I have put together the fragments threeconstellations. The first one is a story about an insistence to show original artworks and the way they acquire meaning as we look through the lens of aMarxist historical narrative. The second is about the notion of “historicalcontext” given to the revolutionary events, and the Annales School’s conceptionof scientific history. These two attitudes toward the past can be read into theexhibit but was also expressed by certain people interviewed during thebicentennial.38 Thirdly, I fold over the notion of fragments onto itself as I drawtogether the different aspects of violence on display -- some of which literallywere fragments of broken statues that were destroyed during the revolution.Original art objects on displayIn contrast to 1889’s reconstruction of the “Bastille” and the “Faubourg SaintAntoine”, this bicentennial exhibit narrated the revolution through the display oforiginal art works from the period. According to the curators, the exhibitionresponded to Michel Vovelle’s desire to gather a large collection of original imagesand art objects together in one place “for the public to discover directly -- notthrough the intermediary of reproductions -- the extraordinary production ofhistorical representation, allegorical or caricatural, that are characteristic of thatperiod.”39 Here the Benjaminian “aura” of the artwork is valued, with theimplication that a photographic/televisual reproduction of the same image wouldnot enable the necessary “discovery.” But there is more being discovered withnarration using originals than the simple “production of historical representation,allegorical or caricatural, that are characteristic of that period.”Vovelle is a historian who has dedicated most of his research to revolutionaryimages. As a Marxist, he does not study the past in order to construct what38 For an in-depth sociological analysis of visitors responses, refer to Patrick Garcia, Jacques Levy and Marie-Flore Mattei, eds.,Revolution fin et suite (Paris: Espace Temps, 1991).Jean-René Gaborit, “Avant-propos,” L.a Revolution française, vol.1, xviii.62happened in it (in the sense of determining what events occurred at specifictimes and places), rather he studies history in order to derive laws of historicaldynamics. “It is these laws that preside over the systematic changes in socialformations, and it is knowledge of these laws (rather than those of structure) thatpermits [the] Marxist to predict changes likely to occur in any given current socialsystem.”4° In that regard, the presentation of original objects (as opposed toreproductions) is intended to help the visitor to see in these objects the “laws ofhistorical dynamics” for themselves and draw their own liberating narrative.This view is based on the conviction that the artifacts of the world can bereturned to life and speak to us. It is based on the assumption that the “humanadventure is one” and that those artifacts have a place “within the unity of asingle great collective story.”41 For Marxism, the great collective story linkingeveryone (from the past and the present) together, is a meta-narrative about acollective struggle for liberation.In a novel, the characters are charged with the task of realizing the possibilities ofthe plot that links the story from beginning to end. Because Marxists conceive ofhistory as a story, a Marxist visitor, who sees the bust for which Robespierreposed or a dish decorated with a revolutionary motto, will invest these artworkswith meaning as someone might with characters in a novel. In order to do this,the visitor is “willing backwards” by identifying with the artworks and readingpossibilities of change in them.42 Willing backwards occurs when we rearrangeevents of the past that have been told a certain way, in order to invest them witha different meaning or to draw from them a different story that will give usreasons to act differently in the future. “It is human culture,” White remarks,“that provides human beings with this opportunity to choose a past,retrospectively and as a manner of negating whatever it was from which theyhad actually descended, and to act as if they were a self-fashioning communityrather than epiphenomena of impersonal ‘forces’.”43 Willing backwards hasgreat effect when, in the process of revolutionary change, a whole group decides40 White, The Content, 150.41 Frederic Jameson quoted in White, The Content, 148. The master narrative linking us to the artifacts derives its claim torealism and truthfulness by virtue of its adequate representation of the structure (or what amounts to the same thing,the unfinished plot). For Frederic Jameson, “the adequacy of narrative to represent history provides a touchstone fordistinguishing less between ideology and truth’ (because all representations of reality are ideological in nature) thanbetween “ideologies that conduce to the effort to liberate man from history and those that condemn him to an ‘eternalreturn’ of its ‘alienating necessities’.”Walter Benjamin has taken this idea of “willing backwards” and elaborated it with other notions of constellation (whichjuxtaposes images from different times) and the concept of the ‘ur-form’ (the original form) which re-reads old storiesthrough the eyes of contemporary questions. Both of these ideas were developed in his ‘Arcades project,’ in which heinterprets the arcades of the early nineteenth-century as the ‘ur-form’ of contemporary consumer society.White, The Content, 149. White links the idea of rewriting the past to Nietzsche’s notion of “genealogy” in terms ofsubstituting a genetic past for a self-constructed past.63to rewrite history so that events that were previously regarded as insignificantare now redescribed as “anticipations or prefigurations of the new society to becreated by revolutionary action.’ The concept of willing backwards forlaunching projects in the future is central to Marxist thought.A Marxist notion of history insists on the fundamental narrative structure ofhistory. The great story of liberation is seen as an incomplete narrative like anunfinished plot. This is the reason why the notion of willing backwards in orderto rewrite history for future action is crucial to this view of history since it isthrough re-writing history, that we find a way into the future.45If we listen to what one visitor to the exhibit says about the revolution, we cansee how history is constantly being rewritten (so to speak) into a larger metanarrative about liberation. Born in 1917, the woman interviewed is from LesBouches-du-Rhône, was a worker and then was employed in a store -- she is nowretired. Catholic, she does not practice but is a believer, and she has a closerelationship to the communist party.What impressed me the most in the books I have read is thefamous flour war. [...J It was in ‘75 I think, yes in April or May of‘75, the author even gives the name of these poor people who werewatching a cart full of flour rolling by, and they were dying ofhunger, they knifed the bags. They arrested them and hung themright there. They took the names, there were young ones, old ones,there were people of all conditions. They were so desperate, it musthave been about ten years before, there was an undercurrent thatwas feeding 1789. That is how I see it. [...J I know that people weredesperately unhappy, theywere riddled with taxes. I think that ithappened very naturally.When the first assemblies happened with Robespierre, Danton,Saint-Just, Marat, well, all the bigwigs of that world, because therewere hundreds of them, we only know a few, I think there,everything started to tilt over, it must have been an exhilaratingtime, especially when a man like Robespierre was on the podium[...]. He was quite a refined man, who had a relatively bourgeoisupbringing, but not so rich, but still he grew up among religiouspeople, he was very pure [...J. I think that he must have moved thecrowds.Ibid., 150. The notion of willing backwards is not exclusive to Marxism. The process occurs in religious conversion when aperson brought up in one religion (or without one), suddenly sees the light’ and embraces another religion.45Here we see a parallel with ideas developed in chapter two regarding the Christian ethics of the programme; for theChristian equivalent of the story of liberation is the apocalyptic view of history. The closeness of the two have drawnMarxism to insist on the value of working toward liberation on earth in order to distinguish it as much as possible fromChristian thought. But the two remain close enough to see strong Communist feels taking roots in a practicing Catholicmilieu, like in Poland for example.64I would say that the revolution was absolutely necessary. Of coursethere might have been errors. But nothing is perfect, we still see ittoday. I think that it turned the world upside down. [...] Do notforget that when Lenin died he asked to be wrapped in a tricolorflag. [...] I think that the revolution gave an advantage to thebourgeoisie in France, because if the mass of the people wereeducated like we are today with the media, the books, any worker, ifhe wants he only has to turn it on and he learns [...] but then thebourgeois class took advantage of the situation and that is why itdid not last.46The revolutionary sentiment is clearly very close to her -- “the revolution wasabsolutely necessary” -- and as a communist, the figure of Robespierre has acentral role in her story. She also expresses an emotional closeness with theoppressed, not only in the story of the flour bags but also when she talks aboutthe necessity of the Russian revolution which I did not include here. The imageof the people rising up, coming together to uproot the oppressor and changingthe course of history are the signposts of the narrative. Through her ownreading and personal experiences, she constantly re-writes the past and brings itinto the present.The presence of original art objects in the exhibit allows the Marxist visitor to seethem as evidences of the “laws of historical dynamics.” These laws drive thegreat meta-narrative of liberation forward and include class struggle throughoutEurope. The struggle for liberation speaks of solidarity across national barriersagainst the dominant class (e.g. the intermarriage between aristocratic families ofEurope and the common oppression of the peasant class). The pan-Europeancharacter of the exhibit in this view does not emphasize that Europe is made ofnations, it stresses that across Europe, class alliances were based on commonexperiences, common oppression and a shared vision for a revolution. Ateleological revolutionary meta-narrative reworks the European story of abourgeois revolution that occurred first in France, and was theorized in Britainby a German, expanded with the form of the 1848 worker’s revolutions acrossEurope, and was finally put into practice in Russia.46 Interview quoted in Garcia, Levy and Mattei, Revolutions,fin et suite, 154.65“Social context” and the Annales SchoolAfter investigating the Marxist notion of historical narrative, I now want toexplore the second set of players in the deconstruction of nineteenth centuryhistoriography: the Annales School. The notion of “social context” is central tothe Annales historians who argued that the long trends found in demography,economics, and ethnology (which are “impersonal” processes) are the truesubjects of history. For the Annales, nineteenth century narrative history in thestyle of Michelet was a “political history conceived as short-term, ‘dramatic’conflicts and crises lending themselves to ‘novelistic’ interpretations, of a more‘literary’ than a properly ‘scientific’ kind.”47 In the view of the Annaleshistorians, the “social context” is conceived as neutral, impersonal and scientific.The curators of