Droits de l’homme: Contre la dictature du vêtement, salopes de tous les pays unissez vous ! (Why can we be arrested for being naked in the street ? NY erotic photographer turns human rights activist)

23 mars, 2014
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/be/Duchamp_LargeGlass.jpghttp://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/AFP_Getty-513178632.jpgSimonehttp://comunidade.sol.pt/photos/isabel25/images/2133034/original.aspxIls se partagent mes vêtements, ils tirent au sort ma tunique. Psaumes 22: 18
Les soldats, après avoir crucifié Jésus, prirent ses vêtements, et ils en firent quatre parts, une part pour chaque soldat. Ils prirent aussi sa tunique, qui était sans couture, d’un seul tissu depuis le haut jusqu’en bas. Et ils dirent entre eux:Ne la déchirons pas, mais tirons au sort à qui elle sera. Cela arriva afin que s’accomplît cette parole de l’Écriture: Ils se sont partagé mes vêtements, Et ils ont tiré au sort ma tunique. Jean (19: 23-24)
Dans un entretien (…), Duchamp révèle que cette "mariée" est un concept qui prend sa source dans un stand de fête foraine de province : les jeunes gens devaient envoyer des projectiles sur une représentation de femme en robe de mariée afin de la déshabiller, ses atours ne tenant qu’à un fil. Wikipedia (La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même, Marcel Duchamp, 1923)
Le grand verre a été qualifié de machine d’amour, mais c’est en fait une machine de souffrance. Ses compartiments supérieurs et inférieurs sont séparés les uns des autres pour toujours par un horizon désigné comme "habits de la mariée". La mariée est suspendue, peut-être à une corde, dans une cage isolée, ou crucifiée. Les célibataires restent au-dessous, à gauche avec la seule possibilité d’une masturbation fiévreuse, angoissée. Janis Mink
J’ai résumé L’Étranger, il y a longtemps, par une phrase dont je reconnais qu’elle est très paradoxale : “Dans notre société tout homme qui ne pleure pas à l’enterrement de sa mère risque d’être condamné à mort.” Je voulais dire seulement que le héros du livre est condamné parce qu’il ne joue pas le jeu. En ce sens, il est étranger à la société où il vit, où il erre, en marge, dans les faubourgs de la vie privée, solitaire, sensuelle. (…) On ne se tromperait donc pas beaucoup en lisant, dans L’Étranger, l’histoire d’un homme qui, sans aucune attitude héroïque, accepte de mourir pour la vérité. Il m’est arrivé de dire aussi, et toujours paradoxalement, que j’avais essayé de figurer, dans mon personnage, le seul Christ que nous méritions. Camus (préface américaine à L’Etranger)
Le thème du poète maudit né dans une société marchande (…) s’est durci dans un préjugé qui finit par vouloir qu’on ne puisse être un grand artiste que contre la société de son temps, quelle qu’elle soit. Légitime à l’origine quand il affirmait qu’un artiste véritable ne pouvait composer avec le monde de l’argent, le principe est devenu faux lorsqu’on en a tiré qu’un artiste ne pouvait s’affirmer qu’en étant contre toute chose en général. Albert Camus
Depuis que l’ordre religieux est ébranlé – comme le christianisme le fut sous la Réforme – les vices ne sont pas seuls à se trouver libérés. Certes les vices sont libérés et ils errent à l’aventure et ils font des ravages. Mais les vertus aussi sont libérées et elles errent, plus farouches encore, et elles font des ravages plus terribles encore. Le monde moderne est envahi des veilles vertus chrétiennes devenues folles. Les vertus sont devenues folles pour avoir été isolées les unes des autres, contraintes à errer chacune en sa solitude. Chesterton
Personne ne nous fera croire que l’appareil judiciaire d’un Etat moderne prend réellement pour objet l’extermination des petits bureaucrates qui s’adonnent au café au lait, aux films de Fernandel et aux passades amoureuses avec la secrétaire du patron. René Girard
Il faut se souvenir que le nazisme s’est lui-même présenté comme une lutte contre la violence: c’est en se posant en victime du traité de Versailles que Hitler a gagné son pouvoir. Et le communisme lui aussi s’est présenté comme une défense des victimes. Désormais, c’est donc seulement au nom de la lutte contre la violence qu’on peut commettre la violence. René Girard
L’inauguration majestueuse de l’ère "post-chrétienne" est une plaisanterie. Nous sommes dans un ultra-christianisme caricatural qui essaie d’échapper à l’orbite judéo-chrétienne en "radicalisant" le souci des victimes dans un sens antichrétien. (…) Jusqu’au nazisme, le judaïsme était la victime préférentielle de ce système de bouc émissaire. Le christianisme ne venait qu’en second lieu. Depuis l’Holocauste , en revanche, on n’ose plus s’en prendre au judaïsme, et le christianisme est promu au rang de bouc émissaire numéro un. (…) Le mouvement antichrétien le plus puissant est celui qui réassume et "radicalise" le souci des victimes pour le paganiser. (…) Comme les Eglises chrétiennes ont pris conscience tardivement de leurs manquements à la charité, de leur connivence avec l’ordre établi, dans le monde d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, elles sont particulièrement vulnérables au chantage permanent auquel le néopaganisme contemporain les soumet. René Girard
La société du spectacle, [selon] Roger Caillois qui analyse la dimension ludique dans la culture (…), c’est la dimension inoffensive de la cérémonie primitive. Autrement dit lorsqu’on est privé du mythe, les paroles sacrées qui donnent aux œuvres pouvoir sur la réalité, le rite se réduit à un ensemble réglés d’actes désormais inefficaces qui aboutissent finalement à un pur jeu, loedos. Il donne un exemple qui est extraordinaire, il dit qu’au fond les gens qui jouent au football aujourd’hui, qui lancent un ballon en l’air ne font que répéter sur un mode ludique, jocus, ou loedos, société du spectacle, les grands mythes anciens de la naissance du soleil dans les sociétés où le sacré avait encore une valeur. (…) Nous vivons sur l’idée de Malraux – l’art, c’est ce qui reste quand la religion a disparu. Jean Clair
Le gros problème des rapports entre les sexes aujourd’hui, c’est qu’il y a des contresens, de la part des hommes en particulier, sur ce que veut dire le vêtement des femmes. Beaucoup d’études consacrées aux affaires de viol ont montré que les hommes voient comme des provocations des attitudes qui sont en fait en conformité avec une mode vestimentaire. Très souvent, les femmes elles-mêmes condamnent les femmes violées au prétexte qu'" elles l’ont bien cherché ".  Pierre Bourdieu
Tout le monde dénonce les normes de silhouette imposées par les médias et elles perdurent étrangement, pourtant certains journalistes des pages société des magazines féminins sont excédés par les dossiers régime sortant systématiquement avant l’été et essaient de s’y opposer. Pourquoi? Les normes obligatoires sont de moins en moins nombreuses, tout est mis en flottement, les gens sont complètement perdus et angoissés et ils n’ont qu’une demande, surtout adressée aux médias: qu’est-ce qui est bien?, qu’est-ce qui est mal? Ou version plus soft: comment font les autres ? La plage est une usine à fabriquer le mot “normal”. C’est celui qui revient le plus fréquemment, jusqu’à la définition d’un beau sein normal. Mais la catégorie la plus intéressante est celle du “trop beau” sein (le mot a été employé), qui dans d’autres contextes a des avantages évidents, mais qui sur la plage, parce qu’il accroche trop le regard, provoque chez la personne qui le possède une moindre liberté de mouvement parce que le regard glisse moins. Cet exemple illustre la fabrication d’une norme par les gens. Ce n’est ni une norme explicite ni une norme obligatoire, on peut en sortir, mais quand on en sort, sur la plage par exemple, on subit le poids des regards. (…) Enlever le haut rend la drague plus difficile. Les hommes doivent montrer qu’ils savent se tenir. Jean-Claude Kauffmann
Nous revendiquons nos atours de filles de joie, notre propension à montrer nos genoux, nos bas résilles et nos oripeaux polissons, car la révolution se fera en talons!  Yagg (collectif de lesbiennes)
I like to wear tops that show my cleavage and show off my ladies. If that makes me a slut, then I’m a slut. Anne Watson (organiser, Australian Sex Party)
I’m proud to be a slut too, it’s all about “inner sexual confidence”.  Katherine Feeney (journaliste)
Aujourd’hui ce que nous faisons c’est SE RÉ-APPROPRIER le mot “salope”. En REPRENANT le mot salope nous lui ENLEVONS SA FORCE. Les gays ont repris le mot ‘queer’, et bravo à eux. Aujourd’hui les femmes et les hommes de Melbourne reprennent à leur compte le mot SALOPE. Leslie Cannold
While I support all efforts to challenge violence against women in all its manifestations – my blog is a witness to the global level of that violence – I hesitate to join the marching ranks. I welcome any confrontation with those who would blame the victim in rape. No woman deserves rape or invites sexual assault. I support the basic intention of the march. But I fear it has become more about the right to be ‘a slut’ than about the right to be free from violence. (…) Is it about mocking and sending up, or owning and embracing? Some organisers and supporters say it’s about reclaiming the word slut, using it as a term of empowerment for women. Some say it’s satire, a send-up, a mockery, about emptying the word of its power by making fun of it. (…) Using slut as the flagship word for this new movement puts women in danger through giving men even more license to think about women in a way that suits them, and not as targets of violence and terrible social discrimination. (…) The men chanting “We Love sluts!” don’t seem to be picking up on any satire. Why would they? Porn culture reinforces the idea that all women are sluts. Slut walks marginalise women and girls who want to protest violence against women but do not want ‘own’ or represent the word ‘slut’. I fear mainstreaming the term even further will increase harassment of women and girls because ‘slut’ will be seen as some kind of compliment. (…) The men who are responding to this message are not getting the irony at all … Men want women to be sluts and now they’re buying in. Gail Dines
As teachers who travel around the country speaking about sexual violence, pornography and feminism, we hear stories from women students who feel intense pressure to be sexually available "on demand". These students have grown up in a culture in which hypersexualized images of young women are commonplace and where hardcore porn is the major form of sex education for young men. They have been told over and over that in order to be valued in such a culture, they must look and act like sluts, while not being labeled slut because the label has dire consequences including being blamed for rape, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-mutilation. Gail Dines and Wendy J Murphy
Depuis longtemps, les prostituées de rues se déguisent en pute pour bien expliquer: le rimmel, les bas-résilles, c’est moi qui vend la marchandise, j’annonce la couleur, laissez la petite secrétaire ou la mère de famille qui fait ses courses.  On savait à quoi s’en tenir.  Mais les marchands de fringues, de musique, de régimes et de cosmétiques ont su convaincre les femmes qu’être un objet était valorisant.  Et que montrer son piercing au nombril était chouette, que le string qui dépasse, la jarretière du bas auto-fixant, la bretelle de soutien-gorge était chouette et libérée.  Bref, la femme marchandise était conquérante, adulée, victorieuse. Et devenait l’étalon. Comme on imposait le voile dans d’autres pays et d’autres cultures, on imposait (moins brutalement mais plus sournoisement, certes) en modèle l’échancré, le transparent, le push-up, le moulant, le fendu, l’épilé, le siliconé. Ce sont ces fausses putes, les "salopes" médiatiques, de Madonna à Britney Spears en passant par Beyoncé qui, en vendant leur cul moulé et gigotant à longueur de vidéo clip ont promu la femme hypersexualisée, libertine et aguicheuse. Et fière de l’être.  "Dior j’adore" nous dit une bouche entr’ouverte et transpirante.  Le Perrier jaillit sur un corps bronzé, et la miss Wonderbra nous dit de la regarder dans les yeux.  La Saint Valentin, une débauche (sans jeu de mot) de peaux montrées pour vendre de la lingerie.  (…) Vous avez vu comment s’habillent les présentatrices télé?  Karine Lemarchand, Melissa Theuriau, Daphné Roulié, Anne-Sophie-Lapix, et des dizaines d’autres ont été choisie pour leur Q. S. (Quotient sexuel) AVANT leur QI.  Normal, sinon elles se feraient zapper entre les pubs qui montrent des filles sublimes.  Forum-doctissimo
“Why can we be arrested for being naked in the street, when as human beings, we are born naked?” I can understand that it would be socially unacceptable or morally discouraged, but for it to be in some cases prohibited by law…? This all seemed quite bizarre and really more so a violation of human rights. Erica Simone
There were a few times when I would manage to capture a wonderful image, but I was out of focus or some element in the photograph didn’t work. Overall, despite the technical challenges, I was quite lucky. In some cases, yes, I definitely needed the cooperation of other people in the photograph to capture what I wanted, but most of them were done guerilla-style. (…) The project is not about performance, but about photography. I didn’t feel that I was performing when producing the photos, but rather, just trying to capture an iconic image. I was never nude for that long, typically 20-30 seconds, and the whole time I focused on the other side of the camera, not the people watching or what’s going on in the street. My goal is to go in, get the shot, and quickly move away from the crime scene. It’s about the end image, not the moment in itself. (…) No actually, no one has ever overtly expressed discontent or being offended during my shoots. Most people laugh or applaud. I don’t think my physique or intentions are offensive to most people. Had I run around a church or a playground in my birthday suit—it would probably be a different story.(…)  Possibly, if I had been very out of shape, the collection could have been even more popular, because people would have been even more shocked: “How could this person possibly feel comfortable running around naked?” This brings up other questions such as “Why would one person feel more or less comfortable being naked just because of the way they look?” Some models are extremely insecure, the same way some overweight people are nudists. I don’t think one has anything to do with the other. (…) Of course I would love to eventually be financially secure enough to be able to lead a stable life with the ability to make certain choices and as anyone, I would love for my work to be successful for my own sense of accomplishment. But more importantly, if I could use my skills and social position to make a difference and to help people, then this drive would make much more sense and have much more of an impact. I am a lot more motivated to make a difference than to be a famous photographer for its own sake, so hopefully they’ll go hand in hand. (…) but I don’t think it takes a supermodel to get where you want in life. I do often use my feminine “powers” to get the pictures I want. Of course, I’ve found myself flirting with an old man to get his picture or batting my eye-lashes to get past authorities. As a woman, I think it’s a God-given right to use those charms! While men have their advantages, women have theirs and I feel it is fair game to rock what you have. (…)  I’m not too worried about what dealers and collectors want from artists. I’m only interested in what I want to do, since that’s what makes me happy. I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to develop a style fully regardless, if that’s what I wanted to do. For me, it’s all experiment and experience and as long as I keep learning and producing more and more interesting work, while paying rent, that’s all that matters for me. Erica Simone
Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen est né d’une interrogation à propos des vêtements et de leur importance dans la société d’aujourd’hui. La mode et les habits que nous portons valent comme un langage : ils nous permettent de dresser un portrait silencieux de qui nous sommes et de qui nous voulons être, offrant à la société une impression de nous-mêmes — quelle qu’elle puisse être. La mode tend aussi à nous différencier et à nous placer dans des catégories sociales variées, ainsi qu’à traduire un certain état d’esprit ou un sentiment particulier. Cet outil est assez précieux pour la société et comme la plupart des gens, j’utilise mes vêtements comme une manière de définir ma propre image. Dans une ville comme New York, l’industrie de la mode a un impact massif : les gens ont tendance à être très concernés par leur apparence et ce qu’elle traduit en termes sociaux, ce que j’ai pu constater quand j’ai photographié la Fashion Week il y a quelques années. Comme j’observais cette assemblée de gens très conscients d’eux-mêmes, plus intéressés par les soldes à Barney’s que par les sans-abri sur lesquels ils butaient dans la rue, j’ai commencé à me demander : « Comment serait le monde si nous étions tous nus ? Que se passerait-il si nous n’avions pas nos vêtements pour définir qui nous voulons être ou comment nous voulons nous sentir en tant qu’individus ? Si nous ne pouvions représenter notre statut social pour être traités comme nous le désirons par les autres ? Si tout ce que nous avions, c’était nos corps ? »Ces questions ont soulevé de nombreux problèmes et ces problèmes à leur tour de nouvelles questions. De là est né mon projet photographique. Armée de mon trépied et d’une bonne dose d’adrénaline, j’ai parcouru les rues nue, pour découvrir ce que serait une journée typique à New York dans ces conditions.  Erica Simone
Je ne me considère pas comme une nudiste ou une exhibitionniste, mais comme une artiste qui pose des questions à la société. Me sentant bien dans ma peau, la nudité ne me semble pas quelque chose d’effrayant. Le corps relève de l’essence humaine, animale. Que certains aient l’esprit puritain au point d’être offensés par un corps nu constitue, à mes yeux, un mystère. Certes, je conçois que la nudité ne se prête pas à toutes les situations, et que certains pourraient l’utiliser de manière malveillante. Pour autant, le fait que la loi nous interdise d’être nu en public, c’est-à-dire d’évoluer dans l’état le plus primitif et naturel qui soit, cela me rend folle. La nudité n’a jamais tué personne. Ce n’est pas le cas des armes à feu qui, elles, sont autorisées aux États-Unis. Dans ce pays, posséder un pistolet est bien plus acceptable que d’être nu en dehors de sa salle de bain ! (…) S’habiller, c’est s’exprimer. À sa seule tenue, on peut déterminer si un individu est riche, s’il est "cool" ou non, s’il a du goût, s’il est propre sur lui, si c’est un homme d’affaires, un voyou… Ainsi la société met-elle des étiquettes sur les gens. De ce fait, je m’interroge : comment serait la vie sans vêtements ? Comment interpréterions-nous la vision d’autrui ? Comment sélectionnerions-nous nos amis sans les repères fournis par les styles vestimentaires ? Traiterait-on les gens différemment ? La façon dont on jauge habituellement nos semblables s’effondrerait. Peut-être que l’on deviendrait plus attentif au regard de la personne qui est en face de nous, à l’énergie qu’elle dégage. Peut-être que l’on deviendrait plus intuitif. Qui sait ? (…) Je partage probablement un certain nombre de choses avec beaucoup de groupes militants, qu’ils soient féministes ou humanistes. "Nue York" soulève inévitablement la question du féminisme. Cela dit, je n’ai pas conçu le projet sous cet angle. Il s’agit avant tout d’interroger les gens en tant qu’êtres humains. Si mes photos poussent les spectateurs à se poser des questions sur le rôle des vêtements dans notre société, ou si la série sert de point de départ à d’autres réflexions, alors je considérerai ma mission comme réussie. Erica Simone
Erica Simone est née à Knoxville, Tennessee. Après avoir passé sa vie entre Los Angeles, Paris et New York, Erica photographie la jungle de New York. Ses images sont publiées dans de nombreux magazines inernationaux tels que National Geographic, PHOTO, the Daily News, El Mundo, La Repubblica, Whitewall Magazine, PDN et beaucoup d’autres… L’Oeil de la photographie
Vous êtes photographe? Peintre? Vous êtes en panne d’inspiration? Mettez du sein et de la fesse dans vos oeuvres!!! Ca marche à coup sur car c’est immanquablement relayé par les médias! diabolodenfer méphisto
Comment sélectionnerait-on nos amis ? J’ai bien une petite idée… Les mal foutus seraient peut-être bien seuls... Gaëlle Rosier
"Ce projet n’est pas à proprement parler quelque chose de facile à mener, mais j’apprécie les montées d’adrénaline." dixit notre belle photographe En tout cas, plus agréable à regarder que l’urinoir de notre Marcel national. On peut lui proposer de faire cela sur la place Tahrir en Egypte. Là, elle aurait sûrement une overdose d’adrénaline ! gerald B
Question soft : Elle laisse son soutif pendant les séances d’UV ou elle est partie en vacances au Qatar ? Bernard Palux
Des photos de femmes se baladant à poil en ville, comme ici, ce n’est pas ce qui manque, et depuis longtemps. Mais, ce n’est pas correct, pas féministe, c’est immoral, car elles ont le culot de prétendre y trouver du plaisir. Shocking. Impossible à entendre dans ce 21e siècle où la presse meanstream prétend nier la différence des sexes. Il y a certainement un horrible mâle derrière tout ça. En revanche, en enfumant ces nouveaux moralisateurs avec un discours pseudo politique, ça devient soudain révolutionnaire. Et les bobos peuvent regarder tranquillement des photos de cul sans se cacher. Décidément, la Com a des ressources insoupçonnées. andro mede

L’érotisme serait-il ce qui reste quand l’art a disparu ?

A l’heure où, armée de ses seuls seins nus et d’une tronçonneuse, une dissidente réussit à venir à bout d’une croix de bois commémorant les victimes du génocide ukrainien

Et où, de Toronto à Boston et Melbourne et de Paris à Londres et Amsterdam, nos salopes bravent l’enfer de nos rues pour réhabiliter plus de 2 000 ans d’expérience accumulée du "plus vieux métier du monde" …

Le Pays autoproclamé des droits de l’homme va-t-il devoir accorder l’asile politique et un nouveau timbre

A l’autoportraitiste érotique Erica Simone qui, armée elle aussi de sa seule irréprochable plastique et d’un évident sens de l’autopromotion, se dévoue corps et âme à la défense des droits de l’homme (?) dans la jungle puritaine de Manhattan ?

PHOTOS. Nue à New York contre la dictature du vêtement

Cyril Bonnet

Le Nouvel Observateur

22-03-2014

En tenue d’Ève dans la Grosse Pomme. Tel est le programme de "Nue York", série d’autoportraits dans lesquels la photographe professionnelle Erica Simone se promène dans le plus simple appareil au sein de célèbre ville américaine.

Ne la qualifiez pas d’exhibitionniste ! Cette photographe éclectique et aguerrie, passée par plusieurs continents et de prestigieuses publications, revendique une démarche artistique et a quelques messages à faire passer. Sur l’illégalité de la nudité qui la "rend folle", d’une part ; sur le carcan social dans lequel les vêtements enferment leurs propriétaires, d’autre part. En fil rouge, une même volonté de susciter la réflexion à travers des images ludiques et inattendues. Interview.

Comment se déroule une séance photo type pour la série "Nue York" ?

- Je passe beaucoup de temps à me promener en ville avec un ami pour trouver des scènes intéressantes, propices à des scénarios et des situations qui permettent de s’amuser. Il y a ensuite une longue phase d’élaboration de la composition de l’image, puis d’attente de l’instant décisif. Lorsqu’il survient, j’enlève mes vêtements et on commence à prendre les photos. En tout, je ne reste nue qu’une ou deux minutes. Trois si j’estime qu’il faut reprendre une autre série de clichés.

Quelles sont les réactions des passants ?

- Il arrive qu’ils ne me remarquent même pas. Sinon, je ne reçois que des réactions positives. Les gens rient, applaudissent, ou encore s’exclament : "Only in New York !" ("Uniquement à New York !") Je n’ai jamais eu de problème. Et je fais de mon mieux pour éviter la police. Ce projet n’est pas à proprement parler quelque chose de facile à mener, mais j’apprécie les montées d’adrénaline.

Quel message souhaitez-vous diffuser ?

- Je ne me considère pas comme une nudiste ou une exhibitionniste, mais comme une artiste qui pose des questions à la société. Me sentant bien dans ma peau, la nudité ne me semble pas quelque chose d’effrayant. Le corps relève de l’essence humaine, animale. Que certains aient l’esprit puritain au point d’être offensés par un corps nu constitue, à mes yeux, un mystère.

Certes, je conçois que la nudité ne se prête pas à toutes les situations, et que certains pourraient l’utiliser de manière malveillante. Pour autant, le fait que la loi nous interdise d’être nu en public, c’est-à-dire d’évoluer dans l’état le plus primitif et naturel qui soit, cela me rend folle. La nudité n’a jamais tué personne. Ce n’est pas le cas des armes à feu qui, elles, sont autorisées aux États-Unis. Dans ce pays, posséder un pistolet est bien plus acceptable que d’être nu en dehors de sa salle de bain !

Vous pointez également la valeur sociale des choix vestimentaires.

- S’habiller, c’est s’exprimer. À sa seule tenue, on peut déterminer si un individu est riche, s’il est "cool" ou non, s’il a du goût, s’il est propre sur lui, si c’est un homme d’affaires, un voyou… Ainsi la société met-elle des étiquettes sur les gens.

De ce fait, je m’interroge : comment serait la vie sans vêtements ? Comment interpréterions-nous la vision d’autrui ? Comment sélectionnerions-nous nos amis sans les repères fournis par les styles vestimentaires ? Traiterait-on les gens différemment ? La façon dont on jauge habituellement nos semblables s’effondrerait. Peut-être que l’on deviendrait plus attentif au regard de la personne qui est en face de nous, à l’énergie qu’elle dégage. Peut-être que l’on deviendrait plus intuitif. Qui sait ?

Vos photos servent un message particulier. D’autres personnes, comme les Femen, utilisent la nudité en lieu public à des fins politiques. Vous trouvez-vous des points communs avec elles ?

- Je partage probablement un certain nombre de choses avec beaucoup de groupes militants, qu’ils soient féministes ou humanistes. "Nue York" soulève inévitablement la question du féminisme. Cela dit, je n’ai pas conçu le projet sous cet angle. Il s’agit avant tout d’interroger les gens en tant qu’êtres humains. Si mes photos poussent les spectateurs à se poser des questions sur le rôle des vêtements dans notre société, ou si la série sert de point de départ à d’autres réflexions, alors je considérerai ma mission comme réussie.

Propos recueillis par Cyril Bonnet – Le Nouvel Observateur

Crédit photos : Erica Simone. Voir son site web.

Voir aussi:

Experiment and Experience: Peter Weiss Interviews Erica Simone

Peter Weiss

NY Arts

Peter Weiss: You have a very energetic personality; you seem very confident and secure. Am I reading it right and to what do you attribute that security?

Erica Simone: Yes, I like to think of myself as being confident and secure (most of the time). We do only have one life, one body, and one mind, so why waste time feeling bad about our failures or ourselves? All we can attempt is to improve what we don’t like or to just be accepting of it. And if you aren’t secure, it’s important to at least appear so. I think without it, people stop trusting you and you stop intriguing people.

PW: You travel light and alone at times when you work, both here and abroad. Would you describe yourself as a risk taker or adventurer in your artistic pursuit? Do you see a difference?

ES: I definitely identify with being an adventurer. I love to explore new territories and I love challenges, there is no fun in staying safe. I’m somewhat of a risk taker, but you won’t typically find me running into a flaming house … unless to save a soul.

PW: What sacrifices do you make in pursuit of your art? What has been your greatest victory? What is your greatest missed opportunity or photo? Do you have a favorite piece and why? Are there pieces that are staged and should be declared as such or have you allowed confusion? Have you ever felt guilty about an image you have taken? Has it ever seen the light of day?

ES: I don’t tend to think of the sacrifices I make as being “sacrifices,” but more so just experiences. In my nude project, I gave up the privacy of my own body, but it’s not in any way a sacrifice to me. I would never part with anything I couldn’t stand losing. I am passionate about my work, but if I hadn’t been comfortable giving that up, I would have never done it.

In the Nue York series, I’d say the greatest victory was probably the subway shot. With the constant movement of the passengers, it took quite a while for the composition of the photograph to fall the way I wanted it to and then I only had 1 subway stop to capture it. By that time, I had already traveled from the West Village to the Bronx!

There were a few times when I would manage to capture a wonderful image, but I was out of focus or some element in the photograph didn’t work. Overall, despite the technical challenges, I was quite lucky.

In some cases, yes, I definitely needed the cooperation of other people in the photograph to capture what I wanted, but most of them were done guerilla-style.

I’ve never felt guilt towards an image. I’ve felt insecure, sure, but I think that just goes hand in hand with being the model. We can’t always happy about the way we look in photographs. I know I’m not.

PW: Do you consider the shooting of the “Bare Urban Citizen” collection interventionist/ performance art?

ES: The project is not about performance, but about photography. I didn’t feel that I was performing when producing the photos, but rather, just trying to capture an iconic image. I was never nude for that long, typically 20-30 seconds, and the whole time I focused on the other side of the camera, not the people watching or what’s going on in the street. My goal is to go in, get the shot, and quickly move away from the crime scene. It’s about the end image, not the moment in itself.

PW: Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your act of taking pictures has offended the passersby or the subject? If so, did you continue despite the protests? If so what was your rational? During the Urban Nude, what gave you the idea? What are you saying with this collection? If you weren’t as pretty as you are, would that have impacted this collection?

ES: No actually, no one has ever overtly expressed discontent or being offended during my shoots. Most people laugh or applaud. I don’t think my physique or intentions are offensive to most people. Had I run around a church or a playground in my birthday suit—it would probably be a different story.

The collection contemplates the use of clothing and fashion in society. We tend to first judge or analyze others by how they look on the outside, the same way we tend to act or feel differently depending on what we are wearing. I produced this series after asking myself certain questions: “What would life be like if we didn’t have clothing to express ourselves?” “How would we perceive or judge others, on what basis?” “How would we feel with our bodies, would we be more or less secure?” “What would the environment look like?”

Thank you. I have no idea if the collection would have had more or less of an impact. Possibly, if I had been very out of shape, the collection could have been even more popular, because people would have been even more shocked: “How could this person possibly feel comfortable running around naked?” This brings up other questions such as “Why would one person feel more or less comfortable being naked just because of the way they look?” Some models are extremely insecure, the same way some overweight people are nudists. I don’t think one has anything to do with the other.

PW: Does fame and fortune motivate you or are you an artist for artist sake?

ES: Of course I would love to eventually be financially secure enough to be able to lead a stable life with the ability to make certain choices and as anyone, I would love for my work to be successful for my own sense of accomplishment. But more importantly, if I could use my skills and social position to make a difference and to help people, then this drive would make much more sense and have much more of an impact. I am a lot more motivated to make a difference than to be a famous photographer for its own sake, so hopefully they’ll go hand in hand.

PW: Where does your ego fit into your career?

ES: My ego comes and goes—a constant battle. I accept my flaws, as hard as it can be sometimes, but I also know that no one is perfect. We are all different, traveling on different journeys. All I can hope for is to keep moving forward, to keep learning and to keep making progress.

PW: You are very attractive young woman. How does this affect your entree in your photography? Do you use your feminine charms to get your pictures? How far will you go?

ES: Thank you, but I don’t think it takes a supermodel to get where you want in life. I do often use my feminine “powers” to get the pictures I want. Of course, I’ve found myself flirting with an old man to get his picture or batting my eye-lashes to get past authorities. As a woman, I think it’s a God-given right to use those charms! While men have their advantages, women have theirs and I feel it is fair game to rock what you have.

PW: As a photographer you have a very diverse body of work. The categories listed on your web site includes, portraits, people, travel, photo-journalism, self portraits, personal work, fashion, and beauty. What does your selection of subject matter say about you as a person, artist and professional photographer?

ES: I like producing a variety of work. My creative ADD introduces me to a diversity of subjects, which makes my job more exciting. I like exploring new ideas and concepts and I love a good challenge, so taking on new work is always something I have fun with. I’m not sure I’ll ever want to specialize in a certain area, there are too many interesting things to take pictures of; I want to take them all!

PW: Dealers and collectors expect from the professional artist a cohesive recognizable body of work. This work should fit a particular genre. As you know this allows dealers a sharper target in which to market an artist’s work. It could be argued that if your creative spectrum is too broad, you can’t develop a style fully and you risk losing the focus of you subject matter and continuity. How do you feel this established criteria affects your work from a professional and creative perspective?

ES: I’m not too worried about what dealers and collectors want from artists. I’m only interested in what I want to do, since that’s what makes me happy. I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to develop a style fully regardless, if that’s what I wanted to do. For me, it’s all experiment and experience and as long as I keep learning and producing more and more interesting work, while paying rent, that’s all that matters for me.

Voir également:

Naked ambition: Photographer lays herself bare in nude poses on the streets of NYC

Rachel Quigley

The Daily Mail

28 March 2011

Photographers are often said to bare their souls through their pictures.

But Parisian Erica Simone has taken this to the next level by literally laying herself bare – she has photographed herself in nothing but her birthday suit on the streets of New York.

The 25-year-old has turned doing daily routines in the city to works of art simply by removing her clothes.

And Miss Simone made the daring decision to step out from behind the camera and go au naturel in a series of self-portraits taken in and around the Big Apple.

Speaking to MailOnline she said: ‘At first it was like, "Can I really do this?" I was into the idea, but I didn’t totally have the [nerve] to do it – I’m not totally an exhibitionist.

‘But I managed to do it on my first day of shooting in the West Village and I didn’t even get arrested.

‘I think that was just a combination of good timing and luck, and it is not as if I just spent the whole day walking around naked. I was fully clothed until I was ready to take the shot.’

‘It’s not about sex. It’s crazy that it’s illegal to be naked. The whole process was really liberating and it made me feel freer and more comfortable in my own skin and not be ashamed of my body.’

Once Erica got the idea for the exhibit, she decided to step out from behind the camera and do a number of self portraits in the nude, sometimes wearing only a variety of accessories, performing mundane activities

In the pictures, she rides the subway, checks out library books and shovels the snow on the sidewalk outside her apartment – all in the nude.

The 20 shots are part of Simone’s new exhibit Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen, which opens next month at the Dash Gallery in Tribeca.

Miss Simone said the inspiration for the exhibition came to her during Fashion Week two years ago.

She said: ‘I was sitting around thinking about fashion and what would we be if we were naked and what if we didn’t have fashion to show who we were, our status, how much money we had, all these things.

‘Then I got the photographic idea of shooting people naked in the street, but just doing regular things, not especially posing, or being naked, but doing whatever.’

The pretty 25-year-old said she was not sure if she herself could go through with it but was intrigued by the challenge of staging the shots – which she took using a remote sensor – and stripping down to her birthday suit.

She said the general public were very accepting of her nudity and she did not have any bad experiences while doing it.

‘Most people were laughing, smiling or applauding and cheering. They seemed OK with it,’ she said. ‘The most challenging one was on the subway. I had to ride the whole way from West 14th Street to the end of the line to get the right shot.

‘The only person I told was the guy next to me as he had to hold my coat. But by the time some people even found out about it, I was clothed again.’

Miss Simone also said she has come a long way from the first shot to where she is now.

‘The first few times I was so nervous and I guess innocent about everything, and yeah it was scary a bit as well,’ she said.

‘But now I don’t care about being naked. I am more concerned about getting the shot right rather than worrying about being naked or what people in the streets are thinking.’

Voir encore:

Artist Statement

Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen

As once an Angeleno in Paris, and now a Parisian in New York, really my mind is stuck in the stars. Photography has become a true passion and within it, a never-ending drive to try and challenge everything, even if it means getting naked in the freezing snow…

“Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen” bloomed from an initial questioning about clothing and its importance in society today. Fashion and what we wear act as a language: they allow us to silently portray who we are or want to be, offering society an impression on us – whatever that may be. Fashion also tends to segregate and place us into various social categories as well as communicate a certain mood or particular feeling. This tool is quite precious to civil society and as most people, I organically use clothing as a way of portraying my own image. However, in a city like New York, the fashion industry has a massive impact: people tend to be very concerned with appearance and the materialistic side of it, which became very real while I was photographing Fashion Week a few years back.

As I watched an image-absorbed union of people care more about the sales at Barney’s than the homeless people they step over on the street, I began to ponder: “What would the world feel like naked? What if we didn’t have clothing to portray who we want to be or feel as individuals? What if we couldn’t show off our social status to deserve the treatment we wanted from others? What if all we had were our bodies?” These questions raised many various issues and these issues raised many various questions.

From there, my photographic project was born. With a tripod and a couple ounces of adrenaline, I took to the streets bare to see what a typical New York day would be like. At first, I wasn’t so sure what was going to happen or what was going to come of it all, but as the collection progressed, more and more issues became aware to me. For example: “Why can we be arrested for being naked in the street, when as human beings, we are born naked?” I can understand that it would be socially unacceptable or morally discouraged, but for it to be in some cases prohibited by law…? This all seemed quite bizarre and really more so a violation of human rights.

Another question that arose was that of sexuality. “Is nudity inherently sexual or is nudity just a part of being human? Why does society typically equate nudity to sex? And how does the variety of body types come into equation when asking that question?” Each person’s answer is different.

To clarify, I’m not an exhibitionist or a nudist – I’m an artist looking to humorously poke at some interesting thoughts about society and question who we are and portray as human beings. It’s now up to the viewer to answer those questions, as he/she likes.

From Houston to Hudson and from Bowery to the Bronx, photographing Manhattan has never been such a rush….


Filières du Vatican: Attention des Monuments men peuvent en cacher d’autres (Ratlines: Looking back at the other Monuments men)

19 mars, 2014

http://berlinfilmjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/The-Monuments-Men.jpg

http://www.concordatwatch.eu/Users/X890/X890_727_CWPavelicwithFranciscans.jpghttp://www.angelismarriti.it/images/ratlines-byLoftusAarons.jpghttp://fallschirmjager.net/books/TheRealOdessa.jpghttp://images.indiebound.com/994/181/9780312181994.jpghttp://static.lexpress.fr/assets/359/poster_183999.jpgRien actuellement n’empêche plus la voix du pape de se faire entendre. Il me semble que les horreurs sans nom et sans précédent dans l’Histoire commises par l’Allemagne nazie auraient mérité une protestation solennelle du vicaire du Christ. Il semble qu’une cérémonie expiatoire quelconque, se renouvelant chaque année, aurait été une satisfaction donnée à la conscience publique… Nous avons eu beau prêter l’oreille, nous n’avons entendu que de faibles et vagues gémissements. (…) C’est ce sang dans l’affreux silence du Vatican qui étouffe tous les chrétiens. La voix d’Abel ne finira-t-elle pas par se faire entendre ? Paul Claudel (lettre à Jacques Maritain, ambassadeur de France auprès du Saint-Siège, 13 décembre 1945)
C’est de ce long, troublant et douloureux silence qu’il est devenu urgent de parler. Non pour l’interpréter à la seule lueur de la polémique antichrétienne. Non pour en conclure qu’il était d’approbation ou de complicité tacite : tout prouve exactement le contraire. Comme il est devenu d’usage, on soupçonne le pape actuel des pires intentions – sans jamais préciser lesquelles – lorsqu’il franchit une étape dans le lent processus qui pourrait mener à la béatification de Pie XII. On lui refuse le crédit d’une pensée et d’une action qui s’élèvent au-dessus des calculs et se tiennent sans coup férir dans leur sphère propre : religieuse, spirituelle. Les si fortes paroles de Claudel et de Maritain ne nous engagent pas sur la voie d’un procès d’intention dont l’acte d’accusation serait écrit d’avance. En revanche, elles jugent et condamnent sans aucune ambiguïté, avec une force qui dépasse toute polémique, le silence coupable – et non pas la culpabilité silencieuse – de Pie XII. Ce faisant, elles interrogent en toute conscience la réelle héroïcité des vertus du pontife. Le péché par omission est le dernier que le fidèle catholique avoue dans l’acte de contrition. Il n’est pas le moindre. Tout ce que j’aurais pu faire et dire, que je n’ai pas fait, pas dit, remettant à plus tard, à jamais, le bien qu’il m’est commandé d’aimer et de servir. De ne pas trahir. Omettre le bien, se soustraire à ce service, ouvre donc l’espace immense et sombre d’un manquement majeur. Un espace qui ne peut pas être occulté par des motifs contingents, des excuses fallacieuses. Un espace qui n’est étranger à personne, pas même au pape. Patrick Kéchichian
Nous devons conserver une espèce de réservoir moral dans lequel nous pourrons puiser à l’avenir. Krunoslav Draganavic
À l’époque il se produisait à Nuremberg quelque chose que personnellement je considérais comme une honte et une malheureuse leçon pour le futur de l’humanité. J’acquis la certitude que le peuple argentin aussi considérait le procès de Nuremberg comme une honte, indigne des vainqueurs, qui se conduisaient comme s’ils n’avaient pas vaincu. Maintenant nous réalisons [que les Alliés] méritaient de perdre la guerre. Juan Peron
Les contacts de Pavelic sont si élevés et sa situation actuelle si compromettante pour le Vatican, que toute extradition du sujet déstabiliserait fortement l’Église catholique. Rapport des services de renseignement militaire américains (12 septembre 1947)
Le pape François joue la carte de l’ouverture. Le Point
Les travaux d’une commission d’enquête argentine ad hoc semblent montrer au contraire que les dignitaires du Vatican (au premier rang desquels le sous-secrétaire d’état Montini, futur pape Paul VI) n’ont jamais encouragé ces exfiltrations, voire ont eu l’occasion d’y manifester leur opposition. L’Église catholique aurait simplement été, comme la Croix-Rouge, tellement submergée par les flux massifs de réfugiés qu’elle n’aurait pu procéder qu’à des enquêtes sommaires, aisément contournées par les anciens dignitaires nazis. Ce défaut de vigilance aurait d’ailleurs également profité à de nombreux espions soviétiques. Wikipedia
Washington and Bonn failed to act on the information or hand it to the Israelis because they believed it did not serve their interests in the cold war struggle. In fact, the unexpected reappearance of the architect of the "final solution" in a glass box in a Jerusalem court threatened to be an embarrassment, turning global attention to all the former Nazis the Americans and Germans had recruited in the name of anti-communism. Historians say Britain and other western powers probably did the same, but they have not published the evidence. The CIA has. Under heavy congressional pressure, the agency has been persuaded to declassify 27,000 unedited pages about American dealings with former Nazis in postwar Europe. (…) It was not just a question of bureaucratic inertia. There were good reasons not to go hunting for Eichmann. In Bonn, the immediate fear was what Eichmann would say about Hans Globke, who had also worked in the Nazis’ Jewish affairs department, drafting the Nuremberg laws, designed to isolate Jews from the rest of society in the Third Reich. While Eichmann had gone on the run, Globke stayed behind and prospered. By 1960 he was Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s national security adviser. "The West Germans were extremely concerned apparently about how the East Germans and Soviet bloc in general might make use of what Eichmann would say about Hans Globke," Mr Naftali said. It was not just a West German concern. Globke was the main point of contact between the Bonn government, the CIA and Nato. "Globke was a timebomb for Nato," Mr Naftali said. At the request of the West Germans, the CIA even managed to persuade Life magazine to delete any reference to Globke from Eichmann’s memoirs, which it had bought from the family. But it was not just Globke. When Eichmann was captured the CIA combed files it had captured from the Nazis to find information that might be useful to the Israeli prosecution. The results caused near panic among the CIA’s leadership because, unknown to the junior staff who had looked through the files, a few of Eichmann’s accomplices being investigated had been CIA "assets". An urgent memo was sent to CIA investigators urging caution and pointing out that if Moscow discovered these ex-Nazis had been working for the Americans that would make those agents "very vulnerable". Meanwhile, some of the CIA’s German agents were beginning to panic. One of them, Otto Albrecht von Bolschwing – who also had worked with Eichmann in the Jewish affairs department and was later Heinrich Himmler’s representative in Romania – frantically asked his old CIA case officer for help. After the war Bolschwing had been recruited by the Gehlen Organisation, the prototype German intelligence agency set up by the Americans under Reinhard Gehlen, who had run military intelligence on the eastern front under the Nazis. "US army intelligence accepted Reinhard Gehlen’s offer to furnish alleged expertise on the Red army – and was bilked by the many mass murderers he hired," said Robert Wolfe, a historian at the US national archives. Alongside the Gehlen Organisation, US intelligence had set up "stay-behind networks" in West Germany, who were supposed to stay put in the event of a Soviet invasion and transmit intelligence from behind enemy lines. Those networks were also riddled with ex-Nazis who had horrendous records. One of the networks, codenamed Kibitz-15, was run by a former German army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Walter Kopp, who was described by his own American handlers as an "unreconstructed Nazi". Most of the networks were dismantled in the early 1950s when it was realised what an embarrassment they might prove. (…) The new documents make clear the great irony behind the US recruitment of ex-Nazis: for all the moral compromises involved, it was a complete failure in intelligence terms. The Nazis were terrible spies. (…) "The files show time and again that these people were more trouble than they were worth," Mr Naftali said. "The unreconstructed Nazis were always out for themselves, and they were using the west’s lack of information about the Soviet Union to exploit it." The lesson would be well learned by young CIA case officers today. "Threats change rapidly, and it’s always exiles and former government elements who are the first to come running to us saying – we understand this threat. We have seen it with Iraqi exiles. No doubt we’re seeing it now with Iranian exiles. We have to be smart and we have to know who we are really dealing with." The Guardian
J’ai enquêté personnellement sur Draganovic qui m’a dit qu’il faisait rapport à Montini, a souligné Gowen. Ce dernier a rapporté qu’à un certain moment, Montini apprit, apparemment du chef de l’antenne de l’OSS à Rome, James Angleton, qui entretenait des relations avec Montini et le Vatican, sur les recherches menées par Gowen. Montini se plaignit de Gowen à ses supérieurs et l’accusa d’avoir violé l’immunité vaticane en ayant entré dans des bâtiments appartenant à l’Église, comme le collège croate, et d’y avoir enquêté. Le but de cette plainte était de gêner l’enquête. Dans son témoignage, Gowen déclara également que Draganovic aida les Oustachis à blanchir les trésors volés avec l’aide de la Banque du Vatican : cet argent fut utilisé pour supporter financièrement ses activités religieuses, mais également pour fournir des fonds en vue de l’exfiltration des chefs Oustachis au travers de la filière. Haaretz
Jonathan Levy and Tom Easton are representing elderly Serb, Jewish and Ukrainian survivors of atrocities committed by the Nazi puppet regime in Croatia, the Ustashe, in a class action lawsuit against the Vatican Bank and the monastic Franciscan Order. Wartime intelligence documents have suggested Ustashe leaders took loot, including gold, silver and jewelry seized from their victims, to the Vatican at the end of the war. There the assets were allegedly used to help finance an escape route – the "ratline" – for Nazis trying to escape Europe, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which tracks Nazi war criminals. The Vatican has consistently denied the allegations, while declining to open its unpublished wartime archives despite appeals from Jewish and other groups. The Swiss National Bank, suspected of acting as a depository for stolen Ustashe loot, has also been named as a defendant in the class action lawsuit, and the lawyers are awaiting a judge’s order allowing the case against the Swiss to proceed. Levy said it was hoped the District Court in San Francisco would order the release of more than 250 documents from files dealing with one Krunoslav Draganavic, a Croatian priest who helped run the "ratline." Some files had been released as early as the 1980s, when Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie stood trial in France. But a core of others remained withheld on "national security" grounds, he said. Levy said Draganavic was alleged to have worked at various times for the intelligence services of Croatia, the Vatican, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Britain and the U.S. The lawyers said in a statement they believed "the withheld documents, most well over 40 years old are highly embarrassing to the Americans, the British, and Vatican." (…) Parallel to the counterintelligence unit, other American army intelligence units, and mainly the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, from which the CIA developed) and British intelligence were engaged in contradictory actions. They made contact with Nazis and with the Ustashe people and enlisted them in their service as agents, collaborators and informers, with the intention of forming a front against the Soviet spread into Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Haaretz

Attention: des Monuments men peuvent en cacher d’autres !

A l’heure où après l’accident industriel de l’Obamamanie, nos médias en mal de copie repartent pour un tour avec le premier anniversaire de l’entrée en fonction du nouveau parangon d’ouverture argentin du Vatican …

Et où via le film Monument men, le monde redécouvre l’ampleur du pillage nazi des trésors culturels de l’Europe  …

Qui se souvient d’un autre "sauvetage" à peu près au même moment mais autrement plus sinistre ?

Et qui s’étonne du long silence radio (bientôt 70 ans !) dudit Vatican (comme d’ailleurs des habituelles banques suisses ou des services secrets américains et britanniques – ou français dans le cas du Grand Moufti de Jérusalem et dont on se souvient de l’embarras lors de la capture d’Eichmann par les Israéliens) sur ces mystérieuses archives que l’on continue de refuser d’ouvrir aux victimes de certains des plus grands criminels de l’histoire ?

Ces Eichmann, Mengele, Barbie et autres Priebke, Heim et Pavelic à qui, via notamment certains dignitaires catholiques tels que le prêtre croate Krunoslav Draganovic ou le prêtre autrichien pro-nazi Alois Hudal et sur fond de guerre froide commençante (mais, au-delà de la désinformation soviétique, probablement à l’insu d’un Pie XII et d’un sous-secrétaire d’état Montini et futur pape Paul VI dépassés), le Vatican fournira faux papiers et soutanes …

Mais aussi caches et blanchiment pour leurs butins de guerre en vue de financer leurs réseaux d’exfiltration vers l’Amérique latine (avec en première ligne l’Argentine péroniste) et le Moyen-Orient …

Les fameuses filières dites "rat lines" en anglais ou enfléchures en français, du nom de ces échelles de cordage qui servaient aux marins – mais aussi aux rats – d’ultime refuge au moment où coulait leur navire ?

Tied up in the Rat Lines

Yossi Melman

Haaretz

Jan. 15, 2006

It is possible that within a short time a court in the United States will prohibit the publication of the account before us. In the meantime, Haaretz has obtained the testimony given last month by William Gowen, a former intelligence officer in the United States Army, at a federal court in San Francisco. The testimony contains historical and political explosives. It links Giovanni Battista Montini, who later became Pope Paul VI, to the theft of property of Jewish, Serb, Russian, Ukrainian and Roma victims during World War II in Yugoslavia. Many studies and stories have already been written about the thundering silence of Pope Pius XII, who reigned in the Vatican during World War II. Now the former intelligence officer’s testimony has revealed that after the war, Montini, who during the war served as the Vatican’s deputy secretary of state under the pope, helped hide and launder property that had been stolen from, among others, Jews and was involved in the sheltering and smuggling of Croatian war criminals, such as the leader of the Ustashe movement, Ante Pavelic.

The smuggling and hiding of Croatian war criminals was part of the extensive network known as the Rat Lines. Senior officials at the Vatican were involved in hiding and smuggling Nazi war criminals and their collaborators so they would not be arrested and tried. Hundreds of war criminals were provided with church and Red Cross papers that enabled them to hide in safe houses and then flee from Europe, mainly to the Middle East and South America. Among them were Klaus Barbie ("the butcher of Lyon"), Adolf Eichmann, Dr. Josef Mengele and Franz Stengel, the commander of the Treblinka death camp.

The Vatican network was also used by leaders of the Ustashe – the nationalist Croatian Catholic movement that was active in Croatia and collaborated with the Nazi occupation. "The Reverend Dr. Prof. Krunoslav Draganovic seemed to be in cooperation with the Ustasha network. And he was given a Vatican assignment as the apostolic visitator for Croatians, which meant he reported directly to Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini," states an American document based on a report from the Italian police; the document was recently placed in evidence at the court in San Francisco where Gowen testified.

The leaders of the Ustashe headed by Pavelic are the ones who stole the victims’ property: art and jewelry – silver and mostly gold. After the war they fled with the treasure and laundered it with the help of Vatican institutions. According to Gowen’s testimony, Montini, who in 1964 became the first pope to visit the State of Israel, was also involved in the Vatican’s help in laundering the wealth.

Still terrified

In 1999 a suit was filed at a court in San Franciso against the Vatican Bank (Institute for Religious Works) and against the Franciscan order, the Croatian Liberation Movement (the Ustashe), the National Bank of Switzerland and others. The suit was filed by Jewish, Ukrainian, Serb and Roma survivors, as well as relatives of victims and various organizations that together represent 300,000 World War II victims. The plaintiffs demanded accounting and restitution.

One of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs is Jonathan Levy. "Many of the plaintiffs have been reluctant to be pictured, after all these years," says Levy. "Many are still terrified of the Ustashe, the Serbs particularly. Unlike the Nazi Party, the Ustashe still exist and have a party headquarters in Zagreb."

The Ustashe was founded in 1929 as a Croatian nationalist movement with a deep connection to Catholicism. From the day it was founded the movement made its aim the establishment of an independent Croatian state and declared to fight the monarchy in Yugoslavia. The movement was banned and its founders, Pavelic and Gustav Percec (who was later murdered at Pavelic’s orders) were condemned to death in their absence. The Ustashe was linked to the assassination of Yugoslav King Alexander and French foreign minister Louis Barthou in Marseilles in 1934.

Upon the occupation of Yugoslavia, the German Nazis and the Italian Fascists formed an "independent" state in Croatia, which was basically a Nazi puppet state. Pavelic was appointed poglovnik, the leader of the country. He hastened to meet with Hitler and allied himself with the Fuehrer. When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, Pavelic sent Ustashe units to fight alongside the Nazis and then joined the declaration of war against the United States. Ustashe leaders declared they would slaughter a third of the Serb population in Croatia, deport a third and convert the remaining third from Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism. Anyone who refused to convert was murdered.

Immediately upon the establishment of its puppet government, the Ustashe set up militias and gangs that slaughtered Serbs, Jews, Romas and their political foes. Catholic priests, some of them Franciscans, also participated in the acts of slaughter. The cruelty of the Ustashe was so great that even the commander of the German army in Yugoslavia complained.

Himmler of the Balkans

Under the leadership of Pavelic’s right-hand man Andrija Artukovic, who earned the nickname "the Himmler of the Balkans," the Ustashe set up concentration camps, most notably at Jasenovac. According to various estimates, about 100,000 people were murdered at the camp, among them tens of thousands of Jews (it is interesting to note that some of the heads of the Ustashe were married to Jewish women). Throughout Croatia about 700,000 people were murdered. The partisans, led by the Croat Communist Josip Broz Tito, and the Chetniks – Nationalist Serb royalists – fought the Ustashe.

After the war, Pavelic and other Ustashe heads fled to Austria and, with the help of the British intelligence and their friends in the Vatican, found refuge in Italy. They hid in Vatican monasteries and were provided with false documents that gave them a new identity. Secret documents that were disclosed at the court in San Francisco show that at the end of the war, British intelligence took Pavelic under its wing and allowed him and a convoy of 10 trucks that carried the stolen treasure to travel to the British occupation zone in Austria. The British did this with the intention of using him as a counterweight to the Communist takeover in Yugoslavia.

The Ustashe brought the treasure convoy to Rome, where they put it into the hands of the Croatian ambassador to the Vatican, Rev. Krunoslav Draganovic. Draganovic also saw to hiding Pavelic and his aides in Vatican institutions and safe houses in Rome. American military intelligence located Pavelic’s hiding place. But according to a secret document Gowen wrote in July 1947, that was submitted to the court, Gowen’s unit received the instruction: "Hands off" Pavelic.

This was an order from the American Embassy, stressed Gowen in his testimony. It is also stated in the document, which is classified as top secret, that Pavelic, via his contacts with Draganovic, was receiving Vatican protection. From Italy, Pavelic was smuggled on the Rat Lines to Argentina, where he served as a security adviser to president Juan Peron (Peron granted entry visas to 34,000 Croats, many of them associated with the Ustashe and Nazi supporters).

In 1957 there was an attempt to assassinate him, in which he was wounded. The operation was attributed to Tito’s Yugoslav intelligence, although the possibility that this was an attempt at revenge by a Chetnik activist was not dismissed. Pavelic had to leave Argentina and found refuge with the Spanish dictator Franco. Two years later, in 1959, he died as a result of complications caused by the wound. The Ustashe has continued to exist over the years and until the 1980s its operatives were involved in acts of terror against diplomats and other Yugoslav targets abroad.

Montini complains

The suit filed at the court in San Francisco is based on earlier investigations and reports from American government agencies, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and committees of historians who researched the matter of the Jewish property in Swiss banks. The case was preceded by successful legal battles by attorney Levy and his colleagues against the CIA and the American Army to obtain secret documents. The defendants, on their part, led by the Vatican Bank and the Franciscan order and others, deny the charges against them and made every effort to have the charges dismissed. So far, the court has rejected these efforts outright and determined that the deliberations would continue. But the defendants are tenacious and now they are demanding that publication of Gowen’s testimony be prohibited.

After the end of the war Gowen served as a special agent, meaning an investigations officer in the Rome detachment of American counter-intelligence. This unit’s role was to track down, among others, Italian Fascists, Nazi war criminals and their collaborators, including the Ustashe leaders (Gowen said another mission included, at the request of British intelligence, surveillance of Irgun and Lehi activists). The code name for the unit’s actions was "Operation Circle."

Parallel to the counterintelligence unit, other American army intelligence units, and mainly the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, from which the CIA developed) and British intelligence were engaged in contradictory actions. They made contact with Nazis and with the Ustashe people and enlisted them in their service as agents, collaborators and informers, with the intention of forming a front against the Soviet spread into Eastern Europe and the Balkans. "To try and find Pavelic you had to discover how the Ustashe network in Italy was constituted, how it operated, what were its bases," testified Gowen.

A key person in the Pontifical Croatian college was Rev. Draganovic, the Croatian ambassador to the Vatican. Draganovic and the college issued false papers to Croatian war criminals, among them Pavelic and Artukovic. "I personally investigated Draganovic – who told me he was reporting to Montini," emphasized Gowen.

Gowen related that at a certain stage Montini learned, apparently from the head of the OSS unit in Rome, James Angleton, who nurtured relations with Montini and the Vatican, of the investigation Gowen’s unit was conducting. Montini complained about Gowen to his superiors and accused him of having violated the Vatican’s immunity by having entered church buildings, such as the Croatian college, and conducting searches there. The aim of the complaint was to interfere with the investigation.

In his testimony, Gowen also stated that Draganovic helped the Ustashe launder the stolen treasure with the help of the Vatican Bank: This money was used to fund its religious activities, but also to fund the escape of Ustashe leaders on the Rat Line.

Voir aussi:

Nazi-Era Victims Demand Army, CIA Release Documents on Vatican

Patrick Goodenough

CNS news

July 7, 2008

(CNSNews.com) – Two California attorneys have filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in a bid to have the U.S. Army and CIA release documents relating to alleged Vatican collaboration with Nazi-allied fascists in the wartime Balkans.

The Army’s decision earlier this year to withhold more than 250 documents, some at the request of the CIA, was in violation of the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, the lawyers contended in their complaint.

Jonathan Levy and Tom Easton are representing elderly Serb, Jewish and Ukrainian survivors of atrocities committed by the Nazi puppet regime in Croatia, the Ustashe, in a class action lawsuit against the Vatican Bank and the monastic Franciscan Order.

Wartime intelligence documents have suggested Ustashe leaders took loot, including gold, silver and jewelry seized from their victims, to the Vatican at the end of the war.

There the assets were allegedly used to help finance an escape route – the "ratline" – for Nazis trying to escape Europe, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which tracks Nazi war criminals.

The Vatican has consistently denied the allegations, while declining to open its unpublished wartime archives despite appeals from Jewish and other groups.

The Swiss National Bank, suspected of acting as a depository for stolen Ustashe loot, has also been named as a defendant in the class action lawsuit, and the lawyers are awaiting a judge’s order allowing the case against the Swiss to proceed.

Levy said it was hoped the District Court in San Francisco would order the release of more than 250 documents from files dealing with one Krunoslav Draganavic, a Croatian priest who helped run the "ratline."

Some files had been released as early as the 1980s, when Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie stood trial in France. But a core of others remained withheld on "national security" grounds, he said.

Levy said Draganavic was alleged to have worked at various times for the intelligence services of Croatia, the Vatican, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Britain and the U.S.

The lawyers said in a statement they believed "the withheld documents, most well over 40 years old are highly embarrassing to the Americans, the British, and Vatican."

Among those Holocaust researchers say escaped via the "ratline" between 1945 and the late 1950s was Ustashe leader Ante Pavelic, who made his way to Latin America using papers allegedly provided by the Vatican, and disguised as a priest.

Barbie, known as "the butcher of Lyon," was another reported beneficiary of the "ratline," escaping to Bolivia. It has long been alleged the U.S. used him as an anti-communist agent after the war. A 1983 Justice Department investigation concluded that the U.S. had no relationship with Barbie since he left Europe in 1951.

Barbie was eventually deported to France in 1983, jailed for life several years later for crimes against humanity, and died in prison in 1991.

Another suspected user of the "ratline" was Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of Hitler’s "final solution." He was abducted from Argentina by Mossad agents in 1960, convicted at the end of a marathon trial in Israel, and hanged in 1962.

Between 700,000 and 900,000 people died at the hands of the Ustashe regime, which also participated in the systematic Nazi looting of occupied Ukraine.

Voir également:

Why Israel’s capture of Eichmann caused panic at the CIA

Information that could have led to Nazi war criminal was kept under wraps

Julian Borger in Washington

The Guardian

8 June 2006

On May 23 1960, when Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion announced to the Knesset that "Adolf Eichmann, one of the greatest Nazi war criminals, is in Israeli custody", US and West German intelligence services reacted to the stunning news not with joy but alarm.

Newly declassified CIA documents show the Americans and the German BND knew Eichmann was hiding in Argentina at least two years before Israeli agents snatched him from the streets of Buenos Aires on his way back from work. They knew how long he had been in the country and had a rough idea of the alias the Nazi fugitive was using there, Klement.

Even though German intelligence had misspelled it as Clemens, it was a crucial clue. The Mossad effort to track Eichmann had been suspended at the time because it had failed to discover his pseudonym. They were ultimately tipped off by a German official disgusted at his government’s failure to bring the war criminal to justice.

Embarrassment

Washington and Bonn failed to act on the information or hand it to the Israelis because they believed it did not serve their interests in the cold war struggle. In fact, the unexpected reappearance of the architect of the "final solution" in a glass box in a Jerusalem court threatened to be an embarrassment, turning global attention to all the former Nazis the Americans and Germans had recruited in the name of anti-communism.

Historians say Britain and other western powers probably did the same, but they have not published the evidence. The CIA has. Under heavy congressional pressure, the agency has been persuaded to declassify 27,000 unedited pages about American dealings with former Nazis in postwar Europe.

One of the most startling of those documents is a CIA memo dated March 19 1958, from the station chief in Munich to headquarters, noting that German intelligence (codenamed Upswing) had that month passed on a list of high-ranking former Nazis and their whereabouts. Eichmann was third on the list. The memo passed on a rumour that he was in Jerusalem "despite the fact that he was responsible for mass extermination of Jews", but also states, matter-of-factly: "He is reported to have lived in Argentina under the alias Clemens since 1952."

There is no record of a follow-up in the CIA to this tip-off. The reason was, according to Timothy Naftali, a US historian who has reviewed the freshly-declassified archive, it was no longer the CIA’s job to hunt down Nazis. "It just wasn’t US policy to go looking for war criminals. It wasn’t British policy either for that matter. It was left to the West Germans … and this is further evidence of the low priority the Germans gave to hunting down war criminals."

It was not just a question of bureaucratic inertia. There were good reasons not to go hunting for Eichmann. In Bonn, the immediate fear was what Eichmann would say about Hans Globke, who had also worked in the Nazis’ Jewish affairs department, drafting the Nuremberg laws, designed to isolate Jews from the rest of society in the Third Reich. While Eichmann had gone on the run, Globke stayed behind and prospered. By 1960 he was Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s national security adviser.

"The West Germans were extremely concerned apparently about how the East Germans and Soviet bloc in general might make use of what Eichmann would say about Hans Globke," Mr Naftali said.

It was not just a West German concern. Globke was the main point of contact between the Bonn government, the CIA and Nato. "Globke was a timebomb for Nato," Mr Naftali said. At the request of the West Germans, the CIA even managed to persuade Life magazine to delete any reference to Globke from Eichmann’s memoirs, which it had bought from the family.

But it was not just Globke. When Eichmann was captured the CIA combed files it had captured from the Nazis to find information that might be useful to the Israeli prosecution. The results caused near panic among the CIA’s leadership because, unknown to the junior staff who had looked through the files, a few of Eichmann’s accomplices being investigated had been CIA "assets".

An urgent memo was sent to CIA investigators urging caution and pointing out that if Moscow discovered these ex-Nazis had been working for the Americans that would make those agents "very vulnerable".

Meanwhile, some of the CIA’s German agents were beginning to panic. One of them, Otto Albrecht von Bolschwing – who also had worked with Eichmann in the Jewish affairs department and was later Heinrich Himmler’s representative in Romania – frantically asked his old CIA case officer for help.

After the war Bolschwing had been recruited by the Gehlen Organisation, the prototype German intelligence agency set up by the Americans under Reinhard Gehlen, who had run military intelligence on the eastern front under the Nazis. "US army intelligence accepted Reinhard Gehlen’s offer to furnish alleged expertise on the Red army – and was bilked by the many mass murderers he hired," said Robert Wolfe, a historian at the US national archives.

‘Unreconstructed’

Alongside the Gehlen Organisation, US intelligence had set up "stay-behind networks" in West Germany, who were supposed to stay put in the event of a Soviet invasion and transmit intelligence from behind enemy lines. Those networks were also riddled with ex-Nazis who had horrendous records.

One of the networks, codenamed Kibitz-15, was run by a former German army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Walter Kopp, who was described by his own American handlers as an "unreconstructed Nazi".

Most of the networks were dismantled in the early 1950s when it was realised what an embarrassment they might prove.

"The present furore in western Germany over the resurgence of the Nazi or neo-Nazi groups is a fair example – in miniature – of what we would be faced with," CIA headquarters wrote in an April 1953 memo.The new documents make clear the great irony behind the US recruitment of ex-Nazis: for all the moral compromises involved, it was a complete failure in intelligence terms. The Nazis were terrible spies.

"Subject is immature and has a personality not suited to clandestine activities," the CIA file on one of the stay-behind agents said sniffily. "His main faults are his lack of regard for money and his attraction to members of the opposite sex."

Those were the least of their flaws as would-be anti-communist agents. They had not risen in the Nazi ranks because of their respect for facts. They were ideologues with a keen sense of self-preservation.

"The files show time and again that these people were more trouble than they were worth," Mr Naftali said. "The unreconstructed Nazis were always out for themselves, and they were using the west’s lack of information about the Soviet Union to exploit it."

The lesson would be well learned by young CIA case officers today.

"Threats change rapidly, and it’s always exiles and former government elements who are the first to come running to us saying – we understand this threat. We have seen it with Iraqi exiles. No doubt we’re seeing it now with Iranian exiles. We have to be smart and we have to know who we are really dealing with."

Protected Nazis

Adolf Eichmann The SS colonel who organised the final solution was so enthusiastic about his work that he carried on even after Heinrich Himmler had called a halt. He was captured by US troops but escaped to Argentina. Israeli agents tracked him down in 1960 and he was hanged in 1962.

Hans Globke A Nazi functionary working with Eichmann in the Jewish Affairs department who helped draft the laws stripping Jews of rights. After the war he rose to become one of the most powerful figures in the government. As national security advisor to Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, he was the main liaison with the CIA and Nato.

Reinhard Gehlen A major general in the Wehrmacht who was head of intelligence-gathering on the eastern front. He sold his supposed inside knowledge of the Soviet Union to the Americans who made him head of West German intelligence, an organisation he led until 1968.

Voir encore:

Le long péché par omission de Pie XII

Patrick Kéchichian

Le Monde

29.12.2009

A propos de l’attitude de Pie XII durant la guerre, face à la Shoah qui avait lieu presque sous ses yeux (et ceux des puissances alliées) au coeur de la Vieille Europe chrétienne, les historiens s’affrontent. Tous les documents ne sont pas encore accessibles. Il est urgent qu’ils le deviennent. Ce à quoi le Saint-Siège ne s’oppose pas, que l’on sache, invoquant simplement la nécessité d’un "délai technique" pour "le classement et la mise en ordre d’une masse énorme de documents", selon les déclarations de Federico Lombardi, directeur de la salle de presse du Vatican, le 23 décembre. Il semblerait naturel et intellectuellement digne que le procès de canonisation n’aille pas plus vite que le complet dévoilement des archives.

La très diplomatique prudence de Pie XII permit-elle de sauver plus de juifs que ne l’auraient fait des interventions directes ? Les témoignages ne manquent pas, y compris du côté juif, qui attestent de gestes multiples et ponctuels. Par ailleurs, une chose est sûre : aucune complaisance idéologique avec le paganisme nazi ne peut être imputée au Saint-Père. Rappelons simplement, parmi d’autres paroles, son message de Noël 1942 évoquant les "centaines de milliers de personnes, qui, sans aucune faute de leur part, et parfois uniquement pour des raisons de nationalité ou de race, sont destinées à la mort ou à une extinction progressive".

De même, six mois plus tard, devant le collège des cardinaux, il parle des "supplications anxieuses de tous ceux qui, à cause de leur nationalité ou de leur race, sont parfois livrés, même sans faute de leur part, à des mesures d’extermination". Mais il ajoute (nous sommes donc en juin 1943) : "Toute parole de notre part, toute allusion publique devrait être sérieusement pesée et mesurée, dans l’intérêt même de ceux qui souffrent, pour ne pas rendre leur situation encore plus grave et insupportable." Ce propos qui sonne si mal à notre oreille introduit directement à l’autre aspect de la question.

Pour y répondre, je laisserai la parole à un homme peu soupçonnable de la moindre inimitié à l’égard de la papauté ou d’esprit de querelle face aux faits et gestes du magistère romain. Paul Claudel, le 13 décembre 1945, écrivit à Jacques Maritain, alors ambassadeur de France auprès du Saint-Siège – ce document et ses commentaires furent publié par les Cahiers Jacques Maritain, n° 52, 2006. "Je pense souvent à vous et à la mission si importante et si difficile que vous remplissez auprès de Sa Sainteté. Rien actuellement n’empêche plus la voix du pape de se faire entendre. Il me semble que les horreurs sans nom et sans précédent dans l’Histoire commises par l’Allemagne nazie auraient mérité une protestation solennelle du vicaire du Christ. Il semble qu’une cérémonie expiatoire quelconque, se renouvelant chaque année, aurait été une satisfaction donnée à la conscience publique… Nous avons eu beau prêter l’oreille, nous n’avons entendu que de faibles et vagues gémissements."

Puis, faisant référence à l’Apocalypse, il parle du sang des "6 millions (de juifs) massacrés" et conclut par ces mots : "C’est ce sang dans l’affreux silence du Vatican qui étouffe tous les chrétiens. La voix d’Abel ne finira-t-elle pas par se faire entendre ?" Peut-on imaginer plus claire prise de position ?

Jacques Maritain, dont la réflexion sur l’antisémitisme s’est approfondie au cours des années 1930, était lui-même intervenu, dès 1942, pour obtenir de Pie XII une encyclique "qui délivrerait beaucoup d’âmes angoissées et scandalisées". Il avait même proposé, la même année, de faire du Yom Kippour un jour de prière pour les chrétiens en faveur des juifs persécutés. L’on sait que toutes ces démarches restèrent lettre morte.

C’est de ce long, troublant et douloureux silence qu’il est devenu urgent de parler. Non pour l’interpréter à la seule lueur de la polémique antichrétienne. Non pour en conclure qu’il était d’approbation ou de complicité tacite : tout prouve exactement le contraire.

Comme il est devenu d’usage, on soupçonne le pape actuel des pires intentions – sans jamais préciser lesquelles – lorsqu’il franchit une étape dans le lent processus qui pourrait mener à la béatification de Pie XII. On lui refuse le crédit d’une pensée et d’une action qui s’élèvent au-dessus des calculs et se tiennent sans coup férir dans leur sphère propre : religieuse, spirituelle.

Les si fortes paroles de Claudel et de Maritain ne nous engagent pas sur la voie d’un procès d’intention dont l’acte d’accusation serait écrit d’avance. En revanche, elles jugent et condamnent sans aucune ambiguïté, avec une force qui dépasse toute polémique, le silence coupable – et non pas la culpabilité silencieuse – de Pie XII. Ce faisant, elles interrogent en toute conscience la réelle héroïcité des vertus du pontife.

Le péché par omission est le dernier que le fidèle catholique avoue dans l’acte de contrition. Il n’est pas le moindre. Tout ce que j’aurais pu faire et dire, que je n’ai pas fait, pas dit, remettant à plus tard, à jamais, le bien qu’il m’est commandé d’aimer et de servir. De ne pas trahir. Omettre le bien, se soustraire à ce service, ouvre donc l’espace immense et sombre d’un manquement majeur. Un espace qui ne peut pas être occulté par des motifs contingents, des excuses fallacieuses. Un espace qui n’est étranger à personne, pas même au pape.

Patrick Kéchichian, auteur de Petit éloge du catholicisme (Gallimard, 130 p. 2 €), ancien collaborateur du Monde des livres.

L’Eglise catholique face au génocide

Marc Riglet

Lire

05/07/2012

Spécialiste des relations judéo-chrétiennes, l’auteur revoit la position de l’Eglise vis-à-vis des Juifs.

Quelle fut l’attitude de l’Eglise romaine, des années 1930 jusqu’à la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, envers les Juifs persécutés ? Quelles positions de principe adopta-t-elle par rapport au fascisme en général et au national-socialisme en particulier et quelle politique fut conduite, par le Vatican, avec l’Allemagne nazie ? L’antijudaïsme chrétien s’accommoda-t-il de l’antisémitisme racialiste moderne ou bien y a-t-il eu entre l’un et l’autre solution de continuité ? Quel jugement, enfin, convient-il de porter sur la personnalité et les actions de Pie XII qui, de la nonciature à Berlin dans les années 1930 au trône de saint Pierre pendant la guerre, joua le tout premier rôle et commanda l’essentiel des réponses à ces questions ?

Dans les années 1960, la pièce de Rolf Hochhuth, Le Vicaire, qui dénonçait sans ménagement les silences du pape face aux persécutions des Juifs, avait provoqué une vive polémique. Les travaux historiques conduits depuis, les réflexions menées au sein même de l’Eglise romaine, l’aggiornamento de Vatican II revisitant et déplorant l’antijudaïsme traditionnel, et puis, surtout, les déclarations de repentance de nombreuses autorités ecclésiales semblaient avoir établi solidement le "jugement de l’Histoire". Non seulement Pie XII était bien resté silencieux face au martyre juif, mais sa position ambiguë sur l’antisémitisme rendait ce silence coupable. Or, voici que ce constat est à nouveau discuté. Menahem Macina, éminent spécialiste des relations judéo-chrétiennes, s’en émeut dans un excellent livre où la richesse de la documentation le dispute au caractère serré de l’argumentation. Et comment ne pas être sensible, avec lui, à ce qu’il peut y avoir d’indécent dans l’entreprise de "révision hagiographique de l’attitude de Pie XII envers les Juifs" ? Elle s’explique dans le projet, bien avancé, de béatifier ce pontife et culmine même, chez certains, dans la proposition de conférer à Pie XII la qualité de "Juste des Nations" dont Israël honore ceux qui, dans les épreuves, ont aidé le peuple juif.

Menahem Macina reprend toutes les pièces du dossier. Ses conclusions sont sévères mais justes. Pie XII, tout attaché à la défense de son Eglise, a manqué, vis-à-vis des Juifs, de la troisième vertu théologale : la charité. Ce serait la force de l’Eglise catholique que de le reconnaître et de s’en tenir là… une fois pour toutes.

LA CAVALE DES MAUDITS

Conan Eric

L’Express

12/08/1993

A la fin des années 40, fuyant l’épuration, des centaines de Français débarquent à Buenos Aires. Dans cette ville qui leur rappelle Paris, on n’est pas trop regardant sur leur passé. Et ils ne risquent pas d’en être extradés. Certains s’y referont une vie de notable. D’autres végéteront. Quelques-uns y sont encore. Beaucoup sont rentrés. Récit d’une débandade.

Il y a ceux qui sont restés et ceux qui sont repartis. La plupart sont restés. Souvent jusqu’à leur mort, au terme d’une seconde vie, paisible et confortable. Très loin de leur éternel sujet de discussion, de passion et de ressentiment: la France. Cette France qui les a fait fuir. Et qui les a perdus. Personne n’a tenu la chronique de cet exil silencieux: à la fin des années 40, des centaines de Français ont débarqué à Buenos Aires, redoutant la justice de la Libération, ou désireux de s’y soustraire lorsqu’elle s’était déjà prononcée.

L’exil argentin reste une tradition française. Plusieurs générations de proscrits ont échoué ici: communards, anarchistes, juifs fuyant Vichy, collaborateurs, soldats de l’OAS. Jean-Michel Boucheron, le député socialiste ripou, constitue le dernier arrivage de marque… Ce tropisme s’explique d’abord par l’absence de convention d’extradition entre la France et l’Argentine, qui rend la sérénité à beaucoup de fuyards. De plus, Buenos Aires, véritable cité européenne, rassure avec ses immenses quartiers copiés sur Paris, Madrid ou Bruxelles, et sa population comme sa gastronomie offrent un agréable échantillon des silhouettes et traditions du Vieux Continent. La vie y fut longtemps facile, et les Français, très bien accueillis. D’autant plus que la tradition locale veut que l’on n’importune jamais les migrants sur les raisons qui ont pu les pousser à faire subitement des milliers de kilomètres pour s’établir dans un pays qu’ils ne connaissent pas…

A leur arrivée, beaucoup de ces Français de l’épuration tiennent cependant à s’expliquer, en donnant une version retouchée des événements qui les ont conduits à quitter la France: ils sont résistants, mais, à cause de De Gaulle, le Parti communiste a pris le pouvoir et fait la chasse aux vrais patriotes. En danger de mort, il leur a fallu fuir… Version peu discutée dans une Argentine péroniste qui croit alors à l’imminence d’une troisième guerre mondiale… Ils viennent de Suisse, d’Italie ou d’Espagne, pays refuges où beaucoup ont attendu de connaître leur jugement par contumace avant de décider d’aller voir ailleurs. Certains débarquent à Buenos Aires avec femme et enfants, comme ces notables de province engagés tardivement dans la folie meurtrière de la Milice de 1944. Beaucoup ont dû tout abandonner. Le clivage se fait vite entre ceux qui ont de l’argent, facile à faire fructifier en Argentine, et ceux qui n’ont rien. Ces derniers, souvent, commencent par trimer comme dockers sur le port avant de trouver mieux. Mgr Barrère, évêque de Tucuman et proche de l’Action française, fut secourable pour certains. Mais, entre eux, il n’y eut jamais de réelle solidarité, sauf peut-être au sein de l’importante tribu des anciens journalistes de "Je suis partout": Charles Lesca, directeur de l’hebdomadaire, condamné à mort par contumace en mai 1947, avait la double nationalité française et argentine et une petite fortune héritée d’un père négociant dans la viande à Buenos Aires. Mais il est mort dès 1948, immédiatement après son arrivée.

Un petit groupe de nostalgiques essaya pourtant de maintenir l’ambiance de l’ex- "nouvelle Europe". Dans le quartier Belgrano, une association, la Casa Europa (la "Maison Europe"), dirigée par Radu Guenea, ancien ambassadeur de Roumanie à Madrid, leur permettait de se retrouver: Français, Allemands, Roumains, Italiens, Croates, Belges, Hongrois se réunissaient et suivaient à travers la presse étrangère les développements de la guerre froide en Europe. Ils avaient choisi pour quartier général la brasserie Adam’s, près du port, où les soirées se prolongeaient souvent fort tard, dans la gaieté et la bonne humeur. Il s’agissait alors moins de nostalgie que d’espoir: la troisième guerre mondiale leur semblait une hypothèse sensée, et son déclenchement leur aurait permis de revenir en Europe participer au combat final contre le communisme. Espoir que la plupart perdent définitivement après la fin de la crise de Corée, en 1953. Les manifestations collectives chez Adam’s deviennent moins régulières. "J’ai vite compris qu’il fallait s’en sortir tout seul, précise un ancien Waffen SS français. Continuer chez Adam’s, c’était la meilleure façon de se faire remarquer. Et, à cette époque, c’était encore dangereux."

Car, dans ces années d’après guerre, l’ambassade de France demeure active, comme le raconte un ancien membre des services spéciaux auprès de l’attaché militaire: "Nous devions repérer ceux qui arrivaient et établir des rapports sur leur identité, leur comportement et leurs activités. Selon leur ?calibre?, plusieurs devaient faire l’objet d’une élimination physique. C’était la tâche de commandos qui, sur la base de nos renseignements, agissaient de façon autonome. Certains sont même venus spécialement de France. Le travail était difficile, car il ne fallait absolument pas éveiller les soupçons des Argentins, très sourcilleux sur leur souveraineté et leur hospitalité. Beaucoup d’opérations ont ainsi échoué au dernier moment." Une dizaine de Français ont finalement été "neutralisés" sans bruit et sans éclat: morts naturelles apparentes et surtout accidents divers.

ÉPURATION SECRÈTE

Jean de Vaugelas, l’un des principaux chefs de la Milice, est l’une des plus célèbres victimes de cette épuration secrète. Cité par Laval à l’ordre de la Nation le 8 juillet 1944 ("commandant de la Franc-Garde permanente de la Milice française. Chef milicien de très grande classe"), cet aristocrate, ancien officier d’aviation monarchiste, fut un temps le responsable de l’école des cadres de la Milice à Uriage (Isère), avant de prendre la tête de l’une des unités les plus redoutées de la Franc-Garde (la Milice armée), appelée à intervenir contre les maquis les plus importants. Il dirigea ainsi les 600 miliciens accompagnant les 5 000 Allemands qui détruisirent le maquis des Glières en mars 1944. Le mois suivant, il est chargé des opérations de maintien de l’ordre qui sèmeront la terreur dans la région de Limoges. Puis dans des maquis du Massif central. Lorsque la débâcle se précise, il n’hésite pas, le 10 août 1944, à rejoindre en avion plus de 1 000 miliciens encerclés par le maquis autour de Limoges, pour en organiser l’évacuation, avant de partir avec la division Charlemagne comme chef d’état-major. Prisonnier des Soviétiques en Lituanie, il s’échappe en compagnie du chef milicien Jean Bassompierre, et, avec lui, traverse la Lituanie et l’Allemagne pour rejoindre l’Italie. Là, ils sont trahis. Bassompierre sera arrêté (puis fusillé en France), tandis que Vaugelas s’échappe à nouveau et parvient à gagner Buenos Aires en 1948 avec un passeport de la Croix-Rouge. Son périple s’arrête brusquement en 1954, à Mendoza, région viticole, où il est devenu administrateur des Caves franco-argentines: il est exécuté dans une mise en scène d’accident de voiture.

Cette vindicte cesse au cours des années 50, l’ambassade se bornant encore pendant quelques années à "suggérer" aux entreprises françaises implantées en Argentine de ne pas employer quelques compatriotes en situation irrégulière. Et le consulat, à rappeler de temps en temps à certains membres de la communauté française au lendemain de dîners mondains: "Quand vous invitez le consul, évitez les condamnés à mort!"

Que peut faire un exilé politique en Argentine? Entre ceux qui n’ont jamais pu imaginer changer d’activité et ceux qui ont réussi une reconversion radicale, les nuances sont nombreuses. D’autant plus que d’aucuns ont développé de nouvelles compétences tout en conservant leurs anciennes obsessions (1).

Parmi les premiers s’impose d’abord le célèbre Dewoitine: il a passé sa vie à construire des avions. Pour les Français, les Allemands, les Espagnols. Et les Argentins. L’un des plus grands créateurs français d’avions de l’entre-deux-guerres avec Henry Potez et Marcel Bloch (Dassault), Emile Dewoitine, fondateur des usines aéronautiques de Toulouse (2) et père du D 520 (le dernier chasseur que la France put opposer aux Messerschmitt en 1940), avait mis pendant l’Occupation ses talents au service de la firme allemande Arado, en dirigeant, à Paris, un bureau d’études de 200 employés (dont une partie venait des usines de Toulouse). A la même époque, il travailla également pour l’Espagne et le Japon. Lorsqu’il est recherché, à la Libération, pour "intelligence avec l’ennemi" et "atteinte à la sûreté extérieure de l’Etat", il se trouve depuis longtemps en Espagne. Et en Argentine quand, le 9 février 1948, la cour de justice de la Seine le condamne par contumace à vingt ans de travaux forcés, à l’indignité nationale à vie et à la confiscation de ses biens. Il n’a pas perdu de temps: dès son arrivée à Buenos Aires, en mai 1946, il s’est attelé à la construction du premier avion à réaction argentin! Le prototype du Pulqui (la Flèche) a volé le 9 août 1947: grâce à lui, l’Argentine péroniste est le cinquième pays au monde à posséder un avion à réaction. Le retentissement est énorme, y compris dans les couloirs du ministère de l’Air à Paris. Mais Dewoitine, qui a créé sa société, Dewoitine Aviacion, et fait venir de Toulouse une dizaine de spécialistes français pour passer à la phase industrielle, sera évincé par l’ingénieur allemand Kurt Tank (ancien ingénieur de la Luftwaffe, créateur du célèbre Focke-Wulf 190), qui, venu en Argentine avec une cinquantaine de techniciens allemands, mettra au point le Pulqui II. Dépité, Emile Dewoitine écrit à son ami Charles Lindbergh pour proposer ses services aux Etats-Unis. Indésirable, il se voit refuser le visa d’entrée. Il vivote en mettant au point un avion de tourisme pour les aéro-clubs argentins (El Boyero), avant de partir, en 1951, offrir ses services en Uruguay. En vain. Il revient alors en Espagne pour répondre à un appel d’offres du ministère de l’Air concernant un avion d’entraînement. Il se fait à nouveau devancer par un avionneur allemand, cette fois-ci le grand Willy Messerschmitt en personne!

RETOUR NÉGOCIÉ

Les lois d’amnistie étant votées, il peut envisager de rentrer en France et négocie son retour: cinq ans après sa condamnation, il est acquitté au cours d’un procès express – le commissaire du gouvernement abandonne l’accusation, et l’on n’entend même pas les témoins. Mais Emile Dewoitine pousse le bouchon un peu loin et agace ses protecteurs en réclamant la restitution de ses bénéfices acquis illicitement sous l’Occupation… Très vite, il offre ses services à son ancien concurrent Marcel Dassault, qui refuse de le recevoir en déclarant que "Dewoitine n’est plus dans le coup"… Il tente ensuite sa chance au Japon. Sans résultat. Vexé, il retourne en Argentine et s’installe en Patagonie pour y créer un élevage de 8 000 moutons et se livrer à son plaisir favori: la pêche. Il se retire dans les années 60 à Montreux, en Suisse, puis à Toulouse, où, à la fin des années 60, les milieux de l’aérospatiale lui accordent sa place d’ancêtre fondateur de l’aéronautique française. Il ne manque plus un Salon de l’aéronautique à Toulouse (il sera même un jour assis à dîner à la droite de Pierre Messmer, ministre des Armées… et ancien des Forces françaises libres). Il est invité à l’un des premiers vols à mach 2 du Concorde (mais refuse de participer à un vol inaugural d’Airbus, par rancune envers son responsable, Henri Ziegler, ancien ingénieur du ministère de l’Air ayant rallié la France libre…). L’année de sa mort, la promotion 1977 de l’école d’apprentissage de Toulouse porte son nom.

Même obstination professionnelle chez l’ex-conseiller d’Etat Jean-Pierre Ingrand. L’obsession du service de l’Etat l’avait conduit sous l’Occupation à administrer envers et contre tout. En exil, il n’eut qu’une passion: l’administration, et il est mort en décembre dernier président de l’Alliance française de Buenos Aires. Représentant du ministère de l’Intérieur à Paris, auprès de Fernand de Brinon, de juillet 1940 à janvier 1944, il avait, à moins de 40 ans, les 48 préfets de la zone nord sous son contrôle. Ce rôle d’intermédiaire entre le ministre de l’Intérieur et l’autorité militaire allemande (avec pouvoir de négociation politique) l’a amené à jouer un rôle essentiel, en août 1941, dans la mise en place de la Section spéciale de Paris, tribunal d’exception qui renia le principe de non-rétroactivité des lois. Prévoyant son sort, il se cache à la Libération. Dénoncé, arrêté, mis en liberté provisoire, il préfère s’échapper en Suisse avant son procès, qui a lieu en 1948 (voir L’Express du 8 août 1991). Puis en Argentine, où, grâce à un ami inspecteur des Finances, il devient administrateur de la Compagnie financière de Santa Fe, avant d’investir dans l’agriculture et la faïence. Tout en se consacrant vite au développement spectaculaire de l’Alliance française: en vingt ans, il en fait le plus beau fleuron au monde, avec plus de 30 000 élèves et une multitude de succursales dans tout le pays. Situation dont ne profitèrent guère les autres exilés: "Il était hors de question d’aller demander de l’aide à Ingrand, cette marionnette de Laval, ce suppôt de l’ordre bourgeois de Vichy!" explique un ancien de "Je suis partout". Seul rappel du passé pour l’ancien délégué de Pierre Pucheu en zone occupée: lors de la visite du général de Gaulle au cours de son grand périple en Amérique latine, en octobre 1964, Christian Margerie, ambassadeur de France en Argentine, le convoque et lui demande, "pour éviter tout incident", de ne pas participer aux cérémonies et d’aller prendre quelques jours de vacances, par exemple au Brésil… Refus de l’ancien conseiller d’Etat révoqué en 1944: il est chez lui à Buenos Aires, il est chez lui à l’Alliance française. De plus, il a connu de Gaulle à Bordeaux, en juin 1940, lorsque celui-ci était sous-secrétaire d’Etat à la Guerre dans le gouvernement Reynaud, et il est curieux des retrouvailles. Tout se passera bien, le Général se contentant de lui envoyer une apostrophe très gaullienne: "Alors, Ingrand, ça marche, l’Alliance française, à Buenos Aires?"…

L’esprit de continuité peut aller jusqu’à l’absurdité, comme chez Olier Mordrel, ancien chef du Parti national breton (PNB) allié avec les nazis: il passa une partie de ses années d’exil, au fin fond de l’Amérique du Sud, à réinventer une langue pure à partir du breton de la Renaissance pour remplacer le dialecte parlé, qu’il jugeait trop vulgaire… Architecte, cet autonomiste bretonnant présente la particularité d’avoir été condamné à mort deux fois, en mai 1940 et en 1946. En août 1939, il avait envoyé de Berlin un manifeste proclamant la neutralité de la Bretagne et appelant les Bretons à la désertion. Avant de revenir au pays avec les nazis, qui offraient, selon lui, aux "êtres supérieurs" qu’étaient le marin et le paysan bretons la chance historique d’être enfin libérés de l’ "exploitation du capitalisme juif et français". Ses illusions de parti et d’Etat bretons ne prendront que la forme sanglante, en 1943, d’une Milice régionale (la "Milice Perrot") et se termineront par l’épisode pathétique du protocole signé le… 15 février 1945, sur le lac de Constance, avec Jacques Doriot (autoproclamé chef de l’Etat français), qui le désigne comme gouverneur en exil d’une Bretagne enfin reconnue en tant qu’Etat associé à la France… Mordrel débarque à Buenos Aires en juin 1948 et rachète, à un ancien nazi, un hôtel à Cordoba. Ses études linguistiques, étendues aux langues celtiques, et quelques correspondances avec des Bretons occupent une grande partie de ses vingt-trois ans d’exil. Il part pour l’Espagne en 1969, en attendant la mesure de grâce qui lui permettra de rentrer en Bretagne en 1971. Après avoir tenté de renouer avec le mouvement régionaliste breton (qui préfère ne pas utiliser la culture phénoménale de cet encombrant ancêtre), il s’occupera un temps d’une crêperie, avant de mourir en 1985.

Quelques-uns en sont réduits à exploiter le seul atout qui reste à un exilé: sa langue. Comme Philippe Darnand, qui donna pendant longtemps des cours de français à l’Alliance française. Fils du chef de la Milice, Joseph Darnand, et lui-même ancien membre de l’Avant-garde (les jeunes de la Milice qui montaient la garde à Sigmaringen, le château sur le Danube où s’était réfugié en 1944 le gouvernement de Pétain), il s’était enfui en Italie, où il travailla comme speaker à Radio-Vatican. Après l’exécution de son père, en 1945, et sur les conseils de Jean de Vaugelas, il se rend avec sa mère en Argentine, à Tucuman, où il enseigne le français. Mal à l’aise dans le pays, il décide, à 28 ans, de passer son bac, entreprend des études et quitte l’Argentine en 1960, avec un diplôme d’ingénieur, pour aller travailler en Allemagne, à Cologne, où il trouve une place chez Hoechst grâce à un ami allemand de son père, ancien secrétaire de l’ambassade du Reich à Paris.

LE CAS LE VIGAN

La langue française fut également le gagne-pain de quelques acteurs. Maurice Rémy, membre du PPF, qui joua un rôle important dans le film de propagande "Forces occultes" et animait des sketchs politiques dans l’émission "Au rythme du temps" sur Radio-Paris, trouva du travail dans les émissions en langue française de "La Voix de l’Argentine". En compagnie d’une autre ancienne de Radio-Paris, Lola Robert. Mais le cas le plus célèbre – et le plus paradoxal – reste celui de Robert Le Vigan. Car le ténébreux interprète du "Quai des Brumes" et de "Goupi Mains rouges", recyclé dans les émissions de propagande de Radio-Paris et auteur d’un délire antisémite digne de Céline (dont il était l’ami et qu’il accompagnera à Sigmaringen), n’a pas fui l’épuration: il ne s’est exilé qu’après avoir été condamné, en 1946, à dix ans de travaux forcés. Libéré en 1949, et se heurtant au boycottage du cinéma français, il part tenter sa chance en Espagne, puis en Angleterre. En vain. En Argentine, deux essais tourneront court, et il doit vite se contenter de donner des cours de français et de diction, à Tandil, à quelques centaines de kilomètres de Buenos Aires, où il traîne péniblement sa silhouette, avec sa cape et son épée, ruminant sa hantise de la victoire prochaine du communisme. Confronté à de coûteux problèmes de santé, il survivra difficilement jusqu’à sa mort, en 1972, grâce à l’aide financière de quelques bienfaiteurs parisiens: Pierre Fresnay, Madeleine Renaud, Jean-Louis Barrault, Maurice Ronet, Fernand Ledoux et Arletty (qui lui rendit visite en 1966).

Les véritables reconversions sont plus ou moins spectaculaires. Beaucoup d’anciens responsables de la Milice ont simplement troqué un statut de notable de province en France contre celui de notable de la Pampa. C’est le cas de X., ancien ingénieur de Centrale, industriel, responsable de la Milice dans le Sud-Ouest, qui réussit à organiser la fuite de la Milice de Toulouse par la vallée du Rhône en août 1944, avant de diriger le bataillon des 500 derniers "soldats" de l’Etat français à Sigmaringen. Arrivé en Argentine via l’Italie, il rentra en France dans les années 60. Ou du Dr Y., ancien chef de la Milice de Limoges, mêlé au pillage et au massacre de Magnac-Laval (Haute-Vienne) le 8 juillet 1944, mais surtout célèbre grâce à sa femme, milicienne exubérante et surexcitée, qui participait aux opérations sanglantes des francs-gardes et aimait à répéter publiquement qu’il lui fallait un "sac à main en peau de maquisard".

Parmi les reconversions plus originales, celle d’Henri Queyrat mérite d’être citée. Délégué du PPF de Jacques Doriot pour toute l’Afrique du Nord, il retourne clandestinement en Tunisie après le débarquement des Alliés, en novembre 1942, pour former, en 1943, un réseau d’espionnage allemand. Nommé ensuite secrétaire fédéral du PPF de la Seine, il crée, en mars 1944, les "Groupes d’action du PPF", formés par les Allemands à Taverny (Val-d’Oise), spécialistes de la chasse aux résistants, aux réfractaires au STO, aux juifs, et réputés pour leurs chantages et leurs pillages. Engagé dans la Waffen SS en mai 1944, il sera condamné à mort par contumace. En Argentine, il effectue divers travaux pour les éditions Larousse, rédige le journal de la Chambre de commerce franco-argentine et travaille plusieurs années comme journaliste à l’AFP (où il sera remplacé par Jean Dumazeau, un ancien milicien du Nord), avant de se consacrer à sa nouvelle passion: l’oenologie. Devenu l’un des meilleurs spécialistes des vins argentins, il sera, jusqu’à sa mort, récente, le conseiller très écouté de plusieurs caves de Mendoza (qui sont encore loin d’atteindre la qualité de la production chilienne). Et l’auteur, chez Hachette, de très bons livres de référence sur les vins (et les fromages) argentins.

La confrérie tumultueuse des anciens de "L’Action française", de "Je suis partout" ou du "Cri du peuple" (le quotidien du PPF de Doriot) arriva en force à la fin des années 40. Il y avait notamment là Pierre Daye, ancien grand reporter du "Soir" de Bruxelles et correspondant belge de "Je suis partout" depuis 1932, tout en étant député et président du groupe rexiste au Parlement de Bruxelles. Condamné à mort en 1946, il fut professeur de littérature française à l’université de La Plata, avant de mourir en 1960.

Georges Guilbaud, ancien marxiste ayant intégré le PPF, dont il devint le responsable en Tunisie, dirigeait le quotidien "Tunis-Journal", organe du collaborationnisme en Tunisie. Venu en France après le débarquement allié de 1942, il est chargé par Pierre Laval d’organiser la Milice en zone nord. Il tentera d’en faire un organe unique, en essayant en vain d’y faire fusionner toutes les organisations collaborationnistes. Au début très actif, à Buenos Aires, au sein du groupe des nostalgiques de la brasserie Adam’s, il se lança, au milieu des années 50, dans les activités financières, où il excellait, en travaillant avec la maison de change Piano. Gagnant beaucoup d’argent, il devint administrateur d’un célèbre palace de Buenos Aires, avant de partir, dans les années 60, exercer ses talents financiers en Suisse.

Contrairement aux Flamands et aux Allemands, rares furent les Français qui se passionnèrent pour la politique locale. Mais il y eut quelques exceptions sérieuses. Comme W., ancien militant de l’Action française rallié au PPF et journaliste hyperactif (chroniqueur à "Je suis partout", au "Cri du peuple" et l’un des chroniqueurs du "Radio-Journal" de Radio-Paris). Violemment antivichyste (il sera interné trois mois sur ordre de Laval, avant d’être libéré sur pression allemande), il termine la guerre en s’enrôlant dans la brigade SS Wallonie, dont la croisade s’arrête en 1945 devant Cracovie. Parvenu en Suisse, il y attend de connaître sa condamnation par contumace à perpétuité, en 1948, et part pour Buenos Aires, où il débarque avec 50 francs en poche. Il se plonge alors dans les subtilités du péronisme et fait la connaissance de Victor Paz Estenssoro, chef du Mouvement national révolutionnaire (MNR), parti de la gauche nationaliste bolivienne en exil à Buenos Aires, dont il devient un actif conseiller politique. Lorsque Victor Paz Estenssoro conquiert la présidence de la République de Bolivie, en 1952, W. le suit au palais Quemado, où il occupe pendant trois ans les fonctions de conseiller officiel, avant que sa femme, qui supporte mal La Paz, le contraigne à revenir à Buenos Aires. Il entame alors une carrière alimentaire de publicitaire, tout en restant passionné par la politique argentine. Dans les années 70, il participe à "Segunda Repùblica", revue de Marcello Sorrendo, vieux nationaliste maurrassien et l’un des pères spirituels des Montoneros, péronistes dissidents d’extrême gauche passés à la guérilla.

Même passion politique chez Jacques de Mahieu, professeur de philosophie, ancien de l’Action française, où il fut le théoricien du maurrassisme social et du corporatisme. Ayant terminé la guerre dans les rangs de la division Charlemagne, il arrive en 1946 avec sa famille à Buenos Aires. Devenu professeur polyvalent (économie, français, ethnographie) à l’université de Cuyo et directeur de l’Institut d’études et de recherche du marché, il publie de nombreux ouvrages sur le syndicalisme, les problèmes sociaux et le corporatisme. Il eut son heure de gloire pendant la période des gouvernements militaires à partir de 1966, quand il devint le maître à penser sur les questions sociale et syndicale auprès des jeunes profs de droit et de sciences politiques proches des militaires. Il est resté très lié avec un autre intellectuel, William Gueydan de Roussel, philosophe germaniste engagé dans la lutte contre la maçonnerie, cofondateur du Cercle aryen de Paris, avec Paul Chack, et président du Cercle d’études judéo-maçonniques, dont le principal objectif était de prouver l’origine juive de la maçonnerie. Etabli à El Bolson, Gueydan de Roussel mit son érudition bibliographique au service de la Bibliothèque nationale de Buenos Aires.

LES VIKINGS, DIEUX INCAS

Mais Jacques de Mahieu est également connu en France comme auteur à succès de la collection Les énigmes de l’Univers, chez Robert Laffont. Dans "L’Agonie du dieu Soleil", publié en 1974, il prétend révéler que l’Amérique du Sud a été découverte par des Vikings. Il avait monté à la fin des années 60 des expéditions d’ethnographie au Paraguay et retrouvé, à la frontière du Brésil, des fresques représentant de grands gaillards blonds, pour lui incontestablement "de race aryenne". Il échafauda une théorie selon laquelle le continent aurait été découvert au xe siècle par les Vikings, qui auraient civilisé les Indiens et fondé l’Empire inca, dont ils devinrent les "dieux blancs". Les actuels Guayakis seraient, d’après cette théorie, leurs derniers représentants, malheureusement "dégénérés par

métissage".

Quelques exilés n’ont pas connu les bonheurs d’une seconde vie parce qu’ils n’ont pas supporté l’Argentine et sont rentrés le plus tôt possible. Il y eut deux vagues de retours: dans les années 50, après les lois d’amnistie de 1951 et de 1953, et au milieu des années 70, grâce à la prescription des poursuites. Ainsi Henri Lèbre, qui fut à la fois directeur du "Cri du peuple" et l’un des dirigeants de "Je suis partout", journaux dans lesquels il s’insurgeait contre la mollesse de la politique antijuive de Vichy (statut des juifs et aryanisation), qu’il qualifiait de "solution dérisoire". Arrivé en Argentine en 1947 avec un passeport de la Croix-Rouge, après sa condamnation à mort par contumace en France, il ne s’adapte pas au pays et repart très vite pour le Portugal, où il attend la loi d’amnistie qui lui permet de rentrer en France dans les années 50, afin de reprendre du service à "Rivarol" et à "Spectacle du monde". A la même période quitte également Buenos Aires Pierre Villette, cofondateur de "Je suis partout", membre du PPF et journaliste au "Cri du peuple", qui avait terminé sa carrière de journaliste engagé à Radio-Patrie, à Sigmaringen, et au "Petit Parisien", publié à Constance, à la fin de 1944, avant d’être condamné à mort par contumace en 1947. Marc Augier, journaliste à l’hebdomadaire "La Gerbe", ancien de la LVF et de la division Charlemagne, réfugié à Mendoza, aidera un temps l’armée argentine à organiser des expériences de résistance au froid en zone montagneuse, avant de rentrer en France, dans les années 50, pour entamer une seconde carrière d’écrivain et de chroniqueur dans la presse d’extrême droite, sous le pseudonyme de Saint-Loup. C’est plus tard, au tout début des années 70, qu’Henri Janières regagne la France. Ancien de "Paris-Soir" et de "Notre combat", organe oeuvrant pour "une France socialiste dans l’Europe nouvelle", ce dandy obsessionnel occupa à Buenos Aires la place enviée de correspondant du "Monde" de 1961 à 1969, tout en étant très proche de l’ambassade de Syrie. Autre personnage particulièrement affecté par le mal du pays: Simon Sabiani, le célèbre maire PPF de Marseille et véritable empereur de l’agglomération, mise en coupe réglée pendant l’Occupation au profit de ses hommes de main du clan corse de Simon Mema et de la pègre de Carbone et Spirito. Condamné à mort par contumace et réfugié à Rome, ce personnage célèbre pour son goût du luxe et de l’opulence s’est retrouvé dans une petite pension de famille de Buenos Aires, vivotant en travaillant dans une agence immobilière. Ne supportant plus de vivre si loin de sa vieille mère corse, il vint s’installer en 1952 à Barcelone, où les fervents sabianistes venaient le voir en car de Marseille et d’où il fit quelques voyages clandestins en Corse pour voir sa mère. A sa mort, en 1956, des centaines de personnes assistèrent à son enterrement dans le petit cimetière de Casamaccioli, près de Corte.

Les passions sont retombées depuis longtemps chez la plupart des exilés restés sur place et encore vivants. "De temps en temps, on a eu des bouffées de chaleur, comme les femmes de 40 ans, précise un ancien de ?Je suis partout?, au moment de la guerre d’Algérie, quand on a paniqué l’ambassade de France en lui faisant croire que s’était créé un ?Comité Algérie française? à Buenos Aires, puis en Mai 68, quand les jeunes de Paris ont failli foutre en l’air de Gaulle. Mais c’est tout. Et c’est bien fini." Aujourd’hui, la plupart viennent régulièrement passer des vacances en France. "Les Français vivent bien, c’est un beau pays, bien tenu, et vous avez un bon président de la République, qui vous a enfin débarrassés des communistes", conclut un ancien SS français.

(1) Nous avons préservé l’anonymat des personnes encore vivantes que nous avons mentionnées.

(2) Voir Emmanuel Chadeau, "Histoire de l’industrie aéronautique en France, 1900-1950", Fayard.

PHOTOS:

ÉMILE DEWOITINE

Le célèbre avionneur au service des Allemands, puis de Peron (ci-dessus, dans son bureau à Buenos Aires); rentrera à Toulouse dans les années 60 (ci-contre, chez lui, en 1977, l’année de sa mort).

JEAN-PIERRE INGRAND

Délégué du ministre de l’Intérieur à Paris (ci-dessus, dans son bureau), auprès des autorités allemandes, entre 1940 et 1944. Meurt à Buenos Aires en décembre dernier, où il dirigeait l’Alliance française (ci-contre).

ROBERT LE VIGAN

L’interprète de "Quai des Brumes" (ci-contre, avant la guerre) sera condamné

(ci-dessous, pendant son procès) pour avoir animé les émissions de propagande de Radio-Paris. Vivotera de leçons de français en Argentine (ci-dessus), où il mourra en 1972.

HENRI QUEYRAT

Responsable au PPF de Doriot (ci-dessus, tenant une réunion salle Wagram en avril 1944), engagé dans la Waffen SS, condamné à mort, il s’enfuit en Argentine. Après quelques années à l’AFP, il se lance dans l’oenologie à Mendoza (en haut) et publie des livres de référence sur le vin (ci-contre).

PIERRE DAYE

Journaliste à "Je suis partout", député belge d’extrême droite (au centre sur la photo, en 1944). Condamné à mort, il enseignera la littérature française à l’université de La Plata. Meurt en 1960.

GEORGES GUILBAUD

Chargé par Laval d’organiser la Milice en zone nord (ici, lors d’une conférence au théâtre des Ambassadeurs, à Paris, en mars 1944), il fera ensuite fortune en Argentine, puis en Suisse.

JACQUES DE MAHIEU

Intellectuel de l’Action française, théoricien du corporatisme social, il débarque en 1946 à Buenos Aires. Professeur d’université, influent auprès des militaires argentins en matière sociale, il se rend célèbre en Europe pour ses thèses ethnologiques, publiées chez Laffont (ci-contre): selon lui, l’Amérique du Sud aurait été découverte par les Vikings, fondateurs de l’Empire inca.

HENRI LÈBRE

Directeur du "Cri du peuple", le journal de Doriot, condamné à mort. Court séjour en Argentine, puis amnistie et retour à Paris dans les années 50. Il rejoint les rédactions de "Rivarol" et de "Spectacle du monde".

SIMON SABIANI

Maire de Marseille, qu’il se partagea avec les célèbres gangsters Carbone (à sa gauche, ci-dessus) et Spirito; proche de Doriot (ci-contre, à la droite du chef du PPF). Condamné à mort, s’installa à Barcelone après un exil malheureux en Argentine.

Background Report on Krunoslav Draganovic

The Pavelic papers

This is a follow-up report to Counter-Intelligence Corps Agent Robert Clayton Mudd’s earlier report in which he indicated that the Monastery of San Girolamo was acting as a haven for Ustase fugitives, and that he had run an agent into the network smuggling accused Ustase war criminals out of Croatia. Mudd appeared earlier to be suspicious that Ustase agents had infiltrated legitimate networks to help refugees, rather than that these networks themselves had been set up in order to smuggle out hunted Ustase officials. His conclusions in Paragraph 15 remain unchallenged to this day. This is an improved copy of the document originally published here, found among the CIA papers on Krunoslav Draganovic.

HEADQUARTERS

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE CORPS

ALLIED FORCES HEADQUARTERS

APO 512

February 12, 1947

SUMMARY OF INFORMATION

SUBJECT: Father Krunoslav DRAGANOVIC,

RE: PAST Background and PRESENT Activity.

1. Fr. Krunoslav DRAGANOVIC is a Croatian Catholic priest in the Monastery of San Geronimo [sic - here and below], 132 Via Tomacelli. ROME. This man has for some time now been associated with Ustashi elements in Italy and, while in many instances it is hard to distinguish the activity of the Church from the activity of one man whose personal convictions might lie along a certain line, it is fairly evident in the case of Fr. DRAGANOVIC that his sponsorship of the Ustashi cause stems from a deep-rooted conviction that the ideas espoused by this arch-nationalist organization, half logical, half lunatic, are basically sound concepts.

2. Fr. DRAGANOVIC is a native of TRAVNIK where he finished his elementary and secondary school. Shortly after this he went to SARAJEVO to study theology and philosophy. Here he fell under the personal magnetism of Dr. Ivan SARIC, archbishop of SARAJEVO, whose particular interest he soon became and after graduation he was sent to ROME under the auspices of Dr. SARIC who had some good connections in the Vatican.

3. Having completed his studies at ROME where he majored in ethnology and Balkan affairs he returned to SARAJEVO where he held various political offices, all of a minor importance. Shortly after the formation of the Independent State of Croatia under Ante PAVELIC in April 1941 DRAGANOVIC became one of the leading figures in the Bureau of Colonization. In the middle of 1943 however he became involved in a disagreement over the relative merits of the younger Eugen KVATERNIK, whom he called a "madman and a lunatic", and he left Croatia and returned to ROME.

4. According to a reliable informant it is believed that this departure of DRAGANOVIC from Croatia to Italy is a classic example of "kicking a man upstairs" inasmuch as it is fairly well established that the leaders of the Independent State of Croatia expected the prelate, through his good connections in the Vatican, to be instrumental in working out the orientation of Croatia towards the West rather than the East. These same leaders, being occidental-minded and knowing full well that Croatia’s militant Catholocism [sic] made her a "natural" in such a deal, relied on DRAGANOVIC to assist them in their aims. He was eminently unsuccessful.

5. DRAGANOVIC has a brother still in ZAGREB who is a member of the Napredak Co., who recently was ignored in the elections to determine the members of the Board of Directors. He has another brother, whereabouts unknown, who was a member of the Croatian Embassy in BERLIN. He is in touch with his brother, ZVONKO, in ZAGREB but not with KRESO, whsoe [sic] whereabouts are not definetly [sic] known although he has been reported in the British zone in Germany.

6. About a year ago DRAGANOVIC is alleged in some circles to have somewhat denounced his now ardent pro-Ustashi sentiments during a conference of Croats in ROME. Having been accused by a certain Dr. KLJAKOVIC (apparently a member of the Croat Peasant Party) of being in very close contact with only Ustashi emogrees [sic] DRAGANOVIC is said to have replied that if working for an independent Croatia meant being an Ustasha then "I am an Ustasha". "However," he added, "I disassociate myself from all other attributes of the Ustashi."

7. With this aim in view DRAGANOVIC is working with the Ustashi and also with some leftovers of the Croat Peasant Party in exile. When Milan PRIBANIC, erstwhile Commandant of the Guard of Vlado MACEK, appeared in ROME, he immediately contacted him and thus made his aims and purposes clear to MACEK.

8. Many of the more prominent Ustashi war criminals and Quislings are living in ROME illegally, many of them under false names. Their cells are still maintained, their papers still published, and their intelligence agencies still in operation. All this activity seems to stem from the Vatican, through the Monastary of San Geronimo to Fermo, the chief Croat Camp in Italy. Chief among the intelligence operatives in the Monastery of San Geronimo appear to be Dr. DRAGANOVIC and Monsignor MADJARAC.

9. The main messenger between the Vatican, the Monastary and Fermo is an Ustasha student by the name of BRISKI. BRISKI was interned in the 209 POW Camp at AFRAGOLA and was with the Ustashi Cabinet members when their escape was organized from there. His physical description is as follows: 25 years old, medium height, black hair, seen mostly without a hat. Has very bad teeth in upper and lower jaw. Appears to be very wise.