the exhibit went to great lengths to place the French revolutionnot only in a European context, but a European social context. This took the formof sections such as “the agrarian world”, “the administrative organization” and“public instruction”. These sections formed a backdrop in front of which theevents of the revolution were meant to play their part.I want to argue that the mixture of common objects and paintings in the exhibitquestioned the claim that a social context (as defended by the Annales) provides ascientific historical narrative which is neutral and impersonal. The ostensibleneutrality of the social context became more difficult to sustain when the exhibitattempted to “describe” the context through artworks depicting life in the AncienRégime. The average museum-goer would take these images as documentaryevidence of a world well-balanced between monarchist power, represented in theseries of royal portraits, and the farmers going about their work in the fields withrosy cheeks and healthy-looking children. The documentary qualities werereinforced by the titles given to different sections (e.g. “The Salons,” “TheReligious War,” “Public Instruction”), which led the visitor to expect an“illustration” of this particular aspect of the society. What is shown in fact arepainters’ representations of life on the farm in the eighteenth century. But notext in the exhibit makes this explicit, and one must look in the catalogue (threevolumes which cost 400 francs and weighted ten and a half pounds) for aninterpretation, which explains that paintings depicting farmers in the fields havebeen chosen for the exhibit to show the distance between urban artists and therealities of rural life.48 That distance was further increased by the fact thatWhite, The Content, 32.48 The curators’ decision to narrate the French revolution without explanatory panels was criticized by reviewers like LindaNochlin and Philippe Bordes who saw this as a way of avoiding the “passionate polemics in France” by steering “a safecourse” into an unadventurous exhibit. According to Bordes, “the presentation only rarely contributed to a clear66painters were reading Rousseau, and that there existed at the time an entirediscourse about rural life as unspoilt, “natural”, etc... which was contrasted(especially in revolutionary circles) to the artificiality and falseness of the court.49For a visitor to see the “distance” between what is painted and what might havebeen the realities of daily rural life, he or she must be sensitive to the fictioninherent in pictorial representations. I do not mean to say that these depictionsare false. In fact, like Natalie Zemon Davis, I use the word fictional in thebroader sense of its root fingere, its forming, shaping and molding element: thecrafting of a narrative.50 Here, the narrative of social history links the idea ofsocial spheres to the influence of philosophy on artists, it does not howeverinvestigate the role played by these paintings as they were exhibited in the salonsof European urban centres.The issue of fiction in the paintings was further complicated by the presence oftwo enormous ploughs set amongst a flail, sickles, salt mills and otheragricultural implements of the time. The juxtaposition of these farmimplements and paintings of rural life is startling. But the catalogue is quitestraightforward in that regard: the curators wanted to show the different kinds ofcultivated landscapes that existed in Europe before the revolution and tools usedto work these lands. Following in the footsteps of Vidal de Ia Blache, paintingsof landscapes are organized by region and the objects are meant to represent thediversity of regional cultures. From a critical point of view however, it seemsclear that on its own, a salt mill does not “represent” anything, it simply laysthere as a mute object; it will acquire meaning only in the context of the otherobjects in the room and will be brought to life only by the support of words andideas, which in this case were not easily accessible.It is precisely because of the unexpected mixture of objects that the model ofnarrative history is being reworked here. One of the ways this happened wasthrough the visual connections between the artifacts on display and the objectsunderstanding of what happened, how it happened, and above all, why it looks the way it does.’ (Bordes, “ExhibitionReview,” 442.)Since there was so little textual guidance in the galleries of the exhibit, I am assuming that visitors had their ownattitude about history and knowledge about that period, which would be based (in a loose way) on the current views ofhistory. In most cases their position is not ‘worked out’ from an academic point of view, but people interviewed aftervisiting the exhibit at the Beaubourg Museum clearly possessed their own philosophy of history which they are more thanwilling to explain.49For a discussion on the construction of this opposition see Lynn Hunt, Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984) especially pp.44-46, 72-7450 Natalie Zemon Davis, Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and their Tellers in 16th century France (Stanford: StanfordUniversity Press, 1987), 3.67depicted in the paintings. The farmer is ploughing the field in one of thepaintings and we see different ploughs on display. Another painting depicts lifeon the farm in the evening, when farmers are gathered around the fireplace andthe furniture depicted in the scene (a salt box, a commode) is on display in thenext room.The division between the objective and fictional realms was reinforced by thetextual interpretations of the catalogue. In fact, the text attempted to keep thetwo types of objects apart by using different forms of narratives. The artifactswere set in a “historical” narrative of social history about technical innovationsand lineage, very much based on studies of material culture.51 The paintings onthe other hand, were interpreted in a “fictional” narrative telling the readerstories about the people depicted in the paintings, using the fictional devices of anovel: a plot, characters and dramatic events.The division between “fictional” and “historical” has been under attack by anumber of authors,52perhaps most clearly by Roland Barthes. In his essay “TheDiscourse of History” Barthes challenges the idea that traditional historiographyis closer to the truth than would be a novel or a play. His attack on traditionalhistoriography underlines the commonality of the narrative form to both fictionand history. He finds it paradoxical that “narrative structure, which wasoriginally developed within the cauldron of fiction (in myths and the first epics),should have become, in traditional historiography, at once the sign and the proofof reality.”53As if to illustrate Barthes’ point, the distinction between fictional and scientificnarratives in the catalogue could not be maintained for long. The narrativestructure takes over and turns both types of interpretation into storytelling. Inseveral instances, the story about the plough intersects with stories of thepaintings. One of the plows (the swing-plough) is said to have been the sametype as the one used by Arthur Young when he won an agricultural competition51 Studies in material culture have influenced museum curators a great deal. For a representative article on the theoreticaldiscussion about material culture and museums, see Susan Pearce, ‘Objects in Structures” in her edited book MuseumStudies in Material Culture (London: Leicester University Press, 1989), 1-10.52 See Jacques Derrida, “The Law of Genre,” Critical Inquiry 7, no. 1(1980): 55-82; Julia Kristeva, “The Novel as Polylogue,”Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, ed. Leon Samuel Roudiez (New York: 1980); and JeanFrancois Lyotard, “Petite economies libidinales dun dispositif narratif,” in his book Des dispositfs pulsionnel (Paris: Le Seuil,1973), 180-184.53 Roland Barthes, “The Discourse of History” (published in French in 1967), trans. Stephen Bann in Comparative Criticism: aYearbook, vol. 3, ed. ES. Scaffer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 18.68in England.54 Young was a gentleman-traveller who described in detail thedifferent landscapes of France at the end of the eighteenth century. These textualdescriptions were used, the curators explain, as a basis for choosing the landscapepaintings. In this instance, the story of Arthur Young as a traveller crosses thepath of technological innovations in the British plough.In her review of the exhibit, Linda Nochlin wondered if the presence of realobjects, like these ploughs, are transparently meaningful as opposed to paintingsthat are “representations” and therefore invite interpretation. The plows, shesays, “have been inserted without commentary, as though, in their status as realobjects from the period, they were self-explanatory. But of course, in the contextof an exhibition an object like the plough or a flail ceases to signify as a merething or as a useful object; on the contrary, it assumes a powerful role as arepresentation, or even a symbol of larger values.”55 A symbol of what?Nochlin does not give us an answer. We might also ask what is involved intrying to find the T’real story” told by the objects gathered in this room of theexhibition. lit this kind of exercise, the viewer attempts to distinguish what isfictional from what is real and moves towards that which is “truer.” Eventhough the techniques of presentation are the same for both and all objects aredisplayed as if they were valuable, the farm implements were meant to“represent” life on the farm, and the viewer sees them as closer (than thepaintings) to the “realities” of eighteenth century life.Common objects as art(ifacts)That common objects can raise questions about issues much larger thanthemselves was clearly expressed by Marcel Duchamp’s exhibition of a massproduced urinal as an art object in the 1920s. The debate generated by this actionchanged how the role of the artist is viewed in modern society.56 Would it be fairto see the objects at the Grand Palais as objet trouvés of the late eighteenthcentury? I do not think so, because these particular objects are not alone in theroom, they are caught in an interplay with the paintings surrounding them. Wemight ask, like Meyer Schapiro did of van Gogh’s Old shoes with laces, “whoseare they?” The question: “To whom do these objects belong?” is not entirelyrhetorical since the attribution of objects to common people is about reclaimingJean-René Troché, The agrarian world’ La Revolution Française et I’Europe, 1 789-1 799, vol.1, ed. Jean-René Gaborit(Catalogue of the exhibition at the Grand Palais, Paris: Editions de la Reunion des Musées Nationaux, 1989), 94.Linda Nochlin, “Fragments of a Revolution, Art in America (October 1989): 158.56 Refer to Peter Burger, Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. M. Shaw, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984).69the history of those who have none. Van Gogh confronted this question headon in his painting (fig. 3.3). In different ways, both Martin Heidegger57and MeyerSchapiro,58 and later on Jacques Derrida,59were fascinated by the painting -- allthree have meditated on the past owner of the shoes.For Heidegger, they are a pair of peasant woman’s shoes and their paintingillustrates the nature of art as a disclosure of truth.From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes thetoilsome tread of the worker stands forth. In the stiffly solidheaviness of the shoes there is the accumulated tenacity of her slowtrudge through the far-spreading and ever-uniform furrows of thefield, swept by a raw wind. [...] This equipment belongs to the earthand it is protected in the world of the peasant woman.6°Meyer Schapiro says that