10. This Agent managed to run a counter-operative into this Monastary to find out if possible if the internal setup of the place was as had been alleged, namely that it was honeycombed with cells of Ustashi operatives. This was established and several things more but operations were stopped abruptly when it became too dangerous for the counter-intelligence agent in the Monastary. The following facts were ascertained:

11. In order to enter this Monastary one must submit to a personal search for weapons and identification documents, must answer questions as to where he is from, who he is, whom he knows, what is purpose is in the visit, and how he heard about the fact that there were Croats in the Monastary. All doors from one room to another are locked and those that are not have an armed guard in front of them and a pass-word is necessary to go from one room to another. The whole area is guarded by armed Ustashi youths in civilian clothes and the Ustashi salute is exchanged continually.

12. It was further established that the following prominent ex-Ustashi Ministers are either living in the monastery, or living in the Vatican and attending meetings several times a week at San Girolamo:

1. Ivan DEVCIC, Lt. Colonel

2. VRANCIC, Dr. Vjekoslav, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

3. TOTH, Dr. Dragutin, Minister of Croat State Treasury.

4. SUSIC, Lovro, Minister of Corporations in Croatian Quisling Government

5. STARCEVIC, Dr. Mile, Croat Minister of Education.

6. RUPCIC, General Dragutin, General of Ustashi Air Force.

7. PERIC, Djordje, Serbian Minster of Propaganda under NEDIC.

8. PECNIKAR, Vilko – Ustasha General and CO of Ustashi Gendarmerie

9. MARKOVIC, Josip, Minister of Transport in Pavelic Government.

10. KREN, Vladimir – Commander-in-Chief of the Croat Air Force.

13. While this "Croat", directed by this Agent to try to penetrate the Croat intelligence network, was inside the Monastary he personally heard a conversation ensue between this Monsignor MADJERAC and Dr. SUSIC, who, at the time of the conversation, was in the Vatican library. He also heard a conversation between two of the Ustashi in the monastary which established the fact that a brother of Dr. PERIC runs a hotel in ROME, and that often this hotel is visited at night for the purpose of holding important Ustahi [sic] conferences. The money for the purchase of the hotel was given this man by his brother, Dr. PERIC.

14. It was further established that these Croats travel back and forth from the Vatican several times a week in a car with a chauffeur whose license plate bears the two initials CD, "Corpo Diplomatico". It issues forth from the Vatican and discharges its passengers inside the Monastary of San Geronimo. Subject to diplomatic immunity it is impossible to stop the car and discover who are its passengers.

15. DRAGANOVIC’s sponsorship of these Croat Qusilings definetly [sic] links him up with the plan of the Vatican to shield these ex-Ustashi nationalists until such time as they are able to procure for them the proper documents to enable them to go to South America. The Vatican, undoubtedly banking on the strong anti-Communist feelings of these men, is endeavoring to infiltrate them into South America in any way possible to counteract the spread of Red doctrine. It has been reliably reported, for example that Dr. VRANCIC has already gone to South America and that Ante PAVELIC and General KREN are scheduled for an early departure to South America through Spain. All these operations are said to have been negotiated by DRAGANOVIC because of his influence in the Vatican.

16. This agent will continue to make an effort to keep abreast of the situation in this area and also to advise G-2 of any new plans or changes of operations on the part of DRAGANOVIC and his satellites.

[signed]

ROBERT CLAYTON MUDD,

SPECIAL AGENT, CIC DISTRIBUTION:

AC of S, G-2, AFHQ (2)

Chief, CIC, AFHQ (1)

File (1)

:: filing information ::

Title: Background Report on Krunoslav Draganovic

Source: CIA, declassified September 12, 1983

Date: February 12, 1947 Added: March 15, 2003

Voir enfin:

Peron’s Nazi Ties

How the European fascist sensibility found new roots and new life in the South Atlantic region

Mark Falcoff

Time

November 9, 1998

Since the 1930s, the political culture of Argentina has been afflicted by periodic spasms of covert violence, secrecy and denial. As in the case of Vichy France, memory can be an inconvenience or an embarrassment; faced with incidents that require explanation, too many Argentines instinctively reach for the words borron y cuenta nueva (Let’s forget it all and start over with a clean slate). As a result, even today nobody knows exactly how many people disappeared during the "dirty war" against subversion (1976-83), nor the number of victims in the left-wing guerrilla violence that preceded it. The 1992 and 1994 bombings of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and the city’s Jewish center, causing the loss of 115 lives, remain unsolved. Even events far more remote have had to wait decades for elucidation.

One of the most important of those events is Argentina’s vaunted neutrality in World War II, a posture it maintained long after other American republics broke off relations with the Axis. Only since the country’s return to democracy in 1983 has the real story of Argentina’s covert alignment with the Axis finally begun to emerge. A commission to investigate the activities of Nazism in Argentina, appointed by President Carlos Menem and assisted by an international team of scholars, started work last July. A preliminary report is expected in mid-November, when the scholars meet in Buenos Aires, and a final report a year later.

At issue here is not merely a matter of diplomatic taste. Throughout the war, Argentina was regarded by U.S. diplomats and the U.S. media as the regional headquarters for Nazi espionage. After 1945, reports kept cropping up in the U.S. press that Argentina was the final redoubt of important Nazis and their European collaborators, a point dramatically brought home as late as 1960 by the capture and forcible removal to Israeli justice of Adolf Eichmann, principal director of the "final solution."

Over the years, these allegations seemed at least superficially credible in light of the emergence in 1946 of Colonel Juan Peron as the leader of a defiant, nationalist Argentina. Though in practice the Peron regime resembled hardly at all the defeated European fascist dictatorships, Peron made no secret of his sympathy for the defeated Axis powers.

Argentina’s and Peron’s apparent preference for the Axis, and particularly for Nazi Germany, has muddied the country’s relations with the Anglo-Saxon powers and poisoned its domestic politics. Anti-Peronists have often used the term Nazi (or Pero-Nazi) a bit too freely in attempting to discredit their opponents–not just Peron but also the administration of President Ramon S. Castillo (1940-43), who preceded him. Indeed, Argentina’s 1946 elections, the first of three in which Peron was elected to the presidency, were, as much as anything else, a plebiscite on the credibility of such accusations. In recent years, the Canadian scholar Ronald Newton, in his masterly The "Nazi Menace" in Argentina, 1931-47 (Stanford), has suggested that much of the Nazi-fascist menace in Argentina was an invention of British intelligence, fearful of the loss of historic markets in that country to the U.S. after the war, and therefore desirous of straining relations between Buenos Aires and Washington.

Far in advance of the final report of President Menem’s commission (of which Newton is a member), that theory has now been refuted in an extraordinary piece of investigative reporting–also a major breakthrough in historical scholarship–by Uki Goni, whose Peron and the Germans has just been published in Buenos Aires. In this book the author, who also works as a local correspondent for TIME, establishes that, for all the hyperbole, Washington’s darkest suspicions were if anything greatly understated. For one thing, Goni demonstrates that the Castillo administration, and particularly the Argentine Foreign Ministry, was honeycombed with Nazi sympathizers as early as 1942–so much so that it is difficult to see why any of the most anxious partisans of neutrality, such as found in the secret lodges of the Argentine army, felt the need to overthrow the government at all!

Voir par ailleurs:

Qui étaient les «Monuments Men»?

Métro

11/03/2014

CINEMA – Le film «Monuments Men» et le livre qui l’a inspiré racontent l’histoire d’une poignée de soldats britanniques et américains chargés de sauver le patrimoine culturel…

Basée sur des faits réels. C’est une histoire passionnante et méconnue que relate le film Monuments Men, tiré du livre éponyme de Robert M. Edsel. Après s’être installé à Florence, cet homme d’affaires texan explique à 20 Minutes qu’il avait commencé à s’intéresser à l’art: «Je me suis demandé comment, lors de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, qui a causé la mort de 65 millions de personnes, tant d’œuvres d’art avaient pu survivre et surtout qui les avaient sauvées.» Soit, en Europe, lors de la fin officielle des hostilités le 8 mai 1945, une soixantaine de personnes, engagés dans la section des Monuments, des Beaux-Arts et des Archives.

De la préservation à l’enquête

En 1944, les Monuments Men débarquent en France avec le souci de préserver le patrimoine, «d’éviter que les Etats-Unis et la Grande-Bretagne détruisent les musées et les œuvres d’art, en bombardant les sites culturels». Au fur et à mesure, les Monuments Men découvrent que les œuvres d’art, issues d’institutions ou propriétés de particuliers, ont été dérobées en masse par les Nazis. Hitler avait pour projet de bâtir son «Führermuseum», un musée gigantesque, à Linz, en Autriche. «En progressant vers Paris, ils se sont aperçus de l’extension du pillage. De leur mission de préservation du patrimoine, ils sont passés, comme des détectives, à la recherche des œuvres d’art.» Parmi celles-ci, L’Autel de Gand, chef-d’œuvre de la peinture des primitifs flamands ou encore La Madone de Bruges, sculptée par Michel-Ange.

Mettre la main sur ces trésors

Alors que la date de la fin de la guerre reste encore inconnue, s’engage une course contre la montre pour mettre la main sur ces trésors, acheminés vers l’Est, comme vers l’extravagant château de Neuschwanstein, en Bavière, ou vers les mines de sel de Altaussee (Autriche) ou de Heilbronn (en Allemagne). Dans cette dernière a travaillé Harry Ettlinger, 88 ans, qui avait fui l’Allemagne pour les Etats-Unis, avant de s’engager dans l’armée. L’ex-Monuments Men se rappelle pour 20 Minutes: «A 18 ans, j’étais le boss juif, rigole-t-il. Je dirigeais les mineurs, je localisais les boîtes, identifiables grâce au nom des institutions marquées dessus, et vérifiais leurs contenus. Par les ascenseurs, on les emmenait aux camions. C’est là qu’on a retrouvé les caisses contenant les vitraux de la cathédrale de Strasbourg»… Aujourd’hui encore, des œuvres dérobées par les Nazis réapparaissent, comme celles découvertes à Munich en 2012. «Mais des centaines de milliers manquent toujours», déplore Robert M. Edsel.

Une reconnaissance pour Rose Valland

L’essayiste conserve l’amertume d’une critique en France au sujet de son livre, intitulée «Pillages et approximations». Il espère toutefois que le rôle de Rose Valland, attachée de conservation au musée du Jeu de Paume pendant l’Occupation, qui a aidé les Monuments Men, sera davantage considéré. «Elle n’a jamais eu en France la reconnaissance qu’elle méritait.» L’héritage des Monuments Men a permis selon lui de largement influencer la rédaction par l’Unesco de «la Convention pour la protection des biens culturels en cas de conflit armé» datant de 1954. Mais leur idéal semble s’être tari. Il déplore que les Américains aient oublié de s’en inspirer en bombardant des sites historiques, pendant la Guerre d’Irak en 2003.

"Monuments Men" : Cate Blanchett incarne une résistante française oubliée

Stéphanie Trouiilard

France 24

05/03/2014

En écrivant sur Rose Valland, une résistante qui permit de sauver des œuvres d’arts volées par les nazis, la sénatrice Corinne Bouchoux était loin d’imaginer son livre porté à l’écran. C’est pourtant chose faite avec le film "Monuments Men".

"La boucle est bouclée ! Mission accomplie ! Je suis plutôt contente." Corinne Bouchoux a du mal à cacher son excitation. Il y a quelques jours, la sénatrice Europe Écologie-Les Verts (EELV) a été personnellement invitée à assister à l’avant-première parisienne du dernier film de Georges Clooney "Monuments Men". Très émue, l’élue du Maine et Loire a pu voir sur grand écran le fruit d’un long travail. Dans cette superproduction, l’actrice australienne Cate Blanchett redonne vie à la résistante Rose Valland, à laquelle Corinne Bouchoux a consacré une biographie. "Si on m’avait dit un jour que mon livre, qui n’a intéressé personne pendant des années et que j’ai fait dans une solitude totale, pourrait inspirer un film, je ne l’aurais pas cru !".

Un coup de fil d’Hollywood

En 2006, en effet, son ouvrage "Rose Valland, la résistance au musée" sort dans une relative discrétion. Le livre est imprimé à seulement 2 000 exemplaires. "Après des années de recherches, j’étais très contente de l’avoir publié. Mais ensuite, j’ai estimé qu’une page de ma vie s’était tournée et je ne m’en suis plus occupée. On me sollicitait juste pour des conférences", raconte Corinne Bouchoux, interviewée par FRANCE 24 dans son petit bureau du Sénat . "Mais un jour, il y a un peu plus de cinq ans, un monsieur avec un fort accent américain m’a appelée pour me dire qu’il voulait racheter les droits de mon livre pour en faire un film à Hollywood."

Incrédule, la sénatrice croit d’abord à une plaisanterie. Mais au bout du fil, son interlocuteur est des plus sérieux : Robert Edsel est un ancien homme d’affaires texan reconverti dans l’histoire de l’art. Passionné par la Seconde Guerre mondiale, ce riche américain a regroupé dans un livre, aujourd’hui porté à l’écran par Georges Clooney, les mémoires des Monuments Men, ces soldats alliés chargés de récupérer les œuvres d’art volées par les nazis. "Il s’est aperçu qu’en France, il y avait eu très peu de recherches sur ce sujet. Il a juste trouvé mon livre sur Rose Valland, précise Corinne Bouchoux. Il a fait un chèque de 7 500 euros à mon éditeur pour racheter les droits. Il l’a fait traduire et il le vend même aujourd’hui sur son site comme un produit dérivé du film".

Rose Valland, une résistante de l’ombre

Il faut dire que le parcours de Rose Valland est indissociable de celui des Monuments Men. Tombée dans l’oubli, cette femme originaire d’une famille modeste de l’Isère a pourtant joué un rôle essentiel auprès de ces soldats pour sauver les chefs d’œuvre spoliés durant le conflit. Attachée de conservation au musée du Jeu de Paume, à l’époque le centre de triage des tableaux et des sculptures promis au musée d’Hitler à Linz en Autriche ou encore à la collection personnelle d’Hermann Goering, cette spécialiste de l’histoire de l’art a été un témoin privilégié du pillage nazi. "Pendant l’occupation, elle a été une véritable espionne, notant tous les tableaux qui partaient, avec leur destination. Elle a informé la résistance française et ensuite les Américains afin qu’ils évitent de bombarder certaines caches. Si son cahier n’était pas arrivé entre de bonnes mains, tout cela aurait été perdu", insiste la sénatrice.

Le long-métrage "Monuments Men" se concentre précisément sur ce travail de l’ombre et sur les risques encourus par Rose Valland. Son personnage, joué par Cate Blanchett sous le nom de Claire Simone, fournit de précieux renseignements au soldat américain James Granger (incarné par Matt Damon) pour l’aider à identifier les endroits où les nazis stockaient les œuvres réquisitionnées.

Le film tait toutefois une large partie de sa vie. "Elle aurait pu avoir un rôle plus consistant, car le film s’arrête en 1945 alors que Rose Valland est restée en Allemagne jusqu’en 1954", regrette Corinne Bouchoux. Au lendemain de la capitulation allemande, poursuit la sénatrice, la résistante a en effet pris une décision courageuse. Devenue capitaine de l’armée française, elle parcourt pendant de longues années – et en uniforme – les ruines du Troisième Reich pour retrouver les œuvres d’arts emportées par les Allemands. "Grâce à elle, 70 000 œuvres sont revenues en France, où sont enregistrées 100 000 réclamations. À l’époque, elle était aussi une négociatrice souterraine pour les diplomates, une sorte de sherpa lorsqu’étaient entamés des pourparlers. Elle s’est ainsi déplacée une quarantaine de fois en zone soviétique pour voir ce que les Russes avaient récupérés. Ce n’était pas facile car ils considéraient qu’ils pouvaient bien tout garder étant donné tout ce qu’on leur avait pris. Elle a ainsi joué un rôle crucial pendant et après la guerre."

Devenue conservatrice des musées nationaux en 1952 et décorée des titres les plus prestigieux (Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, Médaille de la Résistance, Médaille de la Liberté en 1948, et Officier de l’Ordre du Mérite de la République fédérale d’Allemagne), Rose Valland a ensuite passé le reste de sa vie dans l’anonymat le plus total. "On l’a mise dans un placard quand elle est rentrée en France. On lui a confié une nouvelle mission, celle de défendre le patrimoine français en cas de troisième guerre mondiale. Elle était la madame sécurité des musées français", poursuit Corinne Bouchoux. "Mais elle n’a jamais accepté qu’on lui dise que c’était terminé. Elle était obsédée par le sujet. Elle a travaillé jusqu’à sa mort [En 1980, NDLR], elle voulait retrouver un propriétaire pour chaque tableau volé par les nazis et renouer le fil de l’histoire".

Pour sa biographe, Rose Valland est finalement tombée dans l’oubli pour plusieurs raisons : "D’abord, c’était une femme, et dans ce pays, on préfère les héros masculins. Elle était aussi issue d’un milieu modeste, loin du sérail culturel. Et elle était également homosexuelle. Elle a vécu avec la même compagne, mais pendant longtemps on l’a prise pour une vieille fille acariâtre, alors qu’elle ne l’était pas du tout. Elle était juste discrète. Enfin, elle était aussi au courant d’un certain nombre de scandales et d’abus. Personne n’avait intérêt à ce qu’elle les révèle".

Soixante-dix ans après son engagement héroïque, le film "Monuments Men" lui rend enfin honneur. Mais l’action de Rose Valland est loin d’être une page révolue de l’histoire. Dans les musées nationaux français, 2 000 œuvres issues de la spoliation (appelées MNR) n’ont toujours pas retrouvé leurs propriétaires. À l’image de son illustre aînée, Corinne Bouchoux en a fait un combat personnel. Rapporteuse d’une commission sur le sujet au Sénat, elle souhaite que la France donne réellement aux ayants droit des propriétaires juifs les moyens de retrouver leurs trésors culturels et que l’État ne se contente plus d’attendre qu’ils se manifestent. Elle préconise la création d’une cellule de recherches. "Si on ne peut pas les identifier, il faut au moins qu’on soit au clair sur ces tableaux. Je ne veux plus qu’aucun musée français n’achète une œuvre alors qu’il y a un doute sur son passé", assène-t-elle.

Pour faciliter ce travail, un site Internet portant le nom de Rose Valland a été créé par le ministère de la Culture. Il permet notamment de consulter le répertoire des MNR en dépôt dans les musées français ou de se documenter sur le sujet. Mais ce bel hommage ne satisfait pas encore pleinement Corinne Bouchoux : "Je trouve cela anormal qu’il n’y ait pas dans tous les musées une plaque avec son nom et sa photo. J’espère que cela va arriver. Que Rose Valland soit aussi méconnue m’a toujours semblé être une injustice. J’ai juste voulu la réparer". Sur les écrans le 12 mars, le film "Monuments Men", va aussi contribuer à lui redonner sa juste place dans l’Histoire.


Mimétisme: Attention, un triangle peut en cacher bien d’autres ! (From Venitian vanitas and Venus in sackcloth to NSFW, nude yoga and pubic hair mannequins: the long road to the domestication of the male gaze)

19 janvier, 2014
Debate: Shoppers have had mixed reactions to the window display, with some agreeing that it' a positive move for feminism and others believing it is too graphichttp://medias.unifrance.org/medias/170/200/116906/format_page/belle-comme-la-femme-d-un-autre.jpghttps://pbs.twimg.com/media/BeBb3GJIIAAbIWR.jpgTu ne convoiteras point la femme de ton prochain; tu ne désireras point la maison de ton prochain, ni son champ, ni son serviteur, ni sa servante, ni son boeuf, ni son âne, ni aucune chose qui appartienne à ton prochain. Deutéronome 5: 21
Si le Décalogue consacre son commandement ultime à interdire le désir des biens du prochain, c’est parce qu’il reconnait lucidement dans ce désir le responsable des violences interdites dans les quatre commandements qui le précèdent. Si on cessait de désirer les biens du prochain, on ne se rendrait jamais coupable ni de meurtre, ni d’adultère, ni de vol, ni de faux témoignage. Si le dixième commandement était respecté, il rendrait superflus les quatre commandements qui le précèdent. Au lieu de commencer par la cause et de poursuivre par les conséquences, comme ferait un exposé philosophique, le Décalogue suit l’ordre inverse. Il pare d’abord au plus pressé: pour écarter la violence, il interdit les actions violentes. Il se retourne ensuite vers la cause et découvre le désir inspiré par le prochain. René Girard
Monsieur le président, mesdames les ministres, cet amendement concerne l’article 206 du code civil. J’évoquais tout à l’heure Jaurès. Je souhaite maintenant convoquer les mânes de Courteline, Feydeau, Labiche et Guitry. Pourquoi ? Parce qu’en transformant l’article 206, mes chers collègues, vous supprimez la belle-mère ! Vous supprimez un personnage essentiel de leur théâtre ! Vous portez un coup terrible au théâtre de boulevard ! La belle-mère disparaît ! Marc Le Fur (député UMP, débat parlementaire sur la suppression des mots "père" et "mère", 05.02.13)
Je vous jure, Monseigneur, qu’il n’existe pas d’homme perspicace qui ne la prenne pour une femme en chair et en os. Il n’existe pas d’homme assez usé par les ans, ni d’homme aux sens assez endormis, pour ne pas se sentir réchauffé, attendri et ému dans tout son être. Ludovico Dolce
Les toiles de Titien et les Sonnets luxurieux de l’Arétin ont la même raison – érotique – d’être. Mais, à la différence de ces sonnets, les nus de Titien peuvent sembler répondre à l’exigence du Livre du Courtisan de Baldassar Castiglione, livre de chevet de l’empereur Charles Quint, livre qui régit les convenances de toutes les cours : « Pour donc fuir le tourment de cette passion et jouir de la beauté sans passion, il faut que le Courtisan, avec l’aide de la raison, détourne entièrement le désir du corps pour le diriger vers la beauté seule, et, autant qu’il le peut, qu’il la contemple en elle-même, simple et pure, et que dans son imagination il la rende séparée de toute matière, et ainsi fasse d’elle l’amie chérie de son âme. Pascal Bonafoux
Le système de l’amour du prochain est une chimère que nous devons au christianisme et non pas à la nature. Sade
Il me semblait même que mes yeux me sortaient de la tête comme s’ils étaient érectiles à force d’horreur. Georges Bataille
Il arriverait, si nous savions mieux analyser nos amours, de voir que souvent les femmes ne nous plaisent qu’à cause du contrepoids d’hommes à qui nous avons à les disputer, bien que nous souffrions jusqu’à mourir d’avoir à les leur disputer ; le contrepoids supprimé, le charme de la femme tombe. On en a un exemple douloureux et préventif dans cette prédilection des hommes pour les femmes qui, avant de les connaître, ont commis des fautes, pour ces femmes qu’ils sentent enlisées dans le danger et qu’il leur faut, pendant toute la durée de leur amour, reconquérir ; un exemple postérieur au contraire, et nullement dramatique celui-là, dans l’homme qui, sentant s’affaiblir son goût pour la femme qu’il aime, applique spontanément les règles qu’il a dégagées, et pour être sûr qu’il ne cesse pas d’aimer la femme, la met dans un milieu dangereux où il lui faut la protéger chaque jour. (Le contraire des hommes qui exigent qu’une femme renonce au théâtre, bien que, d’ailleurs, ce soit parce qu’elle avait été au théâtre qu’ils l’ont aimée. Proust
Vous nous avez fait faire tout ce chemin pour nous montrer quoi: un triangle à la française ? Eglinton (Ulysse, James Joyce)
Elle était belle comme la femme d’un autre. Paul Morand
En 1974, un accident de la circulation impliquant le président Giscard d’Estaing, qui conduisait lui-même une voiture aux côtés d’une conquête, au petit matin dans une rue de Paris avait fait les titres de la presse satirique. (…) Mitterrand, entre deux dossiers, consacrait beaucoup de temps à son harem. Chirac nommait ses favorites au gouvernement. Ses disparitions nocturnes entraînaient l’inévitable question de Bernadette : "Savez-vous où est mon mari ce soir?" C’est ainsi: en France, sexe, amour et politique sont indissociables. Sexus Politicus
Les sorties de l’Elysée en direction d’un souterrain où l’attendaient un scooter et un casque intégral, les séjours rue du Cirque (cela ne s’invente pas) semblent sortir d’une comédie de boulevard ou d’un vaudeville. La France est passée en quatre décennies d’un Président qui sortait de l’Elysée en petite voiture discrète pour aller voir ses maîtresses, et qui pouvait heurter le camion du laitier à l’aurore à un Président polygame entretenant sa deuxième famille aux frais du contribuable, avant que vienne le célèbre monsieur « trois minutes douche comprise ». Elle a échappé au priapique du Sofitel de New York pour avoir le premier Président non marié et acteur burlesque à ses heures, dans le rôle « je trompe ma femme, mais elle ne le sait pas, d’ailleurs ce n’est pas ma femme ». Ce Président a voulu le mariage pour les homosexuels, mais surtout pas pour lui-même. Guy Millière
L’éventail proposé dans Benefits Street est large : il y a la mère de famille polonaise qui élève seule ses deux enfants et tente de trouver un boulot, un couple de 22 et 23 ans avec deux enfants qui ne travaille pas, une famille de 14 Roumains, récemment installés, qui inspectent les poubelles pour trouver du métal afin de le revendre, le vieil alcoolique revendiqué qui explique fièrement «être la vedette du programme et avoir inventé le titre» et affirme utiliser ses allocations pour nourrir son chien et acheter ses bouteilles. Bref, on plonge droit dans le cliché complet de ce que certaines critiques – et elles sont nombreuses – ont qualifié de "pornographie de la pauvreté". Libération

Après le mariage, le vaudeville pour tous !

A l’heure où, oubliant le double accident qui entre le rejet de Sarkozy et la défection de DSK l’avait fait, l’actuel maitre de la synthèse qui nous tient actuellement lieu de président vient de rappeler au monde l’une des plus grandes contributions du pays de Sade et de Bataille à la compréhension de la nature humaine, à savoir le fameux "French triangle"  de nos célébrissimes pièces de boulevard …

Et en ces temps du tout est permis où le terme de pornographie ne peut plus guère qualifier que le rappel de la pauvreté …

Pendant que, du yoga nu aux mannequins aux poils pubiens, nos cousins américains rivalisent d’ingéniosité pour contourner les nouveaux interdits du "male gaze" des féministes et du NSFW de leurs employeurs …

Comment ne pas voir derrière les efforts titienesques de nos premiers grands peintres il y a quelque 500 ans pour tenter de légitimer, entre vénus et marie-madeleines, leur célébration du corps humain et surtout féminin …

Et, du voyeurisme (autre importante contribution lexicale française au monde) au contrepoids proustien ou à la pulsion scopique freudienne ou au miroir lacanien, derrière les efforts non moins titanesques de nos romanciers et de nos cliniciens  …

La vérité, longtemps oubliée depuis l’avertissement multimillénaire du dixième commandement mais retrouvée et théorisée récemment par René Girard, de la nature intrinsèquement triangulaire du désir humain  …

Autrement dit, comme le rappelle si efficacement, le titre morandien d’un film (français) qui vient de sortir sur nos écrans, qu’aucune femme n’est jamais aussi belle que la femme d’un autre ?

To NSFW or not to NSFW? (now SFW)

Roger Ebert

October 31, 2010

This entry is safe for work.

I hesitated just a moment before including Miss June 1975 in my piece about Hugh Hefner. I wondered if some readers would find the nude photograph objectionable. Then I smiled at myself. Here I was, writing an article in praise of Hefner’s healthy influence on American society, and I didn’t know if I should show a Playmate of the Month. Wasn’t I being a hypocrite? I waited to see what the reaction would be.

The Sun-Times doesn’t publish nudes on its site, but my page occupies a sort of netherland: I own it in cooperation with the newspaper, but control its contents. If anyone complains, I thought, it will be the paper, and if they do I’ll take it down.

You dance with the one that brung you. But no one at the newspaper said a word, even though they certainly saw the page because the same article also appeared in the Friday paper. Hefner was in town for the weekend for a nostalgic visit to his childhood home, and a screening at the Siskel Film Center of the new documentary about his life . He’s a local boy who made good.

At first no one at all objected to the photo, even though the entry was getting thousands of hits. It went online early on Sunday afternoon. But Monday was a workday, and a reader asked if it had occurred to me to label it NSFW ("not suitable for work"). The thought may have crossed my mind, but come on, would anybody be surprised to find a nude somewhere during a 2,200-word piece on Hef? It wasn’t like I was devoting a whole page to it; I embedded it at a prudent 300 pixels. Like this:

Sorry. After learning that the mere presence of this photograph could get you fired and my blog put on a restricted list, I have removed the "prudent 300 pixels" and linked the photograph here.

Then other readers started wondering about a NSFW warning. They weren’t objecting to the photo; indeed, no one ever did, even some readers who felt Hefner had been a pernicious influence on the world. Feminist readers, some well known and respected by me, spoke of his objectification of the female body, his misuse of the Male Gaze, and so on. But no one objected to the photo itself. No, they explained that they read the column at work ("during lunch break," of course) and were afraid a supervisor or co-worker might see a nude on their monitor. I asked one of these readers if his co-workers were adults. Snark.

As a writer, it would have offended me to preface my article with a NSFW warning. It was unsightly — a typographical offense. It would contradict the point I was making. But others wrote me about strict rules at their companies. They faced discipline or dismissal. Co-workers seeing an offensive picture on their monitor might complain of sexual harassment, and so on. But what about the context of the photo? I wondered. Context didn’t matter. A nude was a nude. The assumption was that some people might be offended by all nudes.

This was a tiny version of this photograph. When will we grow up?

I heard what they were saying. I went in and resized the photo, reducing it by 2/3, so that it was postage-stamp 100 pixel size (above) and no passer-by was likely to notice it. This created a stylistic abomination on the page, but no matter. I had acted prudently. Then I realized: I’d still left it possible for the photo to be enlarged by clicking! An unsuspecting reader might suddenly find Miss June 1975 regarding him from his entire monitor! I jumped in again and disabled that command.

This left me feeling more responsible, but less idealistic. I knew there might be people offended by the sight of a Playmate. I disagreed with them. I understood that there were places where a nude photo was inappropriate, and indeed agree that porn has no place in the workplace. But I didn’t consider the photograph pornographic. Having grown up in an America of repression and fanatic sin-mongering, I believe that Hefner’s influence was largely healthy and positive. In Europe, billboards and advertisements heedlessly show nipples. There are not "topless beaches" so much as beaches everywhere where bathers remove swimsuits to get an even tan.

At Cannes you see this on the public beach, and pedestrians nearby on the Croisette don’t even stop to notice. Ironically, the only time you see a mob of paparazzi is when some starlet (on the Carlton Hotel pier say), is making a show of removing her clothes. Then you have a sort of meta-event, where paparazzi are photographing other paparazzi photographing this event. It’s all a ritual. The clothes come off, the photographers have a scrum, everyone understands it’s over, and the paparazzi leave, sometimes while the starlet is still standing there unadorned. In Europe, people know what the human body looks like, and are rather pleased that it does.

America has a historical Puritan streak, and is currently in the midst of another upheaval of zeal from radical religionists. They know what is bad for us. They would prefer to burn us at a metaphorical stake, but make do with bizarre imprecations about the dire consequences of our sin. Let me be clear: I am not speaking of sexual behavior that is obviously evil and deserves legal attention. But definitions differ. Much of their wrath is aimed at gays. I consider homosexuality an ancient, universal and irrefutable fact of human nature. Some radicals actually blamed it for 9/11. For them the ideal society must be Saudi Arabia’s, which I consider pathologically sick.

When we were making "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," I got to know Cynthia Myers and Dolly Read (above), the two Playmates in the film, and have followed them through the years. They have good memories of the experience. I am in touch with Marcia McBroom, the actress who played the third of the movie’s rock band members. She is a social activist, loves the memory of her Hollywood adventure, and recently sponsored a benefit showing of BVD for her Africa-oriented charity, the For Our Children’s Sake Foundation. These women looked great in the 1970s and they look great today, and let me tell you something I am very sure of: We all want to look as great as we can.

Now back to the woman in the photograph. Her name is Azizi Johari. She went on after her centerfold to have some small success in motion pictures, most notably in John Cassavetes’ "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie." Today she would be in her 50s and I hope is pleased that such a beautiful portrait of her was taken. A reader sent me a link to Titian’s 16th century painting "Venus of Urbino" (below), and suggested to me that this was art and Miss Johari’s photograph was not. I studied them side by side. Both women are unclothed, and regard the viewer from similar reclining postures on carefully-draped divans. I looked at them with the Male Gaze, which I gather that (as a male) is my default Gaze. I want to be as honest as I can be about how these two representations affect me.

Let us assume that the purpose of both artworks is to depict the female form attractively. Both the photographer and the painter worked from live models. Titian required great skill and technique in his artistry. So did the photographer, Ken Marcus, because neither of these portraits pretends to realism. Great attention went to the lighting, art direction and composition of the photograph, and makeup was possibly used to accent the glowing sheen of Miss Johari’s skin. I would argue that both artworks are largely the expressions of imagination.

For me, Miss Johari is more beautiful than Venus. She strikes me as more human. She looks at me. Her full lips are open as if just having said something. Her skin is lustrous and warm. Venus, on the other hand, seems to have her attention directed inward. She is self-satisfied. She seems narcissistic, passive, different. Johari is present. She seems quietly pleased to suggest, "Here I am. This is me." Wisely she avoids the inviting smile I find so artificial in "pin up" photography. She is full of her beauty, aware of it, it is a fact we share. Venus is filled by her beauty, cooled by it, indifferent to our Gaze. If you were to ask me which is the better representation of the fullness of life, I would choose Johari.

Of course abstract artistic qualities are not the point of either work. The pictures intend to inspire a response among their viewers. For men, I assume that is erotic feeling. Women readers will inform me of the responses they feel. Homosexuals of both sexes may respond differently. They will tell me.

For me? Miss June is immediately erotic. I regard first of all her face, her eyes, her full lips and then her breasts, for I am a man and that is my nature. I prefer full lips in women, and hers are wonderful. I admire full breasts. Hers are generous but manifestly natural. The female breast is one of the most pleasing forms in all of nature, no doubt because of our earliest associations. I dislike surgical enhancements. As my friend Russ Meyer complained in the early days of silicone, "It misses the whole principle of the matter."

Miss Johari’s arms and legs are long and healthy, she is trim but not skinny, she is not necessarily posing with her left arm but perhaps adjusting a strand of hair. I find the dark hue of her skin beautiful. Photographs like this (she was the fifth African-American Playmate) helped men of all races to understand that Black is Beautiful at a time when that phrase came as news to a lot of people. In a blog about her, I find she was "the first black Playmate to have distinctly African features." Another entry could be written about that sentence.

As for Venus of Urbino, she has no mystery at all. I look at her and feel I know everything, and she thinks she does too. She gives no hint of pleasure or camaraderie. If you tickled her with a feather, she would be annoyed. Miss Johari, I imagine, would burst into laughter and slap the feather. I can see myself having dinner with her. To have dinner with Venus would be a torment. My parting words would be, "This bill is outrageous! I wouldn’t pay it if I were you!"

Of course these are all fantasies. I know nothing about either model. That is what we do with visual representations of humans; we bring our imaginations to them. It’s the same with movies. The meaning is a collaboration between the object and the viewer. That is how we look at pictures, and how we should. If it seems impertinent of my to compare the photograph with the painting, the best I can do i quote e. e. cummings:

mr youse needn’t be so spry

concernin questions arty

each has his tastes but as for i i likes a certain party

gimme the he-man’s solid bliss for youse ideas i’ll match youse

a pretty girl who naked is is worth a million statues

Now as to the problem of the workplace. I understand there will be pictures on a computer screen that will be offensive. I get that. Why will they be offensive? Perhaps because they foreground a worker’s sexual desires, and imply similar thoughts about co-workers. Is that what’s happening with the blog entry on Hefner? Is anyone reading it for sexual gratification? I doubt it. That’s what bothers me about so many of the New Puritans. They think I have a dirty mind, but I think I have a healthy mind. It takes a dirty mind to see one, which is why so many of these types are valued as censors or online police.

The wrong photographs on a screen might also suggest a blanket rejection of the values of the company. Some corporations require an adherence to company standards that is almost military. Sex has a way of slicing through all the layers of protocol and custom and revealing us as human beings. But lip service must be paid to convention.

We now learn that the recent Wall Street debacle was fueled in part by millions spent on prostitution and drugs. We have seen one sanctimonious politician and preacher after another exposed as a secret adulterer or homosexual. I don’t have to ask, because I guess I know: If an employee in the office of one of those bankers, ministers or congressman had Azizi Johari on his screen, he would be hustled off to the HR people.

I haven’t worked in an office for awhile. Is there a danger of porn surfing in the workplace? Somehow I doubt it. There is a greater danger, perhaps, of singling out workers for punishment based on the zeal of the enforcers. And of course there is always this: Supervisors of employee web use, like all employees, must be seen performing their jobs in order to keep them.

There is also this: Perfectly reasonable people, well-adjusted in every respect, might justifiably object to an erotic photograph on the computer monitor of a coworker. A degree of aggression might be sensed. It violates the decorum of the workplace. (So does online gaming, but never mind.) You have the right to look at anything on your computer that can be legally looked at, but give me a break! I don’t want to know! I also understand that the threat of discipline or dismissal is real and frightening.

I’ve made it through two years on the blog with only this single NSFW incident. In the future I will avoid NSFW content in general, and label it when appropriate. What a long way around I’ve taken to say I apologize.

Voir aussi:

Behind the mask

Jonathan Jones

The Guardian

04 January 2003

Very little is recorded of the life of the great Renaissance artist Titian. What we do know of his personality and his turbulent sexuality is laid bare in his painting

He could not help looking. It was an accident – well, all right, an accident combined with curiosity. But what was a man to do? Actaeon, the story goes, was out hunting with his friends in the woods when he got lost. That was his only mistake, really – that and looking at a naked goddess. "There is nothing sinful in losing one’s way," points out the ancient Roman poet Ovid, who tells the story of Actaeon in his fabulist poem Metamorphoses, written 2,000 years ago.

The grandson of Cadmus had hunted all morning with his friends, and their nets and swords were dripping with blood, when Actaeon suggested they call it a day and enjoy the noon heat. He himself wandered off from the sweaty mob into a thickly overgrown valley, and found a cave. It was a beautiful and refreshing place, entered via a graceful arch, and inside there was cold, clear water, flowing from a spring into a deep pool where Diana, goddess of the hunt, liked to come to cool off when she was tired from shooting her bow and hurling her javelin. Here she was, accompanied by her nymphs, who took her weapons and her clothes so that, naked, unencumbered, she could bathe. And that was when Actaeon blundered in.

Did his eyes fix on her breasts, her thighs? Or did he try not to look? Diana didn’t care if he was guilty or innocent. She was a modest goddess. She hadn’t got her bow, so instead she threw water – magic water – in the young fool’s face, yelling at him, "Now go and tell everyone you saw Diana naked – if you can!" Actaeon was growing antlers, his face was turning furry. Diana turned him into a stag – a dumb male animal, his phallic antlers useless when what he needed, and no longer had, was a voice to tell his hunting dogs it was him, their master, Actaeon, that they were hunting down.

In Titian’s painting The Death Of Actaeon, the dogs have just caught up with their hapless master. They are good, zealous dogs, doing what they were trained to do. In a line of energy, they fly at him – the three pack leaders are already on him. In Titian’s version, some details of Ovid’s story are changed in a way that brilliantly simplifies and intensifies the action, and heightens its emotion. Titian’s Actaeon has the body of a burly man; only his head has changed into that of a very stupid-looking stag, like a dead, stuffed trophy fixed on to his shoulders. The strangest thing about Actaeon’s head is that you can barely see his eye on the profile facing us; Titian – who painted the reflective depths of eyes as well as anyone in history – has chosen here to blind Actaeon in a painterly equivalent to Ovid’s robbing him of speech.

Titian’s painting has humour – it’s a blackly comic tale of voyeurism punished, and Titian relishes Diana’s mighty presence in a way that’s joyous and celebratory – but it is also heartfelt, sombre, magnificently piteous. The tragedy is in the trees. They are yellow and brown and seared and autumnal; these are not the fresh, green trees of youth, but the tired woods of age, decay; it is as if Actaeon’s youth has sped into senescence as the life not lived flashes in front of him. And yet those trees are lovely; the matted texture of them is so deliberately thick and rough that you can feel it on your skin, on your face. You can feel the stormy air, too, the chill breeze before the storm that those roiling clouds and that terrific sky – eerily turning from grey to yellow – promise.

It was said that Tiziano Vecellio was 104 years old when he died in 1576. This was probably an exaggeration, but an understandable one – 500 years ago, living beyond your 30s was an achievement. The one rival to Titian’s crown as the supreme genius of Renaissance Venice – the romantic, turbulent Giorgione – died of plague as a young man in 1510, after less than a decade’s work. Titian outlived him, and the average life span, by 10, 20, 30 . . . eventually, in that world, you lost count. He was probably born in the 1480s, making him between 86 and 96 when he died. Which means that Titian was at least in his 60s when he wrote to Philip II of Spain in June 1559, telling him he had "two poesie already under way: one of Europa on the Bull, the other of Actaeon torn apart by his own hounds".

Actaeon never got to Spain; it never joined the collection commissioned by Philip II from Titian, illustrating myths from Ovid. Instead, it seems to have stayed in his studio, possibly until his death. It is a chromatically muted painting – very different from the erotic, visual banquets of Titian’s other poesie; some say that it is unfinished, that it would have eventually looked much brighter. But I think the lack of finish is telling. The Death Of Actaeon seems to me a fearsomely personal work. It is one of those paintings in which Titian speaks about himself: he is Actaeon. An Actaeon grown old, a frenzied animal at the mad mercy of his eye, his roving, incredible eye.

About his greatness there has never been any doubt – not since he painted his astonishing altarpiece of the Assumption in the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice as an up-and-coming contender in 1516-18. The Frari is a gothic church, high and bare, its glory a tall, semicircular network of arched windows that turns its south-west wall into a broken dazzle of sunlight. Insanely, the ambitious Titian accepted a commission to make an altar painting to stand in front of this wall of light – a painting that was doomed to be cast into a deep shadow, to seem a mere eccentric, dull daub against the sun that shone above and around it.

Titian’s painting meets the sun on equal terms. It is so bright, the gold heaven towards which the Virgin Mary is raised on a cloud borne by putti is so luminous, that instead of being overpowered by the sunlight streaming above, it seems that the sun is paying its compliments to Titian. Look more closely, and it turns out that Titian has tricked the eye by mimicking the contrast of light and shade that threatens to dull his painting. Down at the bottom of the seven metre tall panel, at our level, the disciples – as we do – look up at the ascending Virgin; they are in shade in a dowdy space. At the very centre of the earthbound crowd is a black hole. Up above, the heavenly gold light Mary enters is a shining circle, its circumference clearly defined by angels’ faces, and it gets whiter towards the centre: it is a depiction of the sun. Seeing how this light outshines the cooler colours below, we somehow accept that this painted sun is as powerful as the real one. Titian is a magician, and this is his most jaw-dropping sleight of hand.

No one has ever questioned that this is one of the world’s indispensable works of art; and no one has ever questioned Titian’s stature. He is the painter’s painter, and he is also the prince’s painter (not to mention, as he was nicknamed, the Prince of Painters); he is the expert’s painter and the people’s painter; he has never gone out of fashion, not in his lifetime, not ever. His art is endlessly fresh and generative. Even when they parodied him – Manet’s Olympia is a travesty of Titian’s Venus Of Urbino – artists learned from him, studied him, were inspired by him.

The three most influential post-Renaissance painters, Velázquez, Rubens and Rembrandt, were devoted to Titian – Rembrandt modelled one of his own self-portraits on Titian’s Portrait Of A Man (with a blue sleeve) in the National Gallery; Velázquez learned his luxurious style from Titians in the Spanish royal collection; Rubens copied many of his paintings. More than anyone else, Titian shaped our idea of painting – what it is, what it is capable of.

When he was young, oil painting was a new idea, and it was used with a raw excitement, as if every painting were a scientific discovery – the first time a landscape was depicted in convincing perspective, the first accurate painting of a reflection. When Titian died, oil painting had grown up – it had at its command an incredible array of techniques, an empire of the visual. It was Titian who created this empire. It was Titian who demonstrated the full range of powers specific to painting on canvas – to be at once a convincing imitation of appearances and also something else, something abstract. At the same time he displayed painting’s sensuality: when the American artist Willem de Kooning said oil paint was invented to depict flesh, it must have been Titian (and his disciple, Rubens) he was thinking of. Today, it is possible to argue that Titian was the most influential painter in history. And because his painterliness has an abstract quality, he has continued to influence modern artists. In the 19th century, Delacroix took Titian’s colour into realms of romantic madness – his Death Of Sardanapalus is a psychotic riff on Titian – and Degas took up his cult of the flesh. Even today, the best living painters, Gerhard Richter (who has done versions of Titians) and Lucian Freud, echo different aspects of Titian.

Titian is part of a triumvirate, with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti, who invented the very idea of the modern artist. Da Vinci and Michelangelo, in their refusal to complete commissions and, in Michelangelo’s case, his stroppiness, established the image of the self-pleasing, wilful genius; Titian, partly because of his long career, but mostly through his dominance of a Europe-wide art market in which kings and princes collected his work for decades, established the authority of painting. He once dropped his brush in the presence of Emperor Charles V, and it was the Emperor who insisted on picking it up in deference to Titian.

And yet, he wears a mask. He lived for perhaps 90 years, in the most sophisticated city in the world, and he was famous from his 20s onwards. He was by all accounts an articulate, courtly, sociable man, a close friend of the writers Ariosto and Aretino, bright enough to be sent on diplomatic missions on behalf of the Venetian Republic, refined enough to become the companion of kings. And yet behind the screen of constant, smooth success, his life is practically unknown. His work, because of that, retains an enigmatic distance. The Frari altarpiece is Venice’s answer to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel; and yet it’s nothing like as touristed because Titian doesn’t have the charisma of Michelangelo, his Florentine contemporary. Titian’s personality doesn’t burst out of the past like Michelangelo’s.

Titian never said anything quotable, but Michelangelo said something quotably mean about Titian. In the 1540s, Titian worked for a while in Rome. There, Michelangelo visited his studio. Titian had just finished his painting of Danaë – illustrating another tale from ancient mythology, in which the god Jupiter takes the form of a shower of gold to make love to Danaë. He did several versions of the painting – but the one Michelangelo saw is the best (part of the Capodimonte Museum exhibit in Naples, it is coming to the National Gallery’s Titian exhibition). It is the erotic pendant to Titian’s Frari altarpiece; just as he creates his own blazing sun in the Frari, here he makes flesh and gold merge in an uncanny, inexplicable bit of magic – a painting that is at once sensual and mystical, or rather, that is mystical about the senses.

As in the Frari, it is the play of light and darkness that weaves a spell. On her bed, the naked Danaë is warmed by subtly golden light. Titian captures the richness rather than the vulgarity of gold: that is also true of the almost bronze cloud, flecked with coins, that looms above Danaë in a dark, dense interior. The void of darkness at the centre makes the scene incomplete, luring the viewer to complete it; the imagination does this by abstracting and fusing the colours of skin and gold, that hang in memory as a dream, a vision of desire beyond verbal expression.

After seeing this incredible painting, Michelangelo praised the painting to Titian’s face. When he left the studio, however, he commented that it was very nice, its colouring was very nice – but it was a pity that Titian couldn’t draw.

Michelangelo’s put-down is the most celebrated expression of the fundamental difference between Florentine and Venetian art: while Tuscan Renaissance artists believed that line came first, Venetian painting defines space by colour, and it is in his colours that Titian’s personality will be found, in the texture of his paint. Titian’s paintings are not designed, then filled in; they exist in total spontaneity, in the brushing that Titian makes visible. His paintings are not smooth; he paints on rough canvas in which paint catches; and he pursues the same emotive, personal themes across his long career. Titian was a high-class kind of guy; his friend, the poet Aretino, commented on how Titian always knew how to speak to a lady, kissing hands, making courtly jests. And there’s a pleasure in civilised restraint – or, perhaps, a need for it – that distinguishes his art. This comes out most profoundly in his love of genre.

Titian, I think, enjoyed the discipline of objective rules – for example the conventions of portraiture – which he could then stretch, challenge, reinvent. His incredibly lifelike Portrait Of A Man (with a blue sleeve), painted in 1512, which may be a self-portrait, is an example of this. Titian’s joy as an artist in this painting is purely technical; he reinvents the repertoire of poses available to painters. Doing something stylish, Titian communicates something personal – the deeply felt presence of this unnamed 16th-century man.

Titian’s most accomplished genre of all is the one he himself invented or helped to invent – that of erotic mythology. There had been classical mythological paintings in Italy since the 15th century, but the kind of narrative, Ovidian art for which Titian is famous was new; it was his genre, the "poesie", as he called his paintings for Philip II. If genre is a discipline, and literary subject matter is an objective constraint, what Titian gave himself when he developed his unique kind of narrative painting was a way of both restraining and at the same time releasing – in a stylised, mediated way – his own sexuality. It is as if he was so obsessed with eroticism, so obsessed with women – like Picasso in his sometimes loving, sometimes hateful portraits – that he had to invent a new art of organised fantasy, of civilised eroticism.

Because the fantasies that Titian painted, from early on, are not just the lovingly painted, perhaps slightly complacent images of bountiful, sexually generous women, such as his Venus Of Urbino in the Uffizi – a painting that strikes you as pure body, openly desired by the artist. Or his dreamlike Le Concert Champêtre in the Louvre, once attributed to Giorgione, in which the same woman – depicted twice, including from behind, as if Titian wanted to record her entire physical presence – is the unashamedly naked attendant, the sexy yet docile companion, of two fully dressed men (this is a another picture Manet parodied – Le Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe).

Titian loved women – this has to be the least debatable statement in the history of art. This wasn’t just sex. He painted women as heroic and strong social actors – his portrait known as La Schiavona in the National Gallery stands above a marble relief of her own face, making her resemble a proud Roman matron, and she’s a big, forceful character. And the most brilliant of all Titian’s portraits, the most lovingly alive, is his dignified picture of a two-year-old girl, Clarissa Strozzi.

Titian’s emotional life pervades his paintings. Far from coming easily, the civilised tone of his art seems hard-won – violence, rage, terror are frothing in his brushwork. His overriding eroticism is not something worked up for patrons – although there was obviously a market for paintings like "the nude lady", as the man who commissioned it called the Venus Of Urbino – but something in him which painting allows him to project, simultaneously to enjoy and control.

Through his career, he is drawn to fierce and violent images. In his very first major public commission, a series of frescoes in Padua, he includes a scene of shocking brutality: the story of a jealous husband who murdered his wife. She begs for mercy while he prepares to stab her a second time. Later, Titian did several paintings of The Rape Of Lucretia, including a late, expressionistic work comparable to The Death Of Actaeon.

None of this is to say that Titian’s paintings are misogynist, hateful or hypocritical – on the contrary. There is a stale view of paintings such as the Venus Of Urbino, which arises from their popularity in the 19th century, as mildly saucy soft porn. In reality, and this is the source of his power, Titian’s sexuality is complicated, emotional, tortured and alive; his paintings embody the desires and terrors of a man who was capable of acute jealousy, anger, and a kind of religious worship of women.

Titian’s paintings of women are personal in another way. The same models recur in many of his pictures. One group of paintings seems to depict a woman who – a flower she holds suggests – may have been called Violante. It used to be said she was his lover and the pictorial evidence makes that romantic Victorian idea very plausible. The woman who posed as Flora, Titian’s most iconic beauty, is also in his painting Sacred And Profane Love. Flora is interpreted in all kinds of ways – as the goddess Flora, as a Venetian courtesan, as an image of correct sexual behaviour in a Venetian marriage – but the intimacy and warmth and passion of this painting (which is coming to the National Gallery from the Uffizi in Florence) might actually be Titian’s, and her, secret. Many of his most erotic paintings may be games in which Titian paints monuments to his lovers under the guise of heady mythological and pastoral art. It has even been suggested that Flora is Titian’s mistress Cecilia, whom he finally married in 1525 to legitimise their children.

Titian, so quiet about himself and so organised in his professional career, is in reality a powder keg of emotion, artfully channelled but never suppressed; his art is profoundly confessional. The Death Of Actaeon is a confession. And at the end of his life, Titian movingly drops all his elaborate strategies, takes off his Venetian mask and addresses us – and his God – directly in one of the most unguarded paintings anywhere. Only a master of irony could make such a total confession; only a master of colour could make a painting that is so denuded of it: Titian’s Pietà in the Accademia in Venice was painted as an ex-voto offering, a prayer, when Titian was very old and when Venice, the city he adored, was being devastated by plague. Titian’s Pietà pleads (the text is on a painted tablet) for mercy for Titian himself and for his son, Orazio. Titian puts himself in the painting, an almost naked, bearded old man, pathetically and hopelessly touching the hand of the dead Christ. Light has almost gone from the world – apart from a dull glow on the mosaic above Christ’s dimly shining corpse, the painting sinks into reveries of shadow, of death. If you look, you will eventually see what you fear, and in this last painting Titian sees death, his own death. Titian’s offering failed; neither he nor Orazio outlived the plague epidemic.

What is striking is that Titian, in his 80s, or 90s, or – who knows? – at the age of 104, so obviously wanted more life, more colour, more flesh. And looking at his paintings, so do we

· Titian is at the National Gallery, London WC2 (020-7747 5898), from February 19-May 18, 2003.

Voir également:

Italy’s Most Mysterious Paintings: Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love

Walks of Italy

November 29, 2012

Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love… a beautiful, and mysterious, painting in Italy!

Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love is the gem of Rome’s Borghese gallery… and one of the most famous paintings of Renaissance Italy. It’s so beloved, in fact, that in 1899, the Rothschild family offered to pay the Borghese Gallery 4 million lira for the piece—even though the gallery’s entire collection, and the grounds, were valued at only 3.6 million lira!

Perhaps the painting is so famous simply because of its beauty and because it’s a masterpiece by the Renaissance great Titian.

Or perhaps people have fallen in love with it because of its hidden secrets and symbolism—much of which art historians still don’t completely understand!

There’s a lot of mysterious stuff going on here.

At first glance, the painting might just look like another portrait of two lovely ladies, with a pastoral background behind them.

Look again.

First of all, there are the women themselves. One is clothed, bejeweled, and—seemingly—made up with cosmetics. She’s wearing gloves, and holding a plant of some kind. The other is (almost) stark naked, holding just a torch.

The church and pasture in Sacred and Profane Love

Then look at what they’re sitting on. That’s no carved-marble bench… that’s a sarcophagus. In other words, a coffin, of the type the ancient Romans used.

And it’s a strange sarcophagus, because it appears to be filled with water, which a cherubic baby is swirling.

Look even closer, and you can see a spout in the sarcophagus’ front, which the water is pouring out of and, seemingly, watering a growing plant below.

In the background, meanwhile, you have some other strange things going on: On our left, a horse and rider race up a mountaintop to a looming fortress, while two hares appear to be playing (or chasing each other); on our right, shepherds herd sheep in a pasture in front of a picturesque church, while a dog chases a hare.

Nothing that’s here is here by mistake. So what does it all mean?

We’re not sure. We have to rely on our knowledge of the painting’s symbols and hidden meanings to find out. And that’s because…

We don’t even know the real title of one of the most famous paintings in Europe

Although the piece is called Sacred and Profane Love, that’s not its original name. In fact, we don’t know what its original name was.

Here’s what we do know: Titian painted the piece in 1513-1514, at the age of just 25. And it was commissioned to celebrate the marriage of Niccoló Aurelio, a secretary to the Council of Venice, to Laura Bagarotto. No name is listed in the records for the painting, but in 1693, almost 200 years after it was painted, it showed up in the Borghese Gallery’s inventory under the name Amor Divino e Amor Profano (“divine love and profane love”).

…or what it’s supposed to show.

Sacred—or profane?

For a long time, art historians thought that the painting was supposed to show two different kinds of love: the sacred, and the profane.

It’s definitely safe to say the painting is about love. Symbols of love are scattered throughout, from the roses on the sarcophagus to the myrtle the woman on our left clasps (more on that later!). And, of course, the painting was a marriage gift, which would make this focus highly appropriate.

But does it show sacred and profane love? Well, if so, that might explain the background. The fortress, symbol of war and humanity, could symbolize the profane (or worldly); the church would, obviously, symbolize the sacred.

And it could explain the two women. Perhaps one is meant to be a Venus showing what worldly love looks like; the other, a Venus showing us sacred love.

But the interesting question is:

If this is true, then which of the two women represents sacred love, and which is the profane?

Is nudity actually a sign of the sacred? (Maybe!)

At first glance, you might think the woman on our left represents sacred love. After all, she’s clothed! The other, naked one would, of course, represent worldly, amorous love.

Some aspects of each woman’s costume do back up that theory, because there are so many hidden symbols here! For example, the clothed woman’s belt was generally considered a symbol of marital ties; and the myrtle in her hand symbolized the lasting happiness of marriage. On the other hand, the nude woman’s flame symbolized earthly lust.

But look again, and you see just as much symbolism pointing us in the opposite direction. For one thing, the clothed woman is seated, and therefore below—and closer to the earth than—her nude counterpart. She’s wearing gloves for falconry, or hunting, and holding a case of jewels, both signs of worldly pursuits. And she’s dressed very sumptuously (and not all that modestly!), with rich fabrics and even a touch of cosmetics.

But heavenly beauty doesn’t need any worldly adornment. The nude woman, therefore, might be sacred.

The key could be Cupid, mixing the waters in the sarcophagus…

Water swirls in the sarcophagus… and waters a growing plant?

Of course, that’s no baby between the two depictions of love (in this interpretation, two versions of Venus, goddess of love, herself): It’s Cupid. By mixing the waters in the well/sarcophagus, he might be suggesting that the ideal love is, in fact, a mix of these two kinds.

But this painting might not even be about sacred and profane love.

In the 20th century, art historian Walter Friedländer argued that the painting wasn’t about these two types of love at all. He thought it showed Polia and Venere, two characters in Francesco Colonna’s popular 1499 romance Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (don’t worry, there won’t be a test on that name!).

Another interpretation that’s much more simple… and makes a lot of sense? The painting could show the bride, Laura Bagarotto, herself, dressed in virginal white on the left. And the nude woman on the right? She might be Venus, initiating Laura into what love is like—complete with showing her the passion that’s necessary to make a marriage work (the torch).

But no one is sure what this painting really means. There’s a lot going on here, that’s for sure. And it’s kept art historians interested—and arguing!—for centuries.

Voir encore:

Titien ou l’art plus fort que la nature : être Apelle

Pascal Bonafoux

Ecrivain et critique d’art. Professeur d’histoire de l’art à l’université.

Clio

Le 5 janvier 1857 dans son Journal, Delacroix note : « Si l’on vivait cent vingt ans, on préférerait Titien à tout. » Cézanne affirme quant à lui : « La peinture, ce qui s’appelle la peinture, ne naît qu’avec les Vénitiens. » Cézanne songe à Titien comme il songe à Tintoret et à Véronèse. Peu lui importe que Titien ait près de trente ans, trente ans peut-être, lorsque naît Tintoret, qu’il ait dix ans de plus lorsque naît Véronèse en 1528. Ces regards de peintres sont essentiels. Parce qu’ils savent ce que « regarder », ce que « voir » veut dire. Parce qu’ils savent ce que « peindre » veut dire. Or la peinture est la seule vérité de Titien. Pour le reste…

Plus jeune en sa jeunesse, plus âgé en son vieil âge

Le 1er août 1571, Titien écrit à Philippe II pour réclamer des sommes qui lui sont dues. Il se dit dans cette lettre « serviteur du roi, maintenant‚ âgé de quatre-vingt-quinze ans ». Un émissaire espagnol, un certain Garcia Hernandez, dans un rapport daté du 15 octobre 1564, assure que Titien a près de quatre-vingt-dix ans. Raffaello Borghini écrit, quelques années après la mort du peintre, qu’il mourut en 1576 « à l’âge de quatre-vingt-dix-huit ou quatre-vingt-dix-neuf ans ». Ce qui confirme à peu près la même date… Titien serait né en 1477…

Dans le registre de la paroisse de San Canciano où meurt Titien le 27 août 1576, on inscrit son âge : cent trois ans. Titien serait né en 1473… Dans une lettre du 6 décembre 1567, Thomas de Cornoça, consul d’Espagne à Venise, affirme alors au roi que Titien a « quatre-vingt-cinq ans ». Titien serait né en 1482… Lorsqu’il lui rend visite en 1566, Vasari note que Titien a alors « environ soixante-seize ans ». Titien serait né en 1490… Dans le Dialogo della Pittura qu’il publie à Venise en 1557, Lodovico Dolce, qui est de ses amis, assure que lorsqu’il entreprit de peindre les fresques du Fondaco dei Tedeschi auprès de Giorgione en 1508, il « n’avait pas encore vingt ans ». Titien serait donc né en 1488…

1477, 1473, 1482, 1488, 1490 ?… Jeune, longtemps Titien a sans doute laissé entendre qu’il était plus jeune encore. Pour que l’on ne doute pas de sa précocité. Âgé, Titien n’a vu aucun inconvénient à ce qu’on le crut plus vieux qu’il n’était. Pour que l’on rende hommage aux prodiges dont il ne cessait pas d’être capable en dépit de son âge.

Prouver qu’il est Titien

Regarder la peinture de Titien, c’est devoir songer à une lettre de Pietro Aretino – l’Arétin – qui regarde la nuit tomber sur Venise. « Vers certains côtés apparaissait un vert-bleu, vers d’autres un bleu-vert, des tons vraiment composés par un caprice de la nature, maîtresse des maîtres. À l’aide des clairs et des obscurs, elle donnait de la profondeur ou du relief à ce qu’elle voulait faire avancer ou reculer; et moi qui connais votre pinceau comme son inspirateur, je m’exclamai trois ou quatre fois : Ô Titien, où êtes-vous donc ? » Posée en mai 1544, la question reste sans réponse… Ou, plus exactement, les seules réponses qui vaillent sont celles de la légende, de la fable et du mythe. Parce que, grevées de soupçons, elles s’accordent aux silences qui bruissent de sens qui sont ceux de ses toiles.

Les lettres de Titien, celle adressée en 1513 au Conseil des Dix de la Sérénissime République de Venise, celle écrite en 1530 à Frédéric de Gonzague, duc de Mantoue, celle qu’il fait écrire en 1544 par Giovanni della Casa au cardinal Alessandro Farnese, celle encore qu’il adresse en 1545 à Sa Très Sainte Majesté Césarienne, Charles Quint, l’assurance qu’il donne en 1562 à Philippe II : « J’emploierai tout le temps de vie qui me reste pour faire le plus souvent possible à Votre Majesté Catholique la révérence de quelque nouvelle peinture, travaillant pour que mon pinceau lui apporte cette satisfaction que je désire et que mérite la grandeur d’un si haut roi », toutes ces lettres sont celles d’un peintre qui semble n’avoir d’autre ambition que de servir. Maldonne. Titien n’est, n’a jamais été fidèle qu’à Titien. Titien ne sert, n’a servi, que Titien.

Et tous les moyens lui auront été bons. Récit de Vasari : « À ses débuts, quand il commença à peindre dans la manière de Giorgione, à dix-huit ans à peine, fit le portrait d’un gentilhomme de la famille Barbarigo, son ami… on le jugea si bien peint et avec tant d’habileté que, si Titien n’y avait mis son nom dans une ombre, on l’aurait pris pour une œuvre de Giorgione. » Titien ne laisse pas longtemps son nom dans l’ombre… Il n’a voulu qu’on le confonde avec Giorgione, emporté par la peste en 1510, que parce que cette confusion le sert lorsqu’il n’a pas vingt ans encore. Lorsque les « faux » Giorgione qu’il a peints lui ont acquis la renommée qu’il estime devoir lui revenir, il n’a plus d’autre ambition que de prouver qu’il est Titien. Donc incomparable.

Le 5 octobre 1545, Titien lui-même écrit à Charles Quint : « Très Sainte Majesté Césarienne, j’ai remis au Seigneur Don Diego de Mendoza les deux portraits de la Sérénissime Impératrice, pour lesquels j’ai été aussi vigilant que possible. J’aurai voulu les apporter moi-même, mais la longueur du voyage et mon âge ne me le permettent pas. Je prie Votre Majesté de me faire dire les erreurs et les manquements, en me les renvoyant afin que je les corrige ; et que Votre Majesté ne permette pas qu’un autre y touche. » Nouvelle lettre impatiente, le 7 décembre 1545 : « Très Sainte Majesté Césarienne, j’ai envoyé il y a quelques mois à Votre Majesté par les mains du Seigneur Don Diego votre ambassadeur le portrait de la sainte mémoire de l’Impératrice votre épouse, fait de ma main, avec cet autre qui me fut donné par elle comme modèle. J’attends avec un infini dévouement de savoir si mon œuvre Vous est parvenue et si elle Vous a plu ou non. Car si je savais qu’elle vous a plu, je sentirais dans l’âme un contentement que je ne suis pas capable d’exprimer… » On raconte que devant ce portrait peint en 1545 de sa femme Isabelle de Portugal morte le 1er mai 1539, l’empereur pleura. Titien peut ne plus douter de la puissance de sa peinture. Qu’il peigne une impératrice morte ou une déesse, son pouvoir est le même.

« L’art plus puissant que la nature »

En 1554, quelques mois avant qu’une toile dont le Livre X des Métamorphoses d’Ovide a tenu lieu de modèle, quelques mois avant que la toile, récit de l’amour que porte Venus à Adonis, jeune mortel, ne soit expédiée à Madrid, Ludovico Dolce décrit l’œuvre découverte dans l’atelier de Titien : « Je vous jure, Monseigneur, qu’il n’existe pas d’homme perspicace qui ne la prenne pour une femme en chair et en os. Il n’existe pas d’homme assez usé par les ans, ni d’homme aux sens assez endormis, pour ne pas se sentir réchauffé, attendri et ému dans tout son être. » Les toiles de Titien et les Sonnets luxurieux de l’Arétin ont la même raison – érotique – d’être. Mais, à la différence de ces sonnets, les nus de Titien peuvent sembler répondre à l’exigence du Livre du Courtisan de Baldassar Castiglione, livre de chevet de l’empereur Charles Quint, livre qui régit les convenances de toutes les cours : « Pour donc fuir le tourment de cette passion et jouir de la beauté sans passion, il faut que le Courtisan, avec l’aide de la raison, détourne entièrement le désir du corps pour le diriger vers la beauté seule, et, autant qu’il le peut, qu’il la contemple en elle-même, simple et pure, et que dans son imagination il la rende séparée de toute matière, et ainsi fasse d’elle l’amie chérie de son âme. »

Le 10 mai 1533, Charles Quint nomme Titien comte du Palazzo Laterrano, du Consiglio Aulico et du Consistoro. Il lui accorde encore le titre de comte palatin et de chevalier « dello Sperone ». Titien a libre accès à la cour. Enfin l’empereur reconnaît à ses fils, auxquels il concède le titre de « Nobles de l’Empereur », les mêmes privilèges qu’à ceux qui portent un pareil titre depuis quatre générations. La devise que se choisit Titien est NATURA POTENTIOR ARS – l’art est plus puissant que la nature. Elle s’accorde à celle de Charles Quint, « Plus oultre ». Même volonté. Même orgueil.

Apelle, mythe et modèle

Au monastère de San Yuste où il se retire après avoir, rongé par la goutte, abdiqué à Bruxelles, le 28 août 1556, comme aucun empereur ne l’a fait depuis Dioclétien quelque douze siècles plus tôt, Charles Quint emporte plusieurs tableaux de Titien. Titien n’a peut-être pas eu d’autre ambition que d’être l’Apelle de cet empereur. D’Apelle, mort vers 300 avant J.-C., il ne reste rien. Il ne reste qu’un nom que rapportent quelques fragments de textes anciens, il ne reste que quelques anecdotes… Reste un mythe. C’est à ce mythe que Titien s’identifie.

On rapporte qu’Apelle datait des œuvres à l’imparfait. Le légat du pape à Venise commande à Titien un polyptyque. Lorsqu’il l’achève en 1520, il le signe et le date TICIANUS FACIEBAT MDXXII. À l’imparfait. Comme Apelle. Description par Ovide de l’œuvre la plus célèbre d’Apelle : « L’on voit Vénus ruisselante séchant avec ses doigts sa chevelure humide, toute couverte des eaux où elle vient de naître. » En 1520 peut-être, Titien peint une pareille Vénus qui essuie ses cheveux. Comme Apelle.

Pline assure : « Il n’y a de gloire que pour les artistes qui ont peint des tableaux. Il n’y avait aucune peinture à fresque d’Apelle. » Titien ne peint que de rares fresques. Après 1523, il n’en peint plus aucune. Comme Apelle. Alexandre, rapporte encore Pline, « avait interdit par ordonnance qu’aucun autre peintre fit son portrait. »

Charles Quint ne commande plus son portrait qu’à Titien qu’il dit en 1536 être son « Premier peintre ». Titien a auprès de Charles Quint la place qui fut, auprès d’Alexandre, celle d’Apelle. Titien est Apelle. Presque. Un geste de Charles Quint est nécessaire encore. Roger de Piles rapporte en 1708 : « Titien donna tant de jalousie aux courtisans de Charles Quint, qui se plaisait dans la conversation de ce peintre, que cet empereur fut contraint de leur dire qu’il ne manquerait jamais de courtisans, mais qu’il n’aurait pas toujours un Titien. On sait encore que ce peintre ayant un jour laissé tomber un pinceau en faisant le portrait de Charles Quint, cet empereur le ramassa, et que sur le remerciement et l’excuse de Titien lui en faisait, il dit ces paroles : Titien mérite d’être servi par César. » Par ce geste qui fut celui d’Alexandre qui, raconte-t-on, se baissa pour ramasser le pinceau d’Apelle, Charles Quint fait de Titien un nouvel Apelle – comme il se sacre lui-même l’égal d’Alexandre le Grand.

Voir enfin:

How long for France’s accidental president?

Konrad Yakabuski

The Globe and Mail

Jan. 16 2014

The narrow Paris laneway where French President François Hollande allegedly conducted his trysts, in a rented apartment tied to the Corsican mafia, is called Rue du Cirque – Circus Street, owing to its history as the site of a 19th-century summer carnival. And the no-drama nerd who promised to restore decorum to the presidency after the bling and histrionics of Nicolas Sarkozy has certainly ended up creating a circus worthy of his media-baiting predecessor.

In choosing not to marry his companion when he entered the Élysée Palace, Mr. Hollande was supposed to be making an honest break from the French tradition of presidents who had sexless wives for official functions but sexy mistresses for fun or love. Mr. Hollande was the modern man, finding his soulmate and satisfying protocol in his common-law relationship with journalist Valérie Trierweiler.

Ms. Trierweiler (pronounced Tree-air-vay-lair) became France’s first unmarried first lady, with her own Elysée office, staff, state schedule and web page. Allegations that Mr. Hollande has been having an affair with a younger actress have thrown Ms. Trierweiler’s official status up in the air and left the Socialist Mr. Hollande’s carefully constructed 2014 agenda in tatters. His own ministers see him as a millstone and his ability to govern his fractured nation is in doubt.

To be clear, the French don’t give a flying steak-frites about whom their presidents sleep with. But they do prize elegance. Mr. Sarkozy was an affront to both, with his messy marital breakup, his remarriage to a tipsy model, his new-money friends and his flashy presence. If Mr. Sarkozy’s private life was an open book, it was a cheesy Harlequin the French had no desire to read.

François Mitterrand had elegance. Three decades ago, he could maintain a second family without the media making a fuss or questioning the first-lady status of wife Danielle. Both wife and mistress attended his 1996 burial, which, while noted, was hardly big news.

Mr. Hollande’s mistake was to believe his after-hours dalliances would be treated with similar discretion by the mainstream media. The presidency is no longer held in much reverence by the French. Today, not even Mr. Mitterrand could get away with living a double life, especially if seen to be interfering with his job or contradicting the image he was seeking to project.

But what the French find most galling about Mr. Hollande’s alleged affair, which he has not denied, is his sloppiness. The photos of the helmet-wearing President sneaking out on the back of a scooter, with minimal security detail following him, raise serious questions about whether those protecting this G-7 head of state are plain incompetent or just out to undermine their boss.

Didn’t the Groupe de securité de la présidence de la République, France’s secret service, know of paparazzi snapping photos from a building adjacent to where Mr. Hollande allegedly met actress Julie Gayet? Didn’t it know that the apartment was rented by a Gayet acquaintance whose two previous partners (one of whom was murdered just this year) had possible ties to the Corsican mafia?

This is not just tabloid fodder. Even Le Monde is playing the conspiracy card, asking whether Mr. Sarkozy’s aim of recapturing power had something to do with a gossip magazine’s publication of the compromising photos just four days before Mr. Hollande was set to give a critical speech. “At the Elysée, those loyal to [Mr. Sarkozy] are still in place, particularly in the GSPR,” Le Monde wrote in Monday’s edition.

Mr. Hollande’s Tuesday speech came after a disastrous year economically in France. In pledging tax and spending cuts, Mr. Hollande aimed to make headlines with new pro-business policies and a goal to spread French influence globally. But those ambitions now look laughable, as steamier headlines crowd out Mr. Hollande’s desired narrative.

All this makes the otherwise jovial Mr. Hollande a tragicomic figure. He became president by accident; voters did not so much choose him as reject Mr. Sarkozy. But he has been true to his nickname (Flanby, after a jiggly French custard dessert). In office, he’s had the consistency of Jell-O, with ambiguous policies that please no one in his factionalized party or the broader electorate.

All he had going for him was the appearance of normalcy at home. Now, that’s gone. How long before he is, too?


Andrea Bocelli: Attention, un miracle peut en cacher bien d’autres (We talk about beauty, but we all keep score)

12 janvier, 2014
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Si Dieu chantait, sa voix ressemblerait à celle d’Andrea Bocelli. Céline Dion
Because of my personal convictions as a devout Catholic, I am not only fighting against something, I am fighting for something – and I am for life. … A young pregnant wife was hospitalized for a simple attack of appendicitis. The doctors had to apply some ice on her stomach and when the treatments ended the doctors suggested that she abort the child. They told her it was the best solution because the baby would be born with some disability. But the young brave wife decided not to abort, and the child was born. That woman was my mother, and I was the child. Maybe I’m partisan, but I can say that it was the right choice. … I hope this could encourage many mothers that sometimes find themselves in difficult situations – in those moments when life is complicated but want to save the life of their baby. Andrea Bocelli
Les gens n’aiment pas que l’on explique des choses qu’ils veulent garder " absolues ". Moi, je trouve qu’il vaut mieux savoir. C’est très bizarre que l’on supporte si mal le réalisme. Dans le fond, la sociologie est très proche de ce qu’on appelle la sagesse. Elle apprend à se méfier des mystifications. Je préfère me débarrasser des faux enchantements pour pouvoir m’émerveiller des vrais " miracles ". En sachant qu’ils sont précieux parce qu’ils sont fragiles.  (…) Le succès de la pilule Viagra n’est que l’attestation visible de ce qui se sait depuis longtemps dans les cabinets médicaux ou psychanalytiques. Les hommes, surtout, pourraient se simplifier la vie. Le rôle masculin m’est très insupportable depuis très longtemps dans son côté faiseur, bluffeur, m’as-tu-vu, exhibitionniste. Si les rapports masculins/féminins (qui se reproduisent aussi chez les homosexuels) étaient dépouillés de ce devoir d’exhibition, on respirerait mieux. Les numéros d’hommes, c’est tuant! Pierre Bourdieu
Je crois que la culture dans nos sociétés est un des lieux du sacré : la religion culturelle est devenue pour certaines catégories sociales – dont les intellectuels – le lieu des convictions les plus profondes, des engagements les plus profonds. Par exemple, la honte de la gaffe culturelle est devenue l’équivalent du péché. Je pense que l’analogie avec la religion peut-être poussée très loin. Alors qu’aujourd’hui, une analyse de sociologie religieuse peut être poussée très loin, comme celle sur les évêques ; elle ne touche personne même pas les évêques. … La sociologie de la culture se heurte à des résistances fantastiques. Et le travail d’objectivation qui a été fait sur la religion : personne ne peut contester qu’il y a une certaine corrélation entre la religion que l’on a acquise dans sa famille et la religion que l’on professe ; on ne peut pas nier qu’il y ait une transmission de père en fils des convictions religieuses, que quand cette transmission disparaît, la religion disparaît. Bon, quand on le dit sur la culture, on enlève à l’homme cultivé un des fondements du charme de la culture, à savoir l’illusion de l’innéité, l’illusion charismatique : c’est à dire j’ai acquis ça par moi-même, à la naissance comme une espèce de miracle. Pierre Bourdieu
Les miracles, ce sont les situations dans lesquelles les lois ordinaires sont suspendues. Il y a l’amor fati. C’est un truc que j’ai dit à propos de la Kabylie et du Béarn : c’est terrible, les gens aiment vraiment ceux qu’ils ont des chances socialement définies d’aimer. Quand on dit : « Il a épousé sa promise », on le dit très clairement. Dans les milieux que j’ai étudiés — les paysans kabyles ou béarnais —, pour chaque garçon, il y a trois filles possibles. Et il se trouve qu’il aime une de celles-là. Sauf accident, il y a des mésalliances… C’est assez désespérant. Parmi toutes les lois sociales, une des plus terribles est la loi de l’homogamie. Or ces lois sont vraies à grande échelle ; et quand on raffine, c’est pire. Quand on prend l’espace social tel qu’il est décrit dans La Distinction, plus on découpe petit, plus l’homogamie se renforce. J’avais fait une toute petite note dans La Noblesse d’Etat sur l’homogamie des normaliens. Ça fait froid dans le dos. Mais ce qui se passe dans le cercle homogame peut être vécu comme miraculeux : les rapports de violence, de domination peuvent être suspendus. Pierre Bourdieu
Le goût "pur" et l’esthétique qui en fait la théorie trouvent leur principe dans le refus du goût "impur" et de l’aïs­thèsis ["sensation" en grec, ce qui a donné "esthétique"] forme simple et primitive du plaisir sensible réduit à un plaisir des sens, comme dans ce que Kant appelle "le goût de la langue, du palais et du gosier", abandon à la sensation immédiate [...]. On pourrait montrer que tout le langage de l’esthé­tique est enfermé dans un refus principiel du facile, entendu dans tous les sens que l’éthique et l’esthé­tique bourgeoises donnent à ce mot. (… Comme le disent les mots employés pour les dénoncer, "facile" ou "léger" bien sûr, mais aussi "frivole", "futile", "tape-à-l’oeil", "supericiel", "racoleur" … ou dans, dans le registre des satisfactions orales, "sirupeux", "douceâtre", "à l’eau de rose", "écoeurant", les oeuvres vulgaires ne sont pas seulement une une sorte d’insulte au raffinement des raffinés, une manière d’offense au public "difficile" qui n’entend pas qu’on lui offre des choses "faciles" (on aime à dire des atistes, et en particulier des chefs d’orchestre, qu’ils se respectent et qu’ils respectent leur public); elles suscitent le malaise et le dégoût par les méthodes de séduction, ordinairement dénoncées comme "basses", "dégradantes", "avilissantes" qu’elles mettent en oeuvre, donnant au spectateur le sentiment d’être traité comme le premier venu, qu’on peut séduire avec des charmes de pacotille, l’invitant à régressser vers les formes les plus primitives et les plus élémentaires du plaisir. Pierre Bourdieu
La musique la plus légitime fait l’objet, avec le disque et la radio, d’usages non moins passifs et intermittents que les musiques "populaires" sans être pour autant discréditée et sans qu’on lui impute les effets aliénants qu’on attribue à la musique populaire. Quant au caractère répétitif de la forme, il atteint un maximum dans le chant grégorien (pourtant hautement valorisé) ou dans nombre de musiques médiévales aujourd’hui cultivées et dans tant de musiques de divertissement du 17e et du 18e siècles, d’ailleurs conçues à l’origine pour être ainsi consommées "en fond sonore". Pierre Bourdieu
There are occasional miracles…but such blockbusters are rare. . . . They have to be seen as special, almost freak occurrences. Decca senior vice president
There are simply so many other options competing for our scarce leisure time and our ever-rising disposable income. A hundred years ago, we didn’t have TV. Fifty years ago, there was no Internet. Twenty-five years ago, the $10 billion video game industry was in its infancy. As the entertainment market offers an ever-increasing number of options, classical music’s fight for our attention has become more competitive and makes the classical audience look small, even as it holds on to its share. If Lizst had to vie with the Matrix Reloaded or video games such as Grand Theft Auto III, would he have captured the public’s imagination? …Some argue that classical music has more intrinsic value than other forms of entertainment because of its significance for our musical tradition and its intellectual complexity. But whether this makes it more valuable depend on why one listens to music. We may admire the musical facility in Mozart or be challenged by the expansive musical canvas in Mahler, but be more profoundly moved by “Amazing Grace” on a lone bagpipe. Still, classical music’s prevailing culture and conventions do feel increasingly out of sync with contemporary experience. As most people will tell you, a modern classical music concert is an entirely somber, serious affair for performers and audiences alike. It is predictable and almost lifelessly professional. No classical music stage today would tolerate the onstage shenanigans of Vladimir de Pachmann, a world-famous nineteenth-century pianist who earned millions touring and was known to dip each finger in brandy before a recital. Although the dress code has relaxed somewhat in recent years—much to the horror of the old guard—some rules are strictly observed, such as no applause between movements. These conventions may seem unnecessarily restrictive for those who have known only dress-casual workplaces. This widening gap between the conventions of classical music and the rest of society tends to reinforce classical music’s image as music for the economic elite. And yet this image is not entirely borne out by the facts. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, the classical music concert audience is no richer than audiences for jazz or musical plays. This survey shows that the level of participation in all arts rises with income. It is not simply that classical music audiences tend to be richer than other audiences, but that all audiences tend to be richer than average. Moreover, both rich and poor share similar preferences. For example, musical plays are more popular than classical music at each income level, with similar relative participation rates. Perhaps more worrisome is the cultural elitism of many people in the classical music community. The fact that there are 276 versions of Beethoven’s 5th, already tends to foster an atmosphere where someone who can’t tell one from the other is made to feel less than welcome. Even those in the business end, “encouraged the attitude that you have to be able to spell Tchaikovsky backwards to be qualified to buy something,” noted the President of EMI Classics back in 1990. And some classical music proponents criticize any attempt to reach a wider audience as “dumbing down.” They view the enormous popularity of The Three Tenors and other crossover albums as a phenomenon that degrades or reduces the status of classical music. In the words of essayist Joseph Epstein: “The bloody snobbish truth is, I prefer not to think myself part of this crowd [his fellow audience at a Pops concert]. I think myself…much better—intellectually superior, musically more sophisticated, even though I haven’t any musical training whatsoever and cannot follow a score.” This attitude, albeit half-joking, may hurt classical music’s ability to reinvent itself and adapt to the modern audience and the modern world. On the contrary, to emotionally connect to today’s audiences and capture their imaginations will take vision and innovation. But there are examples out there. One of the most unlikely successes on Broadway last year was a production of Puccini’s La Bohème, the 1896 opera about a doomed love between Mimi, a Parisian seamstress, and Rodolfo, a starving poet. While the music is exactly as Puccini wrote it and the characters sing in Italian, Baz Luhrmann, the director of Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge, reimagined the story set in 1957. More importantly, he ignored the usual opera conventions and hired singers who looked and acted the parts. Although purists criticized the quality of the singing and objected to the use of microphones, Luhrmann’s experiment shows that there is an enthusiastic new audience for classical music if classical music is made relevant. Even in tradition-bound solo recitals, old customs are loosening up. At the end of a recent recital, Maxim Vengerov, a rising twenty-something violinist, picked up a microphone and talked to the audience for 20 minutes. On a stage where the only thing usually uttered by the soloist is the announcement of the encores, his entertaining anecdotes and sincere answers to questions left the audience more connected to both the music and the musician. Is it possible to make money in today’s classical recordings business without blockbuster crossovers? Absolutely, says Naxos, the world’s bestselling budget label, with 15 percent of classical CD sales in the U.K., 25 percent in Canada, and more than 5 percent in the U.S. While the major labels pursued blockbusters, Naxos, founded in 1987, focused on producing the standard repertory cheaply. “My ambition was to make classical recordings available on CD at a price comparable to that of LPs,” states Klaus Heymann, founder and chairman. Think of Naxos as the Southwest Airlines of classical CDs. It delivers classical music without frills and at rock-bottom prices. It hires young or unknown recording artists, many from Eastern Europe, and pays them a flat fee with no added royalties. It keeps one recording of each work in its catalog, limiting the catalog to about 2,500 titles and eliminating duplication of repertoire. It doesn’t waste a lot of money on expensive promotions. That way, it can sell its CDs for $6.98, not $16.98. And it sells a lot of CDs. Enough to be profitable in spite of budget prices. The other successful strategy focuses on niche markets and nonstandard repertory. Hyperion, a British label founded in 1980, and others have taken this approach. “I didn’t see the point in doing the 103rd version of the New World Symphony, so I went for the more neglected areas, but not so neglected that nobody would buy them,” said Hyperion founder Ted Perry. The label’s first hit was an album of Latin hymns by Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), which sold over 150,000 copies. Along with Nonesuch, which released Górecki’s Third Symphony and the works of other contemporary composers, Hyperion has shown that record companies can be profitable by exploiting a niche market that has been neglected in the catalogs of the major labels. Boston Fed
I believe Andrea’s voice is similar to the way people sang bel canto at the time bel canto was written. It was a chest voice admittedly up to G, maybe A-flat. Everything after that, basically from A-flat or A on, goes into a mixed voice. It’s half head, half chest. Andrea can get to a G, maybe an A-flat, in that full voice. After that, which was bel canto tradition, they turned it into, if not a real falsetto, a mixed voice. If you look at some of these old Donizetti things, written up to high Bs, by the time they were singing that high, they were singing in a falsetto. Andrea has always had this sort of half voice. Now, if you’re trying to sing B-flat and Cs, which opera singers like the Marcello Giordanis of the world do, well, they’re singing those high notes in full voice. And when they sing over an orchestra, they cut glass. In other words, it gets really exciting. Whereas Andrea’s voice, amplified, is just fine. Singing that stuff on stage unamplified is where the issue is. Andrea’s voice comes originally from the pop side. It comes from the pop side so it speaks clearly. And so when he sings opera in that style it doesn’t sound overly mannered. Now that has pros and cons. This is where the big battle comes. Because the opera purist will say, ‘Well, that’s not really an opera voice. Because he can’t do what the so-called real opera singers do on stage. He can’t do those high notes. They don’t grow and get bigger.’ But therefore he’s less histrionic. So people who are coming from a non-opera background will say, ‘Oh, isn’t it nice to hear that?’ Because Andrea doesn’t sound like he’s exaggerating, he sounds like he’s just singing in a nice lyrical way. So it’s easy for people to approach that without feeling like they’re hearing somebody barking in that exaggerated operatic way. People who don’t know how to approach opera. But people can get to opera by liking Andrea’s pop stuff. And when he sings opera or classical stuff, since it’s all amplified, and recorded, and he’s singing in that nice lyric way, they won’t feel put-off. That’s a big point of contention for the real opera fan or the real opera critic. They’re saying that’s not real. That’s a recording studio or an amplified reality. What happens to the poor opera singer who lives day in and day out, who’s screaming their guts out, trying to cut over an orchestra? Of course they’re going to sound more histrionic, even on recording, because that’s the way they sing. Likewise, that’s why a lot of opera singers, when they sing pop music, tend to sound exaggerated. Because they learn what the Italians call l’impostazione, a way of placing the voice in this way to cut glass over the second row, and they don’t know how to turn that off. Steven Mercurio
Pavarotti’s great career therefore ended with a virtual performance, something sad but inevitable. It would have been too dangerous for him, because of his physical condition, to risk a live performance before a global audience. First I recorded a number of versions of the orchestra playing the aria, then [I] took the tapes to the small studio at Pavarotti’s house in Modena. He selected the right version before I directed him alone as he sang along, while being recorded. He found the force to repeat it until he was completely satisfied. Then he collapsed on his wheelchair and closed his eyes, exhausted. (…)  The orchestra pretended to play for the audience, I pretended to conduct and Luciano pretended to sing. The effect was wonderful. Leone Magiera
Beginning with the premise that a listener always wants the most beauty possible, it would have been interesting to offer ticket buyers in Modena this choice: ripe Pavarotti, U.S.D.A.-inspected, guaranteed and pretested; or Pavarotti as a gamble on the unknown — and given the lack of rehearsal time a bad gamble at that. It was going to be his voice either way. Everyone, of course, would reject the simulation to see what happened. The explanation they would no doubt give is that live sound is better than recorded sound. But I think the real reason would be something else. It’s the time factor. People don’t want to be two-timed. Everything we do in life is geared to cause and effect, and when Mr. Pavarotti opens his mouth, we insist on not knowing what will come out. Public performance is more of a sporting event than we like to admit. We talk about beauty, but we all keep score. Picture a soccer match on television. Diego Maradona is outwitting defenders and speeding toward the enemy goal. Now picture Mr. Pavarotti and the Modena concert’s producer, Tibor Rudas, in the telecast booth. "Maradona looks off balance," they say to themselves. "This isn’t going to be a very beautiful kick. But wait. Remember that great goal by Di Stefano for Real Madrid 35 years ago. We have that right here, queued up on tape. Our fans deserve the most beautiful football we can give them, so let’s cut from Maradona and show them this instead." How could soccer fans possibly complain? The substitute is going to have just about the same look: two-dimensional and shrunk to the scale of a television screen. And it is more beautiful. But of course they are going to complain. Soccer fans are being denied the link of action to consequence, the motion of time, the chunk of data that connects the past (Maradona’s approach) and the future (the result of his kick). If anyone was cheated by Mr. Pavarotti, it was the good citizens of Modena, the ones who were in attendance when it happened. They had the great man in front of them, sharing the same space, the same moment. They had their right to the present and to the unknown. For BBC listeners who could not see the Pavarotti lips moving out of whack with the music, ignorance may have been bliss and the sounds divine. When broadcasters record "live" events for future transmission (which they frequently do), the margin for complaint narrows even more. Here the thrill of the moment was never theirs to begin with. Frozen on tape, a firsthand experience is now secondhand. Mr. Pavarotti’s tactic would change the process to a thirdhand experience of a secondhand event. The difference isn’t all that dramatic. The Maradona analogy reminds us of the two kinds of listening going on in music these days: what is about to happen versus what has already happened. The dichotomy, which actually predates electronics by a generation or two, began with the marketing of eternal masterpieces, unmovable and omnipresent. Here, you get to know the music so well that, after bar 50, bar 51 is scarcely a surprise. Recordings — the kind Mr. Pavarotti lip-synced to — have simply reinforced the syndrome. You not only know exactly what, but exactly how. This is the little self-deception we exercise every time we play a favorite record or tune in a "Live From Lincoln Center" repeat. If we don’t already know the results, we at least know that if the performance had been a disaster, it wouldn’t be there for us to hear in the first place. Maybe Mr. Pavarotti wasn’t fooling his listeners any more than they have consented to fool themselves. Bernard Holland
Audiences have changed. People who go and hear Bocelli hear opera in soundbites – just one aria from Boheme or Tosca, like you would hear a pop song. … It’s more that I have such respect for what it takes to be a great jazz or pop artist that I know how few opera singers can really do that. To be Ella Fitzgerald, who to me is one of the greatest singers ever, you have to improvise, you have to be raw, you need to be able to lose that trained style that can sound so mannered. Collette
Compared with sopranos, tenors are a rare breed, partly because the way in which they sing is unnatural. The natural male voice is a baritone. With training, some voices have the ability to go down and become bass or bass baritone, fewer have the ability to go up and become tenors. But if the voice is forced, it can be ruined, as has happened to many great tenors with short careers. And there is no magic formula in terms of a teaching method. Each voice is unique and determined by factors such as nationality, which will influence the sound the larynx can produce – in some countries, the language spoken produces a more open sound than others. Who you like is also very much a question of personal taste. John Cargher
Bocelli has gone about it the other way round, beginning his career as a recording artist before attempting to earn credibility in staged productions. The reason for this is obvious: Bocelli’s blindness is a serious obstacle, not only in terms of the dramatic interaction with fellow cast members but in terms of his relationship with the conductor. In the 19th century, conductors followed singers when it came to tempo, these days it’s the other way round. But there is no way that Bocelli can follow a conductor he can’t see. The result is that his limited appearances in opera productions have been treated with derision by unforgiving critics. At one stage Bocelli’s management, it’s rumoured, offered several opera companies around the world the opportunity to use the star in a fundraising concert in exchange for casting him in an operatic production. All of them declined. Kevin Berger
Bocelli is, plain and simple, a San Remo smoocher who was snapped up by desperate classical labels as a marketing gimmick – it’s the blind leading the deaf. He is rarely in tune and never in tempo. Listen to his recording of the Verdi Requiem and blush. The conductor, Valery Gergiev, only tolerated him because he was assured that it would multiply sales and it did, but no person of discrimination would keep it in the house. Norman Lebrech
It’s more that I have such respect for what it takes to be a great jazz or pop artist that I know how few opera singers can really do that. To be Ella Fitzgerald, who to me is one of the greatest singers ever, you have to improvise, you have to be raw, you need to be able to lose that trained style that can sound so mannered. These days it is the fashion, and indeed universally expected, for tenors to take high notes at full volume, but this was not always the case. Until the 1850s, top Cs were sung falsetto. Audiences now would feel cheated if deprived of the thrill of anticipating whether or not a singer will clear the bar of the last note in the first act of La Boheme. And today we also expect our tenors to be true romantic leads, as in the case of the suavely handsome Roberto Alagna. These days what’s expected of a singer is that he has to have all the vocal ability plus he has to have the acting talents and presence of a theatre actor or a Hollywood star. Record companies and opera management know that’s what audiences want. … The concept exploited unique opportunities to build a global crossover audience of people who might never feel comfortable in the supposedly starchy atmosphere of an opera house, but wanted to hum along to Nessun Dorma. It was a logical, irresistible opportunity: the association with sport enabled opera to score a goal with an added oomph of virility. The Sydney Morning Herald
La technique d’enseignement des conservatoires de musique a tendance à polariser les élèves entre deux solutions extrêmes, la professionnalisation et l’échec, aux dépends de l’amateurisme actif, qui se trouve de fait peu encouragé par la pratique normale du conservatoire, par sa fermeture sur lui-même et l’exclusivité de son répertoire. Antoine Hennion, Françoise Martinat, Jean-Pierre Vignole
Si la musique commence lorsque la formation est terminée, cela implique que les élèves n’ayant pas atteint le niveau requis pour devenir virtuose ne seront jamais musiciens. Il en résulte, en France, un malentendu qui jalonne l’histoire de l’inscription sociale de la musique, où la place et le statut de l’amateur dans la société n’a pas été pensée, car elle n’est tout simplement pas pensable dans un tel contexte. La figure du musicien virtuose, telle qu’elle est si parfaitement incarnée par le violoniste Morel de Marcel Proust, chasse toute possibilité d’envisager l’amateurisme, lequel ne se conçoit alors que de manière négative : l’amateur est celui qui a échoué à devenir musicien, qui n’a pas atteint la perfection ; qui ne jouera donc jamais de musique. Le nageur qui reste sur son tabouret n’est pas un nageur, le musicien qui ne joue pas de musique n’est pas un musicien. Noémi Lefebvre
 Si les publications sur ce qu’on appellera par commodité « le rock », et ses publics, sont aujourd’hui bien répandues, le grand absent des travaux sur les musiques populaires est incontestablement ce qu’on range sous la catégorie « musique de variété ». La raison principale en est sans doute que, alors que le rock à la suite du jazz a acquis ses lettres de noblesse au fur et à mesure qu’il cessait de devenir l’expression de la rébellion postadolescente et que les politiques publiques le consacraient comme nouveau territoire légitime d’intervention, la variété reste considérée comme le vilain petit canard de la portée : au mieux, une musique à faire pleurer à bon compte dans les chaumières, une sorte d’équivalent du roman à l’eau de rose pour ménagères rêvant d’évasion ; au pire, la version la plus aboutie et donc idéologiquement la moins défendable de l’industrie musicale, une machine à vendre du disque et à asséner des tubes sur les radios, des tubes forcément simplistes qui puissent plaire au plus grand nombre. Cette légitimité inexistante de la variété est probablement accentuée par le fait que les valeurs qu’elle met en scène – dans les textes des chansons autant que par certains arrangements « dégoulinants » – sont l’expression d’un certain romantisme, valeur que la division sexuelle des loisirs a pendant longtemps et sans doute encore aujourd’hui attribué préférentiellement aux femmes (alors que le rock est plutôt du côté des pratiques et des représentations masculines). Philippe Le Guern

Attention: un miracle peut en cacher bien d’autres !

En ces temps où, avec les progrès de la médecine, l’oreille absolue sera bientôt à la portée du premier venu …

Mais où les exigences et les cadences infernales tant de l’opéra moderne que des grand messes sportives contraignent les chanteurs contre-nature que sont les ténors à la retraite précoce ou à la tricherie du playback

Pendant que, comme vient de le redémontrer le Washington Post, la beauté semble plus que jamais dans l’oreille de celui qui écoute …

Et qu’en France, un enseignement de la musique centré sur la virtuosité technique ne laisse aucune place au simple amateur …

Comment ne pas voir, de sa condamnation médicale dès la naissance à sa perte ultérieure de la vue (le privant largement du contact indispensable avec le chef d’orchestre) et,  sans compter une église qui en lui refusant le remariage le contraint au concubinage, son rejet actuel par les professionnels de l’opéra toujours plus guindés …

Le véritable miracle de la consécration désormais planétaire de l’ancien chanteur de piano-concert devenu ténor lyrique Andrea Bocelli (plus de 40 millions de disque vendus) ?

Beyond the criticism: Deconstructing Andrea Bocelli’s voice

Kevin Berger

The Los Angeles Times

December 8, 2010

Steven Mercurio knows Andrea Bocelli well. The dynamic New York-based conductor has guided some of the world’s best singers, including Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo, on celebrated opera stages. Because of his passionate approach to all styles of music, and his natural talents as a teacher, Mercurio was called upon to school Bocelli through his first starring performance in an opera, Rodolfo in "La Boheme," in 1998. Since then Mercurio has conducted Bocelli in countless stage performances and recordings, arranged many of his songs, and been his good friend.

I didn’t want to devote my Los Angeles Times profile of Bocelli, who’s appearing Friday at Staples Center, to retreading the timeworn critical controversy over his voice. But I did want to hear from the straight-shooting Mercurio, whose infectious energy is matched by his musical intelligence. I asked him to explain, if he didn’t mind, Bocelli’s vocal range to me. He didn’t mind at all.

"I believe Andrea’s voice is similar to the way people sang bel canto at the time bel canto was written," Mercurio said. "It was a chest voice admittedly up to G, maybe A-flat. Everything after that, basically from A-flat or A on, goes into a mixed voice. It’s half head, half chest. Andrea can get to a G, maybe an A-flat, in that full voice. After that, which was bel canto tradition, they turned it into, if not a real falsetto, a mixed voice. If you look at some of these old Donizetti things, written up to high Bs, by the time they were singing that high, they were singing in a falsetto. Andrea has always had this sort of half voice.

"Now, if you’re trying to sing B-flat and Cs, which opera singers like the Marcello Giordanis of the world do, well, they’re singing those high notes in full voice. And when they sing over an orchestra, they cut glass. In other words, it gets really exciting. Whereas Andrea’s voice, amplified, is just fine. Singing that stuff on stage unamplified is where the issue is."

How would he explain Bocelli’s popularity?

"Andrea’s voice comes originally from the pop side," Mercurio said. "It comes from the pop side so it speaks clearly. And so when he sings opera in that style it doesn’t sound overly mannered. Now that has pros and cons. This is where the big battle comes. Because the opera purist will say, ‘Well, that’s not really an opera voice. Because he can’t do what the so-called real opera singers do on stage. He can’t do those high notes. They don’t grow and get bigger.’ But therefore he’s less histrionic.

"So people who are coming from a non-opera background will say, ‘Oh, isn’t it nice to hear that?’ Because Andrea doesn’t sound like he’s exaggerating, he sounds like he’s just singing in a nice lyrical way. So it’s easy for people to approach that without feeling like they’re hearing somebody barking in that exaggerated operatic way. People who don’t know how to approach opera.

"But people can get to opera by liking Andrea’s pop stuff. And when he sings opera or classical stuff, since it’s all amplified, and recorded, and he’s singing in that nice lyric way, they won’t feel put-off. That’s a big point of contention for the real opera fan or the real opera critic. They’re saying that’s not real. That’s a recording studio or an amplified reality. What happens to the poor opera singer who lives day in and day out, who’s screaming their guts out, trying to cut over an orchestra? Of course they’re going to sound more histrionic, even on recording, because that’s the way they sing. Likewise, that’s why a lot of opera singers, when they sing pop music, tend to sound exaggerated. Because they learn what the Italians call l’impostazione, a way of placing the voice in this way to cut glass over the second row, and they don’t know how to turn that off."

Voir aussi:

Andrea Bocelli worked hard to become a big draw

With a concert tour stop at Staples Center, he is a long way from the days of singing classic pop covers in piano bars. He looks back at his time as a struggling singer with fondness.

Kevin Berger

The Los Angeles Times

December 9, 2010

Reporting from New York

Friday evening, as Christmas lights glittered outside the window of his Central Park hotel suite, Andrea Bocelli was doing his best to explain himself in English. At his side was gracious Italian translator Maria Galetta, ready to help out. But the singer remained determined to find the right words himself.

Ten years ago, at a peak of his international stardom, Bocelli wrote an ingratiating memoir. He frankly described his blindness, the pains and prejudices he confronted as a kid, and the years he scraped by as a piano singer in bars and clubs in his native Tuscany. Why had he called his book "The Music of Silence"?

Bocelli, 52, furrowed his brow and leaned forward. He was unshaven and wearing a white-knit sweater, open at the neck. He had a day off from his Christmas tour, which arrives Friday at Staples Center, and had the look of a perennial performer glad to be free for a moment from his tailored suits and image. A seriousness took hold.

"First, silence is part of music," he said slowly in English. "In the scores, the pauses are very important. Second, because in our society, what we really miss is the silence. We live in a society full of big sounds, big confusion, big mess, you know? Everywhere there is music, in the elevator, in the restaurant, in the cars, at theaters. Cars, they make noise, the engines. There’s no place where we can feel the peace of silence. For this reason I discovered that silence is music for me."

A gentle lyricism and warm tone animate Bocelli’s singing voice. His hugely popular repertoire glides from the classic Neapolitan songs of Enrico Caruso to swooning pop duets with Celine Dion, or, as the case will be at Staples Center, Heather Headley, best known for her marquee Broadway roles in "The Lion King" and "Aida."

Bocelli’s forays into opera have enchanted fans — though seldom critics, who argue he doesn’t have the vocal prowess and range of a classically trained tenor. Steven Mercurio, who has worked with Bocelli on stage and in the studio more often than any other conductor, agreed.

But, said Mercurio in a phone interview — he is busy conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on tour with Sting — Bocelli’s voice is "expressive and lyrical." When Bocelli stays true to his range, Mercurio added, "he sounds beautiful."

Given Bocelli’s romantic mystique, it’s surprising, and refreshing, to revisit his memoir. He wanted to explain his life to his sons (Amos, 15, and Matteo, 13), he said, and composed his book like a novel. "It’s easier to do it telling a story," he said. "Because otherwise you end up writing an essay. Nobody’s interested in an essay."

Did he also want to set the record straight, given so many others had written about him? "No. Because honestly I read probably 1% of the things that people write about me."

As Bocelli acknowledged, the book has been poorly translated from Italian into English, which may explain why it quickly disappeared in the U.S. after being published in 2002. Still, it lays bare a little hellion — his parents called him Terremoto (earthquake) — behind the international hits.

Bocelli was born with congenital glaucoma and had partial sight until he was 12. He attended a school for the blind and one day, while playing goalie in a soccer game, was struck in the face by a ball.

The ball had a special metal plate in it so the kids could hear it when kicked. The plate caught Bocelli in the eye that had allowed him to see light and colors.

At the hospital, doctors attempted to stop the hemorrhage. They placed leeches between Bocelli’s eye and temple to suck out the blood. The treatments failed. From that point on, Bocelli would have to learn to live with complete blindness, like one learns to live "with sadness and pain," he wrote.

Bocelli soon forged an internal fortitude about his blindness. As he wrote, referring to himself in third person, "He felt himself capable of doing everything that other boys his own age did, and claimed the right to be treated and judged by the same standards as everyone else."

Bocelli has never veered from that attitude. Mercurio recalled that after their performances of the Jules Massenet opera "Werther" at the Detroit Opera House in 2000, he would drive Bocelli to the Detroit Athletic Club and teach him to play basketball. "I’d put him on the foul line and stand under the basket and say, ‘No, shoot a foot higher,’ " Mercurio said. "When it went in and he heard the swish he went out of his mind."

Bocelli hates to talk publicly about his blindness. Journalists are warned by his publicist that he may end the interview if they bring it up. In private it’s a different story. "With friends he’ll say anything," Mercurio said.

Given Bocelli’s lavish fame — spotlighted by his massive concerts at the Statute of Liberty, St. Peter’s Basilica, Leicester Square — it’s hard not to ask him to reflect on the nights in the1980s when he sang over clinking glasses, through clouds of cigarette smoke, in Italian clubs.

He fondly remembered one club that was part disco, part bar.

Patrons would meander between thumping disco music in one room and him playing the piano in another. What songs did he sing?

"Classic pop music like Frank Sinatra, Charles Aznavour, Stevie Wonder. the Beatles," Bocelli said. He started singing in a jarringly flawless American voice, "Don’t go changing to try and please me, you never let me down…." He laughed.

Reminded that he called that period of his life "dissolute," Bocelli let slip a sly grin. "I had many friends, some girlfriends," he said.

Galetta, the translator, conferred with him in Italian. "In Italian, female friends and girlfriends can easily be confused," she said.

Bocelli assured her he meant "girlfriends."

One summer night in an open-air club in the town of Chianni, a 17-year-old fan, Enrica Cenzatti, introduced herself to Bocelli. The two fell in love and married when Bocelli got his first big break — an endorsement from Luciano Pavarotti, who had heard and liked one of Bocelli’s demos.

Bocelli, Cenzatti and their boys moved to the coastal commune of Forte dei Marmi. The marriage unraveled in 2002; today Bocelli lives with his girlfriend and manager, Veronica Berti, in a villa near his wife, whom he hasn’t divorced, and their kids.

Talking about his carefree nights as the piano man seemed to put Bocelli in a slightly melancholic mood. "When I played in the piano bar I was very comfortable, much more than now," he said. "Because now I have many responsibilities. Many people come to my concerts just for me. And often the tickets are very expensive. And I am sorry for this. At that time I spent my time very easy. Now it’s much more difficult. But I feel a big affection from the people."

Indeed, it must feel like he’s come a long way from singing "Strangers in the Night" to 30 people, toasting him with shot glasses of grappa? This time he responded without hesitation. "Many, many kilometers."

Voir également:

The king of popera

The Sydney Morning Herald

August 28, 2004

He may be a hit with the masses, but tenor Andrea Bocelli has few fans within opera’s establishment, writes Caroline Baum.

It’s no accident that IMG, the global entertainment management company that represents the world’s biggest sporting stars (Tiger Woods, the Williams sisters, Michael Schumacher) also has a few of the world’s top tenors in its stable. Tenors are the elite athletes of the opera world, the Olympians of track and field: they need the stamina of the marathon runner, the quick reflexes of the sprinter and the vocal and physical agility of the hurdler.

The late Mark McCormack, IMG’s founder, understood that, blessed with natural gifts and sometimes freakish talents, tenors could be as profitable as champions. So it’s no coincidence that these days you are as likely to hear a tenor in a sporting arena as you are in an opera house.

No one embodies the new "popera" genre more than Andrea Bocelli, the 46-year-old Italian tenor who has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide since 1997.

A love of sport had tragic consequences in Bocelli’s life, when he was blinded in an accident during a soccer game at home in Tuscany.

But that disability has also contributed to his success, creating an aura of sympathy and pathos around him. In other ways, he has been blessed, with several lucky breaks leading to a career no one could have envisaged for a lawyer who sang Sinatra songs in piano bars to pay for his musical tuition.

Bocelli’s big chance came when Luciano Pavarotti heard him singing a song by U2’s Bono on an audition tape. Pavarotti later invited Bocelli to sing a duet with him at a concert. The audience went wild and has been doing so ever since.

Yet when Bocelli comes to Sydney, he’ll be performing at the SuperDome at Sydney Olympic Park, not at the Opera House, singing to a capacity crowd of 18,000 each night. And thanks to amplification and giant-screen technology, everyone will be able to hear and see him as if they had the best seat in the house, something you can’t always guarantee in a conventional theatre.

But it is the very use of such technology that helps, at least in part, to explain the sniffy attitude that means Bocelli is not taken seriously by true opera lovers. The fact that he sings into a microphone disguises the inherent lack of power in his voice, they contend.

For purists, the power of a tenor’s voice is very much part of the thrill. The microphone is to opera what illicit drugs are to sport.

Not that Bocelli is the first, or the only operatic tenor to resort to such aids. Pavarotti’s former manager, Herbert Breslin, reveals in a new kiss-and-tell book to be published later this year that the legendary tenor would occasionally lip-synch during concerts if he was tired.

It’s a claim never before made in the world of opera, but common in pop, which relies completely on amplification and its many tricks to boost vocal effect.

As Opera Australia’s managing director Adrian Collette explains: "Amplification doesn’t just augment the voice, it can cover up a lot of mistakes.

"Bocelli, for example, has a small voice and sings out of tune from time to time, but the amplification reverb helps cover that up. It can also extend notes so they sound like they’re being held longer."

Without the phenomenal success of the Three Tenors (Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carerras), there would have been no precedent for the Bocelli phenomenon. It was they, and their canny managers, who embraced the notion of arena performances.

In a stroke of marketing genius, impresarios such as Mario Dradi, who staged the first Three Tenors concert in Rome in 1990, and Tibor Rudas, who managed several of Pavarotti’s outdoor concerts, brought together the three most charismatic male voices of the second half of the 20th century.

The concept exploited unique opportunities to build a global crossover audience of people who might never feel comfortable in the supposedly starchy atmosphere of an opera house, but wanted to hum along to Nessun Dorma. The Three Tenors brand (a registered trademark) played on the trio’s shared passion for football, making their first performance at a soccer World Cup.

It was a logical, irresistible opportunity: the association with sport enabled opera to score a goal with an added oomph of virility.

Of course, it helped that on their own, each of the Three Tenors possessed prodigious talents, enormous reputations, undoubted charisma and a devoted following, but were sufficiently different in style and temperament to make the mystique of the tenor an elusive quality.

In the case of Pavarotti it is the sweet natural beauty of his voice and an unmistakable presence; in the case of Domingo, the darker timbre of the voice plus a dramatic intensity; and in Carreras, a matinee idol persona heightened by a sense of tragedy (he overcame life-threatening leukaemia with a bone marrow transplant).

Enrico Caruso, considered by many the greatest tenor of all time, defined a great tenor as, "a big chest, a big mouth, 90 per cent memory, 10 per cent intelligence, lots of hard work and something in the heart".

What he could not foresee as being equally crucial was the power of management and marketing, although he took part in the beginning of the era of mass communication as the first tenor to make a recording, thereby guaranteeing himself the largest operatic audience in the world at that time.

Mario Lanza, to whom Bocelli is sometimes compared, made the transition from opera singer to crossover artist by starring in several Hollywood movies, in the process tarnishing his operatic credibility and reducing him to the status of schmalzy crooner at a time when the synergy between film, considered a lowbrow medium, and opera, a highbrow medium, had not been fully understood. It was something that Domingo, a consummate actor, seized on to great success in films like Tosca and La Traviata.