they are most probably not the shoes of a peasantwoman since the painting was done in Aries. “These shoes could not express theessence of a peasant woman’s shoes and her relation to nature and work. Theyare the shoes of the artist, by that time a man of the town and city.”61 But even ifHeidegger had simply remarked on a pair of shoes (instead of a painting) theproblem Schapiro unveils here is the process of description as a subjective actionfirst imagined and then projected into the objects (or the painting). “He[Heidegger] has retained from his encounter with van Gogh’s canvas a movingset of associations with peasants and the soil, which are not sustained by thepicture itself but are grounded rather in his own social outlook with its heavypathos of the primordial and earthly.”62The objects on display in the exhibition can well function as receptacles for thevisitor’s projections about the pathos of life on the farm, or inversely, happycommunity village life. In other words the objects on their own can be drawninto an exercise about “the disclosure of truth” (as Heidegger would say).Schapiro’s criticism of Heidegger’s essay is perhaps even more important to ushere. He says that Heidegger “missed an important aspect of the painting: theartist’s presence in the work.”63 For Schapiro the shoes, as a theme, are a piece ofMartin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” (from a lecture in 1935-36, and originally published in German in 1950),trans. A. Hofstadter in Philosophies ofArt and Beauty, ed. A. Hofstadter and R. Kuhns (New York: Random House, 1964).58 Meyer Schapiro, “The Still Life as a Personal Object--A Note on Heidegger and van Gogh,”The Reach of the Mind, essays inmemory ofKurt Goldstein, ed. Marianne Simmel (New York: Springer Publishing Company, 1968).Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1987).60 Heidegger, “The Origin,” 662-3.61 Schapiro, “Still Life,” 206.62 Ibid.63 Ibid., 208.70Figure 3.3“OLD SHOES WITH LACES” BY VINCENT VAN GOGHReproduced in Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting (Chicago: University ofChicago Press, 1987), 258.71the artist’s own life, they are painted as “a portion of the self” which expresses aconcern with the fatalities of his social being.64The difference between a painting of shoes by van Gogh and a pair of old shoes,Schapiro insists is the presence of the artist in the painting.65 Similarly whenobjects are taken into a museum collection and are turned into an artifact theybecome meaningful like the painting is meaningful. The art of curating ispresent in the display, the choice of the artifacts. “Museum artifacts” PeterGathercole argues, “do not possess properties intrinsic to themselves. They areoften regarded as evidence per se of cultural behaviour, but until this evidence isrecognized, they remain, literally speaking, mere objects.”66When the artifact is put on display it is transformed with all the tools availableto museum technology: special lights, labels, and ropes keeping people fromapproaching it too closely. On display, the artifact is drawn into a web ofmeaning created by the other objects in the room, by the institution, itsphotographic reproduction in the catalogue and in postcards, its textualinterpretation by experts and so on. But in order to acquire a new meaning, theobject must first shed its private history. For Derrida, the shoes remain haunted:“as soon as these abandoned shoes no longer have any strict relationship with asubject borne or bearing/wearing, they become the anonymous, lightened,voided support (but so much heavier for being abandoned to its opaque inertia)of an absent subject whose name returns to haunt the open form.”67 Like theshoes, the object, in order to become an artifact, must become anonymous,devoid of use -- its symbolic dimension is formed at the expense of losing themeaning it had when still a property of a family. In the context of the farm, theagricultural implement was an instrument of production and, of course had64 At the end of his essay, Schapiro reports that Paul Gauguin, ‘who shared van Gogh’s quarters in Aries in 1888, sensed apersonal history behind his friend’s painting of a pair of shoes. He has told in his reminiscences of van Gogh a deeplyaffecting story linked with van Gogh’s shoes. ‘In the studio was a pair of big hob-nailed shoes, all worn and spotted withmud; [and I asked Vincent about them]. ‘My father,’ he said, ‘was a pastor, and at his urging I pursued theology studiesin order to prepare for a future vocation. As a young pastor I left for Belgium one fine morning, without telling thefamily, to preach the gospel in the factories, not as I had been taught but as I understood it myself. These shoes, as yousee, have bravely endured the fatigue of that trip.’ Preaching to the miners in the Borinage, Vincent undertook to nursea victim of a fire in the mine. The man was so badly burned and mutilated that the doctor had no hope for his recovery.Only a miracle, he thought, could save him. Van Gogh tended him for forty days with loving care and saved the miner’slife. ‘Before leaving Belgium I had, in the presence of this man who bore on his brow a series of scars, a vision of thecrown of thorns, a vision of the resurrected Christ.” (Gauguin quoted by Schapiro, “Still Life,” 208.)I have retraced this discussion about van Gogh’s painting in order to show how ‘common objects’ have been part of adiscourse in the art world since the 1930s. Certain visitors coming to see the exhibit at the Grand Palais would knowabout these debates more or less inthnately, but most visitors would be familiar with the work of van Gogh, Duchamp andothers who have worked with common objects and would bring this knowledge to their interpretation of the agriculturalimplements on display.66 Gathercole, “Fetishism of Artefacts,” 74.67 Derrida, Truth in Painting, 273.72symbolic and economic properties recognized by the members of the family.Once it is transferred to the museum, it becomes an instrument of representationwhich curators use to demonstrate their professional knowledge skill within theinstitution, but Derrida would say that the name of the family “returns to hauntthe open form,” for it remains open to the imagination of the visitor.When we see what happens to the common objects as they intersect with the artworld, whether as shoes painted by van Gogh or a urinal exhibited by Duchamp,it becomes even more difficult to see these objects as documentary evidence of asocial context.68 If we agree that fictions are spun like a web around each artifact,we should ask ourselves about their power to evoke stories in the context of theexhibition.Moreover, as Derrida said about the shoes painted by van Gogh, there is “anabsent subject whose name returns to haunt the open form.”69 Interpreting theartifact not as documentary evidence of the social context but as a the trace of lostagent recalls the “absent subject whose name returns to haunt” the form of theobjects. Some of the visitors seem to have desired calling in the ghosts from thepast by trying to imagine the revolutionary events through the eyes of differenttypes of people. An interview with a woman who was born in 1947 is one suchexample. She lives in Seine-et-Marnes, is heading a publishing house, is a non-practicing catholic and is politically on the right:Can you have a totally objective opinion about history, according tobooks you read? [...] There are ideas and in fact the way ideas arepresented is very important, and I think that this could be veryinteresting in an analysis of the French revolution. [...J For me, Iwould like to see one day a great exhibition like the one at theGrand Palais; in one area we are on the side of the king and we seewhat happened, how he lived the revolution; in another area weare among the very poor who saw the revolution; in another areawe are among the bourgeoisie who saw the revolution; in anotherarea we are among workers but those who were employed by correctpeople, I mean those who saw the revolution. I expect that from1789 -- let them take me in all those different places and I get achance to put my mind in others and really live jt.70To such a viewer, the notion of an impersonal and unvarying social contextseems scarcely attainable, or desirable.68 See Ingrid Jenkner, Visual Evidence (Catalogue of the Exhibition, Regina: Dunlop Art Gallery, 1993).69 Demda, Truth in Painting, 268.70 Interview no. 1 in Garcia, Levy and Mattei, Revolutions,fin et suite, 147.73This concludes the investigation of the exhibit that I explored through theconstellations gathered around the notion of ‘historical narrative’. The Marxistbelief in a meta-narrative revealed an aspect of the exhibit which opened thedoor to empathy with the oppressed and a narrative about liberation. The pan-European character of the exhibit, read through a Marxian interpretation, doesnot emphasize that Europe is made of nations, it stresses a class alliance acrossEurope based on common experiences, common oppression and a shared visionof revolution. The Annales’ belief in scientific history revealed an aspect of theexhibit that I called the ‘social context’ of the Revolution. The common objectson display were interpreted as a representation of objective reality of everydaylife at the end of the eighteenth century. But, as I argued, such an interpretationcould not be sustained. The introduction of the concepts of fiction toward oldobjects eroded the claim of impersonal and objective history present in the socialcontext of the exhibit.Fragments in the ExhibitAfter recovering certain narratives present among the objects of the exhibit Inow want to fold the notion of fragment upon itself to show that a story aboutdestruction was being told through in the display of actual broken fragments ofstatues and in images depicting vandalism. To do that, I will first interpret thepresence of fragments in the exhibit as a story about the cyclical nature ofdestruction and creation. Then I will interpret images depicting mythic eventsand places of the Revolution (such as the storming of the Bastille) in terms of thepolitical events which occurred in Communist countries before and during thebicentennial year of 1989.The rhetoric of fragmentsIn a rhetorical analysis of museography, the museum is a space for the exchangeof objects, where they are “quoted”, first in one context and then in another,where they are “re-written” into different stories, cut off from their familiarusage and properties. As Michael Ames puts it, “objects have not a single pastbut an unbroken sequence of past times leading backward from the presentmoment. Moreover, there is no ideal spot on the temporal continuum thatinherently deserves emphasis. [...] In elevating or admiring one piece of thepast, we tend to ignore and devalue others. One reality lives at the expense of74countless others.”71 Art objects, in other words, can be seen as debris that hasbeen collected by museums. As with quotations that appear in different texts,artifacts move from one glass box to another where their story is re-writtendifferently each time.Nowhere was this shown with greater potency than in the gallery dedicated tothe fragments of royal statues. I was well aware of the destruction of royal andreligious statues during the 1790s, but I did not think that the pieces would havebeen saved, let alone shown at the Grand Palais. By putting them on display, theexhibition brought together opposing notions of destruction and creation intoone and in the process, it opened the door to a powerful allegorical reading.The fragments of statues displayed in the exhibit at the Grand Palais weregathered together in one room. The section was called “Destruction of RoyalStatues and Signs of Feudality” which, in addition to the fragments