Breslin, a veteran of the opera world who once also represented Joan Sutherland, says: "Several things have changed: first of all, there are very few great tenors around, so of course the public is hungry for what they can get and are prepared to settle for second best. When Pavarotti began his career, there were a dozen brilliant tenors singing around the world, which kept standards very high.

"Secondly, audiences have changed. People who go and hear Bocelli hear opera in soundbites – just one aria from Boheme or Tosca, like you would hear a pop song."

Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras had already earned themselves impeccable credentials as the finest tenors of the age inside opera’s inner sanctum, performing the traditional repertoire to critical acclaim in the most august houses on the circuit, such as La Scala, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan.

Bocelli has gone about it the other way round, beginning his career as a recording artist before attempting to earn credibility in staged productions.

The reason for this is obvious: Bocelli’s blindness is a serious obstacle, not only in terms of the dramatic interaction with fellow cast members but in terms of his relationship with the conductor. In the 19th century, conductors followed singers when it came to tempo, these days it’s the other way round. But there is no way that Bocelli can follow a conductor he can’t see.

The result is that his limited appearances in opera productions have been treated with derision by unforgiving critics. At one stage Bocelli’s management, it’s rumoured, offered several opera companies around the world the opportunity to use the star in a fundraising concert in exchange for casting him in an operatic production. All of them declined.

Opera Australia’s Collette, who has only heard Bocelli on recordings, describes his voice as "pretty, light, with a very individual colour and timbre – he’s got a unique sound". He insists that he’s not a snob about singers who attempt to crack the highly lucrative crossover market, singing popular tunes by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Weber or the Beatles along with a bit of Puccini and Verdi.

"It’s more that I have such respect for what it takes to be a great jazz or pop artist that I know how few opera singers can really do that. To be Ella Fitzgerald, who to me is one of the greatest singers ever, you have to improvise, you have to be raw, you need to be able to lose that trained style that can sound so mannered.

"If you’re Domingo, you’re not Hugh Jackman. There’s only one tenor in Australia who has had real success as a crossover artist and that’s David Hobson, whose voice suits the lighter repertoire in opera as well as musicals."

Breslin is reluctant to call Bocelli an opera singer, but recognises that he is a great entertainer "who sings pretty songs in a nice voice, a bit like Engelbert Humperdinck".

Compared with sopranos, tenors are a rare breed, partly because the way in which they sing is unnatural, as John Cargher, the doyen of opera connoisseurs explains.

"The natural male voice is a baritone. With training, some voices have the ability to go down and become bass or bass baritone, fewer have the ability to go up and become tenors. But if the voice is forced, it can be ruined, as has happened to many great tenors with short careers. And there is no magic formula in terms of a teaching method. Each voice is unique and determined by factors such as nationality, which will influence the sound the larynx can produce – in some countries, the language spoken produces a more open sound than others. Who you like is also very much a question of personal taste."

And, like wine (which Bocelli’s father produces at the family vineyard, under the label of Chianti Bocelli), some voices mature better than others.

These days it is the fashion, and indeed universally expected, for tenors to take high notes at full volume, but this was not always the case. Until the 1850s, top Cs were sung falsetto. Audiences now would feel cheated if deprived of the thrill of anticipating whether or not a singer will clear the bar of the last note in the first act of La Boheme. And today we also expect our tenors to be true romantic leads, as in the case of the suavely handsome Roberto Alagna.

Pavarotti was the exception to the rule, simply because the quality of his voice meant audiences made allowances for him. "He was an irresistible force," says Collette, who, having heard the singer live, calls him "one of the two or three greatest ever".

"These days what’s expected of a singer is that he has to have all the vocal ability plus he has to have the acting talents and presence of a theatre actor or a Hollywood star," Collette says. "Record companies and opera management know that’s what audiences want. For the OA, the bottom line is if you can’t sing it, no matter how well you act or look, you won’t get the role."

Among the current batch of homegrown tenors singing with Opera Australia, Collette singles out Stuart Skelton as "the one to watch". Cargher also mentions Skelton, together with three other Australian tenors building a reputation with their performances in European opera houses: Steve Davislim, Julian Gavin and Glen Winslade.

But no one is suggesting that any of these singers is going to fill a sports stadium. And despite the best efforts of Alan Jones and friends, former shoe repair man Peter Brocklehurst, featured recently on the ABC’s Australian Story program and in Good Weekend magazine pursuing his dream of becoming a tenor at the age of 44, is not, according to the opera world’s sharpest ears, a contender.

London opera critic Norman Lebrecht, who has written several books on the classical music world, sees the triumph of Bocelli as a cynical exercise on the part of a recording industry facing diminishing audiences.

"Bocelli is, plain and simple, a San Remo smoocher who was snapped up by desperate classical labels as a marketing gimmick – it’s the blind leading the deaf. He is rarely in tune and never in tempo.

"Listen to his recording of the Verdi Requiem and blush. The conductor, Valery Gergiev, only tolerated him because he was assured that it would multiply sales and it did, but no person of discrimination would keep it in the house."

Of course, such criticism is unlikely to deter his hundreds of thousands of (mostly female) fans around the world. They’ll keep buying his CDs, pelting him with red roses and begging for encores of French and Italian love songs, swooning in the aisles over Bocelli’s potent combination of vulnerability, intensity and good looks.

For them, the future looks rosy: Bocelli, could have another 20 years as a successful recording artist and arena performer ahead of him. Perhaps the shrewdest assessment that IMG’s Mark McCormack made is that, unlike athletes, whose peak performance period usually spans a brief time, tenors can go the distance for far longer than any marathon man.

Andrea Bocelli performs with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the SuperDome on September 17 and 18.

A fistful of top tenors

Roberto Alagna, Franco-Italian

Is married to star soprano Angela Gheorghiu; as opera’s royal couple, they appear in many productions together.

Ramon Vargas, Mexican

A glamorous lyrical tenor, suited to the romantic repertoire.

Juan Diego Florez, Peruvian

Brilliant in ornamental, florid repertoire, such as Rossini.

Josef Calleja, Maltese

Tipped by some as the next Pavarotti.

Ben Heppner, Canadian

Heroic tenor particularly suited to big Wagnerian roles.

Jose Cura, Argentinian

Like Domingo, is also pursuing a career as a conductor.

Marcello Alvarez, Argentinian

Quit his job in a furniture factory to pursue an operatic career at 30.

Salvatore Licitra, Italian

Replaced Pavarotti to debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Voir encore:

Critic’s Notebook; Pavarotti Lip-Syncs, And the Echoes Are Far-Reaching

Bernard Holland

The New York Times

October 27, 1992

The BBC, by all reports, is not happy with Luciano Pavarotti. The British broadcasters bought the rights to a Sept. 27 concert in Modena, Italy, and discovered that the Italian tenor had silently moved his mouth (inexpertly, some of those present said) to recorded music. Mr. Pavarotti’s part in this two-hour event was small, but the BBC paid for the real thing and wants some of its money back. Mr. Pavarotti says he did it because he had had no time to rehearse.

Deciding what the term "real thing" means has not been so easy since music first started using electrical current. Once upon a simpler time, a musician made a noise and someone else’s ears received it. Now there are an awful lot of wires in between. There is nothing artificial about them. They have become part of the music.

Sound engineers possess little boxes that can make the inside of a small recording studio sound like a cathedral, and vice versa. And can we call Mr. Pavarotti’s little subterfuge fraudulent when Frank Sinatra’s voice in concert is being reconstituted by microphones, amplifiers and loudspeakers on its way to paying customers?

The Sinatra transaction and the Pavarotti caper aren’t the same, but the confusions between live and electronic are. Modena is different mainly in the time gap between the original "real thing" and the synthesized "real thing." Maybe the BBC ought to be glad it caught Mr. Pavarotti in such good voice, even if it wasn’t the one he had on Sept. 27.

Beginning with the premise that a listener always wants the most beauty possible, it would have been interesting to offer ticket buyers in Modena this choice: ripe Pavarotti, U.S.D.A.-inspected, guaranteed and pretested; or Pavarotti as a gamble on the unknown — and given the lack of rehearsal time a bad gamble at that. It was going to be his voice either way.

Everyone, of course, would reject the simulation to see what happened. The explanation they would no doubt give is that live sound is better than recorded sound. But I think the real reason would be something else. It’s the time factor. People don’t want to be two-timed. Everything we do in life is geared to cause and effect, and when Mr. Pavarotti opens his mouth, we insist on not knowing what will come out. Public performance is more of a sporting event than we like to admit. We talk about beauty, but we all keep score.

Picture a soccer match on television. Diego Maradona is outwitting defenders and speeding toward the enemy goal. Now picture Mr. Pavarotti and the Modena concert’s producer, Tibor Rudas, in the telecast booth. "Maradona looks off balance," they say to themselves. "This isn’t going to be a very beautiful kick. But wait. Remember that great goal by Di Stefano for Real Madrid 35 years ago. We have that right here, queued up on tape. Our fans deserve the most beautiful football we can give them, so let’s cut from Maradona and show them this instead."

How could soccer fans possibly complain? The substitute is going to have just about the same look: two-dimensional and shrunk to the scale of a television screen. And it is more beautiful.

But of course they are going to complain. Soccer fans are being denied the link of action to consequence, the motion of time, the chunk of data that connects the past (Maradona’s approach) and the future (the result of his kick).

If anyone was cheated by Mr. Pavarotti, it was the good citizens of Modena, the ones who were in attendance when it happened. They had the great man in front of them, sharing the same space, the same moment. They had their right to the present and to the unknown. For BBC listeners who could not see the Pavarotti lips moving out of whack with the music, ignorance may have been bliss and the sounds divine.

When broadcasters record "live" events for future transmission (which they frequently do), the margin for complaint narrows even more. Here the thrill of the moment was never theirs to begin with. Frozen on tape, a firsthand experience is now secondhand. Mr. Pavarotti’s tactic would change the process to a thirdhand experience of a secondhand event. The difference isn’t all that dramatic.

The Maradona analogy reminds us of the two kinds of listening going on in music these days: what is about to happen versus what has already happened. The dichotomy, which actually predates electronics by a generation or two, began with the marketing of eternal masterpieces, unmovable and omnipresent. Here, you get to know the music so well that, after bar 50, bar 51 is scarcely a surprise. Recordings — the kind Mr. Pavarotti lip-synced to — have simply reinforced the syndrome. You not only know exactly what, but exactly how.

This is the little self-deception we exercise every time we play a favorite record or tune in a "Live From Lincoln Center" repeat. If we don’t already know the results, we at least know that if the performance had been a disaster, it wouldn’t be there for us to hear in the first place. Maybe Mr. Pavarotti wasn’t fooling his listeners any more than they have consented to fool themselves.

Voir de plus:

Pavarotti mimed at final performance

· Millions watched tenor’s opening of Olympics

· Star’s conductor Leone Magiera reveals secret

Tom Kington in Rome

Monday 7 April 2008 00.04 BST

On a freezing February night in 2006, an ailing Luciano Pavarotti rose from his wheelchair at the opening of the Turin Winter Olympics to give a resounding rendition of the aria Nessun Dorma, his final public performance before he died of cancer last September.

Details have emerged of how the opera singer was unsure of his weakening voice and faked the live appearance in front of a TV audience of millions, using video trickery, careful lipsynching and a compliant orchestra that pre-recorded its backing days earlier.

"Pavarotti’s great career therefore ended with a virtual performance, something sad but inevitable," said Leone Magiera, the star’s longtime pianist and conductor, who has revealed the ploy in a book. "It would have been too dangerous for him, because of his physical condition, to risk a live performance before a global audience."

Magiera said that the trick took days to set up. "First I recorded a number of versions of the orchestra playing the aria, then [I] took the tapes to the small studio at Pavarotti’s house in Modena," he said.

"He selected the right version before I directed him alone as he sang along, while being recorded."

In the book, Pavarotti Visto da Vicino, or Pavarotti Seen from up Close, Magiera says: "He found the force to repeat it until he was completely satisfied. Then he collapsed on his wheelchair and closed his eyes, exhausted."

Less than a week later, just before the Olympics ceremony, Pavarotti was filmed on stage miming to the recordings as the orchestra pretended to play behind him.

On the big night, that video was played for TV audiences along with the pre-recorded music, while crowds in the stadium heard the music and saw conductor, singer and orchestra faking it for a second time.

"The orchestra pretended to play for the audience, I pretended to conduct and Luciano pretended to sing. The effect was wonderful," Magiera wrote in the book.

The effect was good enough for one fan who wrote on YouTube after watching the video: "Knowing when to cut off that final high note to match a tape would be next to impossible … It’s live, it’s him."

Looking back, Magiera said he preferred to recall another performance given by Pavarotti in the 1990s, this time to a deserted opera house in the Amazon jungle. Built in 1896 for rubber barons, the opulent Amazon Theatre featured in the film Fitzcarraldo.

"He was determined to sing at the old opera house in Manaus, where he was convinced Caruso had once sung," he said.

"We went up there by boat, located a piano but found the theatre out of use. Nevertheless, we went in and he sang two arias from Tosca, E lucevan le stelle and Recondita armonia to an audience of about five."

Magiera’s memoir details Pavarotti’s struggle to work, even as he succumbed to pancreatic cancer. While giving lessons to young singers, he would drift off, whereupon his Peruvian assistant would ring him on his mobile phone. Jerked awake, Pavarotti "would immediately make a more or less relevant observation about the performance he had only partly listened to".

At the end, even his legendary appetite deserted him, Magiera writes. When he could not eat the plate of rigatoni he had asked for, "he looked at me with a sad smile and said ‘That’s a bad sign for me if I prefer mashed potato to macheroni’."

Voir de même:

Andrea Bocelli Miracle Birth Gave Us Music

Fool’s gold today

In 1958 a pregnant mother went to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. A diagnosis of acute appendicitis was made and surgery was the obvious best option.

It can be a formidable challenge to anesthetize and do surgery on a pregnant patient, especially non-obstetric surgery. Every time I face such a case, I am well aware that I must take care of two patients, and their lives and well-being are equally important to me. The stakes are increased not only because there are two individuals under my care, but because pregnancy increases the anesthetic risk for the mother significantly.

Imagine how much more difficult this situation was in 1958, when surgical and anesthetic technique was not nearly as developed as today!

At the time of surgery, the young mother-to-be was advised to abort her baby due to the risk of developmental defects as a result of surgery and anesthesia. But contrary to medical advice, the mom trusted God and decided to keep the baby in the hopes things will work out alright.

She gave birth to a boy who had congenital glaucoma, but who was otherwise healthy. He had decreased vision, and following some trauma during a football game he lost his vision at age 12.

But this boy was special for a different reason. He was blessed with an unbelievable talent. He had and continues to have the voice of an angel.

During a concert he thanked his mother, Edi, who made the right decision to allow him to live so he can bless the world with the common grace of beautiful music. He ended up selling over 70 million records, and his music is well-loved throughout the world.

That musician’s name is Andrea Bocelli.

Voir encore:

Andrea Bocelli : une voix et un coeur.

Un chanteur lyrique qui flirte avec la variété et dont le grand Al Jarreau a dit qu’il avait "la plus belle voix au monde" : portrait.

Andrea Bocelli est né le 22 Septembre 1958 dans la ferme familiale Lajatico (Toscane). Il devient aveugle à l’âge de 12 ans à la suite d’un glaucome congénital aggravé par un diabète chronique. Il apprend le braille dans une école spécialisée de Reggio Emilia où la beauté de sa voix lui permet de devenir soliste dans le choeur. Selon ses propres termes, il ne se souvient pas avoir vécu sans passion pour la musique, et il a poursuivi très tôt le rêve de devenir chanteur d’opéra. Durant l’adolescence, il gagne nombre de concours de chant mais choisit par prudence de passer un diplôme de Droit à l’Université de Pise tout en faisant quelques apparitions remarquées dans les bars musicaux de la ville dans un répertoire allant d’Aznavour à Sinatra. Le réel tournant dans sa vie d’artiste est sa rencontre avec le légendaire ténor Franco Corelli qui accepte de prendre comme élève celui qu’il surnomme "l’ange aveugle". Fini le Droit et les cafés-concerts…

En 1992, la rock-star italienne Zucchero Fornaciari, qui avait besoin d’un ténor de doublure pour lui donner la réplique dans la préparation du duo "Miserere" à chanter avec Luciano Pavarotti, recrute Andrea Bocelli. Pavarotti est enchanté. Le jeune débutant est ensuite approché par la maison de disque Sugar Label dont la présidente l’a entendu chanter le fameux "Nessun dorma" du Turandot de Puccini lors d’une soirée privée. La maison de disque fait en sorte de faire inviter son protégé au Festival de San Remo où il obtient le succès escompté et une révélation au public italien. Le reste du monde le découvre à l’occasion de la sortie du tube planétaire "Con te partirò", numéro 1 en France pendant six semaines et meilleure vente de disques de tous les temps en Allemagne…

En 1994, Luciano Pavarotti invite personnellement Andrea Bocelli au festival Pavarotti de Modène où il chante en duo avec le Maestro (qui l’a désigné comme son successeur) mais aussi avec Bryan Adams, Andreas Vollenveider et Nancy Gustavsson. "Le ténor qui voit avec le coeur" passe même la veillée de Noël aux côtés du Pape! L’année suivante, il fait une tournée télévisée triomphale en Europe où il partage la vedette avec Al Jarreau, Bryan Ferry, Roger Hodgson (Supertramp) et John Miles. Depuis, il a chanté sur les scènes les plus prestigieuses avec la plupart des stars mondiales.

Ses grands débuts sur une scène d’opéra se font en 1998 à Cagliari (Sicile) dans une production de la Bohème de Puccini, où il tient le rôle de Rodolphe. Malheureusement, sa voix rencontre des difficultés à "passer la fosse d’orchestre", pour employer l’expression des critiques lyriques : Bocelli ne réussit pas à cette occasion à être reconnu par la presse et les "aficionados" comme le grand ténor capable d’enflammer le public des salles d’opéra. A la scène, c’est donc vers la carrière de chanteur de variétés qu’il s’oriente, tout en poursuivant son travail de ténor pour le disque, enregistrant les arias les plus célèbres du répertoire et quelques intégrales lyriques à destination du grand public. Marié en 1993, Andrea Bocelli est le père de deux garçons. Il a, dit- il, fait sienne la devise du Petit Prince de Saint- Exupéry : "On ne voit qu’avec le coeur; l’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux"…

Voir encore:

A Requiem for Classical Music?

Julie Lee

Boston Fed

Regional ReviewQuarter 2, 2003

A man stands surrounded by women. He is tall and handsome with long, flowing hair; the women are worshipful, kneeling at his feet. There is one particularly zealous admirer with large scissors, ready to cut a lock of his hair. If it weren’t for the corsets and bustles, this could be a scene of a rock star being hounded by hysterical female fans. Yet, this is a caricature from 1876 depicting Franz Lizst and admirers after one of his concerts.

A lot has changed since then. Today, such an enthusiastic reception is reserved for teen pop idols and movie stars. Even as overall sales of music grew steadily until the late 1990s, the sales of classical music CDs hovered at a scant 3 to 4 percent of the total. Record companies such as BMG Classics are slashing the number of new classical releases or, like CRI (a not-for-profit label which has recorded 42 Pulitzer Prize-winning composers), closing altogether. Classical music stations have disappeared in many cities; one-third of the nation’s top 100 radio markets do not have a classical station. After 63 years, ChevronTexaco’s radio broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera House will be off the air next year. Many symphony orchestras are cutting back programs and suffering financial difficulties. The Pittsburgh Symphony is selling its concert hall. A sign of the times: the “Death of Classical Music Archive” on ArtsJournal.com contains more than 50 recent articles on the topic.

At the same time, it is easier than ever to buy any classical CD one might desire. A recent search on Amazon.com for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 yielded a staggering 874 options, including 276 different recordings of a complete performance of all four movements. The choices included every imaginable compilation (from Beethoven: Greatest Hits to Beethoven: Super Hits) and every possible price point (from $2.98 for a performance by an unnamed orchestra to $101.98 for a boxed set with famed conductor Herbert von Karajan). Previously hard-to- find works are also more readily available. As a piano student 20 years ago, I had trouble locating Debussy’s “Children’s Corner” (a suite of miniatures for piano) performed by Walter Gieseking—but Amazon instantly offered up two choices.

Moreover, attendance at classical concerts appears to be rising slightly. According to a 1997 survey commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts, more than 15 percent of respondents attended a classical music event the previous year, a 3 percentage point increase from five years earlier. And while classical’s share of CDs is not large, it appears to have held steady over the past 20 years.

So, is classical music dying? Or are the reports of its demise simply exaggerated?

A STAR IS BORN:

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE CLASSICAL MUSIC BUSINESS

Everybody knows classical music when they hear it. It’s old. It’s serious. It’s stuffy. Yet, classical music is an imprecise term, generally referring to Western music from medieval times to the present day. Most of what is commonly called classical music is indeed old, dating back to the sixth century when church chants were first written down and codified. However, much new classical music is being written right now, and much more is still to be written. During the 2002-2003 season alone, 207 works were premiered worldwide.

It is often assumed that all classical music is serious and is written with artistic merit as its purpose. But that is not the case. Classical music can be complex, deep, and intellectually meaty (like Beethoven or Brahms symphonies), but it also can be light, irreverent, and frivolous (like Strauss waltzes). And while knowledge and familiarity can enhance one’s enjoyment of classical music, they are not required, much in the way one needn’t be an Elizabethan scholar to enjoy Shakespeare or a film studies major to enjoy movies. Many people enjoy classical music with little or no formal training.

Whatever its pretensions, artistic or otherwise, until the 19th century the classical music business was relatively prosaic. The composer was a staff function within the machinery of social organizations like the royal court, which employed musicians to sing and play for worship in the cathedral and for entertainment at the palace. Many prominent composers, including Monteverdi, Haydn, and Mozart, held such positions. These hired composers/conductors/music directors generally worked at the whim of their employers, who were not always interested in music. Haydn is said to have composed the “Surprise” symphony to wake dozing patrons after a big meal and the “Farewell” symphony to send his employer a message that it was time to cut short a stay in the country because the musicians were homesick.

Consequently, many famous works in classical music were composed because they were in the job description. For example, J.S. Bach (1685-1750) wrote his cycle of cantatas so that his choir would have a piece to perform each Sunday. And he dedicated the Brandenburg Concertos to a potential employer, as a job application of sorts. By all accounts, Bach was a methodical and industrious employee, “in the business of holding jobs.” He did not set out to create masterpieces of artistic importance; those turned out to be fortunate by-products.

The rise of the bourgeois class by the eighteenth century set the stage for change, including the appearance of freelance composers, star performers, and the modern market for music. As music moved out of the salons of aristocracy to the concert halls of the middle class, it became a public commercial activity in which the professional musicians performed for the paying audience. By the nineteenth century, many of the principles governing the classical music business today were already in place. The new system of an organized market for mass consumption of music required two key elements: star performers to attract an audience, and the supporting business apparatus to deliver the star and the music to the public efficiently. There were tickets to sell, seats to fill, and stars to manufacture and market.

Which bring us back to Franz Lizst (1811-1886), a Hungarian- born composer-pianist and, along with Nicolò Paganini, the first modern virtuoso and international superstar. First and foremost, there was his brilliant technique. In the words of Felix Mendelssohn, “Lizst has a certain suppleness and versatility in his fingers, as well as a thoroughly musical feeling, which may nowhere find its equal.” But Lizst was also a showman. He heightened the effect of his technique by performing from memory (a requirement on today’s stage) and by refusing to share the stage with other musicians (before him, there were no solo recitals and no instrumentalist gave a concert without others). And not unlike today’s rock stars, his extra-musical activities and scandalous love affairs were integral to his mystique. Although critics and detractors considered him cheap and flashy, those very qualities made him a star. He gave his audience what they wanted.

The twentieth century brought additional ways to consume music and new ways to promote star performers. Recordings, radio, television, and eventually the Internet further increased the potential audience for classical music. Tenor Enrico Caruso was the first recording star. His 1904 performance from the opera I Pagliacci became the first record to sell one million copies; and several other artists had top ten hits in the years between 1900 and 1920. Superstar conductors like Arturo Toscanini, Eugene Ormandy, and Leopold Stokowski were successful enough to become household names. Although accurate sales figures are hard to come by, Ormandy and Toscanini are reported to have sold more than 20 million records each over the course of their careers. And Stokowski shook hands with twentieth-century pop icon, Mickey Mouse, in Disney’s 1940 movie, Fantasia.

WHERE’S THE MONEY?

THE CASE OF THE RECORDING INDUSTRY

In spite of the commercial success of its biggest stars, classical music recordings were not traditionally expected to make much of a profit, at least not a quick one. The typical recording sold at a relatively slow rate, two or three thousand on first release, but steadily over a longer period. Walter Legge, arguably the best-known record producer in the history of classical music, said that he wanted to make records that would sell for 20 or 30 years—and 40 years later, many still do. But this also meant that many recordings (especially those by large orchestras) wouldn’t make a profit until they were reissued as part of a midprice or budget series.

For the most part, record companies seemed content with the prestige and comparatively small profit margins of their classical recordings or were willing to subsidize them with profits from their pop divisions. They kept their focus on “documenting” star performances. “The major labels all operated on the principle that the best way to make money was to record prominent names in standard repertory. . . [and they] signed exclusive contracts with the biggest artists they could find,” wrote music critic Terry Teachout in Commentary. Under this regime, Leonard Bernstein, Leontyne Price, Artur Rubinstein, and other big names continued to sell records into the 1960s and 1970s. Bernstein, in particular, brought classical music into millions of homes during the 1960s with his television series introducing classical music to young people.

But cracks were appearing in the traditional business model. The market for classical music and its star performers began to shrink if not in absolute sales, at least relative to the alternatives: Elvis, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson. The explosion of other entertainment options such as television, movies, and later videogames only intensified the competition for the audience’s time and pocketbook.

Moreover, this stars-and-standard repertory approach also resulted in market saturation of the core product, the Bach-Beethoven-Brahms fare constituting the canon. Since a “new” product meant a recording of an old piece by a young performer or a second recording by a veteran, the number of recordings of a relatively small number of pieces eventually proliferated. The result was a catalog consisting of tens of thousands of titles—the majority concentrated in the standard repertory—which was expensive for labels and retailers to maintain and potentially confusing to fans.

The industry also underwent several periods of consolidation including, a particularly intense round of mergers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For example, Decca, a British label founded in 1929, merged with Polygram in 1980 (which itself was formed by a merger of Deutsche Grammophon and Philips in 1972) and then was incorporated into Universal Music after its purchase in 1998. Similarly, RCA (Toscanini’s label) is now part of Bertelsmann, a German conglomerate, and Columbia Records (Vladimir Horowitz’s label) is part of Sony. As a division within a multinational conglomerate, these labels now competed directly with the more lucrative popular music divisions, and faced increasing pressure to maximize profits.

THE THREE TENORS

It was under these circumstances, that classical music experienced its most unprecedented commercial triumph. The phenomenal success of the Three Tenors in the early 1990s changed expectations and set a new standard for the industry. “Gone were the days when it was acceptable for classical music sales to chug along at a few hundred per year. Now they were expected to perform like popular music divisions,” observed Ian Lace in BBC Music Magazine.

José Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti, the three tenors of world renown, first sang together as a trio for the 1990 World Cup in Rome. What nobody could have imagined was the extraordinary success of this venture. About 800 million people worldwide saw the television broadcasts, and the recording, The Three Tenors in Concert, became by far the bestselling classical album of all time, with sales exceeding 10 million. The Three Tenors became both a franchise and a marketing concept. They went on to sing at subsequent World Cups (Los Angeles in 1994, Paris in 1998, and Yokohama in 2002), and spawned imitators like the Three Sopranos and even the Three Chinese Tenors.

In addition to making the singers extremely rich, The Three Tenors in Concert had an enormous effect on the business. It demonstrated that a classical CD can sell in the millions. In the way that Star Wars changed the movie industry, The Three Tenors instigated the industry’s relentless search for the next blockbuster that would immediately sell millions. Marketing became more expensive and sophisticated as companies worked to amplify small successes into hits. And some predicted this would help build a new, larger audience for classical music.

Such efforts have been successful to a point, leading to a string of highly popular crossover albums that topped pop charts. A 1992 recording of Henryk Górecki’s Third Symphony, a mournful work for soprano and orchestra by the contemporary Polish composer—previously more cult figure than superstar —sold more than 1 million CDs. Even more successful was Chant, recorded by Benedictine monks in northern Spain. Originally promoted by EMI Spain as an antidote to stress, the company undertook a U.S. marketing campaign after sales began to rise that included reducing the two-CD recording to one disc, shortening the title from Las Mejores Obras del Canto Gregoriano (The Best of Gregorian Chants) to the snappier Chant, commissioning an eye-catching new cover, and even shooting a video clip to accompany “Alleluia, beatus vir qui suffert.” Sales, in excess of 4 million, probably amount to more copies than all other Gregorian chant CDs combined.

Yet, a business strategy based on crossover blockbusters has turned out to be unreliable. Just as nobody had imagined the extraordinary success of The Three Tenors, finding and marketing the next classical mega-hit has been difficult and unpredictable, with little guidance from the three very different hits mentioned above: The Three Tenors is a crowd-pleasing medley of songs including the greatest hits of the opera repertory sung by the reigning tenors of the day; Chant consists of simple, unaccompanied melodies from the very beginning of Western music; and Górecki’s Third Symphony is a somber piece in the minimalist tradition by a modern composer. Notes then senior vice president at Decca (the record label responsible for The Three Tenors): “There are occasional miracles…but such blockbusters are rare. . . . They have to be seen as special, almost freak occurrences.”

Moreover, if Amazon’s “customers also bought” links are any indication, such one-time hits don’t appear to have spilled over into increased sales in the standard repertoire. Customers who purchased The Three Tenors have also bought other crossover CDs, like Pavarotti’s Greatest Hits or The #1 Opera Album, but don’t appear to have ventured into traditional opera CDs, like Pavarotti’s Turandot or La Bohème.

While the major recording companies pursued the seductive but elusive lure of mega-hits, a number of companies have been quite successful—commercially and artistically—by taking other approaches. The label Naxos, for example, records new versions of the standard repertory without star performers to keep costs reasonable; Hyperion and others specialize in recording and releasing less often heard, more adventurous works. (See sidebar.) The success of these firms suggests that classical music may still have some life in it yet.

REVERENCE VS. RELEVANCE:

THE CASE FOR EXPANDING THE AUDIENCE

It is worth noting that concerns about the health of classical music have popped up fairly regularly. In 1980, a New York Times article announced a “classical crisis” in the recording industry. In 1971, another New York Times piece noted a decline in classical radio stations going back to 1967; in 1949, articles in other publications complained of similar circumstances.

Yet, a closer look suggests that the demand for classical music seems to have held fairly steady, at least over the past 20 years. During that time, the share of classical recordings has remained relatively stable at about 3 to 5 percent. (The figure briefly reached an unusually high 7 to 8 percent in the late 1980s as classical music buffs replaced their LPs with CDs.) Moreover, according to the National Endowment for the Arts, 30 million adults (16 percent) had attended a classical music event in the previous 12 months—on par with the rates for jazz concerts and plays but smaller than for watching TV (96 percent) or going to the movies (66 percent). However, in reviewing all the evidence for an article published by the Symphony Orchestra Institute, Professor Douglas Dempster, of the Eastman School of Music concluded, “Classical music is more widely heard and available, performed at a higher level of preparation and artistry,

So, what is the source of the evident concern? One reason may be that there are simply so many other options competing for our scarce leisure time and our ever-rising disposable income. A hundred years ago, we didn’t have TV. Fifty years ago, there was no Internet. Twenty-five years ago, the $10 billion video game industry was in its infancy. As the entertainment market offers an ever-increasing number of options, classical music’s fight for our attention has become more competitive and makes the classical audience look small, even as it holds on to its share. If Lizst had to vie with the Matrix Reloaded or video games such as Grand Theft Auto III, would he have captured the public’s imagination?

Some argue that classical music has more intrinsic value than other forms of entertainment because of its significance for our musical tradition and its intellectual complexity. But whether this makes it more valuable depend on why one listens to music. We may admire the musical facility in Mozart or be challenged by the expansive musical canvas in Mahler, but be more profoundly moved by “Amazing Grace” on a lone bagpipe.

Still, classical music’s prevailing culture and conventions do feel increasingly out of sync with contemporary experience. As most people will tell you, a modern classical music concert is an entirely somber, serious affair for performers and audiences alike. It is predictable and almost lifelessly professional. No classical music stage today would tolerate the onstage shenanigans of Vladimir de Pachmann, a world-famous nineteenth-century pianist who earned millions touring and was known to dip each finger in brandy before a recital. Although the dress code has relaxed somewhat in recent years—much to the horror of the old guard—some rules are strictly observed, such as no applause between movements. These conventions may seem unnecessarily restrictive for those who have known only dress-casual workplaces.

This widening gap between the conventions of classical music and the rest of society tends to reinforce classical music’s image as music for the economic elite. And yet this image is not entirely borne out by the facts. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, the classical music concert audience is no richer than audiences for jazz or musical plays. (See sidebar in full-text PDF.) This survey shows that the level of participation in all arts rises with income. It is not simply that classical music audiences tend to be richer than other audiences, but that all audiences tend to be richer than average. Moreover, both rich and poor share similar preferences. For example, musical plays are more popular than classical music at each income level, with similar relative participation rates.

Perhaps more worrisome is the cultural elitism of many people in the classical music community. The fact that there are 276 versions of Beethoven’s 5th, already tends to foster an atmosphere where someone who can’t tell one from the other is made to feel less than welcome. Even those in the business end, “encouraged the attitude that you have to be able to spell Tchaikovsky backwards to be qualified to buy something,” noted the President of EMI Classics back in 1990. And some classical music proponents criticize any attempt to reach a wider audience as “dumbing down.” They view the enormous popularity of The Three Tenors and other crossover albums as a phenomenon that degrades or reduces the status of classical music. In the words of essayist Joseph Epstein: “The bloody snobbish truth is, I prefer not to think myself part of this crowd [his fellow audience at a Pops concert]. I think myself…much better—intellectually superior, musically more sophisticated, even though I haven’t any musical training whatsoever and cannot follow a score.” This attitude, albeit half-joking, may hurt classical music’s ability to reinvent itself and adapt to the modern audience and the modern world.

On the contrary, to emotionally connect to today’s audiences and capture their imaginations will take vision and innovation. But there are examples out there. One of the most unlikely successes on Broadway last year was a production of Puccini’s La Bohéme, the 1896 opera about a doomed love between Mimi, a Parisian seamstress, and Rodolfo, a starving poet. While the music is exactly as Puccini wrote it and the characters sing in Italian, Baz Luhrmann, the director of Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge, reimagined the story set in 1957. More importantly, he ignored the usual opera conventions and hired singers who looked and acted the parts. Although purists criticized the quality of the singing and objected to the use of microphones, Luhrmann’s experiment shows that there is an enthusiastic new audience for classical music if classical music is made relevant.

Even in tradition-bound solo recitals, old customs are loosening up. At the end of a recent recital, Maxim Vengerov, a rising twenty-something violinist, picked up a microphone and talked to the audience for 20 minutes. On a stage where the only thing usually uttered by the soloist is the announcement of the encores, his entertaining anecdotes and sincere answers to questions left the audience more connected to both the music and the musician.

REPRISE

Classical music may never be the most popular music. And changes are afoot in the industry—and not only in classical music —as the Internet and other technological advancements roil the landscape and challenge traditional ways of doing business. For example, the initial success of Apple’s iTunes Music Store suggests there may be new and viable ways of buying recorded music over the Internet. These developments may change the ways in which we consume and experience classical music. But that does not necessarily signal its demise.

However, both artists and business people need to think hard about who their future audience is going to be and how to make classical music exciting and relevant to that audience. Whether by delivering neglected repertory, or offering fresh interpretations of old favorites to a small but dedicated audience, or by shedding antiquated conventions and trying to expand into new territory, in the end, successful strategies will need to make people care about the music. These experiments may mean the death of the classical music business as we know it, but also may provide an opportunity for rebirth and renewal.

Indie Classical (sidebar)

Is it possible to make money in today’s classical recordings business without blockbuster crossovers? Absolutely, says Naxos, the world’s bestselling budget label, with 15 percent of classical CD sales in the U.K., 25 percent in Canada, and more than 5 percent in the U.S. While the major labels pursued blockbusters, Naxos, founded in 1987, focused on producing the standard repertory cheaply. “My ambition was to make classical recordings available on CD at a price comparable to that of LPs,” states Klaus Heymann, founder and chairman.

Think of Naxos as the Southwest Airlines of classical CDs. It delivers classical music without frills and at rock-bottom prices. It hires young or unknown recording artists, many from Eastern Europe, and pays them a flat fee with no added royalties. It keeps one recording of each work in its catalog, limiting the catalog to about 2,500 titles and eliminating duplication of repertoire. It doesn’t waste a lot of money on expensive promotions. That way, it can sell its CDs for $6.98, not $16.98. And it sells a lot of CDs. Enough to be profitable in spite of budget prices.

The other successful strategy focuses on niche markets and nonstandard repertory. Hyperion, a British label founded in 1980, and others have taken this approach. “I didn’t see the point in doing the 103rd version of the New World Symphony, so I went for the more neglected areas, but not so neglected that nobody would buy them,” said Hyperion founder Ted Perry. The label’s first hit was an album of Latin hymns by Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), which sold over 150,000 copies. Along with Nonesuch, which released Górecki’s Third Symphony and the works of other contemporary composers, Hyperion has shown that record companies can be profitable by exploiting a niche market that has been neglected in the catalogs of the major labels.

Julie Lee is a health economist. After years of piano lessons, she is more comfortable as a fan of classical music than as a performer.

Voir enfin:

Pierre Bourdieu : Les aventuriers de l’île enchantée

entretien avec Catherine Portevin et Jean-Philippe Pisanias

Télérama n°2536

19/08/98

Conclusion naturelle de notre série d’entretiens avec le sociologue avant la sortie en librairie, le 26 août, de son livre, La Domination masculine (éd. du Seuil) et l’amour ? Quelle place a-t-il dans ces rapports de force que sont les relations entre les hommes et les femmes ?

Souvent, en lisant Bourdieu, on s’était posé cette question. À nous qui nous croyions des individus libres et indépendants, toute son oeuvre ne cessait de révéler nos déterminismes sociaux. Nos choix professionnels, affectifs, esthétiques, nos fragilités, nos souffrances ou nos assurances, nos ascensions sociales ou nos ruptures, nos façons de parler ou de penser, nos adhésions conscientes ou inconscientes répondent à des logiques sociales, selon nos origines, nos généalogies, le " champ " auquel nous appartenons… Dans tout ça, peut-il seulement exister un sentiment pur, un amour vrai, irréductible au social et qui soit un des moteurs les plus puissants de l’existence?

C’est la première fois, à notre connaissance, que Pierre Bourdieu répond à cette question. Et par l’affirmative; un oui à la fois enflammé et prudent, enthousiaste et sage.

TELERAMA: Vous dessinez, en conclusion de votre livre, un " amour pur ", seul " îlot enchanté " ou peuvent s’annihiler les rapports de domination entre les sexes. Qu’est-ce, en la circonstance, que la pureté?

PIERRE BOURDIEU : Pur, cela veut dire indépendant du marché, indépendant des intérêts. L’amour pur, c’est l’art pour l’art de l’amour, l’amour qui n’a pas d’autre fin que lui-même. L’amour de l’art et l’amour pur sont des constructions sociales nées ensemble au XIXe siècle. On dit toujours que l’amour remonte au siècle des troubadours, ce n’est pas faux. Mais l’amour romanesque, tel que nous le connaissons, est vraiment une invention de la vie de bohème, et c’est entièrement le sujet de L’Education sentimentale, de Flaubert : la confrontation entre l’amour pur et l’amour " normal ",…

TRA : C’est quoi, l’amour normal ?

P.B. : C’est l’amour socialement sanctionné. L’amour pur s’invente chez les artistes, chez les gens qui peuvent investir dans une relation amoureuse du capital littéraire, du discours, de la parole… Tout ce que Flaubert a mis dans son roman. Les trois femmes qu’il met en scène sont chacune une des représentations de l’amour et se définissent les unes contre les autres. Mme Dambreuse est l’incarnation de l’amour bourgeois, Mme Amoult de l’amour pur et Rosanette, de l’amour vénal et mercenaire. Et l’amour pur se définit à la fois contre l’amour bourgeois qui a pour objectif la carrière, et contre l’amour vénal qui a pour objectif l’argent. Les deux étant en fait des amours mercenaires.

TRA Est-ce que, dès lors, cet amour pur est forcément une transgression sociale ?

P.B. : Oui, dans la mesure où il est en rupture avec l’ordre social qui demande d’autres gages. L’amour pur, c’est l’amour fou ; l’amour social convenable est un amour subordonné aux impératifs de la reproduction pas seulement biologique mais sociale.

TRA : Il peut tout de même y avoir de l’amour, là-dedans aussi ?

P.B. : Evidemment, c’est aussi de l’amour. Mais pas de l’amour fou. C’est de l’amour conforme, de l’amour du destin social, l’amor fati. On aime sa " promise ". Ces constats de la sociologie désespèrent beaucoup en général. Or, quand on étudie statistiquement les mariages, on observe qu’ils unissent des hommes et des femmes de même milieu. Autrefois, cette homogamie était garantie et aménagée par les familles ; c’était le mariage de raison, de raison sociale. Aujourd’hui, les garçons et les filles se rencontrent de manière apparemment libre, et l’homogamie fonctionne toujours. Dans le Béarn, j’ai étudié les effets de ce passage des mariages arrangés aux mariages libres, le bal devenant le " marché " où se nouaient les unions d’où sortiront les mariages. Ce qui est intéressant, c’est qu’ils ne sont le produit ni d’un choix ni de l’intervention d’une instance supérieure (la famille) ; ils sont le produit de dispositions sociales qu’on appelle amour…

Peut-être, d’ailleurs, avons-nous un taux de divorce élevé parce que nous investissons dans le mariage des attentes démesurées. C’est lié, en particulier, aux femmes qui dépendent plus des valeurs d’amour que les hommes. Pour – j’insiste encore – des raisons uniquement sociologiques qui n’ont rien à voir avec la supposée " nature " féminine. On dit souvent que les femmes sont romanesques, et c’est vrai, dans tous les milieux, à tous les niveaux, comme l’atteste le fait que les femmes ont partie liée avec la lecture et la littérature.

TRA L’amour pur serait alors I’ exception, forcément éphémère. Et il ne semble pouvoir exister qu’hors du monde. N’est- il pas possible cependant que, même en se colletant au monde, aux contraintes sociales, il reste le plus fort?

P.B. : Cela arrive. La littérature est remplie des triomphes de l’amour pur. Dans la réalité, cette île enchantée sans violence, sans domination, est vulnérable en diable. Ce n’est pas raisonnable, raisonnable voulant dire conforme aux réalités sociales. C’est " miraculeux ", avec beaucoup de guillemets, miraculeux sociologiquement : c’est peu probable, cela peut arriver, mais cela a une chance sur mille. La réciprocité parfaite, l’émerveillement réciproque, c’est voué au dépérissement… ne serait-ce que sous l’effet de la routine.

Les gens n’aiment pas que l’on explique des choses qu’ils veulent garder " absolues ". Moi, je trouve qu’il vaut mieux savoir. C’est très bizarre que l’on supporte si mal le réalisme. Dans le fond, la sociologie est très proche de ce qu’on appelle la sagesse. Elle apprend à se méfier des mystifications. Je préfère me débarrasser des faux enchantements pour pouvoir m’émerveiller des vrais " miracles ". En sachant qu’ils sont précieux parce qu’ils sont fragiles.

TRA : Et si on chassait toutes les marques de la domination masculine, quelle serait la part possible, entre les hommes et les femmes, de la séduction (dont vous dîtes qu’elle est une reconnaissance implicite de la domination sexuelle), du jeu entre les êtres, voire du charme?

P.B. : Certains intellectuels défendent la tradition française de la courtoisie, en s’inquiétant de la voir mise en péril par ce désenchantement actuel de la relation hommes/femmes. Ce genre d’attitude, qui va souvent de pair avec la méfiance à l’égard du féminisme, m’est très antipathique parce que c’est une manière moderne de s’en rapporter à de vieilles lunes. Ce n’est pas intéressant et puis c’est faux. Est-ce que la lucidité sur les rapports entre les sexes, ou sur les rapports sexuels en général, pourrait détruire tout enchantement? Je n’en suis pas sûr.

Cela débarrasserait au contraire les relations de ce qui les encombre, de la mauvaise foi (au sens sartrien de " mensonge à soi-même "), de la tricherie, des malentendus.

Dieu sait si je ne suis pas très optimiste mais, sur certains terrains, l’analyse des effets de domination symbolique a une vertu clinique. Cela détruit les contraintes que les gens s’imposent parce qu’ils sont dans des rôles pré-constitués, dans des " programmes " sociaux. L’un pour faire l’homme, l’autre pour faire la femme.

TRA : Quand on voit le succès de la pilule Viagra, on se dit que ce n’est pas demain la veille, tant la virilité reste une valeur et une angoisse…

P.B. : Une angoisse parce qu’une valeur. Le succès de la pilule Viagra n’est que l’attestation visible de ce qui se sait depuis longtemps dans les cabinets médicaux ou psychanalytiques.

Les hommes, surtout, pourraient se simplifier la vie. Le rôle masculin m’est très insupportable depuis très longtemps dans son côté faiseur, bluffeur, m’as-tu-vu, exhibitionniste. Si les rapports masculins/féminins (qui se reproduisent aussi chez les homosexuels) étaient dépouillés de ce devoir d’exhibition, on respirerait mieux. Les numéros d’hommes, c’est tuant!


Mona Lisa : C’est le vol, imbécile ! (Was she trying to smile without betraying the gaps in her teeth, which were common in the dentally challenged early 16th century?)

5 novembre, 2013
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0167617ee67a970b-600wihttp://blogs.getty.edu/iris/files/2013/03/mona_lisa_image_search.jpghttp://i.imgur.com/n6r3i4Q.jpgIl nous arriverait, si nous savions mieux analyser nos amours, de voir que souvent les femmes ne nous plaisent qu’à cause du contrepoids d’hommes à qui nous avons à les disputer (…) ce contrepoids supprimé, le charme de la femme tombe. On en a un exemple dans l’homme qui, sentant s’affaiblir son goùt pour la femme qu’il aime, applique spontanément les règles qu’il a dégagées, et pour être sûr qu’il ne cesse pas d’aimer la femme, la met dans un milieu dangereux où il faut la protéger chaque jour. Proust
L’histoire des pommes de terre a commencé il y a environ 8000 ans sur les hautes plateaux de la Cordillère des Andes, où elles poussaient à l’état sauvage. Les Incas, qui les appelaient "papas", les ont cultivées dès le XIIIè siècle. La pomme de terre a ensuite traversé l’Atlantique vers 1570, avec les conquistadores espagnols de retour des Amériques. Introduite d’abord en Espagne sous le nom de « patata », elle se diffuse timidement vers l’Italie et les états pontificaux qui la prénomme « taratouffli (petite truffe) , puis vers le sud de la France et l’Allemagne. C’est à Saint-alban d’Ay, en ardèche, que la plante produisant les tubercules de pommes de terre, aujourd’hui encore appelés "Truffoles" (du patois "las Trifòlas") aurait été cultivée pour la première fois en Europe. Elle fait une seconde entrée en Europe au milieu du 16ème siècle, cette fois-ci par l’Angleterre où l’a ramené l’aventurier Raleigh. Et c’est d’Angleterre qu’elle partira coloniser l’Amérique du Nord. Elle est introduite en France dès le début du 16ème siècle, au sud par Olivier de Serres, sous le nom de "cartoufle" et par l’est, par Charles de l’Escluze. Si elle s’implante assez rapidement dans la plupart des pays d’Europe, grâce, si l’on peut dire à la guerre de Trente Ans qui les ravage à partir de 1618, elle est longtemps boudée en France, et réservée à l’alimentation des animaux. Et ce n’est qu’au 18ème siècle, grâce à la ténacité et l’ingéniosité d’Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, pharmacien aux armées, que ses qualités sont enfin reconnues. Parmentier avait pu apprécier les vertus nutritives de la pomme de terre pendant qu’il était en captivité en Prusse. Il les recommande donc pour résoudre le problème des famines endémiques qui ravageaient encore la France à cette époque. Il va plus loin encore en plantant des champs de pommes de terre aux alentours de Paris et en obtenant du roi qu’ils soient gardés le jour seulement par des soldats. La nuit, attirés les habitants dérobent les précieux tubercules et en assurent ainsi la publicité. CNIPT
Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you
You’re so like the lady with the mystic smile
Is it only ’cause you’re lonely they have blamed you?
For that Mona Lisa strangeness in your smile?
Do you smile to tempt a lover, Mona Lisa?
Or is this your way to hide a broken heart?
Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep
They just lie there and they die there
Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa?
Or just a cold and lonely lovely work of art?
Do you smile to tempt a lover, Mona Lisa?
Or is this your way to hide a broken heart?
Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep
They just lie there and they die there
Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa?
Or just a cold and lonely lovely work of art?
Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa (Nat King Cole, 1968)
Se retrouver à Paris – la ville la plus visitée au monde – a été sa première "chance", bien que pas tout de suite. Pendant un demi-siècle, elle est restée accrochée au Louvre presque inaperçue. Puis au milieu du XIXe siècle, elle fut redécouverte par les écrivains français et britanniques et transformée en objet de mystère et presque de convoitise. C’était des critiques d’art du XIXe siècle et les écrivains qui devinrent obsédés par le sourire de Mona Lisa. Trop de théories au sujet de sa curieuse expression ont été avancées pour les énumérer toutes. Etait-elle enceinte et donc sereine ? Essayait de sourire sans trahir les lacunes de ses dents, qui étaient courantes dans cette époque dentalement difficile du début du XVIe siècle ? Quelle que soit l’explication, il y a quelque chose de tentante impermanent dans le sourire de la Mona Lisa. Maintenant, on le voit, et maintenant on le voit plus. Le sourire, ignoré pendant 350 ans, est pour une grande part du mystère et du succès modernes de La Joconde. Mais elle n’atteint vraiment la célébrité mondiale qu’avec son vol du Louvre par un Italien en 1911. L’événement provoqua une crise xénophobe en France, comme une sorte de mini-affaire Dreyfus. On a supposé dans un premier temps que des "étrangers" et des artites d’ "avant – garde" étaient impliqués, parce qu’ils désapprouvaient la haute culture européenne bourgeoise. Pablo Picasso, récemment arrivé d’Espagne, fut interrogé. Le poète d’origine italienne Guillaume Apollinaire fut brièvement emprisonné. Au moment où elle fut retrouvée à Milan en 1913, Mona Lisa était une star. The Independent
Comment le vol, à l’instar des fameuses pommes de terres de Parmentier, fit finalement le succès de la Joconde
.
Retour, avec un vieux mais particulièrement éclairant article de The Independent …
Sur l’oeuvre d’art la plus visitée, commentée, chantée et parodiée du monde …
Dont, avec la redécouverte il y a un an d’une de ses plus fidèles copies au Prado, on rédécouvre la beauté originale ..
Et qui dut, semble-t-il, son installation définitive en France à l’amour jaloux que lui vouait son auteur …
Et sa célébrité planétaire, non pas tant, grossesse cachée ou dents problématiques, au sourire probablement le plus mystérieux de l’histoire de l’art …
Mais au vol apparemment  que lui fit subir au début du siècle dernier le plus humble et le plus anonyme des Italiens …

The moving of the Mona Lisa

This Wednesday, amid huge fanfare, the Mona Lisa is to be unveiled in her new home in the Louvre. John Lichfield asks what makes this painting the most visited, most written about, most sung about, most parodied work of art in the world

The Independent

2 April 2005

Next week a wooden object 502 years old, inventory number 779, will be moved to a new location in the largest art museum in the world. The object is a small portrait of an obscure Florentine gentlewoman, painted on a thin panel of poplar. It is known to most of humanity – but not to France or Italy – as the Mona Lisa.

Next week a wooden object 502 years old, inventory number 779, will be moved to a new location in the largest art museum in the world. The object is a small portrait of an obscure Florentine gentlewoman, painted on a thin panel of poplar. It is known to most of humanity – but not to France or Italy – as the Mona Lisa.

On Monday, for the first time in 31 years, other than Tuesday closings and occasional strikes, the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world, will not be on public display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. On Wednesday at 2pm, amid great fanfare, she will reappear in a new, permanent home, better suited to her ceaseless, jostling crowds of admirers.

Contrary to initial reports, the Mona Lisa will not acquire every girl’s heart’s desire – a room of her own. The small painting – 77cm by 55cm (2ft 6in by 1ft 10in) – will hang alone on an enormous false wall, or screen, in a gallery full of other Italian paintings.

Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece (one of the few paintings he finished) will be placed, once again, behind glass to protect her maddening smile from thieves, bullets, explosives, knives, spray cans and ballpoint pens. She will, however, no longer lurk in a gloomy hallway. She will stare her slightly cross-eyed, gently supercilious grin from just behind the armoured glass of a purpose-built "safe" sunk into the wall. Her pleasant features, her folded hands and the weird, blasted landscape behind her will be bathed in natural and artificial light in a room remodelled with a €4.8m (£3.3m) donation from the Japanese television network, NTV.

After 500 years, the Mona Lisa is in desperate need of cleaning. If she were any other painting, the Louvre would probably have taken the opportunity to remove the patina of half a millennium, and the darkening of an early misguided restoration, before displaying her in her new home.

With the Mona Lisa, cleaning is out of the question. She must remain precisely like the image of her implanted in the world’s eye by countless reproductions, spoofs, pastiches and advertisements. And from Wednesday, Mona Lisa’s admirers – an average of 1,500 people an hour – will be able to take a close look at her, grime and all, for the first time since she was placed behind glass 31 years ago.

There are 6,000 paintings in the Louvre. Ninety per cent of the museum’s visitors make a beeline to the Mona Lisa. Most seem to spend no more than three minutes gazing at her. Many have their photo taken (breaking a rule which is rarely enforced). Then they leave. Some appear to go away disappointed. The most frequent comment is: "Isn’t she small?" Mona Lisa has become a box to be ticked on the Paris tourist itinerary, alongside the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame cathedral. She is a painting-superstar, a celeb, an icon, a spelling mistake.

Her name should really be Monna Lisa, abbreviation of Madonna Lisa or "my lady Lisa". The French call her " La Joconde", a pun on "amused woman" and the married name of Leonardo’s presumed sitter, Lisa del Giocondo, née Gherardini.

Many theories have been advanced about who she "really" was, ranging from aristocrats and harlots to Leonardo da Vinci’s mother and even a self-portrait of Leonardo in drag. (Further scientific "proof" of the cross-dressing self-portrait theory has recently been offered by American computer studies. The idea is not taken seriously by art historians.)

Why has this, of all paintings, become so famous? The Louvre is stuffed with wonderful paintings. Why do so many people throng to see this small, dark portrait of a grinning woman with no eyebrows? Is the Mona Lisa truly a transcendentally magnificent work of art? Or is she just famous because she is famous?

In a marvellous book, published in 2001, the British historian, Donald Sassoon, traced the origins of the Mona Lisa mystique through five centuries ( Mona Lisa: The History of the World’s Most Famous Painting, Harper Collins paperback, £8.99). He concluded that there was something special about the painting itself. The pose and technique were regarded as revolutionary by contemporaries of Leonardo, including Michelangelo.

The brushstrokes are so fine – piled layer upon layer in a method called sfumato (smoky) pioneered by Leonardo – that they cannot be individually identified even under a microscope. The Lady Lisa’s pose, turning slightly towards and looking at the viewer with no intervening barrier, was unorthodox in the early 1500s – and much copied. All the same, the beauty of the painting alone cannot explain Mona Lisa’s fame, says Professor Sassoon.