of statuesshowed images depicting revolutionaries in the midst of toppling statues (fig.3.4) and architects’ projects to transform royal ornaments on buildings intorepublican ones through minimal interventions. Fragments of the mutilatedstatues of Henri IV, Louis XIV and Louis XV were installed in a giant still life inthe centre of the gallery (fig. 3.5). They worked both metonymically (in that eachfragment conjured up the presence of the absent whole) and as synedoche,because their accumulation presented the overwhelming image of the end of theBourbon monarchy, of absolutism, and of the god-like king. The whole roomfull of fragments gave an image of the energy of the revolutionary sentiment, asPhilippe Bordes says in his review of the exhibit, “fragments of mutilated royalcolossi attest to the passing of a terrible storm.”72The fragmentation and mutilation of bodies was not restricted to this room butrecurred throughout the exhibit. In historical paintings, body parts are shownoffered in sacrifice; and in popular engravings about executions with theguillotine (fig. 3.6) or caricatures in which bodies are cut up and eaten, theartfulness of the detached body parts was a recurring narrative device in theshow. This narrative undercurrent about fragments should not be interpretedliterally but as an allegory of the death, violence and destruction present inideologically driven revolutions.71 Michael Ames, quoted in Susan Pearce, Objects in Structures,’ Museum Studies in Material Culture, ed. Susan Pearce(London: Leicester University Press, 1989).72 Bordes, Exhibition Review,” 441.753. ,.V aP I IFigure 3.4“REVOLUTIONARIES TOPPLING A STATUE OF LOUIS XV” BY AUGUSTINDE SAINT-AUBINReproduced in the catalogue of the exhibition at the Grand Palais, La Revolutionfrancaise et l’Europe, 1789-1799, ed. Jean-René Gaborit (Paris: Edition de laReunion des Musées Nationaux, 1989), 163.76Figure 3.5FRAGMENTS OF ROYAL STATUESPhotographed for the catalogue of the Exhibition at the Grand Palais, Paris, 1989.Reproduced in Linda Nochlin, “Fragments of a Revolution,” Art in America(Oct 1989): 162-3.77C) CI tin .c aug 1 Iii V abi’t’ti v e n( Si[Ioiis“ ‘v “ ‘““ v•’” ““.“ 4, p/vP. .4 . ,, .4’,,.a.s ..pp,4 .‘..,,(I I- e,,,,,,...., 1. vi..’. ,,., I.’., 4 ,,.-.,aacn’ f.,.,.. 4..,.,,‘—“——4” R,.,.,&.‘t,,,,-,_, ‘•‘.‘.&“.“ -.,.-,..,p., 4,-,,.d .4,,, na,,.,,.‘a’ ..u,. I,. —— .fl.”, ,,c’.,vw.,,,, .*t.4,, .n,,t,’.,., ,fl,,./,.,&., a’.,,a’,4-t 4’at’ 4.4.‘.a,..,.,a .4. ,A.,.4.4.,,.,, 41.4. 4 na..’. I, ..‘.,, ,,q,. 4,...n,A,fa,,a,, t.-w.),.’ 1..,i’.,,.,a,,.,,. ,,,., ,.,,,,,,,. ,...,,... J.,,.,a-,,,,4,4,‘1Z’..1,’..,, 4.. V,,i,..... ..__, sa,,,,,. 5.’.... 4, •,,Figure 3.6SEVERED HEAD OF LOUIS XVIAnonymous engraving, 1793 (cat. 546). Reproduced from the catalogue of theexhibition, La Revolution francaise, ed. Gaborit, 422.M TIi4Y A lUPI,”1’TtN P3t’E I.P .1ONC.1jt’L,S COL’RONt)a478Of course the display of fragments is not new to the museum. The Cabinets ofCuriosities in the sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe reveal a manneristfondness for the conservation of body parts after anatomical dissections.73 Later,natural history collections continued to preserve fragments of animals andethnographic collections fragments of arrows, jewelry and so on. In the lateeighteenth century, during the French Revolution, Alexandre Lenoir assembledthe monumental fragments he had collected following the destruction ofchurches and installed them in the Convent of the Petits Augustins in Paris. Iam contrasting the museum set up by Lenoir during the Revolution to the oneset up by du Sommerard, which still exists today as the Musée de Cluny, toillustrate two radically different rhetorical approaches to the exhibiting offragments in museums.To complete his collection, “Lenoir evidently had no scruples about mixing theauthentic fragment with the contemporary, archaising bust’t74 of a great historicalfigure for whom he had been unable to obtain a contemporary effigy. Usingrhetorical analysis, Stephen Bann shows that a significant shift occurred in themid-nineteenth century in terms of how collectors viewed fragments of statuesand monuments, which can be seen as movement from the predominant tropeof metonymy to that of synecdoche.75 For Bann, the collection created by Lenoirrepresents a metonymic approach, where fragments are meant to represent thewhole. “The connection between each tomb, or fountain, and its original contextis a reductive one of part to whole, which in no way necessitates an imaginativelink between the series of abbeys, chateaux, and other monuments that wereLenoir’s source of material.”76 In this conception of historical narration themodern bust can find its place since it literally replicates the past.By contrast the mid-nineteenth century collection of du Sommerard at the HotelCluny represents a synecdoche, where the object from the past becomes the basisfor an integrative construction of historical totalities. In creating “theme rooms”like the “chambre de François ler”, “religious life” and “kitchen life,” duSommerard has “successfully integrated the detached fragment within an overallmilieu, [he hasj restored the part to the whole.”77 By displaying before our eyes aSee Olivier Imprey and Arthur MacGregor, eds., The Origins ofMuseums: the Cabinets of Curiosities in 16th and 17th centuryEurope (Oxford: Clarendon/Oxford University Press, 1985).Bann, Clothing of Clio, 85.To recall the differences: it is metonymy when a part stands for the whole, for example when we say “the crown” for “theking”; a synecdoche is when the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, for example when we say “she is all heart.”76 Bann, Clothing of Clio, 85.Ibid., 86.79complete image without breaks or disjunction, the theme room takes us fromthe objects to the user in a mythic system of “lived” history.Fragments as an undercurrent of the exhibitHistorical paintings such as the depiction of the storming of the Tuileries or theValmy battles against the Prussian army did not spare the viewer ripped-upbodies blanketing battlegrounds. Or in a cooler genre, fragmentation as sacrificeset in a small painting representing a hero so devoted to the nation that he hasliterally given his right arm for it. The arm itself, painted with a high degree ofnaturalism, is displayed prominently on a table. “In its macabre isolation, itlooks back to the holy relics of the saints and, at the same time, forward to theentirely secular still-lifes of fragmented limbs created by Gericault early in thenineteenth century.”78 Caricatures, of course, showed the most graphic versionof fragmentation; from the depiction of characters eating body parts or sitting onsevered heads, the grotesque was taken to the limits of obscenity. Britain’sprime satirist, James Giliray, pushed the carnivalesque body to extremes thathave yet to be surpassed by the horror films of today.The caricature entitled “Un Petit Souper a la Parisienne: A Family of SansCulotts [sic] refreshing after the fatigues of the day” gives an idea of what I amtalking about (fig. 3.7).A table is featured prominently in the foreground for a scene ofcannibalism. Two bare-bottomed revolutionaries -- literally sansculottes -- are making a meal of their human victims. The monsteron the left, his bony legs thrust into appropriately plebeian sabots, isabout to tuck into a nasty eyeball culled from the human head onthe plate before him; he has an ear ready in the other hand. Hiscompanion at table, equally bare-bottomed and seated on the nakedcorpse of a decapitated young woman, a bloodstained axe tuckedinto his belt, is about to bite into an arm, while three women in thebackground chew indelicately on the heart and severalunidentifiable human fragments. Above their heads, a ceilinglarder is stuffed with further supplies of human flesh, while to theleft, a group of baby revolutionaries dig into a bucket of entrails asvoraciously as if it were a bowl of spaghetti.79The revolutionaries are described as violent human beings by equating theactions of the government to popular cannibalism. The presence of the children78 Nochlin, “Fragments of a Revolution,” 169.Ibid., 162.80Figure 3.7“UN PETIT SOUPER A LA PARISIENNE -- OR -- A FAMILY OF SANSCULOTTS REFRESHING AFTER THE FATIGUES OF THE DAY”Engraving by James Giliray, 1792 (cat. 786). Reproduced from the catalogue of theexhibition, La Revolution francaise, ed. Gabori, 587.81— ii, 4 II 1 ñ I4 I i III ))implies that actions of revolutionaries will multiply through their offspring andthe play on words with “sans-culotte” gives it a carnivalesque twist by linking itto other caricatures that used the visual sign of the “naked bottom” to createmany different meanings.The caricatures ordered by the revolutionary government to promote theprinciples of the revolution were no less tender with the human body. Indeed asKlaus Herding points out, “it was the secret power and strength of the visual artsto provide what reason seemed to refuse, that is, a justification of the emotionsin a (supposedly) rational society.”8° The stories of dismemberment depicted incaricatures need to be seen against the middle class insistence on bodily dignity.The myth of Charlotte Corday, Marat’s assassin, is an example of the meaninggiven (or projected) onto the human body. The myth is the following: theDeputy Sergeant Marceau wrote to the President of the Revolutionary Tribunalthat the executioner” held up Charlotte Corday’s severed head, and struck one ofits cheeks. A blush of shame and indignation appeared on the other.”81 Themyth “survived all common sense obstacles,” Dorinda Outram points out,because of the intensity of the need generated by the terror andexecution to externalize concerns such as the survival of a unitaryexperience of mind and body, and of the possibility of physicaldignity, both of which seemed under extreme threat. Above all, itsurvived because it asserted that in spite of the guillotine’s capacityto evacuate all significance both from death and from the bodyitself, individual reaction to these outrages could survive evenexecution itself.82All these images of severed bodies exemplify the fears of the middle class for thepreservation of the intact, controlled, unitary body-image, one that“differentiated them from the others, and allowed them to validate its claims torevolutionary control against the disordered, wild-passions and energies of thelower class political movements.”83 In other words, bodily dignity, along withpolitical and moral virtue, gave the right to rule. The rhetorical (as well asliteral) abuse of the body defined a revolutionary situation.Returning to the fragments of mutilated statues, what is perhaps the moststriking is to see them at all. One wonders why the curators put them on display:Klaus Herding, in the catalogue of the exhibition, La Révolutionfrancaise, vol. 1, ed. Gaborit, xxiii. Ce fiit le pouvoir secretet la force des arts plastiques doffrir Ce que Ia raison semblait refuser, a savoir de donner droit de cite awc emotions(pretendument) rationelle.”81 Dorinda Outram, The Body and the French Revolution: Sex, Class and Political Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989),118.82 Ibid., 121.83 Ibid.82to talk about the end of monarchy? In the catalogue, the story of the fragments isplaced within a larger story of revolutionary iconoclasm. Indeed, a decree of theLegislative Assembly voted on August 14, 1792 ordered the destruction of all the“statues, bas-reliefs and monuments in bronze erected on public squares.”84 Ifthe monarchy was to disappear, it was necessary that all its symbols disappear aswell. “The sacred principles of liberty and equality will not permit the existenceof monuments raised to ostentation, prejudice and tyranny to continue to offendthe eyes of