Her status as "the one painting everyone knows" is, he says, the "product of a long history of political and geographical accident, fantasies conjured up, connections made, images manufactured, and luck." The painting appears to have been started in 1503. For reasons unknown, Leonardo did not hand the work over to Lisa Gherardini’s husband, as originally commissioned. He took it with him when he was invited to the court of the French king, François I in 1516. In other words, Leonardo ran away with another man’s wife – or at least her image. After the artist’s death in France in 1519, the painting was bought by the king, entered the royal collection and then the state collection after the Revolution in 1789. She was displayed in the Empress Josephine’s bedroom during Napoleon’s reign and then placed in the Louvre.

Ending up in Paris – the most visited city in the world – was her first piece of "luck", although not at first. For half a century, she hung in the Louvre almost unnoticed. In the mid 19th century, she was rediscovered by British and French writers and turned into an object of mystery and almost an object of lust.

In 1869, the British art critic Walter Pater, in an influential passage later made into poetry by W B Yeats, promoted the Mona Lisa as a kind of elemental mother-temptress, madonna-femme fatale, uniting the age old male fantasies and myths of womanhood. "She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants; and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary…"

It was 19th-century art critics and writers who first became obsessed with Mona Lisa’s smile. Too many theories about her curious expression have been put forward to list them all. Was she pregnant and therefore serene? Was she trying to smile without betraying the gaps in her teeth, which were common in the dentally challenged early 16th century? Whatever the explanation, there is something tantalisingly impermanent about the Mona Lisa’s smile. Now you see it and now you don’t. The smile, ignored for 350 years, is a large part of La Joconde’s modern mystery and success.

So is her lack of eyebrows. Shaved brows may have been a 16th-century Florentine fashion. Alternatively they may have been removed by a clumsy restoration. Mistake, or not, the absence of eyebrows helps to give Mona Lisa her enigmatic expression. Draw on some eyebrows (on a photograph) and she becomes rather forbidding. Another piece of luck, maybe.

She was not a worldwide celebrity, however, until she was stolen from the Louvre by an Italian in 1911. The event provoked a xenophobic crisis in France, like a mini-Dreyfus affair. It was assumed at first that "foreign" and "avant -garde" artists were involved because they disapproved of bourgeois-approved, European high culture. Pablo Picasso, recently arrived from Spain, was interrogated. The Italian-born poet Guillaume Apollinaire was briefly imprisoned. By the time that she was recovered in Milan in 1913, Mona Lisa was a star.

In the 1960s and 1970s, she became a diplomat. She was loaned to the US by President Charles de Gaulle in an attempt to improve Franco-American relations. In 1974, she travelled to Japan and the Soviet Union. There was briefly a plan to loan her to London to celebrate Britain’s entry to the EEC in 1973. Nothing came of it. Could Euro-scepticism have been cured for ever by Mona Lisa’s smile? In the late 20th century, she became a canvas upon which contemporary artists, admen and comedians doodled. Already in 1919, the surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp had protested against the museumification of art – and made a name for himself – by producing a version of the Mona Lisa with a moustache and a goatee beard. He called his work LHOOQ, an early form of text message which reads aloud in French as " elle a chaud au cul" (she has a hot bum).

This was followed by Andy Warhol’s multiple Mona Lisas, like strips of passport photos, Thirty are Better than One (1963); a Mona Lisa dressed as Mao, Mona Tse Tung by Roman Cieslewicz (1976); naked Mona Lisas; pregnant Mona Lisas; a Mona Lisa made out of toast; Mona Lisas as Jackie Kennedy or Monica Lewinsky; Monty Python’s animated Mona Lisa and a disturbingly convincing drawing by the British cartoonist Steve Best in 1992. The cartoon’s caption was: "Mona was trying not to smile as she waited for her silent fart to reach Leonardo."

The image of the Mona Lisa has also been hijacked to advertise everything from condoms to horsehair corsets, from oranges to inter-uterine devices. There have been references to her in pop songs from Cole Porter: "You’re the Nile, You’re the Tower of Pisa; You’re the smile on the Mona Lisa"; from Nat King Cole: "Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa? Or just a cold and lonely, lovely work of art?"; and several appearances in the oeuvre of Elton John.

Such over-exposure has inevitably cheapened the Mona Lisa as a work of art. It has become difficult to look at the painting and separate it from the layers of pastiche and mockery and exploitation. On the other hand, the more Mona Lisa is exploited, mocked or ripped off, the greater her mystique and popularity becomes.

Professor Sassoon believes that this is a positive thing: a refreshing proof that popular culture and high culture can overlap. "It demonstrates that something can be both a classic of Western art and pop, hip and cool."

The Louvre, reading between the brushstrokes, is not so sure. The Mona Lisa is a terrific money-spinner. The Louvre gift shop sells more than 330,000 pieces of Jocondarama each year. But there is, one detects, something of an unease in the museum about sheltering a kitsch tourist attraction which is also a great work of art.

Officially, the Louvre now says that it never intended to give the Mona Lisa a room of her own. Museum officials say that they spoke four years ago of giving La Joconde a "space" of her own. Many interpreted that as meaning a "room". In fact what was meant, the museum says, was a wall. Hmmm.

There have been reports of a struggle of principle within the Louvre on what to do with NTV’s donation. Some officials thought that the only way to manage the crowds was to put the Mona Lisa into solitary confinement.

Others thought that this would betray the museum’s wider purpose – to educate the public on great art. They insisted that the Mona Lisa should be shown in context. The educators appear to have won the day over the tour operators.

When the Salle des Etats reopens to the public on Wednesday, the tiny Mona Lisa will face the gigantic painting of the Wedding at Cana by Veronesi (Venice, 16th century). In the same room, there will be 50 other 16th- century Venetian paintings, including Titians and Tintorettos. Far from having a room of her own, Mona Lisa will be in a dormitory of great, Italian art. The Louvre presumably hopes to persuade more of its visitors to look beyond the Mona Lisa and enjoy the rest of the riches that the museum has to offer.

Many visitors already do. But not all. On a brief observation this week, at least one in two of the celebrants of the Mona Lisa cult turned on their heel and walked straight out to the tour buses.

Voir encore:

Happy families: Mona Lisa and her prehistoric ancestor

The world’s oldest known portrait, the ‘Ice Age Mona Lisa’, is currently on show at the British Museum – and the parallels with Da Vinci’s masterpiece are fascinating, says Alastair Smart

Alastair Smart

The Telegraph

17 Feb 2013

Analysed, lionised, romanticised, satirised, mythologised, canonised, commercialised. The Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world by far, yet – even after 500 years – still she remains unknowable. Much of her fame, indeed, rests on her alluring inscrutability. “She’s older than the rocks among which she sits,” raved the Victorian aesthete, Walter Pater. “Like the vampire, she’s been dead many times and learned the secrets of the grave.”

Much of her mystery stems from that smile, which seems to come and go at will and has been interpreted endlessly and variously over the centuries. In recent years, clinical anatomists at Yale have explained it as the glow of early pregnancy; Dutch scientists, in turn, have applied “emotion recognition” computer software and revealed it to be 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful and 2% angry.

It’s been mooted, too, that Leonardo’s sitter – Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine silk merchant – suffered from Bell’s Palsy, a facial paralysis causing muscle contraction around the corners of the mouth. Last year, art sleuths in Florence even dug up what they believe to be Gherardini’s skull from an old Franciscan convent, in the hope lab analysis will reveal the secret to the famous smile.

The truth is, of course, that Leonardo spent a good 15 years working and reworking the painting, and its secrets reside in his artistic genius not the remains of a long-dead signora. Yet, the suggestion of palsy does make for an interesting parallel with one of the stand-out works in the British Museum’s new Ice Age exhibition: a 26,000-year-old head, sculpted from mammoth ivory, found in the Moravian Gate region of the Czech Republic. The oldest known portrait in the world, it depicts a woman with highly individualised features who’s been dubbed by archaeologists the “Ice Age Mona Lisa”.

Why the nickname? In part, because this is the portrait of a female subject whose identity is unknown. Five years ago, a Florentine book from 1503 was found in Heidelberg University Library with a note inside saying Leonardo was at work on a portrait of Lisa Gherardini. This discovery seemed, at last, to confirm who the Mona Lisa really was – though, before that, speculation had been rife, including the Da Vinci Code notion of a da Vinci self-portrait.

The Ice Age sculpture boasts a skewed smile (another reason for the Mona Lisa sobriquet) and deformed left eye. The latter is disproportionately large and has a heavily dropping lid, quite possibly – like the smile – a result of palsy or a stroke. Was the image, then, intended to cure its subject? To ward off her evil curse? Or a singling out for artistic treatment of someone, within a shamanic belief system, deemed to embody special powers because of her disability?

Other distinctive features include a dimpled chin and a line carved across her forehead, marking the boundary between hair and face. For those looking for further parallels with the Leonardo, the line recalls that across the Mona Lisa’s own forehead: the edge of the transparent veil she wears over her hair.

Commissioned by Lisa’s husband Francesco, at the turn of the 16th century, the Mona Lisa was, in fact, never delivered: the portrait became Leonardo’s long-term companion and personal plaything, travelling with him wherever he went, even to his final home in France in 1516, regularly being retouched and rethought over time.

In many ways, the Mona Lisa is a musing on the passage of time. The lady’s almost-smile is forever in the instant of becoming an actual smile; the diurnal light of evening falls evocatively on her face; and the aeons of geology are caught in the rock- and mountain-forms in the distance behind her.

Talking of time: the follow-up fame that our two works have attained – long after their creation – is as interesting as any physical similarity between them. Though always celebrated, and singled out for praise in Giorgio Vasari’s Leonardo biography of 1550, the Mona Lisa only became truly iconic courtesy of the French romantics in the 19th century.

Through her, they indulged their morbid fantasies for the femme fatale. “She attracts me, revolts me, consumes me,” wrote Jules Michelet. “I go to her in spite of myself, like the bird to the snake”. The painting’s fame has been secure ever since, helped by its high-profile theft from the Louvre in 1911 and moustachioed parody by Duchamp in 1919.

As for Mona’s Ice Age ancestor, quite incredibly her afterlife began after a gap of myriad millennia, during excavations at the Moravian site of Dolní Věstonice in the 1930s. The ivory sculptures, ceramic figurines and other finds there prompted the Illustrated London News to proclaim “a Palaeolithic Pompeii”. Yet, after Moravia was declared a German protectorate in 1939, the works at Dolní turned into objects of Nazi propaganda – the Ice Age Mona Lisa, in particular.

Earlier sculpture had tended towards the abstract, without defined facial features, and great claims were now made for the supremacy of Indo-Germans. For, they had been the sophisticates who’d created works of unprecedented detail, individuality and carving technique. A “pre-historic, proto-Aryan da Vinci” was hailed on thoroughly racial grounds.

In their different ways, the world’s oldest portrait and the world’s most famous one were always more than just art-works. Yet, over time, they’ve become so very much more: celebrities in their own right and receptacles for the hopes, fears and prejudices of different societies and generations.

Lisa Gherardini might have been amused by her achievement of global pop-icon status; but her prehistoric predecessor, in context of appropriation by the Nazis, would surely have had rather less to smile about.

‘Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind’, to May 26

Voir enfin:

Earliest known copy of the ‘Mona Lisa’ (re-)discovered in Spain

LA Times

February 1, 2012

REPORTING FROM MADRID — Spanish art curators have discovered a secret the "Mona Lisa" kept behind that enigmatic smile: a long-lost twin.

Madrid’s renowned Prado Museum unveiled on Wednesday what its curators believe is the oldest copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s "Mona Lisa," painted around the same time and possibly in the same room as the original masterpiece.

"It is as if we were in the same studio, standing next to the easel," Gabriele Finaldi, the Prado’s deputy director of collections, told reporters.

The so-called "Mona Lisa of the Prado" has long been in the museum’s collection, tucked away in its vaults and displayed only occasionally, its significance not fully understood. Not until restorers lifted off an 18th-century coat of black paint obscuring the background did curators realize the painting was much older than that — with a backdrop of Tuscan hills similar to the one in the original, which hangs in the Louvre in Paris.

"This is very, very close to how the "Mona Lisa" looked in 1505," when Leonardo finished his masterpiece, Finaldi said. There are dozens of other copies, he said, but none has been dated as close to the original.

X-ray tests also revealed that smudges and changes made in the Prado version correspond with changes Leonardo made on his canvas. Museum officials said the copy is probably the work of Francesco Melzi, an apprentice of Leonardo’s, who may literally have been standing next to his master while replicating his every brush stroke.

The Prado plans to display its find this month before sending it to Paris to hang side by side with the original, at a Leonardo exhibit in March.

"Our colleagues at the Louvre now have a whole lot more information they can use in their research on their own painting," Finaldi said.

The "Mona Lisa" is believed to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy cloth merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, who lived in Florence around the start of the 16th century.

The Prado’s Mona Lisa looks fresh-faced and younger than the original, an effect Finaldi attributed to the fact that it has not been continuously displayed, and it lacks a graying varnish. The other major difference between the Spanish Mona Lisa and the one in Paris is eyebrows: The original figure has none.

Perhaps some mysteries still remain behind that enigmatic smile.

- See more at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/02/earliest-known-copy-of-the-mona-lisa-re-discovered-in-spain.html#sthash.LVGfMf0p.dpuf


Journées du Patrimoine/29e: A Pantin, une cathédrale du vandalisme qui va disparaître (European Heritage Open Days: France mourns vandals’ spawning ground)

19 septembre, 2013
http://erreur14.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/dimanche_street.jpgIMG_1715La société du spectacle, [selon] Roger Caillois qui analyse la dimension ludique dans la culture (…), c’est la dimension inoffensive de la cérémonie primitive. Autrement dit lorsqu’on est privé du mythe, les paroles sacrées qui donnent aux œuvres pouvoir sur la réalité, le rite se réduit à un ensemble réglés d’actes désormais inefficaces qui aboutissent finalement à un pur jeu, loedos. Il donne un exemple qui est extraordinaire, il dit qu’au fond les gens qui jouent au football aujourd’hui, qui lancent un ballon en l’air ne font que répéter sur un mode ludique, jocus, ou loedos, société du spectacle, les grands mythes anciens de la naissance du soleil dans les sociétés où le sacré avait encore une valeur. (…) Nous vivons sur l’idée de Malraux – l’art, c’est ce qui reste quand la religion a disparu. Jean Clair
When you think back, and saw what eventually happened to the trains, you feel bad about it, said Taki, who asked that his last name not be used. « I never thought it would be such a big thing. » (…) Now, in an irony that would please city officials, Taki has his own graffiti problem, on his shopfront. « I am a victim, » he said, smiling. « I painted it over and two weeks later it was all written up again. But I guess what goes around, comes around. It’s justice. Joel Siegel (Daily News, April 9, 1989)
Pourquoi pas un musée du street art, au lieu d’une vulgaire agence de pub? Anonyme
A Pantin, une cathédrale du graff qui va disparaître. Rue 89

En ces temps étranges où la transgression a été littéralement élevée  au rang d’art …

Et où à l’occasion des Journées européennes du patrimoine l’une des principales frayères du vandalisme mural du pays se visite comme un musée …

Comment encore s’étonner, de la part de nos médias et gouvernants, de cette énième célébration d’une activité …

Qui, ayant désormais contaminé la planète entière, coûte probablement chaque année des centaines de millions à la communauté à nettoyer ?

Visite privée

Street-art : à Pantin, une cathédrale du graff qui va disparaître

Elodie Cabrera

Rue89

14/09/2013

Audrey Cerdan | Photographe Rue89

Ils n’allaient pas le laisser filer comme ça. En Seine-Saint-Denis, amarré au canal de l’Ourcq, les anciens magasins généraux de la Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris (aussi dit « bâtiment des douanes ») va changer de vie. Ce paquebot de béton, 41 000 mètres carrés de surface, accueillera d’ici 2015 les locaux d’une agence de publicité.

Les magasins généraux à Pantin, au milieu du XXe siècle (© AM Pantin) et en 2013 (Audrey Cerdan/Rue89)

Pour la première et la dernière fois, la mairie de Pantin se montre fière de cet édifice et l’ouvre pour les Journées du patrimoine. Ce week-end avaient lieu des concerts, projections et visite de monument historique. Des visites « strictement » encadrées.

Abandonnés à la fin des années 90

1929-1931. La ville de Paris décide d’élargir le canal de l’Ourcq pour faciliter la navigation des bateaux. Après d’importants travaux de remblai et de stabilisation des rives, les magasins généraux sont édifiés sur l’ancien lit du canal.

1931-fin des années 90. Les entrepôts stockent des marchandises (grains, papier de presse, fuel, bois, automobiles) surtout en provenance de l’étranger. L’activité diminue, jusqu’à l’arrêt complet à la fin des années 90.

2004. La vile de Pantin rachète à la ville de Paris les terrains de la CCIP pour 7 millions d’euros.

2006. De jour comme de nuit, les graffeurs s’approprient les lieux.

2013. Début des travaux pour créer le nouveau siège de l’agence de pub BETC.

Mais Rue89 s’est introduit là où vous n’aurez pas forcément le droit d’aller, dans ces deux énormes cubes en béton armé qui se dressent : 60 mètres de largeur sur 30 mètres de hauteur, reliés entre eux par des passerelles jetées dans le vide.

Le sol crépite. Un mélange de pierre éboulée et d’éclats de verre pilé, vestiges du temps qui passe et de soirées bien arrosées.

De larges portes métalliques protègent l’édifice de (presque) toute intrusion. Ces mêmes portes qui rythmaient le ballet des marchandises et des dockers. La singularité du bâtiment des douanes est sa résistance au sol : de 1 800 à 400 kilos au mètres carrés, les charges les plus lourdes étaient stockées au premier niveau.

Aux magasins généraux à Pantin (Audrey Cerdan/Rue89)

Depuis une coursive (Audrey Cerdan/Rue89)

D’’un niveau à l’autre, on retrouve de vastes plateaux éclairés par d’immenses baies vitrées en structure métallique, brisées pour la plupart. Partout, des vitraux, de la pierre, des gravats, des cloisons. Puis des pierres, du verre, oh… des cadavres de bombes de peinture (encore), des gravats…

Les techniciens qui préparent les éclairages pour les concerts de ce week-end ont fléché le sol, utilisant la même méthode que les artistes-squatteurs qui tatouaient le lieu de part en part.

Les grands noms du graff sur les façades, les locaux à l’intérieur

Presque chaque centimètre de son épiderme porte la trace des artistes qui s’y sont succédé depuis 2006. A l’intérieur, ce sont plutôt les « crews » (« équipes ») du coin. Les grands noms du graff, eux, se réservent les façades. Plus visibles et donc plus convoitées, mais aussi plus dangereuses.

Perchés sur des escabeaux, les graffeurs s’installaient sur les coursives qui ressemblent comme deux gouttes d’eau aux allées d’un bateau. Encerclant chaque étage, elles sont si étroites qu’il est impossible de prendre du recul sur son œuvre.

Artof Popof, Dacruz et Marko93, trois serial painters, ont même été mandatés par le comité départemental du tourisme de la Seine-Saint-Denis, l’année dernière pour « redonner des couleurs au bâtiment ». Et si un petit dernier se prend d’envie de recouvrir leurs créations, un message le met en garde : « Si tu touches, on te couche. »

Les anciens magasins généraux, à Pantin (Audrey Cerdan/Rue89)

D’autres graffeurs ont également apposé leur blase sur les façades, comme Bezyr, Kevlar ou encore Lilyluciole. Elle se souvient :

« J’ai toujours vu ce bâtiment de très loin. Il était là, incroyable, fantastique, sorti de nulle part. J’ai rencontré Artof Popof qui m’a invité à venir peindre l’extérieur. Et j’ai pu visité cet édifice insolite, de la tête au pied. [...]

Personne ne s’est battu pour avoir les meilleurs morceaux. Il restait encore beaucoup place. Ce n’est pas un gâchis mais presque. »

« Un monstre du graff, comme le 5PointZ »

Pour Lilyluciole, le bâtiment des douanes lui rappelle un emblème du graff de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, le 5Pointz, dans le quartier du Queens à New-York.

« C’est aussi un monstre du graff. Là-bas les artistes se battent pour préserver ce monument. Peut-être que le bâtiment des douanes aurait pu devenir un lieu de rencontre pour les artistes internationaux. »

Paris/Pantin : stop-motion & street art !

Au cinquième étage, les terrasses. Plus de dessins, mais la vue. Presque l’intégralité de la surface des deux bâtiments s’étend jusqu’au précipice. Ni rambardes, ni filet de sécurité. Et au centre, deux alcôves entourées de baies vitrées métalliques s’étirent.

Dans une pièce de plus de dix mètres sous plafond, s’élèvent des escaliers en métal qui grimpent. La dernière terrasse, la plus haute et la plus petite, offre une vue panoramique sur toute la Seine-Saint-Denis jusqu’à Paris.

Voir aussi:

Les anciens entrepôts de la Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris à Pantin

Le bâtiment « des douanes » situé à Pantin sur les berges du canal est devenu un formidable « terrain de jeu » pour de nombreux artistes graffeurs par ailleurs très actifs sur toute cette portion du canal. Dans le cadre de l’édition 2012 de l’Eté du canal, des artistes s’emparent des murs extérieurs du bâtiment pour célébrer, au travers d’un œuvre collective, la fin joyeuse de sa vie transitoire de spot artistique et sa nouvelle vie, L’œuvre collective sera ancrée sur la façade ouest, la plus visible depuis Pantin. Puis chacun des trois artistes, Artof Popof, Da Cruz et Marko, laissera sa propre esthétique envahir tel un flux horizontal un niveau de la façade nord, qui longe le canal. Les performances graff auront lieu chaque week-end du 23 juin au 26 août 2012, au Bâtiment des Douanes (métro église de Pantin).

Les entrepôts de la Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris (CCIP) s’installent sur les rives du canal de l’Ourcq en 1929 après l’élargissement du canal pour la création du port de Pantin. La plate-forme portuaire, gérée par la CCIP, est constituée du remblai de l’ancien lit du canal. Le site se composait, à l’origine, de deux entrepôts monumentaux situés de part et d’autre du canal. Ceux de la rive gauche ont été détruits par un violent incendie en juin 1995.

Le bassin de Pantin devient le plus grand port du canal de l’Ourcq

Le canal de l’Ourcq, long d’une centaine de kilomètres entre Mareuil-sur-Ourcq et le bassin de La Villette, est ouvert en 1822. Sa traversée de Pantin coupe le village en deux, mais la communication est rétablie grâce à la construction de deux ponts. Dans un premier temps, seules les galiotes, longs bateaux couverts, circulent sur le canal, transportant à la fois des marchandises et des passagers. Puis, le trafic de plus en plus florissant donne naissance à une flottille spéciale, les flûtes de l’Ourcq. Utilisées que sur ce canal, elles profitent de la descente pour se laisser porter par la vitesse du courant, évitant la traction humaine ou animale. D’une longueur de 28 mètres sur 3 mètres de large, ces bateaux peuvent transporter 40 à 50 tonnes de bois ou de matériaux de construction.

Dans son ouvrage sur Pantin, Roger Pourteau raconte qu’en 1837, deux organisateurs de voyages ont l’astucieuse idée de mettre en service un cargo en fer, long d’une vingtaine de mètres, qui assure un service régulier entre Paris et Meaux à raison de deux départs quotidiens dans chaque sens. Tracté par quatre chevaux, ce cargo file à la vitesse de quatre lieues à l’heure. Les affiches publicitaires précisent que « Les salons sont chauffés en hiver ». Le canal devient trop étroit et ne correspond plus au trafic. Dès 1892, il a fallu agrandir le canal entre la Villette et la mairie de Pantin, puis, en 1895, prolonger quelque peu vers l’amont cette mis à grande section. Pour ces travaux d’élargissement et d’approfondissement, la municipalité est mise à contribution à hauteur de 600 000 francs de l’époque. Somme considérable que la commune s’empresse d’amortir en établissant une « taxe de tonnage » sur les marchandises embarquées et débarquées dans la zone portuaire. À cette époque, le trafic atteint 95 800 tonnes par an.

En 1899 la Chambre de commerce de Paris, consciente du rôle majeur du canal de l’Ourcq, exprime le souhait d’établir à Pantin « des magasins appropriés à chaque nature de marchandises. La situation permettrait de faire arriver bateaux et wagons sans remplir aucune formalité d’octroi et d’effectuer de même les réexpéditions pour le dehors sans que la Ville de Paris puisse craindre aucune fraude. Ce serait, si l’on admet cette expression, un grand bassin de triage. ». Mais il faudra attendre 30 ans, le 10 mai 1929, pour que la mise en eau du bassin ait lieu. A ce moment le bassin de Pantin est devenu le port le plus important du canal de l’Ourcq, recevant les plus gros bateaux de la navigation intérieure en provenance de Rouen, via la Seine et la canal Saint-Denis.

Ces aménagements sont réalisés dans le cadre d’un ambitieux projet de prolongation de d’élargissement du canal qui le transforme en voie navigable pour les grands chalands. Au début de 1931 les deux magasins entrent en activité et stockent des produits variés.

Deux grands entrepôts à l’aspect d’un paquebot en bordure de berge

Ancienne CCIP – Crédit photo Gil Gueu – Ville de PantinLes magasins de la CCIP avaient pour fonction essentielle de recevoir des grains et des farines. La Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris est, à cette époque, raccordée aux gares de Pantin et de Noisy-le-Sec dont les voies ferrées desservaient les deux rives du canal. Les deux grands entrepôts qui dominent encore la rive droite sont particulièrement intéressants du point de vue de l’architecture. Construits sur six niveaux communiquant entre eux par des passerelles métalliques, leur structure est en béton et la façade composée d’un remplissage en briques gris claire dont la bichromie forme des motifs réguliers. De grandes verrières en façade éclairent les six étages tandis que les balcons soulignent l’horizontalité du bâtiment à l’aspect de paquebot.

Le grain y était à l’origine acheminé par bateaux. Un outillage pneumatique permettait de l’aspirer directement dans une tour de distribution, située dans la partie supérieure de l’édifice, tandis que des grues permettaient l’approvisionnement des bâtiments à partir des balcons. Avant d’être désaffectée, la Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie devient un lieu de stockage pour le fret venant des villes du nord. Celui-ci arrivant par route, une gare routière est ouverte à la demande de l’administration des douanes en 1950. Avec les Grands Moulins de Pantin, les entrepôts de la CCIP demeurent les témoins visibles du rôle majeur qu’ont tenu la Seine-Saint-Denis en général et Pantin en particulier dans l’approvisionnement de Paris.

Sur le plan architectural, la volumétrie des bâtiments, qui totalisent une surface utile de 41 000 m2, est des plus simples. Pour chacun, il s’agit d’un empilement de 6 plateaux identiques, desservis par des coursives extérieures, en porte-à-faux sur les quatre façades. Toute l’ossature des deux bâtiments est en béton armé. Dans un souci d’économie ou d’esthétique, le constructeur a pris le soin d’augmenter la taille des poteaux au fur et à mesure qu’on s’approche du soubassement comme s’il s’agissait d’exprimer la transmission des efforts et des surcharges dans le squelette de l’édifice. En façade, l’effet produit est singulier puisqu’à chaque niveau la section des poteaux change. Au rez-de-chaussée, de puissantes piles supportent tout le poids de l’édifice et son contenu, tandis qu’au dernier niveau les piles se sont amincies et laissent davantage de place aux éléments de remplissage en briques polychromes et aux surfaces vitrées.

Une reconversion en activités culturelle, résidentielle et de loisirs

Ancienne Chambre de Commerce de Paris à PantinL’ère industrielle étant révolue, la reconquête des berges du canal est à l’ordre du jour. L’emprise des bâtiments de la CCIP fait actuellement l’objet d’une requalification. Celle-ci s’inscrit dans la réalisation d’un nouveau quartier, identifié sur le plan local d’urbanisme comme la ZAC Sud Canal, qui s’articulera autour de deux axes principaux occupant pas moins de quatre hectares entre la voie d’eau et l’avenue Jean-Lolive. Les bâtiments jumeaux de l’ancienne Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris seront réhabilités afin d’y accueillir des activités économiques. Sur la partie sud du site, un espace résidentiel (de 400 logements), de loisirs et de promenade devrait être aménagé. Si l’on y intègre l’ancienne cité administrative devenue le Centre national de la Danse et les Grands Moulins de Pantin, la reconversion du site de la CCIP constituera une continuité cohérente de la problématique patrimoniale de l’architecture industrielle depuis le parc de la Villette.

Crédit photo 1 : Gil Gueu – Ville de Pantin

Crédit photo 2 : Hélène Sallet-Lavorel – Comité départemental du tourisme

Télécharger le fac-similé la transformation du canal de l’Ourcq en voie navigable à grande section et la création d’un port à Pantin, le génie civil, samedi 11 octobre 1930 (format pdf, 4,4 Mo). Ce document est conservé au pôle Mémoire et Patrimoine de la ville de Pantin.


Expo Ahlam Shibli/Jeu de Paume: Dur dur de se faire remarquer dans le monde impitoyable de la photo (Suicide bomber art: How about a bin Laden photo show in a Paris museum ?)

2 juillet, 2013
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Le roi de Moab, voyant qu’il avait le dessous dans le combat, (…) prit alors son fils premier-né, qui devait régner à sa place, et il l’offrit en holocauste sur la muraille. Et une grande indignation s’empara d’Israël, qui s’éloigna du roi de Moab et retourna dans son pays. 2 Rois 3: 26-27
Il faut se souvenir que le nazisme s’est lui-même présenté comme une lutte contre la violence: c’est en se posant en victime du traité de Versailles que Hitler a gagné son pouvoir. Et le communisme lui aussi s’est présenté comme une défense des victimes. Désormais, c’est donc seulement au nom de la lutte contre la violence qu’on peut commettre la violence. René Girard
Nous avons constaté que le sport était la religion moderne du monde occidental. Nous savions que les publics anglais et américain assis devant leur poste de télévision ne regarderaient pas un programme exposant le sort des Palestiniens s’il y avait une manifestation sportive sur une autre chaîne. Nous avons donc décidé de nous servir des Jeux olympiques, cérémonie la plus sacrée de cette religion, pour obliger le monde à faire attention à nous. Nous avons offert des sacrifices humains à vos dieux du sport et de la télévision et ils ont répondu à nos prières. Terroriste palestinien (Jeux olympiques de Munich, 1972)
Les Israéliens ne savent pas que le peuple palestinien a progressé dans ses recherches sur la mort. Il a développé une industrie de la mort qu’affectionnent toutes nos femmes, tous nos enfants, tous nos vieillards et tous nos combattants. Ainsi, nous avons formé un bouclier humain grâce aux femmes et aux enfants pour dire à l’ennemi sioniste que nous tenons à la mort autant qu’il tient à la vie. Fathi Hammad (responsable du Hamas, mars 2008)
J’espère offrir mon fils unique en martyr, comme son père. Dalal Mouazzi (jeune veuve d’un commandant du Hezbollah mort en 2006 pendant la guerre du Liban, à propos de son gamin de 10 ans)
Nous n’aurons la paix avec les Arabes que lorsqu’ils aimeront leurs enfants plus qu’ils ne nous détestent. Golda Meir
A chaque nouvel épisode sanglant dans un pays arabe, le culte de la mort de l’islam que les foules expriment devant les caméras ne peut manquer de nous interpeller. (…) D’un point de vue ethnologique, nous pourrions nous contenter d’observer ces différences sans les juger. Mais cela n’est pas possible, car de ces comportements envers les morts naissent des comportements envers les vivants qu’il n’est pas possible d’ignorer et de ne pas condamner. Le sang appelle la vengeance du sang. La vengeance, ce n’est pas l’action que l’on entreprend pour se débarrasser d’une menace ou d’un ennemi. La vengeance ne trouve pas sa récompense dans l’élimination de l’ennemi, mais dans le sang qu’on lui fait verser. Cette différence est importante, elle explique pourquoi les groupes terroristes n’ont pas d’état d’âme quant à leurs cibles. Leur but n’est pas d’affaiblir la force armée qui les opprimerait, mais de faire couler le sang de l’ennemi. L’armée d’Israël ne cherche pas à tuer des civils innocents, mais à éliminer les donneurs d’ordre des factions terroristes. Le seul but de ses interventions, c’est l’élimination d’une menace. Ceux qui prétendent que les groupes terroristes utilisent les moyens qui sont à leur disposition face à une armée sur-puissante font l’impasse sur l’aspect strictement culturel du mode de fonctionnement de ces assassins. C’est leur rapport à la mort qui dicte leur stratégie, et non pas le contexte du rapport de force. Tirer sur des civils est un acte délibéré qui est directement inspiré par leur psyché. Ceci mis au point, il devient légitime de se demander si ce rapport à la mort est lié à leur religion. Le christianisme envisage la mort des martyrs comme une béatification. En aucune façon le martyr doit entraîner ses persécuteurs dans la mort. Ce qui l’attend est de l’ordre du spirituel, une félicité éternelle qui n’est pas de ce monde. Le judaïsme parle d’un monde futur où règne une paix éternelle où sensualité et contingence terrestre auront disparu au profit d’un rapprochement de Dieu. L’islam, en tout cas celui des foules analphabètes et d’un certain nombre de meneurs psychopathes, imagine un au-delà de stupre et de plaisirs on ne peut plus sensuels. Pour le judaïsme et le christianisme, la mort est le passage vers un état spirituel qui n’a plus rien à voir avec la vie d’ici-bas. Pour cet islam, la mort est le passage vers une vie « idéale » où tous les sens du monde réel seront satisfaits, y compris les plaisirs sexuels qui nous sont interdit dans notre vie terrestre. Comment ne pas comprendre que cette mort fantasmée, cette vision obscène et perverse de l’au-delà a des conséquences directes sur la perception de la mort, de la sienne et de celle qu’on inflige à autrui.  Adam Harishon
La mort de Mohammed annule, efface celle de l’enfant juif, les mains en l’air devant les SS, dans le Ghetto de Varsovie. Catherine Nay (Europe 1)
Je ne suis pas une militante [...] Mon travail est de montrer, pas de dénoncer ni de juger. Ahlam Shibli
Je n’ai pas envie de jouer la médiatrice, de dire ‘voilà ce qu’il faut regarder’. Il y a quelque chose d’irreprésentable dans la cause palestinienne comme dans la condition de l’enfant orphelin, que je cherche néanmoins à montrer, tout du moins à suggérer. C’est l’un des challenges de la photographie. Ahlam Shibli
Ces images ne peuvent en aucun cas être une apologie du terrorisme : elles pourraient tout aussi bien être vues comme une critique du culte du martyr, avec sa profusion de clichés d’hommes en armes, paradant dans les foyers au milieu des enfants et des grand-mères, ou sur les murs de la ville. Les images d’Ahlam Shibli ne portent aucun jugement, attestant simplement d’une réalité. La photographe prouve (et c’est son rôle d’artiste) que toute image possède une dimension anthropologique et historique dont il faut tenir compte. Télérama
Quand des œuvres sont menacées de censure, est-il encore possible de les considérer d’un point de vue esthétique ? L’exercice critique reste-t-il pertinent ? Plus que jamais. Car la censure, toujours, nie les œuvres en tant que telles. Ceux qui par des pressions, comme celles exercées notamment par le Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France (Crif), ou par des actes violents (alertes à la bombe, menaces de mort…) tentent d’obtenir la fermeture de l’exposition consacrée actuellement à Ahlam Shibli au musée du Jeu de paume, à Paris, intitulée Foyers fantômes, n’ont pour la plupart pas vu les œuvres qu’ils incriminent. Quand bien même ce serait le cas, le simple fait que le Crif invoque la notion d’« apologie du terrorisme » à propos de ces photographies atteste de son aveuglement. Non qu’il y ait une approche des œuvres plus « objective » que d’autres. Mais la moindre des choses est de se rendre disponible pour les accueillir, de mettre à distance ses a priori et d’être attentif aux signes, aux images qui sont proposés. En outre, parce qu’il y a aveuglement, la voix de la censure est irrationnelle. Pour la contrer, le geste critique est nécessaire, qui s’efforce de produire un discours articulé. (…) Dans la salle Death, qui pose problème aux censeurs, Ahlam Shibli a apposé un texte de présentation. On peut y lire : « Death montre plusieurs façons pour ceux qui sont absents de retrouver une présence, une “représentation” : combattants palestiniens tombés lors de la résistance armée aux incursions israéliennes, et victimes de l’armée israélienne tuées dans des circonstances diverses […] ; militants ayant mené des actions où ils étaient certains de laisser leur vie, entre autres les hommes et les femmes bardés d’explosifs qu’ils ont mis à feu pour assassiner des Israéliens […] ; et enfin prisonniers ». Face aux attaques, Ahlam Shibli a précisé : « Je ne suis pas une militante […]. Mon travail est de montrer, pas de dénoncer ni de juger. » Dans le communiqué du ministère de la Culture, censé soutenir l’artiste et l’institution du Jeu de paume, mais qui en réalité s’en dédouane, Aurélie Filippetti a cru bon d’interpréter cette phrase comme la revendication d’une « neutralité ». Erreur. Ahlam Shibli, comme tout artiste digne de ce nom, assume un point de vue. (…) Certains clichés de Death sont particulièrement éloquents, surtout ceux où l’on voit des familles autour des effigies de leurs morts. Sur l’un d’eux, un garçon regarde son père avec amour et admiration. Sur un autre, la photo encadrée est époussetée par la sœur du défunt. Dans les maisons, ces portraits sont largement exposés sur les murs, les protagonistes souvent en situation : ce sont des saints guerriers, ou des « martyrs », comme les nomment les Palestiniens, dont la présence s’impose aux vivants. Ahlam Shibli a photographié « de l’intérieur ». L’absence de prise de distance est consubstantielle à son projet artistique. C’est pourquoi l’accuser de reprendre à son compte le mot « martyrs » dans les cartels de la salle Death, sans guillemets, comme il le lui a été reproché, relève du faux procès. Mais l’usage des cartels à portée informative, plus développé dans cette salle que dans les autres, a tendance à affaiblir les images de leur charge narrative et même émotionnelle. Contrairement à ce que certains ont réclamé, c’est-à-dire une plus grande contextualisation des photographies, la force de l’œuvre d’Ahlam Shibli est de donner à voir sans filtre l’univers mental de dominés au cœur du chaos de l’histoire. Le scandale est de ne pas admettre que cette œuvre s’avère par là même, et sans provocation aucune, nécessairement scandaleuse. Politis
Face aux gesticulations communautaristes (très parisiennes : l’exposition vient de Barcelone où nul n’a tenté de la censurer, et elle va au Portugal, où, très probablement, nul ne le fera), il est important que les spectateurs réalisent que le travail d’Ahlam Shibli est, non pas une apologie du terrorisme comme des propagandistes obtus voudraient le faire croire, mais une réflexion critique sur les ambiguïtés dont nul n’est exempt, sur la manière dont les hommes réagissent face à l’absence ou à la destruction de leur foyer, et s’adaptent aux contraintes qui en résultent. Les visiteurs du Jeu de Paume auront certainement l’intelligence de le comprendre, et de s’élever contre les tentatives de censure de cette exposition. (…) Des organes de presse ici et là ont repris les éléments de langage de la propagande du CRIF et de ses soutiens selon laquelle cette exposition ne serait consacrée qu’aux auteurs d’attentats-suicide : ‘"Death" montre des habitants des territoires occupés palestiniens, qui vivent au quotidien avec les photographies des membres de leur famille morts ayant commis un attentat-suicide" (Le Monde, corrigé depuis) et "murs tapis de photos à l’effigie des «martyrs» disparus: terroristes s’étant fait sauter" (Slate); le CRIF, lui, dit  que l’exposition montre "comment les familles ou la société palestinienne entretiennent la mémoire des terroristes qui ont été tués lors d’attentats-suicide perpétrés en Israël". Il suffit d’analyser même succinctement les données disponibles (sur les cartels ou dans le catalogue) pour voir que le CRIF détourne la vérité (pas la 1ère fois, me direz-vous) : sur les 68 photos de la série Death (rappelons-le, une des six séries de l’exposition), 10 sont des vues d’ensemble sans ‘martyr’ identifié. Parmi les personnes nommées sur les 58 autres photos (certaines à plusieurs reprises), 11 sont des prisonniers, 31 ont été tuées soit au combat, soit par des raids de l’armée israélienne, et 9 sont morts dans des attentats-suicide, d’après les légendes des photographies. Et on ne parle que de ces neuf là. Mais pour le CRIF et ses amis, c’est tellement plus facile de réduire la résistance palestinienne aux kamikazes … Lunettes rouges
Les personnes qui se sont déplacées hier dimanche pour visiter l’exposition d’Ahlam Shibli, au Musée du Jeu de Paume dans le Jardin des Tuileries à Paris, ont trouvé ses portes fermées, la LDJ ayant annoncé une « descente » sur le musée ce jour là ! Ainsi ce gouvernement de lâches, cette ministre de la Culture qui se couche quand les chiens du lobby israélien aboient, n’ont pas été en mesure de protéger l’accès à cette exposition ? Nous ne payons pas assez d’impôts pour que la culture soit respectée ? Ou bien s’agit-il de faire plaisir au CRIF et consorts ? Ou encore M. Valls et Mme Philipetti ont peur des bandes armées de la LDJ ? Alors qu’ils les interdisent ! (…)  Nous rappelons que l’exposition de la photographe palestinienne Ahlam Shibli esrt exposée au Musée du Jeu de Paume à Paris jusqu’au 1er septembre, que c’est une exposition magnifique et très instructive, et qu’il faut aller la voir ! (notamment) les réflexions et interrogations qu’elles suscitent sur divers problèmes, dont (…) des orphelins ou enfants abandonnés polonais qui recréent là un monde à eux (…) des homosexuels hommes et femmes qui ont dû fuir leurs pays, le plus souvent musulmans (pour… Tel Aviv ! – note de l’éditeur), où ils ne pouvaient assumer leurs choix de vie. la résistance à l’occupation pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale et l’engagement dans des luttes de conquêtes coloniales, par les mêmes personnes, en Corrèze, avec des lieux célébrant les deux à la fois et au même endroit ! et la manière dont les Palestiniens tentent de conserver leur dignité, qu’ils soient en prison ou dans des camps de réfugiés à Naplouse, sous occupation. Comment ils tentent, au milieu de la mort constamment présente, et de la négation de leur histoire, de leur liberté, de conserver la mémoire de leurs proches, ces martyrs tués en combattant l’armée d’occupation, à un check-point, ou en commettant des attentats suicide, signes d’un désespoir tel que leur vie ne leur semblait plus présenter la moindre utilité.Rappelons que cette très belle expo vient de Barcelone où nul n’a tenté de la censurer, et elle va au Portugal cet automne, où, très probablement, nul ne le fera. Les visiteurs normalement constitués, et surtout honnêtes, comprennent bien que le travail d’Ahlam Shibli est, non pas une apologie du terrorisme comme le lobby israélien voudrait le faire croire, mais une réflexion sur la manière dont les hommes réagissent face à l’absence ou à la destruction de leur foyer, et s’adaptent aux contraintes qui en résultent. Médiapart
Ahlam Shibli, artiste internationalement reconnue, propose une réflexion critique sur la manière dont les hommes et les femmes réagissent face à la privation de leur foyer qui les conduit à se construire, coûte que coûte, des lieux d’appartenance. Dans la série Death, conçue spécialement pour cette rétrospective, l’artiste Ahlam Shibli présente un travail sur les images qui ne constitue ni de la propagande ni une apologie du terrorisme, contrairement à ce que certains messages que le Jeu de Paume a reçus laissent entendre. Comme l’artiste l’explique elle-même : "Je ne suis pas une militante [...] Mon travail est de montrer, pas de dénoncer ni de juger". Death explore la manière dont des Palestiniens disparus — "martyrs", selon les termes repris par l’artiste — sont représentés dans les espaces publics et privés (affiches et graffitis dans les rues, inscriptions sur les tombes, autels et souvenirs dans les foyers…) et retrouvent ainsi une présence dans leur communauté. L’exposition monographique réunit cinq autres séries de l’artiste questionnant les contradictions inhérentes à la notion de "chez soi" dans différents contextes : celui de la société palestinienne, mais aussi des communautés d’enfants recueillis dans les orphelinats polonais, des commémorations de soulèvements de la Résistance contre les nazis à Tulle (Corrèze) et des guerres coloniales en Indochine et en Algérie, ou encore des ressortissants des pays orientaux qui ont quitté leur pays afin de vivre librement leur orientation sexuelle. La plupart de ces photographies sont accompagnées de légendes écrites par l’artiste, inséparables des images, qui les situent dans un temps et un lieu précis. Des mesures ont été prises par le Jeu de Paume pour le rappeler aux visiteurs. La rétrospective dédiée à Ahlam Shibli s’inscrit dans la volonté de montrer de nouvelles pratiques de la photographie documentaire, après les expositions consacrées à Sophie Ristelhueber (2009), Bruno Serralongue (2010) ou Santu Mofokeng (2011). La programmation du Jeu de Paume a pour objectif de s’interroger de façon critique sur les différentes formes de représentation des sociétés contemporaines et, dans cette démarche, revendique la liberté d’expression des artistes. Le Jeu de Paume ne souhaite pas esquiver le débat ni passer sous silence l’émoi que l’exposition suscite auprès d’un certain nombre de personnes, bien au contraire, il invite chacun à la découvrir sereinement. Après le MACBA de Barcelone (25 janvier-28 avril 2013) et avant la Fondation Serralves de Porto (15 novembre 2013-9 février 2014), tous deux coproducteurs, le Jeu de Paume présente, pour la première fois en France, l’œuvre de l’artiste palestinienne Ahlam Shibli avec l’exposition "Foyer Fantôme", du 27 mai au 1er septembre 2013. Musée du Jeu de Paume
Without question, Shibli’s new series, "Death" (2011-12), commissioned by the three museums co-hosting her retrospective (MACBA, the Jeu de Paume, Paris, and the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto), is her most ambitious and difficult work to date. It provides an in-depth study of commemorative images of Palestinian martyrs in the city of Nablus, a bastion of Palestinian resistance during the Second Intifada (2000-05). A martyr in these circumstances is any Palestinian killed due to the Israeli occupation, including soldiers who died in confrontations with Israeli forces, civilians killed in Israeli attacks and suicide bombers who carried out attacks in Israel. Shibli sought out the families and friends of these people as well as contacted martyr support associations. The resulting 68 medium and large color prints present posters, murals, banners, paintings, photographs and graffiti of some of the most revered martyrs in Nablus (such as the first Palestinian woman to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel). The subjects are typically shown brandishing a weapon, with backgrounds that include patriotic decorative elements like the Palestinian flag and handwritten exaltations. In the public spaces of Nablus, a cult of martyrdom seems omnipresent. Commemorations are seen on concrete walls pockmarked by bullet holes, or in the shabby interiors of cafes. Large, framed pictures of prominent martyrs are mounted on metal structures above the crumbling entrance of an oft-visited cemetery. Shibli provides lengthy descriptive captions for each photograph (available at MACBA as printed gallery notes), indicating details about the people pictured. Perhaps the most disturbing photos are the ones taken in the intimacy of family homes, such as Untitled (Death, no. 37), in which a living room is dominated by a painting of Kayed Abu Mustafá (aka Mikere), a grim-faced young man with his finger on the trigger of an assault rifle. Mikere’s son looks up at the portrait of his father with pride, as his mother, daughter and young nephew sit nearby. Shibli’s "Death" series seems to be the culmination of many years of reflecting on her homeland. She has probed deeply into the devastating impact that the frustrated quest for a home has had, and presents a terrifying portrait of a place where a continuing cult of martyrdom—and terrorism—appears inevitable. This viewer wonders if the questions that "Death" poses are best served by its presentation in the rarefied context of a contemporary art museum. Kim Bradley
Ahlam Shibli montre, photographies alignées, des affiches faisant l’apologie de ces «martyrs» sur les murs de camps de réfugiés de Balata, sur ceux de la ville de Naplouse. Des hommes avec des poses de Rambo mais ayant tué pour de vrai. D’autres images montrent des foyers, murs tapis de photos à l’effigie des «martyrs» disparus: terroristes s’étant fait sauter. Ils sont fascinants ces foyers-mausolées.Cette série montre un monde fascinant où les terroristes sont adulés. Elle montre comment les images suppléent au discours et gardent vivants des morts pour que la force de leurs actions persiste. Elle pourrait montrer la façon dont un discours peut être renversé, une idéologie servie, des terroristes présentés en héros. Mais ces «représentations» sont livrées sans distance, sans regard de biais. Sans critique. Dans les légendes, les terroristes sont décrits en martyrs, en combattants, en victimes.(…) En mettant sur le même plan ces terroristes et les personnages des autres séries, victimes de régimes homophobes, d’occupants nazis en France, orphelins abandonnés, ces terroristes sont assimilés aux victimes. Dans cette région du monde où la propagande est si violente, l’artiste semble avoir été contaminée par le discours iconographique abêtissant. Et le Jeu de Paume, qui aurait pu se servir de ce travail pour montrer et la réalité et son travestissement en images, aussi. Slate
Il s’agit d’éviter à tout prix de rappeler le contexte historique et les drames qui ont été occasionnés par ces multiples attentats. Combien de bus israéliens éventrés? Combien de magasins ou de restaurants israéliens calcinés? Combien d’enfants israéliens assassinés? Combien de rues déchiquetées? Crif
A quand la glorification d’un Mohamed Merah ou d’un Ben Laden dans nos musées nationaux, financée par nos impôts ?!!! (…) La photographe Ahlam Shibli affirme je cite « je ne suis pas une militante, mon travail est de montrer, pas de dénoncer ni juger ». Alors pourquoi n’évoque t-elle pas les nombreuses victimes de ces attentats terroristes ? Pourquoi a t-elle choisi délibérément de traduire certains passages dans ses cartels et passer sous silence les appels à la mort ? Pourquoi ne nous informe t-elle pas sur le nombre des victimes innocentes ? Pourquoi ne nous montre t-elle pas leur portrait ?!! JSSNews
Il travaille dans un garage et voulait juste se faire un peu d’argent.  Aamna Aqeel
Lighten up, Vogue is about realizing the power of fashion and the shoot was saying that fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful. Priya Tanna (Vogue India editor)
This provocative juxtaposition of luxury and poverty is something of a Campos hallmark. In shot after shot, fashion models and expensive clothes are set against backdrops of urban poverty. Personally, I find the images thought-provoking and beautiful. They free the fashion world from its ivory tower isolation and allow it to circle ethical issues — without forcing any particular conclusions on the viewer. They also raise the question of whether the beautiful artifacts of a traditional culture like India aren’t a match for the most expensive couture. Which raises, in turn, the worrying idea that, by thinking this way, we may be romanticizing (and therefore justifying) poverty. (…)  Revisiting Bringing the War Home, a set of Vietnam War-themed images  she made between 1967 and 1972, Rosler created a montage series in 2004, which imagined fashion shoots taking place on the streets of Baghdad. “Assembled from the pages of Life magazine,” Laura Cottingham wrote in an essay, “…Rosler’s montages re-connect two sides of human experience, the war in Vietnam, and the living rooms of America, which have been falsely separated.” The Campos images, with their uncomfortable beauty and ambiguous juxtapositions, may be making the same point about the “false separation” between luxury and poverty — with, perhaps, more seductive subtlety. Nick Currie
Martha Rosler: Bringing the War Home is the first museum exhibition to bring together Rosler’s two landmark series of photomontages. In the pioneering series, Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful (1967-1972), news photos of the Vietnam War are combined with images from contemporary architectural and design magazines. The prosperity of postwar America is integrated with images of soldiers, corpses and the wounded. Made during the height of the war, these images were originally disseminated in underground newspapers and on flyers and were made, in part, as a response to the artist’s frustration with media images, reporting techniques, and even some anti-war propaganda. The recent group, Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful, New Series (2004) combines news photos of the Iraq War with elegant landscapes and interiors from magazines, raising questions about the connections between advertising, journalism, politics, sexism, and violence. Rosler’s montages re-connect two sides of human experience that have been falsely separated – distant wars and the living rooms of America. Laura Cottingham
Une série mode intitulée "Victim of Beauty" publiée dans le magazine bulgare "12 Magazine" a créé la polémique internationale : une séance photo éditoriale provocante réalisée par le photographe Vasil Germanov qui met en scène les mannequins Gabriela Dasheva et Nora Shopova relookées en femmes violemment battues. Yeux au beurre noir, lèvres fendues, gorge tranchée, brûlures nauséabondes… des blessures réalistes en maquillage effets-spéciaux par Daniela Avramova qui provoquent l’indignation des associations de victimes de violences conjugales : les militants pour la cause féminine condamnent cette représentation "scandaleuse et perverse" de la beauté. Les éditeurs du magazine bulgare se défendent de faire l’apologie de la violence et déclarent que "la photo de mode n’est qu’une imitation de la réalité". Mannequin-model.com
Cette petite fille qui est née le 05 Avril 2001 en France, s’appelle Thylane et a fait sa première grande apparition par l’intermédiaire de Carine Roitfeld pour des photos qui font surface avec 7 mois de retard aux États-Unis… L’ex redac’chef confirme malgré tout qu’elle est dotée d’un sens aiguisé dans la découverte de futurs talents. Car oui, au delà de la polémique sur le fait d’avoir maquillé et habillé cette jeune fille en femme plus âgée dans les pages du Vogue Paris en décembre dernier, Thylane n’en reste pas moins une fillette de 10 ans qui voit une carrière de Top et d’égérie à succès se profiler à l’horizon. Sa mère, qui n’est autre que l’animatrice Veronika Loubry (reconvertie d’ailleurs dans la création de vêtements et la photo) l’encourage dans cette voie bien qu’elle affirme refuser les 3/4 des projets proposés. Il faut reconnaitre que malgré son jeune âge, elle est extrêmement douée et photogénique : un air de Bardot par-ci, d’Abbey Lee par là, elle possède l’esthétisme que l’on réclame aux mannequins d’aujourd’hui (excepté bien sur les mensurations qui seront déterminantes pour la suite). La question qui se pose aujourd’hui outre-Atlantique est de savoir si oui ou non il est néfaste pour une fillette d’adopter des postures et expressions d’adultes ou de poser topless ? Une limite est-elle franchie à cause de son âge ou est-ce uniquement de l’art? La mode "enfant" est un secteur en pleine expansion de nos jours, chose que les marques et les magazines ont bien intégré ; outre le fait qu’actuellement du scandale naît la notoriété, Thylane sera certainement une modèle à surveiller de près. Jules fashion
Nous avons voulu exposer de beaux articles de mode dans un contexte intéressant et plein de charme. Nous avons vu une immense beauté, de l’innocence et de la fraîcheur sur les visages que nous avons saisis. "La mode n’est plus le privilège des riches. N’importe qui peut la porter et la rendre magnifique. Priya Tanna (rédactrice en chef du magazine Vogue India)
Rabaisser la pauvreté à ce niveau de frivolité enlève tout sérieux à ce qu’elle représente réellement. Comme si les bébés indiens pauvres, dont la vie est menacée par la malnutrition, pouvaient profiter d’un déjeuner sympathique en portant un bavoir Fendi.  Archana Jahagirdar (Business Standard)
L’intervention du magazine ressemble à celle des premiers missionnaires, apportant Hermès et Miu Miu, comme des outils de civilisation. Amrita Shah ("La pauvreté comme papier peint", The Indian Express)
Le problème est que les Indiens aisés sont devenus complètement aveugles à la misère. Pavan Mehta
Mis en scène dans un contexte si différent, les pauvres ne suscitent plus l’indifférence. Les Indiens aisés prendront au moins conscience de leur existence. Hemant Sagar (couturier de Lecoanet Hemant)
Pas facile de produire une séance photo de mode mémorable; les photos de jolies filles portant de jolis vêtements peuvent vite devenir ennuyeuses. Les meilleures photos de mode sont engageantes, captivantes et imaginatives ; elles supposent talent, travail acharné et vision de designer, styliste, photographe et modèle. Bien sûr, si vous ne pouvez pas gérer tout cela, l’autre moyen de vous faire remarquer est de faire des photos de mode tellement controversées et d’un tel mauvais goût que l’attention des médias est garantie. Le dernier shooting de la créatrice Aamna Aqeel intitulé "Sois mon esclave" tombe carrément dans cette catégorie. De toute évidence conçu pour choquer, il montre un modèle servi par un enfant esclave à la peau noire. Les images sont répugnantes à connotation raciste et colonialiste.  Le fait que l’esclave dans les publicités est un enfant rend les images encore plus inexcusables. Aqeel ne travaille que depuis à peine deux ans. Elle a remporté quelques succès critiques lors de la cinquième édition de la Fashion Week du Pakistan qui s’est tenue récemment à Karachi, mais elle reste vraiment un designer émergent avec beaucoup à prouver. Il semble qu’elle ait décidé que le temps était venu, coûte que coûte, de se faire remarquer. La mode aime être provocante et parfois il semble que rien n’est tabou. Vogue France avait fait une séance avec des images sexualisées de modèles de dix ans, Vogue India un reportage avec des Indiens pauvres portant des parapluies de Burberry et des bavoirs Fendi à 100 dollars. Un magazine bulgare (12)  avait fait une série intitulée "Victime de la beauté" présentant des modèles meurtris qui semblait glorifier la violence domestique. A chaque fois, les magazines avaient une explication à donner, à savoir qu’ils essayaient de mettre en évidence l’utilisation de modèles de l’enfant, ou tenter de dire que la mode était pour tout le monde ou de montrer la juxtaposition entre les films d’horreur et le maquillage et la beauté. Dans chaque cas, la véritable raison était simple : commander des photos de mauvais goût pour s’assurer une couverture médiatique et stimuler les ventes. Salima Feerasta

Les temps sont décidément cruels !

Yeux au beurre noir, lèvres fendues, gorge tranchée, brûlures nauséabondes, petites filles de 10 ans hypersexualisées, vieil homme en haillons sous un parasol Burberry, bébé d’une femme édentée en bavoir Fendi à 100 dollars, femme portant au bras un sac Hermes à plus de 10 000 dollars, modèle blanc abritée par l’ombrelle d’un enfant noir vêtu d’un simple pagne …

A l’heure où, en Egypte, un jeune idéaliste juif américain vient de payer au prix fort sa dévotion pour les tenants de la religion d’amour de tolérance et de paix …

Et où, une fois de plus et dans l’indifférence ou l’incompréhension générales, le musée national du Jeu de Paume réaffirme courageusement son indéfectible soutien à la liberté culturelle et aux jeunes talents face au monde impitoyable qu’est devenue la création internationale …

Comment ne pas compatir à la diffculté que rencontrent de plus en plus pour se faire un nom nos jeunes créateurs et artistes ?

Surtout quand en plus ils se donnent tant de mal à lancer le débat sur l’esclavage, le travail des enfants, les femmes battues ….

Ou, à l’instar d’un Miki Kratsman israélien ou de notre Enderlin national (voire de votre serviteur dans le musée lui-même aujourd’hui), la manipulation en un véritable culte de la mort des terroristes-suicide ou des enfants boucliers humains …

Aamna Aqeel: It’s certainly not fashion!

Salima Feerasta

The Express Tribune

May 9, 2013

KARACHI:

It’s not easy producing a memorable fashion shoot; pictures of pretty women wearing pretty clothes can get boring fast. The best fashion shoots are engaging, compelling and imaginative; they require talent, hard work and vision from the designer, stylist, photographer and model. Of course, if you can’t manage all of that, the other way to ensure you get noticed is to make a fashion shoot so controversial and tasteless that getting media attention is guaranteed.

Designer Aamna Aqeel’s latest shoot titled “Be My Slave” falls squarely into this category. Obviously designed to shock, it shows a model being pandered to by a dark-skinned child slave. The images are repulsive with racist and colonialist overtones. The fact that the slave in the advertisements is a child, makes the images that much more inexcusable.

Aqeel has barely been designing for two years. She won some critical acclaim at the fifth edition of Fashion Pakistan Week held recently in Karachi, but she remains very much an emerging designer with a lot to prove. It seems that she’s decided, by hook or by crook, it’s time to get noticed.

Fashion loves to be provocative and sometimes it seems nothing is taboo. French Vogue did a shoot with sexualised images of models as young as 10, Vogue India did a feature with impoverished Indians carrying Burberry umbrellas and wearing $100 Fendi bibs. A Bulgarian magazine 12 did a shoot called “Victim of Beauty” showing bloodied, bruised models that appeared to glamourise domestic violence.

In each case, the magazines had an explanation to give, that they were trying to highlight the use of child models, or attempting to say fashion was for everyone or trying to show the juxtaposition between horror flick make-up and beauty. In each case, the real reason was simple: commissioning distasteful fashion shoots to ensure media coverage and boost sales.

When contacted, Aqeel vehemently denied any racist angle to the shoot at all. According to her, the choice of a dark-skinned Baloch child was purely incidental. “He works in a garage and wanted some work,” she said. Obviously the parents of usual child models wouldn’t have agreed to the shoot. The pampered little cuties who advertise soap, toothpaste and biscuits on TV may not have looked right for the part but even if they had, no one would have let their child play such a degrading role.

Aqeel’s argument is that she wanted to spark a debate on child labour. She says she is involved with a children’s charity and wanted to highlight how ‘society madams’ employ child labour in their homes. She is educating and supporting the child used in the shoot — it seems the least she can do after exploiting him in this fashion.

It’s facetious of the designer to claim that she was trying to stimulate a debate on child labour. The model wearing her clothes is clearly comfortable with her dominant position. She is not made up in a way that shows her to be the villain of the piece. The use of a dark skinned child in a shoot entitled “Be My Slave” certainly reeks of racism, however much the designer may deny it. And if anything, the shoot seems to condone child labour.

Aqeel went on to deny that this was a publicity-seeking move on her part and says she is happy at the pace her brand is developing. Her purpose for this shoot was apparently not to publicise her brand, but to raise public awareness of a social issue. Apparently, she feels so blessed with her success that she wants to give back to society and feels that it’s every individual’s duty to do what he or she can to make life better for the underprivileged.

To me, Aqeel’s stance stinks of hypocrisy. Designers do fashion shoots to sell a vision of their brand and to raise their profile. I wonder at the magazine that published the pictures. The stylist and photographer may have had to bend to the designer’s vision but the magazine had no such compulsion. I feel ashamed to be involuntarily publicising the shoot but we need to speak up against vile images of racism and exploitation. There are some taboos fashion shouldn’t break.

Oxford-grad Salima Feerasta is a social commentator and lover of style in any form or fashion. She blogs at karachista.blogspot.com and tweets @karachista

Voir encore:

The Post-Materialist | Fashion and Poverty

Women’s Fashion
Nick Currie
The NYT
September 5, 2008

A report from our Berlin correspondent on design and society.

Should poor people appear in fashion shoots for expensive clothing? What’s the difference between a $2 umbrella and a $200 umbrella? What’s the role of a magazine like Vogue in a nation where more than 75% of the population lives on less than $2 a day? Can cheap clothes enhance — even trump — expensive ones? Do couture items look cheap mixed into a poor person’s outfit?

These were some of the questions raised by an article by Heather Timmons in Sunday’s New York Times. Vogue’s Fashion Photos Spark Debate in India described — and showed — a photo shoot by Jean-François Campos which appeared in the August edition of Vogue India.

Since its launch last October, the Indian edition of Vogue has tended to concentrate on glitzy, aspirational images; Western models appear alongside Indian models whose styling (colored contact lenses and lightened skin tones — the subject of another New York Times article) nudges them in the direction of Western norms. Campos’s story — featuring impoverished Indians sporting a Fendi baby bib, a Burberry umbrella and a $10,000 Hermès Birkin bag — departs, provocatively, from that line.

Glance at his portfolio at creative agency Michele Filomeno and you’ll see that this provocative juxtaposition of luxury and poverty is something of a Campos hallmark. In shot after shot, fashion models and expensive clothes are set against backdrops of urban poverty. Personally, I find the images thought-provoking and beautiful. They free the fashion world from its ivory tower isolation and allow it to circle ethical issues — without forcing any particular conclusions on the viewer. They also raise the question of whether the beautiful artifacts of a traditional culture like India aren’t a match for the most expensive couture. Which raises, in turn, the worrying idea that, by thinking this way, we may be romanticizing (and therefore justifying) poverty.

When I wrote about the Vogue India controversy on my own blog, Click Opera, the South African artist Candice Breitz sent me some images by veteran New York artist Martha Rosler. Revisiting Bringing the War Home, a set of Vietnam War-themed images she made between 1967 and 1972, Rosler created a montage series in 2004, which imagined fashion shoots taking place on the streets of Baghdad.

“Assembled from the pages of Life magazine,” Laura Cottingham wrote in an essay, “…Rosler’s montages re-connect two sides of human experience, the war in Vietnam, and the living rooms of America, which have been falsely separated.” The Campos images, with their uncomfortable beauty and ambiguous juxtapositions, may be making the same point about the “false separation” between luxury and poverty — with, perhaps, more seductive subtlety.

Voir encore:

Sick poverty chic: Outrage as Pakistan designers underline rich-poor divide in adverts

Deepti Jakhar

Daily Mail

18 March 2012

Fashion is arguably about aspiration with its limited editions and price-on- request adornments. But when fashion, in the name of aspiration, creates an ugly divide between the haves and have-nots, it’s bound to create outrage.

That’s what Pakistani designer duo Sana-Safinaz is seemingly facing. The designers, considered one of the biggest names in luxurious design in their country, are no strangers to publicity – the most recent being their designs worn to the Oscars and the Vanity Fair party by Pakistan’s Oscar debutant Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

Their ‘Lawn’ collection print advertisement is, however, garnering the wrong kind of publicity with most labelling it as ‘distasteful’.

As soon as the design house posted a picture of its latest spring/summer ad campaign on Facebook, it received a slew of angry comments. The campaign shows model Neha Ahmed posing in front of coolies with Louis Vuitton luggage, most of whom can never think of affording a LV with a lifetime of earnings and savings.

The advertisement reminds the fashion-conscious of Vogue India’s 2008 issue when it used poor people not as models but as props for obscenely expensive brands such as Burberry and Fendi.

Poor as prop: A toddler wearing a Fendi bib in another Vogue ad

Poor as prop: A toddler wearing a Fendi bib in another Vogue ad

The issue that featured an old woman holding a child wearing a Fendi bib; a family squeezing on to a motorbike with the mother holding a Hermès Birkin bag; and a barefoot man holding a Burberry umbrella, created a lot of furore online about its vulgar display of luxury, juxtaposing it with extreme poverty.

For countries such as India and Pakistan – where the divide between the rich and the poor is so stark – campaigns that bring both the worlds together seem to be mocking the gap more than anything else.

The same is being experienced once again as Twitter and Facebook are full of critical remarks for the designers.

‘The image uses the poor as props. It not only dehumanises them, it also trivialises and celebrates the stark contrast,’ a post on Twitter read.

Designer Safinaz Munir has reacted to the angry tweets in an interview, saying: ‘We’re public figures and it goes with the territory… everyone uses porters for luggage. No one carries their own luggage.’

 Voir encore:

Far too much, far too young: Outrage over shocking images of the 10-YEAR-OLD model who has graced the pages of Vogue

Daily Mail

10 August 2011

Wearing heavy make-up and gold stilettos, Thylane Blondeau sprawls seductively on leopard print bed covers.

The provocative pose might seem like nothing unusual for a Vogue fashion shoot – except that Miss Blondeau is just ten years old.

Now the shocking images of the French child model have brought condemnation from parents’ groups and MPs.

And they are likely to take centre stage at a summit called by Prime Minister David Cameron and the Mothers’ Union aimed at cracking down on the sexualisation of children in advertising and the media.

Fleur Dorrell, of the Mothers’ Union, yesterday described the images as ‘physically disturbing’ and said they were ‘blurring all thoughts of beauty’.

And Labour MP Helen Goodman accused Vogue of being ‘disgraceful and totally irresponsible’ by publishing the pictures, saying it should have known better. ‘They have descended into the gutter by doing this,’ she said.

‘The sexualisation of children is one of the most pernicious ills of our era. They should not have done this.’

Born in the Ivory Coast, Miss Blondeau is the daughter of Véronika Loubry, an actress and television presenter, and former Sheffield Wednesday and Watford footballer Patrick Blondeau.

She walked the catwalk for Jean Paul Gaultier at the age of four and already boasts an impressive modelling CV, with several magazine shoots to her name.

In Paris, her piercing eyes, waist-length hair and pouting lips have brought comparisons with a youthful Brigitte Bardot, who was herself just 15 when she modelled for Elle magazine.

But it is the 15-page spread in a French Vogue issue guest-edited by fashion designer Tom Ford back in January that has emerged at the centre of the current debate on the over-sexualisation of children.

Miss Blondeau’s entry into the fashion world follows a recent trend for younger models.

Hollywood child actresses Elle Fanning, 13, and 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld have both recently signed modelling deals with Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu respectively.

Last night the Mothers’ Union issued a damning criticism of Miss Blondeau’s Vogue pictures.

‘We have grave concerns about the modelling agency who represent Miss Blondeau, which clearly does not know if it represents a child or an adult,’ it said.

‘Photo shoots requiring her, a ten-year-old-girl, to dress in full make-up, teetering heels and a dress with a cleavage cut to the waist across her prepubescent body deny Miss Blondeau the right to be the child she is.’

Bloggers also attacked the images. One said on Tumblr: ‘This isn’t edgy. It’s inappropriate, and creepy.’

And Dr Emma Gray of the British CBT & Counselling Service (www.thebritishcbtcounsellingservice.co.uk) said: ‘This picture is the antithesis of what childhood in our society should be; a child being exposed to a world she is not yet equipped to deal with solely to serve the needs of the adults around her.’

Mothers’ Union chief executive Reg Bailey has been commissioned to carry out an independent review on the pressures faced by children and, with Mr Cameron, has invited the fashion and advertising industries to an inquiry in October.

Vogue’s publisher Condé Nast was unavailable for comment last night.

THE CHANGING FACE OF SOCIETY

The ‘ideal’ body image created by the media and the fashion industry are intertwined.

The advertising industry target women and younger girls as commodities, as well as important consumers.

A UK online survey in 2005 showed that 63 per cent of young girls between 15 to 19 years aspired to be glamour models rather than doctors or teachers.

The sociological reason for this can be debated but may be linked to a false sense of increased self esteem and confidence, associated with society’s acceptance of increasingly feminine role models.

It’s probably not ‘cool’ to be clever. Increased focus on not having the ideal ‘air brushed’ body may give rise to increased anxiety and worries related to body image, eating disorders in young people as young as 14 years, clinical depression and adjustment difficulties with usual life stresses.

As a doctor treating young people with emotional difficulties, one often faces the reality of aspiration and broken dreams of young people. It’s not enough to be just ‘cool’ to go through life.

DR SOUMITRA DATTA, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, London Medical

Environnement

POLÉMIQUE

"Be my slave": quand l’esclavage devient fashion

Après l’affaire des bijoux « style esclave » de Mango, et celle de la mannequin blanche maquillée en femme noire, les photos de mode intitulées « Be my slave » (« Sois mon esclave »), réalisées par la créatrice pakistanaise Aamna Aqeel, ont provoqué un tollé.

Dans le monde impitoyable de la mode, une des façons de se faire remarquer, « c’est de faire un shooting de mode si controversé et de si mauvais goût que l’attention des médias est garantie ».

« Le dernier shooting de la créatrice Aamna Aqeel intitulé « Be My Slave » tombe carrément dans cette catégorie. De toute évidence conçu pour choquer, il montre un modèle servi par un enfant esclave à la peau noire. Les images sont répugnantes à connotation raciste et colonialiste », écrit la bloggeuse pakistanaise Salima Feerasta, dans un article publié par l’Express Tribune.

Dérapages en série

Ce n’est pas la première fois que le milieu de la mode dérape sur des sujets aussi sensibles. En janvier 2012 déjà, un article publié par le magazine Elle sur le « style black » provoquait un tollé : la journaliste, qui proposait une analyse du style vestimentaire des femmes noires, déclarait que « le chic [était] devenu une option plausible pour une communauté jusque-là arrimée à ses codes streetwear », évoquant également les « codes blancs » désormais intégrés par la « black-geoisie ».

Plus récemment, des photos d’une mannequin blanche maquillée en femme noire, publiées dans le magazine Numéro, ont également scandalisé la fashion sphere. Et la marque de vêtements Mango en a remis une couche, avec sa gamme de bijoux « style esclave ».

Le choc des photos

C’est maintenant au tour de la créatrice de mode pakistanaise Aamna Aqeel, qui travaille pour Diva Magazine au Pakistan, de créer la polémique. Sur ses photos (désormais retirées de sa page Facebook), on voit un modèle blanc, à côté d’un enfant noir vêtu d’un simple pagne, qui protège la femme d’une ombrelle, porte son sac, lui tient sa tasse de thé ou dors à même le sol…

Pour le journaliste pakistanais Usama Hamayun, qui publie sur son blog Style Inn, « jouer avec un thème si sensible dans un pays où le racisme et le travail forcé sont des questions cruciales n’est en aucun cas acceptable ou esthétique. Vous pouvez être à la pointe de la mode et repousser les limites, mais ces photos relèvent d’un manque de goût et sont offensantes ».

Lancer le débat sur le travail infantile ?

Aamna Aqeel a déclaré que les photos n’étaient pas racistes et que son intention était de lancer le débat sur le travail des enfants au Pakistan. Quant au choix d’engager cet enfant pour les photos, elle s’est défendue en déclarant qu’elle le « soutenait financièrement et pourvoyait à sa scolarisation ». Celui-ci « travaillait dans un garage et voulait gagner un peu d’argent », selon la créatrice.

Voir aussi:

L’Inde lance la mode du "pauvre chic"

Julien Bouissou

Le Monde

11.09.2008

Ils sont pauvres. Leurs corps sont maigres et leurs visages cernés. Mais ils font l’effort de sourire devant l’objectif du photographe. Dans les bras d’une vieille femme édentée, un bébé porte un bavoir de la marque Fendi, d’une valeur de 100 dollars (72 euros).

Dans la cour d’une maison construite en pisé, un paysan mal rasé, vêtu d’une tunique sale et trouée, se protège du soleil en portant un parapluie de la marque Burberry, à 200 dollars. Les noms des marques de luxe sont les seuls à être mentionnés dans les légendes. Les personnages, eux, sont anonymes. On sait juste qu’ils habitent un village pauvre du Rajasthan, dans l’ouest de l’Inde.

Les seize pages de photographies ont été publiées par le magazine Vogue India, dans son édition du mois d’août, en vente à chaque carrefour des grandes villes indiennes. "Nous avons voulu exposer de beaux articles de mode dans un contexte intéressant et plein de charme. Nous avons vu une immense beauté, de l’innocence et de la fraîcheur sur les visages que nous avons saisis", déclare simplement Priya Tanna, la rédactrice en chef du magazine Vogue India.

Les commentateurs de la presse indienne ont surtout été choqués de voir des pauvres assurer la promotion d’articles de luxe. "Rabaisser la pauvreté à ce niveau de frivolité enlève tout sérieux à ce qu’elle représente réellement. Comme si les bébés indiens pauvres, dont la vie est menacée par la malnutrition, pouvaient profiter d’un déjeuner sympathique en portant un bavoir Fendi", écrit Archana Jahagirdar dans les colonnes du quotidien indien Business Standard. Mme Tanna croit au contraire que le luxe n’est plus interdit aux pauvres : "La mode n’est plus le privilège des riches. N’importe qui peut la porter et la rendre magnifique."

Si la mode devient accessible à tous, est-ce le signe que toute l’Inde s’enrichit ? Les statistiques affirment le contraire. Quelques jours après la publication des clichés de pauvres drapés dans des vêtements de luxe, la Banque mondiale rendait publics les chiffres de la pauvreté. Quelque 456 millions d’Indiens vivent avec moins de 1,25 dollar par jour. Le luxe, loin de réduire le fossé entre les riches et les exclus de la croissance, est même perçu par Amrita Shah comme une nouvelle forme de colonisation. "L’intervention du magazine ressemble à celle des premiers missionnaires, apportant Hermès et Miu Miu, comme des outils de civilisation", regrette la journaliste dans un article intitulé "La pauvreté comme papier peint", publié dans le quotidien The Indian Express.

La pauvreté est loin d’avoir disparu, mais le regard porté sur elle change. "Le problème est que les Indiens aisés sont devenus complètement aveugles à la misère", estime Pavan Mehta, l’auteur d’un essai intitulé Quand l’Inde s’éveillera. Le couturier Hemant Sagar, de Lecoanet Hemant, en conclut que les photographies controversées auront au moins le mérite d’ouvrir les yeux sur la misère : "Mis en scène dans un contexte si différent, les pauvres ne suscitent plus l’indifférence. Les Indiens aisés prendront au moins conscience de leur existence."

Vogue Inde, la polémique

Coco

Tendances de mode

03 septembre 2008

Lancé en octobre dernier, le Vogue Inde essuie son premier scandale. Il faut dire que dans un pays où la disparité entre les catégories sociales est si intense, il est difficile de prôner l’apogée du luxe sans risquer de tomber dans l’indécence…

Alors que le pays compte désormais plus d’un milliard d’habitants, la classe émergente de la population s’annonce comme le nouvel eldorado des marques de luxe. En effet, en Inde comme en Chine, les individus aiment faire état de leur réussite par le biais de produits haut de gamme, symbole d’avènement social.

Dans ce contexte, le groupe Condé Nast s’est empressé "d’éduquer" le peuple indien en lançant chez eux la 17e édition de Vogue. Depuis quelques mois, les Indiens ont ainsi la possibilité de découvrir les fastes de la société occidentale. Les magnats du secteur ont d’ailleurs tous répondu présents : Gucci, Fendi, Burberry, Hermès… pas un ne veut manquer l’opportunité d’accompagner la croissance indienne.

Cependant, on sait très bien que si le pays voit effectivement certains de ses ressortissants accéder à l’univers du luxe, la majorité d’entre eux vit avec moins d’1 dollar par jour, et est confrontée à une misère immense. C’est pourquoi un minimum de décence est nécessaire si l’on ne veut pas devenir complètement inhumain, gangrené par l’appât du gain. C’est ce "minimum" qui a malheureusement fait défaut à l’une des séries mode de la parution du mois d’août.

En effet, 16 pages – consacrées à la mise en valeur de sacs, parapluies et autres accessoires – furent shootées non pas dans un studio avec tel ou tel mannequins ou stars de Bollywood, mais dans la rue avec pour figurants des Indiens plus préoccupés par la survie au quotidien que par les dernières tendances.

Sur cette série, on peut ainsi voir un vieil homme s’abritant sous un parapluie Burberry, un bébé en bavoir Fendi ou encore une femme portant au bras un Birkin, entourée de ses 3 enfants vêtus de nippes… Certes, les photos sont superbes, le peuple indien possédant cette lumière, cette joie de vivre qui irradierait n’importe quel cliché, néanmoins leur incongruité révolte les journalistes du pays. Confronter une mère qui se bat pour nourrir sa famille à un sac coûtant plus de 10 000 dollars est en effet presque malsain…

Dans un pays ou l’on se suicide parfois pour échapper à une pauvreté écrasante, les médias luxe ne peuvent se permettre des inepties de ce genre. Pour sa défense, Vogue assure avoir voulu illustrer "la nouvelle Inde", où il est possible de réaliser une ascension sociale fulgurante et d’en afficher les signes. Qu’à cela ne tienne, lorsqu’on réalise que les légendes des photos ne font pas référence aux mannequins d’un jour mais simplement aux marques de sacs, on réalise à quel point Vogue n’a que faire du facteur humain…

Alors certes, il est évident que l’industrie du luxe va déferler en Inde et que seuls quelques élus y auront accès, et cela en soi n’est pas critiquable. Ce qui l’est plus, c’est de mélanger les genres de façon unilatérale. Que les sacs Hermès restent donc dans les boutiques de Mubai, et que les photographes se contentent de Gisele, on évitera peut-être ainsi des images malheureuses…

Voir aussi:

Thylane Blondeau : La fille de Véronika Loubry fait scandale

Sophie Bernard

News de stars

07 août 2011

Elle s’appelle Thylane Blondeau, elle a dix ans, c’est la fille de Véronika Loubry et de Patrick Blondeau, elle est mannequin et certaines de ses photos font scandale aux Etats-Unis.

Vous ne la connaissiez pas il y a une semaine, mais Thylane Blondeau c’est un peu la Kate Moss du mannequinat enfant. Comprenez par là qu’elle est le visage incontournable de la mode enfantine… En effet, la fille de Véronika Loubry – personnalité de la télévision française – et de Patrick Blondeau – ancien footballeur – est dans une agence de mannequins pour enfants et elle fait des pubs ainsi que des défilés depuis qu’elle est toute petite.

Mais ce n’est pas son succès qui fait parler aux Etats-Unis. Une série de clichés qu’elle a réalisés pour un numéro du Vogue français soulève la polémique outre-Atlantique. Sur ces photographies, Thylane est habillée avec des vêtements de femme adulte, elle porte entre autres des escarpins léopard, elle est très maquillée et elle joue le model comme une grande.

Est-elle trop jeune pour poser ainsi ? Fait-elle trop femme ? Voici les questions que se posent les Américains. L’émission Good Morning America diffusée sur ABC a consacré l’une de ses rubriques à ce sujet. Des associations US trouvent que ces images vont trop loin dans la sexualisation de la fillette. Chloe Angyal – directrice du site Feminsting – affirme "C’est inapproprié et choquant’, tandis que les internautes lancent des commentaires plus virulents comme ALSMac1 qui a posté sur le site de ABC : "Les photos sont un rêve pour les pédophiles. C’est dégoûtant".

Véronika Loubry s’est justifiée sur le blog de Jean-Marc Morandini :"Le seul élément qui me choque sur cette photo, c’est le collier qu’elle porte, qui vaut trois millions d’euros! [...] Je trouve beaucoup plus choquante une photo pour Petit Bateau, d’une petite fille de 11 ans qui a les seins qui pointent. Là, ma fille n’est pas nue, il ne faut pas exagérer!"

Et vous, qu’en pensez-vous ?

Voir par ailleurs:

Ahlam Shibli : l’exposition polémique qui agite Paris

Arts et scènes | La Palestinienne Ahlam Shibli photographie son pays pour témoigner des traumatismes de son peuple. Une démarche qui n’est pas acceptée par tout le monde.

Frédérique Chapuis

Télérama

22/06/2013

Depuis l’ouverture de l’exposition « Foyer fantôme » consacrée à l’artiste palestinienne Ahlam Shibli, l’équipe du musée du Jeu de Paume est harcelée, menacée, et obligée d’évacuer son public à la suite d’alertes à la bombe… Des organisations extrémistes accusent l’artiste et l’institution de faire l’apologie du terrorisme. Même le ministère de la Culture et de la Communication cède aux pressions en exigeant du Jeu de Paume qu’il clarifie le propos de l’artiste et distingue la proposition d’Ahlam Shibli de ce qu’exprime l’institution…

Principale accusée, la série Death, pour laquelle Ahlam Shibli s’est rendue à Naplouse et dans les camps de réfugiés des alentours, afin d’enquêter sur le culte des martyrs de la seconde intifada (2000- 2005). Un travail artistique montrant l’ominiprésence des défunts dans le quotidien palestinien.

Ces images ne peuvent en aucun cas être une apologie du terrorisme : elles pourraient tout aussi bien être vues comme une critique du culte du martyr, avec sa profusion de clichés d’hommes en armes, paradant dans les foyers au milieu des enfants et des grand-mères, ou sur les murs de la ville. Les images d’Ahlam Shibli ne portent aucun jugement, attestant simplement d’une réalité. La photographe prouve (et c’est son rôle d’artiste) que toute image possède une dimension anthropologique et historique dont il faut tenir compte. Retour sur un parcours et une démarche artistique remarquable.

L’enfance de l’art

C’est à côté de Jenine, dans un village de Galilée, qu’est née Ahlam Shibli, en 1970. La maison familiale est remplie de livres mais aussi de onze enfants, dont neuf filles. Ahlam est l’avant-dernière de la fratrie. Elle se souvient du jour où son frère, étudiant en ville, revint un week-end avec un appareil photo : « Dès lors, trois de mes soeurs et moi nous avons pris l’habitude de nous déguiser puis de prendre la pose. Ma mère autorisait que l’on emprunte ses vêtements ou le beau chapeau de mon père. Et nous avions exceptionnellement le droit d’aller dans son jardin pour les prises de vue. C’est en découvrant le résultat sur les tirages papier, que mon frère nous rapportait des semaines plus tard, que j’ai compris ce que signifiait une narration et la mise en scène de ses propres histoires. Ma vocation d’artiste est probablement née là. » En attendant, Ahlam rêve d’être électricienne. Son père refuse. Aspirant à aider la communauté palestinienne, elle devient conseillère d’éducation, monte un projet pour les enfants défavorisés où elle utilise l’art thérapie, et finit par reprendre des études de cinéma et de photographie. Pour être bien certaine d’avoir trouvé sa voie, elle s’exerce beaucoup, réfléchit longuement à l’acte photographique. Elle avoue qu’elle n’a pas eu confiance en elle jusqu’en 1996, année où, le travail et la maturité aidant, elle découvre enfin ce qu’elle a à dire et comment le montrer.

Son père, qui a fermement encouragé l’épanouissement de tous ses enfants, sera le premier à découvrir les neuf carnets de Wadi al-Salib (« Vallée de la croix »). Un travail photographique où sont reconstituées des scènes quotidiennes dans les maisons en ruine d’un quartier d’Haïfa, abandonné depuis l’expulsion des familles palestiniennes par les Israéliens en 1948. Cette série d’images annonce les questions du chez-soi, du traumatisme de l’expulsion et de la discrimination qui traversent l’oeuvre d’Ahlam Shibli. Une oeuvre résumée dans « Phantom Home » (« Foyer fantôme »), l’exposition qui lui est consacrée pour la première fois en France.

Ni empathie ni désespoir

Parmi les six séries d’images proposées, « Trackers » (2005) et « Death » (2012) ont pour sujet la condition du peuple palestinien ; « Dom Dziecka : la maison meurt de faim quand tu n’es pas là » (2008) s’attache aux orphelinats polonais ; et « Eastern LGBT » (2006) pose la question de la non-reconnaissance et de l’exil des gays, travestis et transexuels orientaux. Quant à la série « Trauma » (2009), réalisée en Corrèze lors de cérémonies de commémoration, elle montre qu’une victime du nazisme a pu, selon le cours de l’histoire, devenir à son tour un bourreau pendant les guerres coloniales d’Indochine et d’Algérie. « Ces images, précise Ahlam Shibli, posent la question de l’utilisation qui est faite du souvenir. Pour la Palestine, on recycle toujours les mêmes clichés de gens qui fuient ou des scènes de massacre. A tel point que les mots "martyr" et "palestinien " sont devenus synonymes. » Sa série la plus récente, « Death », comprend soixante-huit photos montrant, jusqu’à la nausée, la glorification des martyrs sur les affiches placardées dans les rues, sur les images qui envahissent les tombes et les murs des maisons ; qu’ils aient été tués par l’armée israélienne ou qu’ils aient donné la mort lors d’une opération suicide. La photographe dévoile l’intimité touchante des familles et le message politique, le portrait d’un individu et les symboles religieux. Mais la question que pose Ahlam Shibli est immuable : la représentation de la cause palestinienne est-elle possible ou, au contraire, irrémédiablement vouée à l’échec ? Pour autant, elle ne cède ni à l’empathie ni au désespoir, accompagnant ses images de légendes précises et factuelles.

Au côté de ces résistants palestiniens qui risquent l’expulsion ou voient leur maison détruite par les bulldozers israéliens, l’artiste évoque aussi le statut des « trackers », nomades d’origine bédouine, dont certains se sont mis au service de l’armée israélienne afin d’acquérir un bout de terre… subtilisé à d’autres Palestiniens. Là encore, elle ne porte aucun jugement. Sur l’une des photographies de la série « Trackers », on voit un homme en tenue militaire, les oreilles préservées du bruit par des bouchons, le regard perdu au loin. Il s’appuie sur une tige en fer plantée dans la terre et rongée par la rouille qui ne peut plus soutenir grand-chose. Au premier abord, la scène est anodine, mais à la regarder de près, cette image, sans prétention esthétique, se révèle tragique ; dans ce paysage de désolation, la solitude de cet homme est palpable.

« Quelque chose d’irreprésentable »

« Je n’ai pas envie de jouer la médiatrice, de dire "voilà ce qu’il faut regarder", affirme Ahlam Shibli. Il y a quelque chose d’irreprésentable dans la cause palestinienne comme dans la condition de l’enfant orphelin, que je cherche néanmoins à montrer, tout du moins à suggérer. C’est l’un des challenges de la photographie. » Au fond, qu’est-ce qui nous regarde avec insistance dans l’histoire de cet « autre », pour reprendre la formule du philosophe Georges Didi-Huberman ? A la question de l’altérité, donc, elle ne répond pas en sociologue mais veille toutefois à préserver une distance discrète. Les longues recherches documentaires menées pour chacun de ses sujets lui permettent sans doute de se défaire de la trop forte charge émotionnelle pour ne se concentrer que sur l’espace de son cadre photographique ; un chez-soi où elle est libre et son seul maître. D’ailleurs, à la question « Croyez-vous en Dieu ? », la jeune Palestinienne répond en riant et avec dérision : « Absolument pas ! Comment la croyance peut-elle s’appuyer sur le châtiment ? Dieu c’est moi ! »

A voir :

Exposition « Foyer fantôme », jusqu’au 27 août Jeu de Paume.

Voir encore:

Culture

Ahlam Shibli au Jeu de paume : La critique contre la censure

Une série de photos d’Ahlam Shibli est accusée d’« apologie du terrorisme ». Analyse d’une œuvre qui travaille le thème de la disparition.

Christophe Kantcheff

27 juin 2013

Politis n° 1259

Quand des œuvres sont menacées de censure, est-il encore possible de les considérer d’un point de vue esthétique ? L’exercice critique reste-t-il pertinent ? Plus que jamais. Car la censure, toujours, nie les œuvres en tant que telles. Ceux qui par des pressions, comme celles exercées notamment par le Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France (Crif), ou par des actes violents (alertes à la bombe, menaces de mort…) tentent d’obtenir la fermeture de l’exposition consacrée actuellement à Ahlam Shibli au musée du Jeu de paume, à Paris, intitulée Foyers fantômes, n’ont pour la plupart pas vu les œuvres qu’ils incriminent. Quand bien même ce serait le cas, le simple fait que le Crif invoque la notion d’« apologie du terrorisme » à propos de ces photographies atteste de son aveuglement. Non qu’il y ait une approche des œuvres plus « objective » que d’autres. Mais la moindre des choses est de se rendre disponible pour les accueillir, de mettre à distance ses a priori et d’être attentif aux signes, aux images qui sont proposés. En outre, parce qu’il y a aveuglement, la voix de la censure est irrationnelle. Pour la contrer, le geste critique est nécessaire, qui s’efforce de produire un discours articulé.

Dans cette exposition, qui regroupe l’essentiel de l’œuvre photographique réalisée depuis une dizaine d’années par Ahlam Shibli, on voit des enfants polonais vivant en foyer (Dom Dziecka), des lesbiennes, des gays, des bi et des trans exilés (Eastern LGBT), des Arabes israéliens d’origine bédouine ayant intégré l’armée israélienne (Trackers), les marques du souvenir des combattants de la Seconde Guerre mondiale et des guerres coloniales (Trauma), et la manière dont sont utilisées, dans des intérieurs ou dans l’espace public, les images des combattants défunts de la cause palestinienne (Death).

Thématiquement, ce qui relie ces nombreux clichés n’a rien d’une évidence. Les fils sont parfois directs, d’autres fois souterrains ou métaphoriques. Ahlam Shibli travaille sur les manifestations de résistance à la disparition et à l’invisibilité. Les personnes concernées, ses « sujets », ont pour la plupart perdu leur foyer, au sens large : leur famille pour les enfants polonais ; leur pays réprimant ce qu’ils sont pour les personnes LGBT ; les Palestiniens, quant à eux, ont vu leur existence gommée et leur État nié ; tandis que certains résistants à l’Occupation allemande se sont retrouvés, quelques années plus tard, faisant partie du mauvais camp en Indochine ou en Algérie. En outre, l’exposition s’ouvre sur une série intitulée Self Portrait, où une fille et un garçon inventent une histoire dans le village où a grandi l’artiste (elle-même Arabe israélienne d’origine bédouine). Il s’agit là d’une reconstitution, ou d’une fiction autobiographique, qui rend visible un souvenir, une émotion, un « foyer intime ».

Dans la salle Death, qui pose problème aux censeurs, Ahlam Shibli a apposé un texte de présentation. On peut y lire : « Death montre plusieurs façons pour ceux qui sont absents de retrouver une présence, une “représentation” : combattants palestiniens tombés lors de la résistance armée aux incursions israéliennes, et victimes de l’armée israélienne tuées dans des circonstances diverses […] ; militants ayant mené des actions où ils étaient certains de laisser leur vie, entre autres les hommes et les femmes bardés d’explosifs qu’ils ont mis à feu pour assassiner des Israéliens […] ; et enfin prisonniers ». Face aux attaques, Ahlam Shibli a précisé : « Je ne suis pas une militante […]. Mon travail est de montrer, pas de dénoncer ni de juger. » Dans le communiqué du ministère de la Culture, censé soutenir l’artiste et l’institution du Jeu de paume, mais qui en réalité s’en dédouane, Aurélie Filippetti a cru bon d’interpréter cette phrase comme la revendication d’une « neutralité ». Erreur. Ahlam Shibli, comme tout artiste digne de ce nom, assume un point de vue. Celui-ci est présent dans toutes les salles de l’exposition, pas seulement dans Death. Mais ce point de vue est à hauteur des personnes photographiées. Il cherche à se fondre avec celui de ses sujets, à s’identifier au leur. Afin de montrer quels types de représentations ils se fabriquent, quelle forme d’être-ensemble, de visibilité dans le champ social ou de souvenirs ils élaborent. La photographe révèle ainsi une construction d’identité, à l’image de la série Self Portrait, mais qui dans ce cas s’applique à elle-même. Il s’agit, dans tous les cas, d’« histoires qu’on se raconte sur soi ». La dimension documentaire de son œuvre n’exclut donc pas l’imagination, ni même la fiction.

Certains clichés de Death sont particulièrement éloquents, surtout ceux où l’on voit des familles autour des effigies de leurs morts. Sur l’un d’eux, un garçon regarde son père avec amour et admiration. Sur un autre, la photo encadrée est époussetée par la sœur du défunt. Dans les maisons, ces portraits sont largement exposés sur les murs, les protagonistes souvent en situation : ce sont des saints guerriers, ou des « martyrs », comme les nomment les Palestiniens, dont la présence s’impose aux vivants.

Ahlam Shibli a photographié « de l’intérieur ». L’absence de prise de distance est consubstantielle à son projet artistique. C’est pourquoi l’accuser de reprendre à son compte le mot « martyrs » dans les cartels de la salle Death, sans guillemets, comme il le lui a été reproché, relève du faux procès. Mais l’usage des cartels à portée informative, plus développé dans cette salle que dans les autres, a tendance à affaiblir les images de leur charge narrative et même émotionnelle. Contrairement à ce que certains ont réclamé, c’est-à-dire une plus grande contextualisation des photographies, la force de l’œuvre d’Ahlam Shibli est de donner à voir sans filtre l’univers mental de dominés au cœur du chaos de l’histoire. Le scandale est de ne pas admettre que cette œuvre s’avère par là même, et sans provocation aucune, nécessairement scandaleuse.

Voir de plus:

Aurélie Philipetti : choisit le camp des fascistes de la Ligue de Défense Juive (LDJ)

Di-Léta

Mediapart

02 juillet 2013

Expo Jeu de Paume : le gouvernement encourage le terrorisme

Les personnes qui se sont déplacées hier dimanche pour visiter l’exposition d’Ahlam Shibli, au Musée du Jeu de Paume dans le Jardin des Tuileries à Paris, ont trouvé ses portes fermées, la LDJ ayant annoncé une « descente » sur le musée ce jour là !

Ainsi ce gouvernement de lâches, cette ministre de la Culture qui se couche quand les chiens du lobby israélien aboient, n’ont pas été en mesure de protéger l’accès à cette exposition ?

Nous ne payons pas assez d’impôts pour que la culture soit respectée ? Ou bien s’agit-il de faire plaisir au CRIF et consorts ? Ou encore M. Valls et Mme Philipetti ont peur des bandes armées de la LDJ ? Alors qu’ils les interdisent !

C’est une honte !

Alors, la LDJ n’a qu’à annoncer un « raid » tous les jours, et on fermera le musée définitivement ?

Et quand on pense que ce sont des militants de la liberté et des droits de l’homme que le gouvernement poursuit en justice pour « entrave » quand nous nous contentions de distribuer pacifiquement des tracts aux consommateurs pour expliquer pourquoi il n’est pas éthique d’acheter des produits de l’occupant israélien !

C’est assez incroyable.

Le gouvernement français est minable : il encourage le terrorisme, l’intimidation et les menaces de ceux qui provoquent des alertes à la bombe, envoient des menaces de mort et harcèlent la direction du musée.

Nous rappelons que l’exposition de la photographe palestinienne Ahlam Shibli esrt exposée au Musée du Jeu de Paume à Paris jusqu’au 1er septembre, que c’est une exposition magnifique et très instructive, et qu’il faut aller la voir !

Nous sommes allés visiter cette exposition, et nous en sommes revenus bouleversés. Elle est passionnante et non réservée à des militants. Les visiteurs de tous âges et de tous milieux qui en prenaient connaissance, et profitaient des explications très intéressantes de la guide du Musée, n’ont pas émis la moindre critique, n’ont pas été choqués par une seule photographie. Ils étaient au contraire favorablement impressionnés par la beauté des photos,les réflexions et interrogations qu’elles suscitent sur divers problèmes, dont :

celui de l’exil et de la notion de foyer. Toujours intéressée par les précarités, les déracinements, les transplantations, Ahlam Shibli nous présente, dans la série « Maison d’enfants » des orphelins ou enfants abandonnés polonais qui recréent là un monde à eux. Elle traite par ailleurs des homosexuels hommes et femmes qui ont dû fuir leurs pays, le plus souvent musulmans, où ils ne pouvaient assumer leurs choix de vie.

la résistance à l’occupation pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale et l’engagement dans des luttes de conquêtes coloniales, par les mêmes personnes, en Corrèze, avec des lieux célébrant les deux à la fois et au même endroit !

et la manière dont les Palestiniens tentent de conserver leur dignité, qu’ils soient en prison ou dans des camps de réfugiés à Naplouse, sous occupation. Comment ils tentent, au milieu de la mort constamment présente, et de la négation de leur histoire, de leur liberté, de conserver la mémoire de leurs proches, ces martyrs tués en combattant l’armée d’occupation, à un check-point, ou en commettant des attentats suicide, signes d’un désespoir tel que leur vie ne leur semblait plus présenter la moindre utilité.

Rappelons que cette très belle expo vient de Barcelone où nul n’a tenté de la censurer, et elle va au Portugal cet automne, où, très probablement, nul ne le fera.

Les visiteurs normalement constitués, et surtout honnêtes, comprennent bien que le travail d’Ahlam Shibli est, non pas une apologie du terrorisme comme le lobby israélien voudrait le faire croire, mais une réflexion sur la manière dont les hommes réagissent face à l’absence ou à la destruction de leur foyer, et s’adaptent aux contraintes qui en résultent.

AGIR :

Il faut impérativement dire à notre ministre de la Culture ce que nous dénonçons sa complaisance vis à vis des terroristes, de ceux qui n’ont qu’une seule culture, celle de la violence et de l’intolérance :

ET QUE NOUS REFUSONS QUE CES TERRORISTES EMPÊCHENT L’OUVERTURE DU MUSEE, CE QUI EST UN SCANDALE !

Aurélie Philipetti : sp.ministre@culture.gouv.fr

CAPJPO-EuroPalestine : http://www.europalestine.com/spip.php?article8376

Voir également:

Ahlam Shibli: quand les terroristes deviennent des martyrs

La photographe palestinienne est exposée au Jeu de Paume. En filigrane de son travail, on peut lire un discours pro-palestinien qui excuse étonnamment le terrorisme. Voire le justifie. Voire le magnifie.

Slate.fr
11/06/2013
Ahlam Shibli, Sans titre (Death n° 48 ), Palestine, 2011-2012 / Jeu de Paume

MIS A JOUR LE 13/06 AVEC LA REACTION DU JEU DE PAUME

Au Jeu de Paume, à Paris, plusieurs expositions en cours. L’une d’elles est de la photographe palestinienne Ahlam Shibli: Foyer Fantôme. L’artiste aborde «les contradictions inhérentes à la notion de foyer», explique le musée.

Pour aborder ces contradictions, six séries photos parlent de déracinement, de déplacement, de spoliation. Des portraits d’homosexuels ou de transgenres contraints de quitter leurs foyers au Pakistan ou au Liban pour vivre leur sexualité comme ils l’entendent, des enfants grandissant dans des orphelinats en Pologne. Ahlam Shibli met tous ces parias sur ses images et ils sont soudain dans un chez-soi, inclus dans un ensemble.

Mais en filigrane, se dessine dans Foyer Fantôme une autre logique. Un discours pro-palestinien qui excuse étonnamment le terrorisme. Voire le justifie. Voire le magnifie.

Dès la série Trackers, quelque chose de complexe se dessine. Le texte d’introduction de la série est le suivant:

«Série réalisée en 2005, porte sur les Palestiniens d’origine bédouine qui ont servi ou servent encore comme volontaires de l’armée israélienne. Ce projet s’interroge sur le prix qu’une minorité colonisée est obligée de payer à une majorité. Composée de colons, peut-être pour se faire accepter, peut-être pour changer d’identité, peut-être pour survivre, peut-être aussi pour toutes ces raisons et pour d’autres encore.»

Les photos montrent des Palestiniens déracinés, peut-être, mais surtout contraints ou traîtres. Comme sur ces trois portraits, accrochés les uns au-dessus des autres. Les deux premiers ont les lèvres entrouvertes, comme quand on reprend douloureusement son souffle. Les trois ont de la peinture sur le visage, comme travestis contre leur gré. Changés en autres, prostitués.

Death

Mais c’est la série finale, Death, qui choque. Le Jeu de Paume a mis un petit carton dans la salle pour prévenir que les textes étaient de la photographe, comme une prise de distance. La photographe, donc, est celle qui écrit le texte d’introduction de la série:

«Ce travail porte sur la demande de reconnaissance née de la deuxième Intifada, le soulèvement palestinien contre la puissance coloniale dans les territoires occupés par Israël depuis 1967. La deuxième Intifada, qui a duré de 2000 à 2005, a fait plusieurs milliers de morts dans le camp palestinien.

Death montre plusieurs façons pour ceux qui sont absents de retrouver une présence, une représentation: combattants palestiniens, tombés lors de la résistance armée aux incursions israéliennes, et victimes de l’armée israélienne tuées dans des circonstances diverses (chahid et chahida); militants ayant mené des actions où ils étaient certains de laisser leur vie, entre autre les hommes et les femmes bardés d’explosifs qu’ils ont mis à feu pour assassiner les Israéliens (istichhadi et istichhadiya); et enfin prisonniers. Les premiers sont morts, les derniers vivants, condamnés à la prison pour le reste de leurs jours ou presque.

Ces représentations font de toute personne ayant perdu la vie par suite de l’occupation israélienne en Palestine un martyr.

Death se limite à quelques moyens de représentations des martyrs et des détenus (…) Toutes ces formes de représentations émanent des familles, des amis et des associations de combattants.»


Ahlam Shibli, Sans titre (Death n° 47), Palestine, 2011-2012, Camp de réfugiés de Balata, 7 mars 2012[1]

Représentations

Ce sont des «représentations», la photographe le dit bien. Ahlam Shibli montre, photographies alignées, des affiches faisant l’apologie de ces «martyrs» sur les murs de camps de réfugiés de Balata, sur ceux de la ville de Naplouse. Des hommes avec des poses de Rambo mais ayant tué pour de vrai.

D’autres images montrent des foyers, murs tapis de photos à l’effigie des «martyrs» disparus: terroristes s’étant fait sauter. Ils sont fascinants ces foyers-mausolées.


Ahlam Shibli, Sans titre (Death n° 33), Palestine, 2011-2012 © Ahlam Shibli

Cette série montre un monde fascinant où les terroristes sont adulés. Elle montre comment les images suppléent au discours et gardent vivants des morts pour que la force de leurs actions persiste. Elle pourrait montrer la façon dont un discours peut être renversé, une idéologie servie, des terroristes présentés en héros.

Mais ces «représentations» sont livrées sans distance, sans regard de biais. Sans critique. Dans les légendes, les terroristes sont décrits en martyrs, en combattants, en victimes. Pour la photo ci-dessus, la légende dit:

«Photos du martyr Khalil Marchoud qu’est en train d’épousseter sa sœur dans le séjour de la maison familiale. Sur l’affiche, cadeau des Brigades Abu Ali Mustafa, il est présenté comme le secrétaire général des Brigades des martyrs d’al-Aqsa à Balata.»

En mettant sur le même plan ces terroristes et les personnages des autres séries, victimes de régimes homophobes, d’occupants nazis en France, orphelins abandonnés, ces terroristes sont assimilés aux victimes. Dans cette région du monde où la propagande est si violente, l’artiste semble avoir été contaminée par le discours iconographique abêtissant. Et le Jeu de Paume, qui aurait pu se servir de ce travail pour montrer et la réalité et son travestissement en images, aussi.

Colère

Le Crif s’est ému de cette exposition. Une première fois, précisant dans un communiqué que l’exposition faisait «l’apologie du terrorisme»:

«Ces gens sont pour la plupart membres des Brigades d’al-Aqsa, Issal-dinal-Qassam et du Front populaire de libération de la Palestine (FPLP), considérées comme des organisations terroristes par le Conseil de l’Union européenne»

Puis une seconde:

«Il s’agit d’éviter à tout prix de rappeler le contexte historique et les drames qui ont été occasionnés par ces multiples attentats. Combien de bus israéliens éventrés? Combien de magasins ou de restaurants israéliens calcinés? Combien d’enfants israéliens assassinés? Combien de rues déchiquetées?»

La polémique a voyagé jusqu’en Israël, dont l’ambassade à Paris est allée voir l’exposition et a «décidé de saisir les autorités pour leur demander des explications».

Ce mardi, le Jeu de Paume était un peu embarrassé par l’affaire. Marta Gili, directrice du Jeu de Paume et commissaire de l’exposition, n’avait pas le temps de parler à la presse. Mais elle revenait du ministère de la Culture où une stratégie devait se décider.

Mercredi, un communiqué était envoyé aux rédactions:

«Le Jeu de Paume réfute fermement les accusations d’apologie du terrorisme ou de complaisance à l’égard de celui-ci, et portera plainte contre toutes les personnes lui adressant des menaces.

Ahlam Shibli, artiste internationalement reconnue, propose une réflexion critique sur la manière dont les hommes et les femmes réagissent face à la privation de leur foyer qui les conduit à se construire, coûte que coûte, des lieux d’appartenance.

Dans la série Death, conçue spécialement pour cette rétrospective, l’artiste Ahlam Shibli présente un travail sur les images qui ne constitue ni de la propagande ni une apol ogie du terrorisme, contrairement à ce que certains messages que le Jeu de Paume a reçus laissent entendre. Comme l’artiste l’explique elle-même : "Je ne suis pas une militante [...] Mon travail est de montrer, pas de dénoncer ni de juger".

Death explore la manière dont des Palestiniens disparus – "martyrs", selon les termes repris par l’artiste – sont représentés dans les espaces publics et privés (affiches et graffitis dans les rues, inscriptions sur les tombes, autels et souvenirs dans les foyers…) et retrouvent ainsi une présence dans leur communauté.»

C.P.

[1] Légende complète de l’image telle qu’affichée au Jeu de Paume: «Mémorial du martyr Hamouda Chtewei aménagé devant la maison familiale. Au mur, une peinture du martyr, enveloppé des couleurs palestiniennes, dans sa tombe, sur laquelle poussent des oliviers; au-dessus, un portrait de lui. Les mémoriaux de ce genre sont souvent décorés de plantes et d’arbres pour symboliser la vie qui continue. Ici, il s’agit d’un figuier. En haut, au balcon, la famille a accroché une affiche de Chtewei où l’on lit: “Beaucoup ont une arme, mais peu la portent jusqu’à la poitrine de l’ennemi.” Chtewei était un combattant qui figurait sur la liste des personnes recherchées par Israël. Après avoir échappé à plusieurs tentatives d’assassinat, il a été tué dans ce camp le 22 février 2006 lors d’un accrochage avec l’armée israélienne. Courtesy de l’artiste, © Ahlam Shibli.»

Voir aussi:

Le parti-pris du Musée du jeu de Paume

Marc Knobel

CRIF

11 Juin 2013

Dans un long article publié le 10 juin 2013, France 24 (1) revient sur l’exposition de photographies qui provoque la polémique, puisque le CRIF à ce sujet a parlé « d’apologie du terrorisme » (2) : la série prise par la Palestinienne Ahlam Shibli, exposée au Musée du jeu de Paume, à Paris depuis le 28 mai. 

Cet ensemble s’intitule Death. Rappelons ici que Shibli veut montrer « quelques moyens de représentation des martyrs et des détenus » dans Naplouse et comment les familles ou la société palestinienne entretiennent la mémoire des terroristes qui ont été tués lors d’attentats-suicide perpétrés en Israël. Mais, ce qui est incroyable dans cet article, c’est la réaction du Musée. Hallucinant.

Selon France 24, le musée du Jeu de Paume souhaite rester discret sur le sujet, pour ne pas alimenter davantage la polémique. Le Musée spécifie cependant que les légendes ont été rédigées entièrement par Ahlam Shibli, à la demande de l’artiste, et qu’elles font partie intégrante de l’œuvre. Étrange commentaire. D’abord, on comprend que les commissaires du Musée soient embarrassés. Et pour cause, on le serait à moins. Par ailleurs, comment aurait-il été possible que le Musée rédige les légendes ? Le scandale eut été encore plus grand. Bref, ce n’est pas une explication. Tout juste, un tour de passe-passe. Le musée rappelle qu’un texte de présentation, rédigé par les commissaires de l’exposition, remet ces photographies et ces légendes en contexte, selon France 24. La photographie d’Ahlam « suspend l’autonomie de l’image et fait basculer celle-ci dans un régime qui ne l’utilise plus dans un but informatif », estiment ainsi les commissaires. Le travail de la photographe « évite une obsession historique propre à ce médium, celle de fournir des preuves à tout prix. Ses images refusent d’expliquer le conflit ».

Les commissaires font siennes les explications tordues de la photographe palestinienne. Car il s’agit d’éviter à tout prix de rappeler le contexte historique et les drames qui ont été occasionnés par ces multiples attentats. Combien de bus israéliens éventrés ? Combien de magasins ou de restaurants israéliens calcinés ? Combien d’enfants israéliens assassinés ? Combien de rues déchiquetées ? Le commentaire des commissaires est invraisemblable. Il faut « éviter une obsession historique », disent-ils. Par contre, il ne faut (surtout) pas éviter de faire l’apologie de ces terroristes, terroristes glorifiés par la société palestinienne, rappelons-le ici. Ce sont des « martyrs », qui ont été tués en témoignage de leur foi ou de leur cause, selon Shibli. Une cause sacralisée par cette photographe. Et les kamikazes se trouvent donc légitimés, les attentats sont justifiés, les victimes sont oubliées. Et cette soi-disant « œuvre » n’est qu’une « œuvre » de basse propagande.

L’art peut interpeller et être subversif. Il questionne en Israël aussi. Mais l’exposition au Musée du Jeu de Paume ne répond pas à ces critères. Cette série de photographie est une entreprise de propagande peu conforme à la neutralité d’un établissement public et culturel.