the French people.”85 But popular movements did not wait for theAssembly to vote. Starting on August 12th, the enormous statue of Louis XIV --a powerful symbol of tyranny -- was toppled and broken into pieces.86 The waveof iconoclasm swept through the country and people destroyed religiouspaintings, statues and church steeples.But the revolutionaries were culturally sophisticated and proud of their artisticheritage; they were confident that the visual arts were a school for both theilliterate and the literate, while they were positive that the values of the AncienRégime were false and must be eradicated. Newspapers and pamphlets oftenapproved of iconoclasm in principle but condemned it in practice. Fears wereexpressed that if the destruction continued, France would become a culturaldesert and lose its leadership in the arts. Out of this dilemma, the AssembléeConstituante created an Arts Commission which was to “preserve those works ofart remaining from the Ancien Régime which possessed a purely aesthetic orhistorical value.”87 This led to the creation of public museums (like the Louvre)to preserve objects of the past and educate citizens.What is important here is what Idzerda calls “the dialectic, the tension betweeniconoclasm and the need to preserve the heritage of the arts.”88 Indeed, thistension was echoed in the bicentennial exhibit. The room on iconoclasm withits fragments of statues was counterbalanced by the rooms on the “CreativeRevolution” which showed the results of artists struggling to create newsymbols, new visual codes for a new political order. The balance betweendestruction and creation takes on even more significance as we interpret thefragments of the royal statues allegorically.Cited in Stanley Idzerda, “Iconoclasm during the French Revolution,’ American Historical Review 60 (1954): 16.Ibid.86 The statue stood on what is today called Place Vendôme.87 Idzerda, “Iconoclasm,” 19.88 Ibid., 22.83Ruins speaking of the cycle of creation and destructionWhen we gaze at the the pieces of statues displayed in the exhibit, a foot from thestatue of Louis XIV, three fingers from another statue of Louis XIV, the righthand of Louis XV, or the horse’s leg from a statue of Henri IV, perhaps weshould not speak of the art object but of the ethnographic fragment. BarbaraKirshenblatt-Gimblett remarks that “the ethnographic object is an art of excision,of detachment, an art of the excerpt. [...] Where does the object begin and wheredoes it endT’89 Like the ethnographic object, the fragment of a broken statueacquires a poetic dimension because of its detachment from the whole. Fordetachment works on two levels, “detachment refers not only to the physical actof producing fragments, but also to the detached attitude that makes thatfragmentation and its appreciation possible.”9°What lies here as ruins of themonarchy are highly significant fragments, they are remnants which attest to aonce-tremendously powerful desire for complete change.For it is common practice in museums to pile up fragments ceaselessly, withoutany strict idea or goal, simply ordering them according to countries orchronologies. The leg from the sculpture of the horse, the fingers of Henri IVholding the reins, are supposed to bear witness to the miracle that thesefragments of works of art have withstood the fiercest rages of iconoclasm and theneglect of two centuries. In their detachment, however, such fragments appearas the last heritage of revolutionary passion which in the modern age isdismissed as mere vandalism.But these fragments carry a hidden story. On the first level the group offragments speak of the iconoclasm of revolutionary action and on the secondlevel they speak about the inevitable rise and fall of monarchies and empires.For Walter Benjamin, it is precisely “visions of frenzy of destruction, in whichall earthly things collapse into a heap of ruins which sets the limits uponallegorical contemplation, rather than its ideal quality.”91 When the statues ofthe monarchy were toppled and broken into pieces they, too, were returned tothe ground (“all earthly things collapse into a heap of ruins”). The monarchydisplayed as “a heap of ruins” sets the parameters from which I can start theallegorical construction.89 Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Objects of Ethnography,” Exhibiting Cultures, ed. Karp and Lavme, 395.90 Ibid91 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of the German Tragic Drama (published in German in 1928), trans. John Osborne (London: NLB,1977), 232.84Because it was conceived from the outset not as a whole, but as a ruin, afragment, Benjamin sees in the Baroque allegory the movement from things tonature. Allegories might represent death and melancholy but, as he argues, theyalso speak of redemption. “Ultimately in the death-signs [the memento mori] ofthe Baroque the direction of allegorical reflection is reversed; on the second partof its wide arc it returns, to redeem.”92 The essence of one’s melancholicimmersion in the meaning of the allegory, “does not faithfully rest in thecontemplation of bones, but faithlessly leaps forward to the idea ofresurrection.If we interpret the fragments of royal sculptures allegorically, the image of deathinscribed in the broken body part leaps forward, (away from destruction) towardscreative redemption. Earlier, I discussed that a narrative undercurrent offragmentation ran through the exhibit, from the fragments of statues and thesacrificial body in historical paintings to caricatures. An allegorical interpretationof this narrative would start with the “death-signs” of the broken statues and in“the second part of its wide arc,” return to redeem creation, in a room filled withcaricatures bursting with creative energy and imagination. In fact, because thesection “Artistic Creation Under the Revolution” was placed as the final sectionof the exhibition, the visitor leaves the Grand Palais having found the secondpart of the arc that “returns to redeem”.When exhibitions seek to be “objective” in their display of material as powerfulas these caricatures or fragments of statues, they attempt to hide the allegoricaldimension of the narrative. In fact, the curators seem to be unaware of theextent to which what they displayed is inextricably bound up with, if notidentical to, how they displayed it. At least, they did not make it apparent in theexhibition, since the fragments of statues were placed without any textualcommentary like the rest of the exhibit. This is why it is necessary to subject “anyhistorical discourse to a rhetorical analysis, so as to disclose the poeticalunderstructure of what is meant to pass for a modest prose representation ofreality.”94 In the case of this exhibition, it means uncovering the allegoricalhidden dimension of the narrative about fragments and body parts to disclose astory about destruction and creation.92 Benjamin says that “In God’s world the allegorist awakens. ‘Yea, when the Highest comes to reap the harvest from thegraveyard, then I, a death’s head, will be an angel’s countenance’.” (Ibid., 232.)Ibid., 233.Hayden White, “Historicism, History, and figurative imagination,” History and Theory 14(1975): 53.85If we listen to visitors, the themes of destruction and creation constantly appearin their stories. As an example, I quote from the interview with a woman bornin 1971, who lives in Dijon, is a high school student, with no religious affiliation,and supporter of the socialist party:[The French revolution] is a very moving period of history, that hasgenerated much polemic, that has seen a huge massacre. On theother hand, it has allowed men and women to express themselvesin public and to acquire the human rights of free expression andfreedom. [...J What impressed me the most is the execution ofDanton and his group in front of Robespierre. I find the guillotinealso impressive. It is always impressive that, on the pretext ofhaving different political or religious ideas, one can have one’shead chopped off. I find it shocking. [If I were to tell the story of therevolution,] I would say that it is a fundamental part of history andthat 1789 is at the basis of all the laws, all the freedoms. [...] I do notfeel especially close to the revolutionary personalities. I feel closerto the people, that is sure. I think that people were right. Evenwith the sacrifices and the massacres, the uprising was necessaryand turned out to be useful in time..In her story, this student repeatedly puts forward an image of destructionfollowed by one she interprets as positive and creative. The “huge massacres”are explained as enabling the liberty of self-expression, and the “sacrifices andmassacres” are justified as both “necessary” and in time, “turned out to beuseful.” For her, remembering is a balancing act between recalling creative anddestructive forces. The latter are redeemed by modern day benefits we share, inparticular those which have crystallized around the politics of human rights.Fragments of revolutionary mythologyI think we can agree with Hayden White that a “narrative becomes a problemonly when we wish to give real events the form of a story. (...) It is because realevents do not offer themselves as stories that their narrativization is sodifficult.”96 If we accept that events come to us in the chaotic form of objects,archival documents and images, then the exhibition narrative should beconsidered less as a ‘form than as a manner of speaking”97 about events, whetherreal or imaginary. The work of Paul Ricoeur differs on this point. He argues thatturning real events into a story is not a problem because real events unfold inInterview no. 6 in Garcia, Levy and Mattei, eds., Revolutions,fin et suite, 158.96 Hayden White, ‘The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality,” in Critical Inquiry 7 (Autumn 1980): 8.‘ Ibid.86time. For Ricoeur, time links narrative and real life because both go throughsequences of events. “Historical narrative, which takes the events created byhuman actions as its immediate subject, does much more than merely describethose events; it also imitates them, that is, performs the same kind of creativeact as those performed by historical agents.”98 For Ricoeur, history has meaning,because human actions produce meaning.Ricoeur has investigated in great depth the relations possible between theprincipal kinds of narrative -- mythic, historical and fictional -- and the “realworld” to which they undeniably refer. His work is especially valuable to ouranalysis of the exhibition at the Grand Palais because his intention is to sort outthe different notions of story, story telling and narrative informing the principaltheories of contemporary narrative discourse. The result is his masterful threevolume Time and Narrative.99 As Ricoeur puts it, the book is a “three foldtestimony of phenomenology, history, and fiction” regarding the “power” ofnarrative to “refigure time” in such a way as to reveal the “secret relationship” ofeternity to death.10°In the school curricula throughout Europe, the history of the French Revolutionwas, and still is, taught through the actions of Robespierre, Saint-Just, Dantonand so on. The historical narrative creates a mimesis, Ricoeur would say, withthe actions performed by the historical agents. The middle section of the exhibit,“The Revolutionary Event”, attempted to do just that: narrate the main eventsof the revolution through the actions performed by historical figures depicted inthe paintings. But unlike the schoolbooks, the exhibition underlined thedifficulty of narrativization in two ways: first by interpreting the images only inthe catalogue, not in the room and, second, by exploring the dialectic betweenmyth and history -- which I now want to investigate in detail.Storming of the Bastille as mythical originThe borderline between real and imaginary was best explored in various mythswoven around the storming of the Bastille. Placed as the opening section of98 Cited in White, Content, 179.Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984).100 Paul Ricoeur, quoted in White, Content, 170. Ricoeur’s work has influenced new French historians such as Antoine deBaecque who worked with Ricoeur’s La métaphore vive (Paris: Le Seuil, 1975) to show how the royal body operated as apowerful metaphor in the political imaginary of the readership before and during the revolution. By doing a minuteanalysis of hundreds of caricatures and articles from the popular press denigrating Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, hesuccessfully shows the interplay of metaphor and history. See Antoine de Baecque, Le Corps de l’histoire, métaphores etpolitique (1770-1800) (Mesnil-sur-l’Estrée: Calman-Lévy, 1993).87“The Revolutionary Event”, paintings, drawings and engravings depicting theBastille were grouped according to themes such as, the Bastille as a monument,the storming of the Bastille, its prisoners, Polloy and its demolition, the image ofthe Bastille in caricatures after 1789, and the Bastille in commemorations. Onecan clearly see how a myth of “the people storming the Bastille” was constructedover time out of a relatively minor event of the revolution.It should be said from the start that the Bastille was chosen by therevolutionaries as the object of their intentions because it already was a mythicplace. In the political imagination of the time, this medieval prison wassymbolic of the King’s abusive power: when people were arrested with a lettre decachet,101 they were imprisoned in the Bastille. “The creation of a myth of theBastille as the embodiment of despotism reached its pre-revolutionary zenith ina pamphlet [printed in 1783] by the eloquent journalist Linguet. Its frontispiecedepicts the king, Louis XVI, freeing unjustly imprisoned victims above thecaption: ‘May you be free and live!”102 (fig. 3.8). On July 14, 1789, a group of menand women led by Théroigne de Méricourt (called “the amazon of Liege”°3)went to the Bastille prison to deliver its prisoners. When they arrived at theentrance of the prison and the man in charge refused to open the doors, therewas a fight and he was decapitated on the spot. The prison was then opened andthe seven prisoners found inside were liberated.After the taking of the Bastille, popular images linked this minor event to earliermythologies of this prison as a sign of despotic power. The power of the “takingof the Bastille” to speak about larger issues was so effective that it was used inmore than 150 different broadsides diffused throughout Europe. “As a symbol ofthe transition from the old Régime ‘despotism’ to the new era of ‘Liberty’, [theBastille] functions as a semantic turntable.”104 The caricature entitled “Réveil duTier Etat” (The Awakening of the Third Estate) for example, depicts a clergymanand an aristocrat horrified by the Third Estate awakening from centuries of101 A lettre de cachet was a letter signed by the king allowing the arrest of anyone without proof or trial.102 Roif Reichardt, ‘Prints: Images of the Bastille,’ Revolution in Print: the press in France 1775-1800, ed. Robert Darnton andDaniel Roche (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 227.103 Théroigne de Méricourt, who started a literary salon only for women, was given a golden sabre for having led the peopleto the Bastille on July14. On October 5, she again led the women to Versailles to ‘bring the king back to Paris. She wasdressed as an amazon with her golden sabre at her belt on one side and a gun on the other. It was then that she wasnicknamed “the Amazon of Liege.”It is interesting to note that none of the prints representing the storming of the Bastille show a woman leading thecrowd. Natalie Zemon Davis explores the possibility that the crowd of October 5 included men dressed as women,afforded the license for transgression by wearing the habits of the ‘irrational sex,’ in her analysis of cross-dressing andcarnival, Women on Top,” Society and Culture in Early Modern France, ed. Natalie Zemon Davis (Stanford: StanfordUniversity Press, 1975).104 Reichardt, ‘Images of the Bastille,’ 226.88M MO JR ESSuitLA BASTILLEETIJR LA DETENTJO,jDE M, IJNGUET,cRfls PAR LUI.MEME.Surrexit C mOrtuir.A IOYDRE.c,DePlmprimerie de T. SPILSBUKY, Swio’wh?.1I. DCC, LXXXIIL.Figure 3.8“MAY YOU BE FREE AND LIVE”“Memories of the Bastille,” engraving by Simon-Nicolas-Henri Linguet, 1783.Reproduced in Robert Darton and Daniel Roche, eds., Revolution in Print(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 227.II89oppression (fig. 3.9). The Bastille is depicted behind the man prone on theground representing the Third Estate. By contiguity, the Bastille comes to signify“popular upheaval”. In another image, “Destruction de la Bastille,” joyous menand women of all ages watch the first stones fall from the top of the walls as thedemolition of the Bastille begins (fig. 3.10). Placed in the foreground, the crowdof onlookers are represented as larger than the prison. The Third Estate is nolonger one man, but is now represented by a calm and jubilant crowd.These images narrate, not the event of the storming of the Bastille per Se, butother stories and ideas that were important to print. In fact Reichardt says, “wehave only recently begun to recognize that the genuine and unique value ofrevolutionary prints as historical sources lies not in their depictions ofindividuals or events but in their symbolic, metaphorical and allegoricalinterpretation of collective ideas and the questions of the day.”°5 All therhetorical forms are at work to develop a myth that will be ideally suited tofound a new national identity, more so than the later key events of therevolution, which were politically more controversial.We might recall that Levi-Strauss locates the impulse to mythologize in the verynature of language itself. “The presumed ‘coherency’ of history which Westernhistorical thought takes as its object of study, is the coherency of myth. And thisis as true of ‘proper’ or conventional narrative historiography as it is ofhistoriography’s more highly schematized counterparts in philosophy ofhistory.”106 Unlike the section on the exhibit about the social context thatattempted to keep fiction and history apart, the section on the Bastille unveiledthe “impulse to mythologize” in the narration of the revolution. Even thoughthis unveiling was restricted to this section, it created a space for “meditation”and activity. Edgar Morin believes this to be fundamental to commemorations:What really is fascinating with the French revolution is that mythin historical action and history is present in mythical action, andthis occurs right from the beginning [with the storming of theBastille]. From the moment that we are capable to confront thiscomplex whirlpool without erasing the inexpiable conflict and thetragedy, then we can obey one of the fundamental demands of allcommemorations: to meditate.’°7105 Ibid., 225.106 Claude Levi-Strauss, Le cru et le cuit (Paris: Plon, 1964), quoted by Hayden White, “Historicism, History and FigurativeImagination,” in History and Theory 14 (1975): 51.107 “Ce qui est veritablement facinant dans Ia Revolution francaise est que le mythe est en action historique et que l’histoireest en action mythique, et cela des le debut, [avec la prise de la Bastille]. Des lors que nous sommes capable d’affronter le90‘1-7JLEVEiL 11(1 TIERS EY 17b1-----‘-# C.j,-._..__Z4k’Figure 3.9AWAKENING OF THE THIRD ESTATE“Le Réveil du Tiers Etat,” 1789 (cat.518). Reproduced from the catalogue of theexhibition, La Revolution francaise, ed. Gaborit, 407.des exigences fondamentales de toute commemoration: méditer.” (Edgar Morin, “89 régénéré” in Le Monde, 9 June 1989, p.2.)- 91— ‘.‘%J.’” .1. . 4_._ 4 ,,,A,....,.- -n ,-te ‘. 1fr-Figure 3.10DESTRUCTION OF THE BASTILLE“Destruction de la Bastille,” color etching by Desrais (cat.516). Reproduced fromthe catalogue of the exhibition, La Révolut ion française, ed. Gaborit, 407.92Destruction as an allegory of the fall of CommunismRevolutionary mythology returned to the present day as the events leading tothe fall of the U.S.S.R. occurred in quick succession during the bicentennial year.A visitor to the exhibit in the morning might have seen the events surroundingthe fall of the Berlin wall live on television the previous night. In a flash, theend of monarchy portrayed in the fragments of statues at the exhibits took on apowerful meaning as one lived through the fall of the Soviet State with peopletoppling statues of Stalin.On Bastille day, the 14th of July, Mikhail Gorbachev sent an open letter toFrancois Mitterand as the president of the G7 summit asking to be accepted into“our common house of Europe.” More specifically, Gorbachev shared histhoughts on the problems of world economy. “Our perestroika,” he wrote, “isinseparable from a politique tending towards full participation in the worldeconomy. This tendency is determined by our direct interest in economy. Bydirecting the world economy towards an open structure, the rest of the worldwill only gain by achieving access to the market of the USSR.”°8 In this letterGorbachev not only spoke of the benefits of East-West economic cooperation, butwas suggesting a joint discussion about the problems of the “world economy,”especially global debt. Looking back, this letter symbolically represents thebeginning of the end of the cold war. Like the walls of the Bastille, the wall ofBerlin came down that same year.The interplay between the mythology of the French Revolution and politicaldecisions in Moscow do not stop at the symbolic date of the 14th of July as apostmark on Gobachev’s letter. Until the mid 1970s, Russian historians agreedthat the revolution of 1789, ideologically universal, was a bourgeois revolution,the Declaration of Human Rights was purely formal, and the Robespierreistgovernment of 1793 gave a model of political energy but not a model of society.The Russian revolution of 1917 was seen as having gone beyond the Frenchrevolution by realizing the promises of 1793 and by putting in place aCommunist State. But from the 1970s onward, this view began to be drasticallyrevised. In an essay on the changing images of the French revolution, EdgarMorin explains that the sense of emancipation associated with the Octoberrevolution was dismantled by a series of auto-demystifications in the U.S.S.R.,108 “Notre perestroika, écrit-il, est inseparable de la politique tendant a la participation pleine et entière a léconomiemondiale. Cette orientation-là est determinée par notre interet economique direct. Mais a lévidence le reste du mondene pourra que gagner a louverture en direction de léconomie mondiale dun marché tel que celui de 1URRS. Translatedfrom Russian and published in Le Monde, 18 July 1989.93China (with the trial of the Gang of Four) and in Cambodia (with the atrocities ofPol Pot) -- all of which unfolded at about the same time.All of this has helped to resurrect the idea of democracy (which nolonger appears as the ideological mask of the bourgeoisie) andregenerated human rights (no longer seen as a carrier of false andformal freedoms but as the only true freedom). What is trulyextraordinary, is that this process happens in the heart ofcommunist countries, where people aspire to pluralism andfreedom in the midst of enormous totalitarian states. [...]Gorbachev insisted that democratization is the horizon ofcommunism for the end of the millennium. And shortly later,thousands of students are singing the Marseillaise in Beijing. If inthe schools of the USSR the students learned that 1917 was thefuture of 1789, 1789 has become the future of communism. Little bylittle, 1789 became the bright star of the future, in the East, incountries of Africa, in Asia and even in Latin America.109Ricoeur has investigated the shared territory between historical events andhuman actions, and in that respect, the rewriting of history by the communistsgives a poignancy to issues of historical narratives. It seems that the “internaldynamic” of the exhibition insisted on the values of a unified Europe and the“ability to project itself outside of the work” was done by history itself.To retrace my way through the exhibition, I have said at the beginning that thecurators displayed the art objects with little or no guidance for the visitor. Iproposed to conceive of the exhibit as a landscape of ruins that carry in themstories that need to be uncovered. The first story was one about originals whichI anchored in the Marxist interpretation of history. The Marxist narrativeinterprets the European story depicted in these original works by seeing a linkbetween the oppressed of the different countries. The woman who remembersthe event with the flour bags is moved not because these people were French, butbecause events like these ones (according to her) helped to gather a revolutionarymomentum that brought people together to fight for their freedom. Then, Ianchored the second story about “social context” present in the exhibition in thetheories of the Annales School. In my criticism of the scientific and impersonalconception of the social context, I showed that if indeed a European context wasshared by the different countries it was based on a sentimental attitude towardthe past. The display of agricultural implements created a narrative about a lostagrarian life.109 Morin, 89 regénere.’ Edgar Morin is head of research at the Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).94The fragments of the royal statues and the narrative undercurrent of body partsin caricatures were interpreted as a story about destruction and creation. Theseries of events happening before and during the bicentennial in communistcountries were brought into the interpretation of the exhibit as an allegory of thefall of Communism. The mythology surrounding the destruction of the Bastilleand royal statues were read allegorically as the end of the Communist empire inEurope. Both the re-writing of history by Russian intellectuals and the eventthat occurred in the political realm in Communist states, during the bicentennialyear, brought the historical narrative about the French Revolution intoperspective.In this chapter the issue as to where the exhibit took place was treated in acursory manner. In the next chapter, I will investigate the relationship betweenplace and memory in greater depth and explore the politics of memory of a sitethat was seen a great deal during the Revolution. The organizers of thebicentennial wanted to recall its most positive aspects but other memoriesemerged from the shadows of the past.95CHAPTER FOURTHE ARCHITECTURE OF MEMORYAs I walk along the edge of Place de la Concorde, instead of the usual car fumesand traffic, there is a strong smell of pine -- inhaling this, I feel both relaxed andrevived. The resinous scent comes from a vast wooden amphitheatre that hasbeen built here to welcome, for one night, over 16,000 spectators to watch theBastille Day parade (fig. 4.1). A dozen workers dressed in dark blue overalls arebusy attaching banisters to the bleacher stairs. The site is well-guarded by policewho keep people from approaching the construction of this temporarymonument. Passers-by comment on the atmosphere of serenity as they walk andlook at the amphitheatre. A silence punctuated only by the sounds ofwoodworking seems to keep people there who, half-curious, half-hypnotized, arewatching the slow but total transformation of a space they know so well.From an article in Liberation, “600 linear meters of wood, 60,000 screws and sixweeks of relentless work have been necessary to erect these ‘revolutionarybleachers” -- ‘revolutionary’, because they are a replica of an amphitheatre thatwas built for the Fête de la Fédération of 1790 (the first anniversary of thestorming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789). It was the day when the newly electedrepresentatives of each department came together from all over France to swearto protect the nation. Over the years, the Festival of Federation and theconstruction of its revolutionary amphitheatre by volunteers has become the“happiest” moment of the French revolution.The amphitheatre built for the bicentennial on Place de la Concorde is aquotation from history, a reconstruction of the bleachers that were built in 1790(fig. 4.2). Mona Ozouf would say that this commemorative act is done in the‘logic of the same’, in order to replicate a gesture that has been invested withsymbolic power.1 Christelle Rebiere, ‘L’obelisque en prend pour son gradin, Liberation, 13 July 1989, p.7.96Figure 4.1REPLICA WOODEN AMPHITHEATRE BUILT ON THE PLACE DE LACONCORDE, 1989Temporary installation designed by Patrick Bouchain as a reconstruction of thetribunes built on the Champs de Mars for the Fête de la Fédération, 1790.Photograph reproduced in Hélène Lipstadt, “Revolutionary Fetes ‘89,” Art inAmerica (Oct 1989): 202.97Figure 4.2THE FEDERATION FESTiVAL ON THE CHAMPS DE MARS, JULY 14, 1790Anonymous engraving, date unknown. Reproduced in Jean Garrigues, Imagesde la Revolution (Paris: Editions Du May, 1989), 18.iL98The memory of the amphitheatre built for the Federation Festival in 1790became detached from its original site on the Champ de Mars but retained animportant place in the Revolutionary imagination once it was rebuilt on Place dela Concorde two centuries later. One might think that only an architecturalhistorian would be able to associate the 1989 amphitheatre built on the Place de laConcorde with the one of 1790, but during the bicentennial, images about theeighteenth century and the revolution were diffused in many ways. Anenormous number of archival images, including many of the Festival ofFederation and its monumental amphitheatre, were reprinted and distributed aspostcards, books, guidebooks and souvenirs. I would propose that the temporaryamphitheatre built on Place de la Concorde, in fact inscribed a double meaning inthe urban landscape through the spatialization of history. The first was aboutproviding sitting for a special crowd of people during the parade and the secondwas about recalling the Festival of the Federation of 1790.In this chapter, I want to investigate the politics of memory and show that eventhough the organizers wanted to spatialize certain historical references, the onesthat were avoided and silenced were still present in many peoples’ minds. Thedouble meaning inscribed in the placement and design of the temporaryamphitheatre opened up the door to other memories associated with thisparticular place. Place de la Concorde provides the material for this argument,but other sites are equally available, like the Place de la Bastille, Place de laNation or even villages in Brittany that carry the memory of the Chouan anti-revolutionary movements.2 But Place de la Concorde offers a clear illustration ofthe allegorical nature of the spatialization of history. It also has the advantage ofbeing the terminus of the Bastille Day Parade. The site was a stage set on whichthe actors of the parade made their entrance, culminating in the climaticmoment of the parade when Jessye Norman, standing in the center of theamphitheatre, sang the National Anthem.I will investigate the amphitheatre through the notion of ‘place of memory’ inorder to unveil the layers of memory, including some that were not explicityrecognized by the organizers. The analysis of revolutionary images reveals thecomplex world of memories associated with a place and their suddenreappearance provoked by a commemorative spectacle. The memories I have2 For an analysis of sites of anti-revoltionary resistance that have become associated with the counter-revolution in general seeed. Garcia, Levy, and Mattei, “Chouan...,’ Revolutions,fin et suite, and Jean Clement Martin, La Vendée, region memoire,La lieux de mémoire, vol.1: La République, ed. Pierre Nora (Paris: Gallimard, 1984).99chosen to explore here are those that were most accessible as images during thebicentennial; these include an image of the construction of the amphitheatre byvolunteers in 1790, a birds eye view of the Festival of the Federation and lastlyone images representing the execution of the king on Place de la Concorde.Many other memories could be explored, but these were widespread andcommon references. The accessibility of these images and the memoriesassociated with them is important to recognize as we move on to their analysis.The Amphitheatre and MemoryThe amphitheatre on Place de la Concorde fulfills both aspects of the archivalobsession described by Pierre Nora -- it preserves the past (as a perfect replica)while it conserves the present (the Place de la Concorde is fundamentallyunchanged by this ephemeral architectural apparition).3 Memory exists in space,it requires a site, whether in the form of books, tapes, monuments or images.For Nora, contemporary sites of memory are not only our libraries, archives, andmuseums but also sites of counter-memory, places meaningful to a communityas symbolic sites of resistance (for example, the site where, in 1871, Parisiancommunards were executed by the army of Versailles).4 Maurice Halbwachsdraws a revealing relationship between the symbolic representation of a placeand its memory in the following manner:As to group members who leave places without seeing them again,who are not involved in the process of their transformation and yetwish to deal with them: they soon create a symbolic representationof these places. The image they conjure up draws its content first,no doubt from the places themselves (at least indirectly, if it isbased on description). But symbolic reflection detaches these placesfrom their physical environment and connects them with thebeliefs of the group. Undoubtedly, the stability of the imagedepends accounts for the fact that beliefs continue. But this stabilityis not at the mercy of physical accidents that transform its objects;the image subsists independently because the believers are unawareof such accidents.53 Pierre Nora says that “the obsession with the archive that marks our age, [is] attempting at once the complete conservationof the present as well as the total preservation of the past.” Pierre Nora, Lieux de Mémoire, Representations 26, Memoryand Counter-Memory (Spring 1989): 3.4 See Madelaine Rebérioux, “Le mur des Fédérés, Rouge sang crache’, Lieux de mémoire, ed. Pierre Nora, vol.1, La Rdpublique(Paris: Gallimard, 1984). David Harvey has shown in his study of nineteeth century Paris, how the Wall of the Fédérésand the Sacré-Coeur in fact operate as two poles of collective memory. See David Harvey, “Monument and Myth”,Consciousness and the Urban Experience (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985)Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory,(Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), 205.100Whether from a medical or cultural point of view, memory needs to be located.This notion is not unique to our times, memory has always depended on real orimaginative places. So it was with mnemonic techniques which existed beforewidespread literacy and the printed word. As Natalie Zemon Davis says,we have learned from Frances Yates how the ancient ‘art ofmemory’ involved associating some text or idea to be rememberedto the image of place. The orator recalled his speech by imagining itas a succession of ‘topoi’ (i.e. ‘places’ and ‘topics’) in a fictivearchitecture; seeing, say, an image of Hercules in the niche of such a‘memory theatre’ prompted the appropriate texts on the Herculeanattributes of strength, cunning, and so on. [These mnemotechniques] survive as patent remedies in the self-help literature ofpopular culture. Nevertheless, Proust’s petite madelaine, MauriceHalbwach’s seminal work on the ‘social frames’ of collectivememory, and even cognitive studies and biological research on the‘location’ of memory in the brain are all reminders that memoryseeks its local habitations.6In other words, places matter in memory. The importance of place in collectivememory will become clear as I investigate the rebuilding of the 1790amphitheatre on a site different from its original location, a shift which createdcertain tensions about its symbolic meaning.The symbolism of the site of memory was underlined in Liberation’s reportage ofthe amphitheatre which described in detail its dimensions and position relativeto other symbolic buildings:surrounding the Concorde obelisk, the whole [amphitheatre]forms a 400-meter-long volume that has been adapted to therectangular form of the plaza. On each side, along the Tuileriesgardens and at the end of the Champs Elysées, there are four largesets of bleachers, that are 60 meters long, facing each other, leavingopen a view corridor from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe. Oneextremity of the hemicycle reaches the Seine river and the other theHotel Crillon and the Maritime Ministry. Two other sets ofbleachers have been erected in a semi-circle of 40 meters long thatequally respects the perspective view that links the Madelainechurch to the National Assembly.7This excerpt from the daily press positions the amphitheatre in a constellation ofmonuments (the Louvre, the Assemblée Nationale, et. al.) that links buildingsconsidered important to the symbolic geography of the city while omitting thoseconsidered irrelevant.6 Natalie Zemon Davis, Introduction,” Representations 26, Memory and Counter-Memory, (Spring 1989): 3. See Frances A. Yates,The Art ofMemory (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966).7 Rebiere, “Lobelisque,’ p.7.101The political context of the amphitheatreExcept for the 150th anniversary which was celebrated (by the Communist Party)on Place de la Bastille as a way to reclaim the site and the working-classneighborhood surrounding it, all major commemorations of the revolutionhave taken place on the Champ de Mars: the Fête de la Fédération in 1790, theFête de l’Etre Supreme in 1793, and the Exposition Universelle in 1889. Today, itis a green lawn at the foot of the Eiffel Tower where people sometimes picnic onSundays. During the planning of the 1989 commemoration, a celebration for theEiffel Tower’s centennial was also underway. Unfortunately for the Socialistssponsoring the bicentennial, it was the politically conservative Mayor of Pariswho intended to throw the party for the tower’s birthday, thus effectivelyremoving the Champ de Mars from consideration as a site for the Socialistbicentennial parade.According to the organizers, Place de la Concorde was the best site for thetemporary amphitheatre: receiving the paraders as they arrived from their longdescent of the Champs Elysees, the plaza would also provide a grandiose settingfor the performance of the Marseillaise by Jessye Norman -- the climacticmoment of the parade. In addition, TV coverage of the paraders coming downthe Champs Elysées would have the Arc de Triomphe inescapably in thebackground -- a visual cue to the audience that this event is taking place in Paris.In fact, the organizers cited the Arc de Triomphe as a necessary geographicalreference for a world audience watching the Bastille Day Parade.8Although neither press nor organizers referred to the amphitheatre as atransplant from the Champ de Mars, its new site was part of a discussion whichraised difficult memories. Unlike certain places which are packaged as “heritage”with little explanation of what this heritage encompasses or what it might meanto us today, the discussion around the Place de la Concorde could not have beenmore specific -- it is one of several sites where the guillotine was erected duringthe revolution and, perhaps because the King was executed here, it has becomethe site most associated with the memory of the guillotine and the Terror.The difficult memories associated with this place are reflected in its changes ofname. In 1772, the open space was first designed as a plaza by the architect8 According to Christian Dupavillon, head of the Grands Travaux et la Mission du Bicentenniare, ‘most people know the Arcde Triomphe. That way, spectators will automatically know that the event is happening in Paris.” From an interviewconducted by the author, July, 1989.102Gabriel and was decorated with a statue of Louis XV riding his horse. During therevolution, the statue was toppled and the plaza appropriately renamed Place dela Revolution in 1792. Louis XVI was executed here in 1793, and MarieAntoinette in 1794. Liberation lists others executed on Place de la Revolution,“the guillotine, set up near the Tuileries gates, also executed Charlotte Corday,Danton, Saint Just, and Robespierre; all in all, 1,115 heads have rolled.”9 Theassociation between the plaza and the revolution was such that Napoleonchanged its name to Place de la Concorde. “As the symbol of concord andnational unity, [the architect] Hittorff in a daring and innovative gesture locateda politically ‘neutral’ 240-ton Egyptian obelisk -- a ‘gift’ from the viceroy of Egyptto the people of France -- in the centre of the wide-open square.”1° The guillotinewas still operating but away from its site of spectacle, moved to the hidden andsecure environment of the prison courtyard.It is revealing that when Jeannenay publicly explained the reasons for buildingthe amphitheatre on Place de la Concorde, he omitted the dark memoriesassociated with this site. He said that “the double emphasis expressed best, thehappy beginning of the revolutionary process where the Bastille represents amoment of force, spontaneity and liberation, and the Fête de la Fédération a daywhen representatives of each department came to ‘swear to defend and conserveliberty’ -- expressing through their presence their adherence to the new orderfounded a year before.” Paris is ‘en fête’ and nothing can disturb that.But the historical references embodied in the amphitheatre of Place de laConcorde and the Bastille Day parade created a complex juxtaposition. First, theamphitheatre is an architectural monument that recalls the participation of thevolunteers who built it. Secondly, the built space refers to the Fête de laFédération and, by extension, the beginning of democratic representation.Thirdly, the plaza is a place of memory of the king’s execution and the guillotine-- one of the most enduring symbols of the revolution. Most people who sawimages of the circus filled with spectators and paraders drew, consciously or not,from these three references. In this interplay of references, the commemorationhad to overcome a difficulty: the dark memories of the Revolution which9 “Les Champs, avant la fievre de vendredi soir...,’ in Liberation, 13 July 1989.10 Christine Boyer, City of Collective Memory, Its Historical Imagery and Architectural Entertainments (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,1995), 3511 Paraphrased from Jean-Noel Jeannenay in Programme, des Manifestations du Bicentenaire de is Revolution Francaise (Paris:Mission du Bicentenaire/Mundoprint, 1989).103inevitably reappeared as the revolutionary circus were displaced from theirtraditional site on the Champs de Mars to the Place de la Concorde.As I begin an analysis of the three images that I have gathered into aconstellation, I am struck by the importance of the circular form. The guillotine,placed in the centre of the plaza, is surrounded by people who come to witnessthe execution and the amphitheatre of 1790 is built out of bleachers placed in anoval so that everyone can see everyone else. In the late eighteenth century, thecircle was one of the dominant forms in architectural discourse.12 Through ananalysis of specific archival images, I will explore the centripetal effects of thecircle (bleachers facing the centre of the 1790 amphitheatre), and then turn to thecentrifugal force radiating out from the centre of the circle where the execution istaking place. But first, I need to unveil the images that depict the construction ofthe amphitheatre. As I will show, the spontaneous participation of thepopulation to build the commemorative monument for the Federation Festivalof 1790 has been constructed as the happiest time of the revolution.The first memory: the construction of the amphitheatre in 1790The appropriation of spaces, the breaking down of barriers was part of theeveryday experience of the early revolutionary years. As Ozouf says, Thebeating down of gates, the crossing of castle moats, walking at one’s ease in placeswhere one was forbidden to enter: the appropriation of a certain space, whichhad to be opened and broken into, was the first delight of the Revolution.”3Appropriation of space came to be visually represented in images depictingpopular participation in the construction of the amphitheatre on the Champ deMars, but people’s participation in the appropriation of space is inscribedaccording to certain ideological constraints that I will now try to uncover.This anonymous print (fig. 4.3) of 1790, represents people’s participation in theappropriation and transformation of a known place, the field in front of themilitary school in the outskirts of Paris, into a symbolic space, the amphitheatreto celebrate the Fête de la Fédération. The amphitheatre is intended to welcomethe representatives of all the districts and departments of the country. Reunited12 From its repressive radial form characterised by the panopticon, or the liberal form proposed for the industrial town ofChaux, to the utopian sphere of the cenotaph and the hemicycle of the amphitheatre, it is important to point out thatalthough the circle was seen as a pure form mimicking the perfection of nature, the experience of the architecture wasconceived in terms of the senses and not in terms of a non-physical abstraction. For the symbolism of the circle in late-eighteenth century philosophy, see George Poulet,The Metamorphoses of the Circle (Paris: Plon, 1961), especially chap. 5,“Rousseau.” See also Monique Mosser and Daniel Rabreau, “Circus, amphitheatre, colosseum: Revolutionary Paris as anew Rome,” Lotus 39 (III, 1983): 108-118.13 Mona Ozouf, The Festivals of the French Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 23.104lw- Jkiir (Jtz,ie’n.j fravazlleur.r Cianip a7’ .AIar.rA.zr (‘..,, .l. ]‘d.Pie e//..jt-p.- ,zr.4c n.., rçZa:/’tA. (neu. .1.. AIavSen,e- dnndh.cZwe.nw else aRaAlej4 a..,‘‘9’reante,r,..t eef.*.J aSi,e..*-e4t 0p d.a!te-J &1.——JIa.. 1.. £Xal.-.4eLe-L.,, Rnz.-.‘.-- .4,1. (Aimp ne/.r./,l174Rnuknd,Jrn,e4’e’.4,1 Intne• j .Yn. :€An (Xip de m,Figure 4.3“TO THE GOOD CITIZEN WORKERS OF THE CHAMPS DE MARS”Anonymous engraving, 1790. Reproduced in Fetes et Revolution (Paris: D.A.A.de la Ville de Paris et la Ville de Dijon, 1989), 59.A,, i4... .‘l.t.’,1., 1..,41.l. Ge Alan,-.!.‘,.G .t--d.-4nt.,,-Ia. ..i. (4.,..,,, ,, ALe,,‘.-.n’ la,&.. .‘d/.,,,,“ iefe .,pp,--.tc€ .4/r-.-Aaree,n/ n.a.s.A/c,4 3--,di.,1,s’. .,W,,e,..105in one place, in the words of Bailly, the mayor of Paris, they will “take the civicoath to be united, to love each other for ever, and to help each other if thesituation may arise. I propose that this meeting, this general federation, bepledged on the next 14th of July, a day we all see as freedom. This day will bedesignated for people to swear and keep their liberty.”14 The 14th of July, ofcourse, referred to the taki