Notes :

1.http://www.france24.com/fr/20130610-exposition-paris-photos-martyrs-palestiniens-polemique-ahlam-shibli-musee-jeu-paume-crif

2.http://www.crif.org/fr/lecrifenaction/une-exposition-inacceptable-au-mus%C3%A9e-du-jeu-de-paume/37353

Voir également:

Ahlam Shibli

American Art

5/20/13

MACBA

Kim Bradley

Barcelona

Ahlam Shibli’s first major retrospective, "Phantom Home," featured nine series of her documentary-style photographs, dating from 2000 to 2012. For Shibli, who was born in Galilee in 1970 and lives in Haifa, the concept of home is multilayered, encompassing one’s family home, one’s homeland and one’s body.

A Palestinian of Bedouin descent, Shibli has often focused on her homeland. All her projects involve months of investigation as well as direct contact with her subjects. The mostly black-and-white photos in "Goter" (2002-03) were taken in two types of areas where Bedouin families live: villages that they’ve inhabited for centuries but are unrecognized by the Israeli government, and "recognized" townships set up by the government. The images show barren, rocky terrains and desolate, flat landscapes, sometimes with a solitary building in the distance. Occasionally, people appear: we see children playing in dirt berms, and a family going about daily tasks in a simple home. The viewer cannot easily tell the types of villages apart; in both, a sense of desolation and impermanence prevails.

Shibli’s interest in the body as home led to "Eastern LGBT" (2004/2006), a group of works portraying the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Eastern Europeans who have fled the repression in their countries to live more freely in Tel Aviv, Barcelona, London and Zurich. One photo features a lone man adjusting his slinky red belly-dancing outfit in an empty concrete hallway. Others depict expats helping each other dress up for a night out.

Without question, Shibli’s new series, "Death" (2011-12), commissioned by the three museums co-hosting her retrospective (MACBA, the Jeu de Paume, Paris, and the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto), is her most ambitious and difficult work to date. It provides an in-depth study of commemorative images of Palestinian martyrs in the city of Nablus, a bastion of Palestinian resistance during the Second Intifada (2000-05). A martyr in these circumstances is any Palestinian killed due to the Israeli occupation, including soldiers who died in confrontations with Israeli forces, civilians killed in Israeli attacks and suicide bombers who carried out attacks in Israel.

Shibli sought out the families and friends of these people as well as contacted martyr support associations. The resulting 68 medium and large color prints present posters, murals, banners, paintings, photographs and graffiti of some of the most revered martyrs in Nablus (such as the first Palestinian woman to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel). The subjects are typically shown brandishing a weapon, with backgrounds that include patriotic decorative elements like the Palestinian flag and handwritten exaltations.

In the public spaces of Nablus, a cult of martyrdom seems omnipresent. Commemorations are seen on concrete walls pockmarked by bullet holes, or in the shabby interiors of cafes. Large, framed pictures of prominent martyrs are mounted on metal structures above the crumbling entrance of an oft-visited cemetery. Shibli provides lengthy descriptive captions for each photograph (available at MACBA as printed gallery notes), indicating details about the people pictured.

Perhaps the most disturbing photos are the ones taken in the intimacy of family homes, such as Untitled (Death, no. 37), in which a living room is dominated by a painting of Kayed Abu Mustafá (aka Mikere), a grim-faced young man with his finger on the trigger of an assault rifle. Mikere’s son looks up at the portrait of his father with pride, as his mother, daughter and young nephew sit nearby.

Shibli’s "Death" series seems to be the culmination of many years of reflecting on her homeland. She has probed deeply into the devastating impact that the frustrated quest for a home has had, and presents a terrifying portrait of a place where a continuing cult of martyrdom—and terrorism—appears inevitable. This viewer wonders if the questions that "Death" poses are best served by its presentation in the rarefied context of a contemporary art museum.

"Phantom Home" travels to the Jeu de Paume, Paris, May 28- Sept. 1, and the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto, Portugal, October 2013-February 2014.

Voir de même:

Martha Rosler: Bringing the War Home

the remains of the web

 04/09/2012

For a long time Martha Rosler was con­sid­ered to be an “under­ground artist”, as she pio­neered using dif­fer­ent media and com­bin­ing them.

Her work fre­quently con­trasts the domes­tic lives of women with inter­na­tional war, repres­sion and pol­i­tics, and pays close atten­tion to the mass media and archi­tec­tural structures.

Over the last 40 years she has com­mit­ted to an art that engages a pub­lic beyond the con­fines of the art world, Rosler inves­ti­gates how socioe­co­nomic real­i­ties and polit­i­cal ide­olo­gies dom­i­nate ordi­nary life. Rosler uses a vari­ety of medi­ums, but her most rec­og­niz­able medium is photo-collage and photo-text. She also works cre­ates video instal­la­tions and per­for­mance art.

We think of pho­tomon­tage works by the Ger­mans of the 1920s (John Heart­field and Han­nah Hoch) we also recall the Sit­u­a­tion­ists in France who, as part of their attack on the “spec­ta­cle” of media-capitalism, altered comic strips and advertisements.

In the 1960s she made pho­tomon­tages that protested the Viet­nam War and the objec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women. Dur­ing the 1970s she became known for her videos — some quite hilar­i­ous — that cri­tiqued female social roles.

She began mak­ing polit­i­cal pho­tomon­tages to protest the Viet­nam War, and reac­ti­vated the project dur­ing the 2004 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, in response to the Iraq war. They are com­pos­ites con­structed from the incon­gru­ous pho­tographs com­monly found cheek by jowl in com­mer­cial news media: adver­tis­ing images of ide­al­ized Amer­i­can homes con­joined with com­bat scenes from overseas.

The ear­lier series, made from about 1967 to 1972, brought the war home; she intro­duced Viet­namese refugees and Amer­i­can troops into images of sub­ur­ban liv­ing rooms. The pieces were intended to be pho­to­copied and passed around at anti­war ral­lies in New York and Cal­i­for­nia, where Ms. Rosler, a Brook­lyn native, lived on and off through­out the 1970s.

The pho­tomon­tages of the 2000s dif­fer in that they are large, vibrantly col­ored, dig­i­tally printed and hung in a com­mer­cial gallery. In them Ms. Rosler often col­lages Amer­i­cans onto scenes from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ini­tially Ms. Rosler felt some trep­i­da­tion about reviv­ing the project. “The down­side was that peo­ple could say, ‘She’s revis­it­ing some­thing she did 30 years ago,’ ” she said. “But I thought that actu­ally was a plus, because I wanted to make the point that with all the dif­fer­ences, this is exactly the same sce­nario. We haven’t advanced at all in the way we go to war.”, “Tout la change, tout la même chose.” — Martha Rosler, on “Bring­ing the War Home: House Beautiful”.

Martha Rosler teaches at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity and the Städelschule in Frankfurt

Voir enfin:

Le Jeu de Paume répond aux accusations qui lui sont faites à propos de l’exposition de l’artiste palestinienne Ahlam Shibli

Le Jeu de Paume qui veille, depuis sa création, à promouvoir la pluralité des expressions artistiques autour de l’image sous toutes ses formes, regrette la polémique naissante autour de l’exposition "Foyer Fantôme" de l’artiste Ahlam Shibli.

Ces derniers jours, l’institution a reçu de nombreux messages de protestation à propos de cette exposition et plus particulièrement de l’une des séries présentées, intitulée Death.

Le Jeu de Paume réfute fermement les accusations d’apologie du terrorisme ou de complaisance à l’égard de celui-ci, et portera plainte contre toutes les personnes lui adressant des menaces.

Ahlam Shibli, artiste internationalement reconnue, propose une réflexion critique sur la manière dont les hommes et les femmes réagissent face à la privation de leur foyer qui les conduit à se construire, coûte que coûte, des lieux d’appartenance.

Dans la série Death, conçue spécialement pour cette rétrospective, l’artiste Ahlam Shibli présente un travail sur les images qui ne constitue ni de la propagande ni une apologie du terrorisme, contrairement à ce que certains messages que le Jeu de Paume a reçus laissent entendre. Comme l’artiste l’explique elle-même : "Je ne suis pas une militante [...] Mon travail est de montrer, pas de dénoncer ni de juger".

Death explore la manière dont des Palestiniens disparus — "martyrs", selon les termes repris par l’artiste — sont représentés dans les espaces publics et privés (affiches et graffitis dans les rues, inscriptions sur les tombes, autels et souvenirs dans les foyers…) et retrouvent ainsi une présence dans leur communauté.

L’exposition monographique réunit cinq autres séries de l’artiste questionnant les contradictions inhérentes à la notion de "chez soi" dans différents contextes : celui de la société palestinienne, mais aussi des communautés d’enfants recueillis dans les orphelinats polonais, des commémorations de soulèvements de la Résistance contre les nazis à Tulle (Corrèze) et des guerres coloniales en Indochine et en Algérie, ou encore des ressortissants des pays orientaux qui ont quitté leur pays afin de vivre librement leur orientation sexuelle.

La plupart de ces photographies sont accompagnées de légendes écrites par l’artiste, inséparables des images, qui les situent dans un temps et un lieu précis. Des mesures ont été prises par le Jeu de Paume pour le rappeler aux visiteurs.

La rétrospective dédiée à Ahlam Shibli s’inscrit dans la volonté de montrer de nouvelles pratiques de la photographie documentaire, après les expositions consacrées à Sophie Ristelhueber (2009), Bruno Serralongue (2010) ou Santu Mofokeng (2011). La programmation du Jeu de Paume a pour objectif de s’interroger de façon critique sur les différentes formes de représentation des sociétés contemporaines et, dans cette démarche, revendique la liberté d’expression des artistes.

Le Jeu de Paume ne souhaite pas esquiver le débat ni passer sous silence l’émoi que l’exposition suscite auprès d’un certain nombre de personnes, bien au contraire, il invite chacun à la découvrir sereinement.

Après le MACBA de Barcelone (25 janvier-28 avril 2013) et avant la Fondation Serralves de Porto (15 novembre 2013-9 février 2014), tous deux coproducteurs, le Jeu de Paume présente, pour la première fois en France, l’œuvre de l’artiste palestinienne Ahlam Shibli avec l’exposition "Foyer Fantôme", du 27 mai au 1er septembre 2013.


Norman Rockwell: Pourquoi Rockwell dut quitter le Saturday Evening Post (Why Rockwell had to leave the Post)

21 février, 2013

Unfinished original UN tribute that later gave The Golden Rule ("Do unto others, 1961)

The Golden rule (Ce que vous voulez que les hommes fassent pour vous, faites-le de même pour eux. Jésus (Luc 6: 31)
George Horace Lorimer, who was a very liberal man, told me never to show colored people except as servants. Norman Rockwell

Quel meilleur moment que la Journée internationale de la langue maternelle pour reparler du peintre américain Norman Rockwell !

En ce jour où nos amis bengalais commémorent la manifestation étudiante du 21 février 1952 contre l’imposition de l’ourdou comme langue nationale par le gouvernement pakistanais, première étape de la longue lutte qui aboutit près de 20 ans plus tard à l’indépendance du Bengladesh …

Comment ne pas repenser à l’oeuvre longtemps contestée et souvent encore méconnue de ce peintre pour l’égalité des droits civiques et ce qui est devenu aujourdhui le nouveau fétiche de la "diversité"?

Et notamment, comme le montre bien la notice que lui consacre l’excellent site de vulgarisation historique Pop History Dig, sa longue lutte personnelle pour tenter d’imposer, dans des situations autres que serviles, des personnages issus des minorités ethniques sur les couvertures du Saturday Evening Post …

Avant son départ, en désespoir de cause, pour le plus tolérant Life magazine et les fameuses oeuvres qui le feront entrer dans l’histoire …

Dont le célébrisime "The problem we all live with" de 1964 (en double page intérieure de Life, souvent en tournée nationale et que nous n’avons justement pu voir lors de notre toute récente découverte du musée Rockwell dans l’est du Massachusssets) …

Qui, évoquant magistralement le véritable chemin de croix qu’avait dû subir jour après jour et pendant toute une année la première élève noire  d’une école blanche de New Orleans, lui avait d’ailleurs été inspiré par le compte rendu qu’en avait fait cinq ans plus tôt un autre artiste quintessentiellement américan, John Steinbeck, dans son livre de voyage sur l’Amérique ("Travels with Charley") …

Mais également son presqu’aussi célèbre "New kids in the neighborhood" de 1967 où, toujours son incroyable souci du détail, il réssussait à évoquer à la fois la probable future entente entre les nouvelles générations de nirs et de blancs et, dissimulé dans un coin de son tableau (le regard suspicieux derrière le rideau d’une maison – qu’on ne voit probablement d’ailleurs que sur l’original du tableau lui-même), le long chemin qui restait encore à faire pour la génération de leurs parents …

Sans parler de sa non moins fameuse toile oecuménique intitulée "La Règle d’or" (Faites aux autres"), retravaillée d’un premier tableau abandonné fait précédemment en hommage aux Nations Unies où il réussit à placer nombre de ses voisins mais surtout son épouse récemment décédée portant dans ses bras le petit-fils qu’elle n’eut jamais le temps de connaitre …

Ou, encore moins connus, son “Southern Justice” (ou “Murder in Mississippi") de 1965 pour Look, au sujet de l’assassinat de trois activistes des droits civiques, deux blancs et un noir, évoquant la très forte mais souvent oubliée implication de nombre d’étudiants juifs aux origines de ce qui allait devenir le Mouvement pour les Droits civiques …

Ou son "Blood brothers" de 1968, évoquant après l’assassinat de martin Luther king les victimes (encore une fois un blanc et un noir) des émeutes qui avaient suivi et finalement non publié par le magazine …

“Rockwell & Race” 1963-1968

Norman Rockwell’s painting of six year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted into a New Orleans school in 1960 was printed inside the January 14, 1964 edition of Look magazine.
Norman Rockwell’s painting of six year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted into a New Orleans school in 1960 was printed inside the January 14, 1964 edition of Look magazine.

The recent display at the White House of Norman Rockwell’s 1963 painting, The Problem We All Live With, depicting a famous school desegregation scene in New Orleans, has properly drawn national attention to an iconic moment in America’s troubled civil rights history.

Rockwell’s painting focuses on an historic 1960 school integration episode when six year-old Ruby Bridges had to be escorted by federal marshals past jeering mobs to insure her safe enrollment at the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.  Ruby was the first African American child to enroll at the school, and the local white community – as elsewhere in the country at that time – was fiercely opposed to the court-ordered desegregation of public schools then occurring.  Rockwell’s rendering focuses on the little girl in her immaculate white dress, carrying her ruler and copy book, as the four U.S. marshals escort her.  The painting also captures some of the contempt of those times with the scrawled racial epithet on the wall and the red splattering of a recently thrown tomato.

Rockwell’s portrayal first appeared to wide public notice in January 1964 when it ran as a two-page centerfold illustration on the inside pages of Look magazine.  The painting ran as an untitled illustration in the middle of Look’s feature story on how Americans live, describing their homes and communities.

The context of the Ruby Bridges scene rendered by Rockwell had been heavily reported in print and on television in November 1960, with the anger of the mobs that day burnished deeply in the public mind.  Magazine readers viewing Rockwell’s piece in 1964 would likely recall the unhappy context of young school children being heckled and needing federal protection.

July 15, 2011: President Obama with Ruby Bridges (girl in painting), Rockwell Museum CEO, Laurie Moffatt, and behind Obama, Rockwell Museum President, Anne Morgan, viewing Rockwell’s painting at the White House near the Oval Office. White House photo, Peter Souza.

In 2011, President Obama had a hand in bringing Rockwell’s original painting to the White House, as did others, according to the Washington Post, including Ruby Bridges herself, the Norman Rockwell Museum which owns the painting, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA).  Some quiet lobbying helped bring the painting to the White House, suggesting it be displayed there at the 50th anniversary of Ruby Bridges’ admission to the Frantz school.  “The President likes pictures that tell a story and this painting fits that bill…,” explained a statement in the White House blog.  “In 1963 Rockwell confronted the issue of prejudice head-on…”  However, at the time of the painting’s White House display, some reporting had erroneously stated the Rockwell piece had initially appeared on thecover of the January 14th, 1964 Look magazine.  That is a forgivable mistake given the fact that so much of Norman Rockwell’s work frequently did appear on magazine covers, most notably at the Saturday Evening Post.  But the error raises an important question, nonetheless.  Why didn’t the Rockwell painting of the famous civil rights incident run on the cover of Look magazine or some other magazine?

Well, therein lies a whole other tale, or at least a part of the story not often told – about how depictions of race and civil rights evolved in American art and popular magazines during those times.  By way of presenting some of that story here, the article that follows will look at the history of Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges piece; three other works he did related to race and civil rights; and how Rockwell, his magazine sponsors, and popular magazine publishing dealt with race and civil rights in the 1940s-thru-1960s period.  First, some background on the artist.

Norman Rockwell

Born in 1894, Norman Rockwell grew up in New York city, and as a boy dreamed of becoming an artist.  By the time he was ten he was drawing constantly.  He soon dropped out of high school and enrolled in art school, first at the National Academy School, but by 1910, at the prestigious Art Students League.  After graduation he did some of his first work for Boy’s Life magazine.  In 1916, Rockwell did his first cover for Saturday Evening Post, then one of America’s premiere weekly magazines.  For nearly the next fifty years, he would continue making much-loved Saturday Evening Post covers, most depicting everyday scenes of 20th century Americana.  Rockwell in fact, would do more than 320 covers for the Saturday Evening Post through 1963.  But that’s only part of his story.

1929: Girl & Doll’s Heart.
1949: Game Called, Rain.
1954: Girl in The Mirror.
1958: The Runaway.

Rockwell’s cover subjects for the Post ranged across American daily life – from a young boy in a doctor’s office awaiting a curative needle or teenage girls gossiping at a soda fountain, to a rookie baseball player reporting to play his first game or a worn-out politician at the end of a hard day of campaigning.  Some of Rockwell’s covers dealt with aspirational themes and democratic values.  In 1942, in response to a speech given by President Franklin Roosevelt, Rockwell made his famous “Four Freedoms” series, each of which also ran as a Saturday Evening Post cover – Freedom of Speech (Feb 20, 1943), Freedom of Worship (Feb 27, 1943), Freedom from Want (March 6, 1943), and Freedom from Fear (March 13, 1943).

During this period as well, his Rosie the Riveter cover for the May 29th, 1943 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, and another depicting a “liberty girl” for the September 4th, 1943 edition, helped the government recruit female workers for the war effort during WWII.  Some of these paintings traveled around the country in the mid-1940s, shown in conjunction with the sale of government war bonds.  “The Four Freedoms” series reportedly brought in a tidy sum of $132,992,539 in war bond funds.  Rockwell also did poster art for the U.S. Office of War Information in conjunction with the war bond drives.

While Rockwell’s name became practically synonymous with the Saturday Evening Post, he also did art for other publications, including: Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s, Literary Digest, Look, Country Gentleman, Popular Science, and others.  Rockwell’s art appeared on the covers of some 80 magazines.  His work also appeared in numerous advertisements and he became well known for illustrating the Boy Scouts of America annual calendar. (Galleries of Rockwell’s covers for the Saturday Evening Post are found at a number of very good websites, a few of which are listed at the end of this article in “Sources, Links & Additional Information”).  In the 1950s and 1960s, Rockwell in particular — and other artists at the Saturday Evening Post as well — became chroniclers of American culture and America’s culture past as nostalgia.  Rockwell worked at the heyday of the Saturday Evening Post’s reign as a magazine powerhouse, when circulation reached 4-to-5 million copies a week, and when a Rockwell cover alone could boost non-subscription sales by 250,000.  For millions of magazine readers in those years, Norman Rockwell became a household name in America, even if many art critics at the time didn’t regard his work as “serious art.”

Civil Rights Subjects

“Freedom of Speech” was one of a Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” series admired by African American activist Roderick Stephens, who urged Rockwell in 1943 to do a similar series to promote racial tolerance.
“Freedom of Speech” was one of a Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” series admired by African American activist Roderick Stephens, who urged Rockwell in 1943 to do a similar series to promote racial tolerance.

Rockwell appears to have been first nudged toward civil rights as subject matter in June 1943 when Roderick Stephens, an African-American activist and head of the Bronx Interracial Conference, wrote to Rockwell urging him to do a series of paintings to promote interracial relations.  Stephens had been moved by Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” and was worried at the time that urban race riots would ensue in major cities like his own New York, touched off by the migration of southern blacks to major cities.  Race riots, in fact, had then already occurred in Houston, Los Angeles, and Detroit.  Although Stephens expressed his admiration to Rockwell for his “Four Freedoms,” he noted that two of the freedoms – “Freedom From Want” and “Freedom From Fear” – were, for most blacks at the time, freedoms denied.  Stephens proposed that Rockwell do a series of paintings to be printed and circulated as posters, just as the “Four Freedoms” had been, to promote racial tolerance, featuring subject matter that would illustrate the contributions of blacks to American society and how they helped realize the Four Freedoms.  Stephens believed Rockwell was an artist who could make a difference at the time, and could help “advance racial goodwill by years,” offering art to point up what was then in American practice, a restricted conception of freedom.  Rockwell is believed to have replied to Stephens, but he never embarked on Stephens’ proposal, more or less rejecting the series idea, explaining to Stephens  the difficulties he had encountered creating the “Four Freedoms” series.  But there may have been more to it than that, as Rockwell was then laboring under restrictions imposed by The Saturday Evening Post.

Dec 7 1946: “NY Central Diner,” Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.
Dec 7 1946: “NY Central Diner,” Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.

Rockwell’s venturing into controversial material such as race and civil rights did not come until later in his career, after he had left the Post.  Like other artists of the 1940s and 1950s who did commercial art and magazine illustrations, Rockwell was bound by certain publishing covenants and restrictions, written and unwritten, that determined what could and could not appear in magazine covers and illustrations.  The Saturday Evening Post, for example, would only allow minorities to be shown in servile roles.

In a 1971 interview with writer Richard Reeves, Rockwell explained the unwritten rule laid down by his first editor at the Post: “George Horace Lorimer, who was a very liberal man, told me never to show colored people except as servants.”  Lorimer was Rockwell’s editor at the Post for his first twenty years there.  The Rockwell cover illustration at left from the December 7th, 1946 Saturday Evening Post illustrates the rule in practice.  The scene, which is also known as Boy in Dining Car, shows a young boy in a railroad dining car studying the menu with purse in hand, trying to determine the proper payment and tip for the black waiter.

Rockwell’s “Full Treatment” SEP cover of May 1940 includes black shoe shine boy.
Rockwell’s “Full Treatment” SEP cover of May 1940 includes black shoe shine boy.

In addition to the 1946 Post cover above, Rockwell also did other magazine covers and illustrations from the mid-1920s through mid-1940s that depicted African Americans in various roles, usually in minor or servile roles, and sometimes not facing the viewer.  Among a few of these Rockwell pieces, for example, are: The Banjo Player, an illustration for a Pratt & Lambert varnish advertisement appearing inside The Saturday Evening Post of April 3rd, 1926; Thataway, a March 17th, 1934 cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a young black boy pointing to the direction taken by a thrown rider’s horse; Love Ouanga, a June 1936 illustration for a short story in American Magazine depicting a beautiful, stylishly-dressed young African American woman in a church scene contrasted against more coarse and country dress of other farming and working African Americans also in the scene; Full Treatment, a May 18th, 1940 cover for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a wealthy man being attended to by a barber, manicurist, and a black shoe shine boy; The Homecoming, a May 26th, 1945 cover for The Post depicting a returning military veteran arriving home to a scene of welcoming family and neighbors that also includes an African American worker; and Roadblock, a July 9th, 1949 cover for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a moving van that is blocked by a small dog in an urban alley scene with a variety on onlookers, including some black children.

Continuing into the 1950s and early 1960s, publishing art and mainstream magazines generally were slow to portray African American success stories and the civil rights struggle.

Cover Art, 1950s

1947: Jackie Robinson.
1947: Jackie Robinson.
1954: Dorothy Dandridge.
1954: Dorothy Dandridge.
1954: Segregation story.
1954: Segregation story.
1955: Thurgood Marshall.
1955: Thurgood Marshall.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, a time when the civil rights movement was struggling for recognition, the American art community – then involved with modern art and abstract expressionism – was generally not at the ramparts fighting racial discrimination.   Nor, for the most part, were America’s most popular magazines in that era featuring African Americans on their covers or doing prominent stories on civil rights.  In its May 8th, 1950 edition, Life magazine featured a photograph of baseball player Jackie Robinson on its cover, the first individual African American to be so featured by that magazine.  Robinson had become the first African American to break the color barrier in professional baseball three years earlier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Time magazine, for its part, had used an artist’s rendering of Robinson on an earlier cover in September 1947.  Back at Life, meanwhile, actress Dorothy Dandridge became the first African American woman to be featured on a cover at that magazine, for the November 1st, 1954 edition.  Dandridge was then appearing in her Academy Award-nominated best actress film role in Carmen Jones.  A few stories on segregation also appeared on major magazine covers in the mid-1950s.  On September 13, 1954, Newsweek ran a cover story on segregation in schools, showing a white and a black child in a Washington, D.C. school.  Time magazine put Thurgood Marshall on the cover of its September 19th, 1955 issue, Marshall then having risen to notice as chief counsel for the NAACP arguing the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case before the U.S. Supreme Court. (see “Brown vs Board…” sidebar, later below, for more details).

A portion of the January 24, 1956 cover of Look magazine showing  “Approved Killing” story tagline.
A portion of the January 24, 1956 cover of Look magazine showing “Approved Killing” story tagline.

Look, another pictorial magazine similar to Life, and also popular in the 1950s, had rarely if ever used cover art that solely featured an African American.  There were black sports stars shown  on Look covers occasionally – such as Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, and Sugar Ray Robinson – but usually as one among five whites in a framed, six-photo layout.  Look did give cover billing to a few articles on racial issues in the 1950s.  On the cover of its January 24th, 1956 issue, Look ran the title of an article by William Bradford Huie, “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi.”

Although there was no mention of race in the title, and it ran on a somewhat incongruous cover featuring the U.S. teenager (partially shown at left), the “shocking story” inside was truly shocking.  It was the story of the August 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a 14 year-old Chicago boy who was savagely beaten, shot, and mutilated by white men in Mississippi while the boy was visiting relatives there.  Till, a brash kid who knew nothing about the realities of the South, made the mistake of whistling at a white woman at a local country store.  Later abducted from his relatives’ home, Till was brutally pistol-whipped and dumped into a river, his body tied to a heavy metal fan.

Click to read at PBS.org.
Click to read at PBS.org.

Two white suspects – Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam – were later tried and acquitted by an all-white jury in less than two hours.  Their defense attorney had called on the jurors to honor their forefathers by not convicting white men for killing a black person.  Back in Chicago, Till’s mutilated body was displayed at an open-casket viewing.  No mainstream print publication in America at that time published the gruesome photos, although a few black-owned publications did, provoking outrage throughout African American communities.

Inside the January 24th, 1956 Look magazine, the article by author William Bradford Huie covered the Till murder and he also interviewed the two suspects, Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam, who were paid $4,000 to tell how they killed Emmett Till.  In the article, the two suspects – then safe from conviction after having been acquitted in their friendly Mississippi trial – confessed to the crime.  A year later, in its January 22nd, 1957 edition, Look published a follow-up article on the killing, also by William Bradford Huie, entitled “What’s Happened to the Emmett Till Killers?”  That story reported that blacks in the local community stopped using stores owned by the Milam and Bryant families, putting them out of business, as both men were also ostracized by the white community.

'56: Slavery/Segregation.
’56: Slavery/Segregation.
1957: MLK bus boycott.
1957: MLK bus boycott.
1961: Freedom Riders.
1961: Freedom Riders.
1963: Negro in America.
1963: Negro in America.

Cover Art ( cont’d)

On September 3rd, 1956, Life magazine featured a cover story related to slavery and segregation – “Beginning A Major Life series – Segregation,” stated Life at the top of the cover.  Time magazine featured Martin Luther King on its cover February 18th, 1957, as King was then in the news for his leadership in the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott.  Later that year, on October 7th, 1957, Time and Life both featured the school integration conflict at Little Rock, Arkansas with National Guard troops shown on their covers.  By the time of the Freedom Riders in 1961, a Newsweek cover story featured photos and quotes from three key players in the controversy: U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Mississippi Governor, John Patterson.  For its June 28th, 1963 edition, Life featured a cover photograph of the wife and child of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers at his Arlington National Cemetery funeral. Evers, a Mississippi organizer, was shot in the back in his own driveway by a Ku Klux Klan member.  In July 1963, Newsweek published a special issue on “The Negro in America,” picturing an unnamed black man on the cover.  In smaller type on the cover, Newsweek further explained the focus of its series with the following: “The first definitive national survey – who he is, what he wants, what he fears, what he hates, how he lives, how he votes, why he is fighting … and why now?”  For its September 6th, 1963 issue, Life magazine featured a cover story on the historic August 1963 “march on Washington” with a photograph of two of its leaders, A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, shown standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  And as the civil rights movement received more national notice throughout the 1960s, along with urban unrest, more magazine covers followed.

13 Feb 1960: Norman Rockwell, cover feature, Saturday Evening Post.
13 Feb 1960: Norman Rockwell, cover feature, Saturday Evening Post.

Rockwell & The Post

Norman Rockwell, meanwhile, was experiencing change at The Saturday Evening Post.  By the early 1960s, the frequency of his covers there had slowed – down to a half dozen or so a year – and the magazine was experimenting with new formats.  Still, after more than 40 years of his cover art being featured for millions of Post readers, Rockwell was clearly an asset to the magazine.  In fact, for the February 13th, 1960 issue of the magazine and its cover story, he was the featured star and title subject.  The cover used his famous “triple self-portrait” and gave full billing to a beginning series of articles about him for the magazine taken from a new autobiography written with the help of  his middle son, Thomas Rockwell.  Shown at right, the cover taglines for that issue of the Post explained: “Beginning in this issue: America’s Best Loved Artist Finally Tells His Own Story… My Adventures As An Illustrator.”  Yet Rockwell was chafing at the Post by this time, and his days there were numbered.

1960: Window Washer.
1961: Artist at Work.
1962: Art Connoisseur.
1962: Art Connoisseur.
1963: Nehru of India.
1963: Nehru of India.

Through the early 1960s, Rockwell continued doing Post covers.  In 1960, for example he did five more Post covers in addition to “triple self portrait,” shown above,  three of  which offered traditional subjects: “Repairing Stained Glass,” April 16, 1960; “University Club,” August 27, 1960; and “Window Washer,” September 17, 1960 (with the washer ogling the secretary).  Two more Rockwell covers that year were portraits of the 1960 presidential candidates – U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon.  The magazine by then had begun shifting to more portraits of famous people as cover material, and was also using more cover photography rather than illustrations or paintings.  Rockwell cover portraits, in any case, held their own at the Post, and included others in the early 1960s,  among them: Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, January 19, 1963;  Jack Benny, entertainer, March 2, 1963; a serious portrait of President John F. Kennedy to accompany a cover story on his foreign policy challenges, April 6, 1963; and Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, May 25, 1963.  Other more traditional Post covers by Rockwell in the early 1960s included: “Artist at Work,” Sept 16, 1961; “Cheerleader,” Nov 25, 1961; and “Art Connoisseur” of January 13 1962, showing a middle-aged man in a museum observing a Jackson Pollack-type painting (this issue also had cover billing for a story inside the magazine entitled, “The Little Known World of Our Negro Aristocracy.”).

Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” appeared on Saturday Evening Post cover, April 1, 1961.
Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” appeared on Saturday Evening Post cover, April 1, 1961.

One interesting departure for Rockwell from his normal Saturday Evening Post fare during the early 1960s – and a sign of  his more liberal inner concerns – came with the April 1st, 1961 cover that appeared under the title “The Golden Rule.”  This illustration actually had its genesis, in part, during the late 1940s when Rockwell had set out to do a painting honoring the United Nations (UN), an organization he admired and found hopeful for solving world problems.  For the UN painting, Rockwell had in mind something that would highlight the cultural, racial, and religious tolerance of the organization, and he had visited the UN Security Council Chamber for ideas and sketches.  His first efforts yielded a charcoal drawing of several major-nation delegates debating from their seats in a brightly lit foreground.  Behind the delegates, in the shadows, was a crowd of more than sixty people – a cross-section of men, women, and children from around the world, some in native dress.  But Rockwell had difficulty with the UN delegates agreeing to sit for the drawings, and he also had his own dissatisfactions with his art, so he set the project aside.  Some years later, in 1960, he resurrected the project, then changing its composition somewhat and using “the golden rule” as theme.  He also incorporated the phrase “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You” directly into the painting using gold lettering.

Rockwell at work on “Golden Rule,” 1960.
Rockwell at work on “Golden Rule,” 1960.

The painting – which ran as a Saturday Evening Post cover on April 1st, 1961 – became a further expression of Rockwell’s inner values and interests, marking something of a turning point in his relationship with the Post, not the least of which was his depiction of people of color.  African Americans were also included in the painting and placed in prominent positions – one as a Ruby Bridges-type young girl in the foreground holding her schoolbooks to her chest, and another as a middle-aged black man in a white shirt in the upper right corner looking out at the viewer.  Art critics have noted that these African American depictions were positive portrayals that broke with the traditional servile stereotypes at the Saturday Evening Post.  And along with the other Asians and Africans shown, were Rockwell’s way of following his  conscience and “integrating” a Saturday Evening Post cover on his own.  Rockwell also incorporated a portrayal of his second wife, Mary, in the painting.  Mary was the mother of their three sons and had passed away in 1959.  She is shown in the right middle of the painting holding their grandson she never saw.  Rockwell is believed to have completed this painting in November 1960.  He was later presented with the Interfaith Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for the painting, a citation he treasured.

Rockwell’s last cover for the Post, Dec 1963, an earlier JFK portrait.
Rockwell’s last cover for the Post, Dec 1963, an earlier JFK portrait.

By late 1963, Rockwell was about to embark on a career change.  He was in his 60s by this time.  The cover art at the Saturday Evening Post pretty much continued to focus on Americana and everyday life as it had in the past.  Inside the magazine, however, there were contemporary stories of the day; the magazine was slowly changing.

Still, Rockwell had become frustrated by the limits the Post had imposed upon his art, especially regarding political themes and social concerns.  By then he had begun thinking about and moving on to other subject matter.  So in December 1963, he ended his near half-century with the Saturday Evening Post. 

Rockwell’s final cover for the magazine appeared in mid-December 1963.  It was actually an earlier portrait of John F. Kennedy he had done during the 1960 presidential campaign which the Post republished in a special memoriam issue that ran after Kennedy’s assassination.

Look magazine at about the time Rockwell singed on, December 1963, then featuring Hollywood’s Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn.
Look magazine at about the time Rockwell singed on, December 1963, then featuring Hollywood’s Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn.

Rockwell at Look

In December 1963, at the age of 68, Norman Rockwell signed on with Look magazine.  Look covers at the time dealt with contemporary subjects, celebrities, and general topics of the day, using mostly photographs.  A sample cover from December 1963 appears at left, this one also mentioning a civil rights story inside that edition.

Major circulation magazines in the early 1960s were beginning to feel the competition of television.  Collier’s had ceased publication in 1956, and even the Saturday Evening Post was feeling the heat.  Yet, Life and Look – the “picture magazines,” as they were sometimes called – remained strong, with solid advertising revenue.  Look by the mid-1960s would have some of its best years for sales and circulation.

When Rockwell began doing work for Look, Dan Mich was editor there. Mich was a supporter of thought-provoking journalism, and along with art director Allen Hurlburt, they gave Rockwell freedom to pursue his “bigger picture” interests, as he called them.  Look wanted to use Rockwell’s art as a compliment to current reportage and that gave Rockwell opportunity to pursue subject matter that interested him.

Rockwell’s third wife, Mary L. “Molly” Punderson, a fervent liberal, was an influence on Rockwell’s work through the 1960s, as was his friend and psychiatrist Erik Erickson.  And Rockwell himself, despite being tagged “conservative” by association with his Saturday Evening Post covers, had his own internal guideposts and values, as already noted above.  Rockwell was clearly more liberal/progressive than many of his Saturday Evening Post followers might have realized.  Some who knew him described him as a “strict constructionist,” especially so when it came to American values.  No surprise then, if given a subject and a free hand where American ideals such as freedom and equality of opportunity were at stake, his brush would be on the right side of those concerns.

Ruby Bridges exiting the William Frantz school in New Orleans,  November 1960, with U.S. marshals.
Ruby Bridges exiting the William Frantz school in New Orleans, November 1960, with U.S. marshals.

And so it was with the Ruby Bridges episode from 1960.  Rockwell came to this particular controversy somewhat after the actual event had occurred.  The date of his painting, The Problem We All Live With, is 1963 and its use in the illustration in Look magazine appeared in January 1964.  So the Ruby Bridges painting was a studied affair for Rockwell; a project he had worked on for some time and given considerable thought to.  In November 1960, at the time of the actual incident, there had been television and news reporting of the event. Rockwell no doubt made use of this reporting and the news photographs of the event.  He also employed models to work from as he painted.

Prior to the first integration actions in New Orleans – and there were two schools involved and several black students; three at another school – politicians in Louisiana, including the state’s governor at the time, segregationist Jimmie Davis, had maneuvered to prevent and forestall the integration.  In September 1960, the schools there opened initially as segregated.  By November, however, the courts had set a deadline to begin school integration, but parents did not know which schools would be involved

“Brown vs. Board…”
Landmark Case: 1954
Ruby Bridges being escorted into school, November 1960.
Ruby Bridges being escorted into school, November 1960.

The racial integration of American public schools was triggered by a Kansas welder named Oliver Brown who wanted a better education for his children.  Brown had sought the opportunity for his daughter to attend a whites-only school that was closer to his home than the local school for blacks.  An earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision dating from 1896 had allowed for the establishment of racially-segregated schools, which the court had then deemed acceptable under the constitution, calling them “separate but equal.”  Yet most of these schools were not equal.  A long legal battle – a court fight consolidated with other similar cases using the name Brown vs. Board of Education – eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the case was argued by Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (and who later became a Supreme Court justice).  The court unanimously ruled in Brown’s favor on May 17, 1954, and the case became a landmark ruling in ending segregation, not only in schools but throughout a wide variety of public venues.

A federal marshal driving first grader Gail Etienne to McDonogh 19 school in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, one of four black children who entered two previously all-white schools in the city. Times-Picayune photo.
A federal marshal driving first grader Gail Etienne to McDonogh 19 school in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, one of four black children who entered two previously all-white schools in the city. Times-Picayune photo.

Putting the new law into effect, however, would take years.  Initially, as Southern states and counties resisted integrating schools, federal marshals — and sometimes federal troops — had to be used to enforce the law, as in the case of Ruby Bridges in New Orleans.  In 1956, U.S. District Court Judge J. Skelly Wright ordered the desegregation of the New Orleans public schools.  After a series of appeals, Wright in 1960 set down a plan that required the integration of the schools on a grade-per-year basis, beginning with the first grade.  The New Orleans School Board then tested black kindergartners to determine the best candidates.  Six-year-old Ruby Bridges was one of six children selected; four agreed to proceed.  On November 14th 1960, Bridges integrated the William Frantz School (the other three children were assigned to the McDonogh 19 School).

Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges

Sidewalk protest in New Orleans over school integration, November 15th,1960.
Sidewalk protest in New Orleans over school integration, November 15th,1960.

Once it was revealed which schools in New Orleans were the ones chosen for the court-ordered integration, sidewalk protests ensued and white parents promptly removed their children from those schools.  However, at Ruby Bridges’ school – the William Frantz school — there were also two white parents who chose to keep their children in the school: a Christian minister’s five-year old daughter, Pamela Foreman, in kindergarten, and another white child, Yolanda Gabrielle, age six.  In addition to the jeering of Ruby, these white kids and their parents were also jeered and harassed, even beyond the school grounds.  Neighbor turned against neighbor and it got pretty ugly in those communities.

Rockwell, no doubt knew about all of this and likely read news accounts of the protests.  On November 15, 1960, The New York Times reported the greeting Ruby and her mother received as they arrived that day: “Some 150 white, mostly housewives and teenage youths, clustered along the sidewalks across from the William Franz School when pupils marched in at 8:40 am. One youth chanted ‘Two, Four, Six, Eight, we don’t want to integrate’…”

Detail from Rockwell painting: note “K.K.K.” on upper left wall.
Detail from Rockwell painting: note “K.K.K.” on upper left wall.

As four U.S. marshals arrived with Ruby and her mother, they walked hurriedly up the steps to the school’s entrance as onlookers jeered and shouted taunts.  On the sidewalk that day, assembled mothers and school students were yelling at police, some carrying signs, one held by a young boy that said, “All I Want For Christmas is a Clean White School.”  Another placard that day read: “Save Segregation, Vote States Rights Pledged Electors.”

The white parents kept up their boycott of the schools the entire year, and the protests and jeering continued periodically.  On December 2nd, 1960, for example, housewives demonstrated at the William Frantz school, one standing with a placard that read “Integration is a Mortal Sin,” citing a biblical scribe as source.

Rockwell’s painting, of course, does not capture all of this, nor was it intended to.  His focus appears to be solely on the girl, placed at center, giving no special notice to the marshals, other than they were needed, as he portrays them as anonymous and headless, from mid-torso down.  The setting around the little girl is ugly and threatening, but she is innocent and perfect, as her white dress and ribbon-tied hair suggest.  As far as she is concerned, she is just going to school.

1962: Steinbeck book.
1962: Steinbeck book.

One description of the 1960 New Orleans school integration protests that Rockwell may have read prior to or during his work on the Ruby Bridges painting was John Steinbeck’s observations of the episode, offered in his 1962 best-seller, Travels with Charley: In Search of America.  “Charley” was Steinbeck’s dog and traveling companion during his road trip around the United States.  Travels With Charley was published by Viking Press in the mid-summer of 1962, reaching No.1 on the New York Times nonfiction best- seller list October 21, 1962.  In part four of that book, Steinbeck recorded his reactions on coming to the New Orleans communities where the school integration controversy had flared, and he came away gravely saddened by what he saw.  In his book, Steinbeck offered a detailed account of Ruby Bridges’ arrival at the elementary school and her handling by the U.S. marshals:

“…The show opened on time.  Sound of sirens.  Motorcycle cops.  Then two big black cars filled with big men in blond felt hats pulled up in front of the school.  The crowd seemed to hold its breath.  Four big marshals got out of each car and from somewhere in the automobiles they extracted the littlest Negro girl you ever saw, dressed in starchy white, with new white shoes on feet so little they were almost round.  Her face and little legs were very black against the white…The little girl did not look back at the howling crowd but from the size the whites of her eyes showed like those of a frightened fawn.  The men turned her around like a doll, and then the strange procession moved up the broad walk toward the school, and the child was even more a mite because the men were so big…”

November 1960: Demonstrators during school integration in New Orleans, Louisiana;  one holding sign that reads, “Integration is A Mortal Sin.”
November 1960: Demonstrators during school integration in New Orleans, Louisiana; one holding sign that reads, “Integration is A Mortal Sin.”

Steinbeck had come to New Orleans in part to see the “cheerleaders,” as he called those then protesting New Orleans’ school integration, and he describes what he found first hand, as he witnessed some of the protests:

“…No newspaper had printed the words these women shouted.  It was indicated that they were indelicate, some even said obscene. . . . But now I heard the words, bestial and filthy and degenerate.  In a long and unprotected life I have seen and heard the vomitings of demoniac humans before.  Why then did these screams fill me with a shocked and sickened sorrow?…”

Steinbeck wrote that he knew “something was wrong and distorted and out of drawing” in what he had seen in New Orleans.  He had formerly counted himself as a friend of New Orleans; knew the city fairly well, had his favorite haunts there, and also had many treasured friends there – “thoughtful, gentle people, with a tradition of kindness and courtesy.”  Where were they now, he wondered – “the ones whose arms would ache to gather up a small, scared, black mite?”  Answering his own question, he wrote:

“…I don’t know where they were.  Perhaps they felt as helpless as I did, but they left New Orleans misrepresented to the world.  The crowd, no doubt, rushed home to see themselves on television, and what they saw went out all over the world, unchallenged by the other things I know are there….”

Another influence on Rockwell at this time was likely Erik Erikson, a psychoanalyst at the Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where Rockwell then lived and worked.  Erikson treated Rockwell occasionally for bouts of depression, was Rockwell’s friend, and also had a passion for civil rights.  Erikson was a colleague and mentor to a younger child psychiatrist named Robert Coles, who had begun working with Ruby Bridges and other children in the early school desegregation cases in 1961.  Coles had found that segregation had damaged the self-esteem of the little girls, and by 1963 he had written a series of articles beginning in March for The Atlantic Monthly magazine profiling Ruby Bridges’s experiences during integration of the Frantz school.  He also published The Desegregation of Southern Schools: A Psychiatric Study, a short book.  Erikson may well have made Rockwell aware of these at the time he was painting The Problem We All Live With.

Look magazine’s cover story of January 14, 1964  focused on “How We Live” – American’s homes and communities –  city, farm & suburb.
Look magazine’s cover story of January 14, 1964 focused on “How We Live” – American’s homes and communities – city, farm & suburb.

It appears Rockwell began working on the Ruby Bridges painting sometime in 1963, also finishing it that year.  The editors at Look decided to use it in their January 14th, 1964 edition.  On the cover of that issue, a portion of which is shown at right, Look featured photos of American homes in various urban and suburban settings, along with a few family shots, billing its cover story as: “How We Live: Up in the city, Down on the farm, Out in the suburbs.  In homes packed with pride, prejudice and love.”

There was no special mention or billing of Norman Rockwell’s painting on the cover.  The illustration would be found in the middle of the magazine as a full two-page spread with no accompanying text.  In the table of contents it was billed under “art” with the title “The Problem We All Live With.”  It appeared amidst a series of articles with titles such as: “Their First Home,” “Down On The Farm,” and “Their Dream House Is On Wheels.”  One of the stories focused on Theodore and Beverly Mason, a black family living in a mixed community in Ludlow, Ohio.

Detail from “The Problem We All Live With.”
Detail from “The Problem We All Live With.”

Rockwell’s former Saturday Evening Post fans, coming upon this painting in Look, may have been quite surprised.  In fact, the painting did elicit reaction from Look’s readers, as the magazine received letters from those who were deeply moved by it, as well as those who were angered by it.  Some analysts would later note that precisely because Rockwell was an artist dear to the hearts of many conservatives for his renderings of Americana and American values, that his “new” work on civil rights subjects may have made some of these same fans think twice about America’s racial problem at that time, helping them face up to racism.  Rockwell himself would later say of his change in subject matter: “For 47 years, I portrayed the best of all possible worlds – grandfathers, puppy dogs – things like that.  That kind of stuff is dead now, and I think it’s about time.”

March 23, 1965, Look cover.
March 23, 1965, Look cover.

Rockwell appears to have been quite comfortable with what he offered in the Ruby Bridges painting.  In fact, in a letter he later wrote to the NAACP, Rockwell offered the illustration to the civil rights group, suggesting they reproduce the illustration as a poster to publicize their progress and accomplishments.  It is not known here what the NAACP made of this offer, or if the illustration was ever used as Rockwell suggested.  Rockwell, in any case, had more work to come on civil rights issues; work that would also be published by Look magazine, two of which are explored below.

Apart from Rockwell’s work, Look also published cover stories on civil rights issues in that period.  On March 23, 1965 the magazine featured “The Negro Now” story by Robert Penn Warren on its cover, describing its content with a series of questions, also on the cover: “How far has the Negro come?,” “What is the South ready to concede?,” “What happens next in the North?,” “Can we move forward without violence?,” and “Who speaks for the Negro now?”

Rockwell’s “Southern Justice” painting of 1965, also known as “Murder in Mississippi,” depicting the killings of three civil rights workers murdered in June of 1964.
Rockwell’s “Southern Justice” painting of 1965, also known as “Murder in Mississippi,” depicting the killings of three civil rights workers murdered in June of 1964.

“Southern Justice”

Another step that Norman Rockwell took with his civil rights painting in the 1960s, came when he ventured into depicting violence then occurring in the civil rights movement.  In 1964, he began work on a painting inspired by the murder of three young civil rights workers in Mississippi in June of 1964.

The three young men – James Chaney, a 21 year-old black man from Meridian, Mississippi; Andrew Goodman, a 20 year-old white Jewish anthropology student from New York; and Michael Schwerner, a 24 year-old white Jewish organizer and former social worker also from New York – were helping to register black voters in Mississippi.   Initially, the three men were reported missing.

Within days of their disappearance, the story made national headlines, as President Lyndon Johnson ordered a massive search.  However, it turned out that shortly after midnight on June 21, 1964, the three civil rights workers were murdered by local members of the Ku Klux Klan, aided in their plot by a local police chief.  All three were beaten and then shot, and their bodies not located until August 8, 1964, found buried beneath an earthen dam.

Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi, June 1964. FBI photos.
Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi, June 1964. FBI photos.

Rockwell began work on his “Murder in Mississippi” in 1964, a painting which later used the name of the Look article that it ran with, “Southern Justice.”  Rockwell typically worked on several projects at once, but with this project, he bore in on the work exclusively for five weeks straight.  The painting, which depicts the horror endured by the three young men as they were being beaten, uses a barren, isolated rural scene as its setting, likely at the end of some dirt road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.  The scene is lit only by an unseen torch.  One man is portrayed by Rockwell lying on the ground, presumably beaten, but trying, with one arm, to push himself up from the ground.  Another is standing in the glow of the attacker’s torch trying to help his colleague, who appears beaten and near death.  Analysts of this painting have noted that Rockwell, rather than actually showing the murderers in the scene, casts them instead as six ominous shadows approaching from the right, indicating that the young men are outnumbered, and also perhaps, symbolically, indicating the problem is a larger societal issue.

Norman Rockwell’s rough study sketch of beaten civil rights workers as it ran with article in Look magazine, June 29, 1965.
Norman Rockwell’s rough study sketch of beaten civil rights workers as it ran with article in Look magazine, June 29, 1965.

In considering this piece, the editors of Look were more taken with Rockwell’s initial sketch for the illustration and favored it over the finished painting, using it in the magazine.  The editors felt the coarser version offered a more powerful, emotional interpretation.  Rockwell at first disagreed with their choice but he did allow the sketch to be printed.  In the June 29, 1965 edition of Look, it ran as a single-page illustration alongside a one-page article by Charles Morgan titled, “Southern Justice,” which focused on “segregated justice” in the South, the Schwerner-Chaney-Goodman murders, other civil rights murders and beatings in the South, and the absence of black judges in Southern courts.  Rockwell’s illustration was captioned as “Philadelphia, Miss., June 21, 1964.”

As with the Ruby Bridges episode, Rockwell no doubt learned of this civil rights story through the media accounts and newspaper reporting of that day.  On June 22, 1964, for example, the New York Times ran a front-page story on the incident using the following headlines and description: “3 In Rights Drive Reported Missing; Mississippi Campaign Heads Fear Foul Play–Inquiry by F.B.I. Is Ordered….”  After the three workers were found dead, however, local officials in Mississippi refused to prosecute the suspected killers.  The U.S. Justice Department then charged eighteen individuals with conspiring to deprive the three workers of their civil rights (by murder).  Seven were found guilty on October 20, 1967, but with appeals, did not begin serving their 3-to-10 year sentences until 1970, with none serving more than six years.  Three other suspects had been acquitted, but no further legal action ensued in the case until pressure was brought decades later, in June 2005, when the state of Mississippi prosecuted and convicted Edgar Ray Killen – who planned and directed the killing – on three counts of murder.

May 3, 1966: KKK cover.
May 3, 1966: KKK cover.
June 14, 1966: Peace Corps.
June 14, 1966: Peace Corps.

Look magazine, meanwhile, went on to do other stories on civil rights issues.  Less than a year later, on May 3, 1966, Look ran a cover story on the Ku Klux Klan showing a hooded Klansman on the cover wielding two flaming torches.  Rockwell had done some other work for Look in 1965 following his Southern Justice illustration.  For the July 27, 1965 edition of Look, Rockwell did an illustration to accompany an article on President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty program for the poor, entitled “How Goes the War on Poverty.” Rockwell’s illustration featured a “helping hand” clasped to another’s seeking help, superimposed over a background of diverse faces with a quote from President Johnson lettered into the painting: “Hope for the Poor, Achievement for Yourself, Greatness for Your Nation.”  In the following year, for the June 14, 1966 edition of Look, Rockwell did the cover art and four other pieces inside the magazine helping to illustrate a story on The Peace Corps – “J.F.K.’s Bold Legacy.”  Rockwell’s cover piece included a profile of John F. Kennedy and others who actually served in the Peace Corps (some of whom also modeled for Rockwell as he did the painting), including one African American female.  All were shown on the cover in profile looking left, with Kennedy in front (see cover above).  Rockwell had thrown himself into the Peace Corps project, actually visiting Peace Corps volunteers in action in Ethiopia, India, and Colombia during 1966 as he created several narrative scenes of them at work.  But Rockwell would also do more civil rights work the following year, also published in Look.

Look 1967: "Suburbia."
Look 1967: "Suburbia."
Story: Negro in Suburbs.
Story: Negro in Suburbs.

“New Kids…”

The May 16th, 1967 issue of Look magazine was billed as “A Report on Suburbia” – with added tagline, “The Good Life In Our Exploding Utopia.”  Look’s cover for that edition also listed the line-up of suburban-related stories inside: “Parties and Prejudices,” “New Styles and Status,” Morals and Divorce, and “Teenagers in Trouble.”  One of the stories to follow was by Jack Star, entitled “Negro in the Suburbs.”  Mrs. Jacqueline Robbins, a young black housewife who then lived in the all-white Chicago suburb of Park Forest, Illinois with her chemist husband, Terry, 32, and their two sons, was quoted as saying, “Being a Negro in the middle of white people is like being alone in the middle of a crowd.”  A Rockwell illustration — entitled New Kids in the Neighborhood — ran in the middle of that article.  “Although Negroes are still a rarity in the green reaches of suburbia,” reported the Look article, “they are emerging from nearly all the large metropolitan ghettos with increasing frequency.”  In Chicago during 1966, the story explained, 179 Negro families moved into white suburbs – more than twice as many as in the previous year, seven times as many as in 1963…”

Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood” ran as full two-page centerfold in Look magazine, May 17, 1967.
Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood” ran as full two-page centerfold in Look magazine, May 17, 1967.

Rockwell’s full, two-page illustration inside this suburban-themed issue focused on a “moving-in” day scene for a new black family freshly arrived in some unnamed white suburb.  In his painting, Rockwell uses black and white children as his focal point.  The two sets of children are standing in front of a moving van sizing one another up.  The two African American kids are presumably brother and sister.  The three white kids – two boys and a girl – are kids from the neighborhood.  Rockwell has included common elements for all the kids – the boys have baseball gloves, the girls each wear ribbons in their hair, and both groups have a pet.  For the viewer, meanwhile, there is little escape, as Rockwell involves them quite directly with the central question, essentially asking them to complete the picture; asking them to think about how the interaction between these kids, their parents, their community and the larger society will unfold.

Child models used by Rockwell for “New Kids,” 1967.
Child models used by Rockwell for “New Kids,” 1967.

Students of Rockwell have noted that he often used kids in his illustrations, sometimes as neutral arbiters and non-judgmental conveyors of life situations – but also as a means of reaching out to mainstream audiences to prod, send a needed message of some kind, or raise a pointed question.  Rockwell’s two groups of kids in this painting might be seen as surrogates for the larger society, each group trying to decide what to do and whether or how to conquer that middle distance.  The issue in the New Kids painting, of course, is not only the relationships that may ensue between the kids in the weeks and months ahead, but also the larger slate of societal and democratic issues that integration then posed for the nation and its future.  The kids, in any case, are usually not the problem.  As Ruby Bridges has remarked from her own experience with integration in Louisiana, “none of us knows anything about disliking one another when we come into the world.  It is something that is passed on to us.”  Rockwell, it seems, also tried to convey some of that, featuring childhood innocence amid adult turmoil, or just letting children be children.  But Rockwell was also capable of more direct messages, using tougher themes and subject matter.

“Blood Brothers”

A black and white copy of Norman Rockwell’s “Blood Brothers” painting which he later gave to CORE.
A black and white copy of Norman Rockwell’s “Blood Brothers” painting which he later gave to CORE.

In June 1968, during a conversation at a party, Norman Rockwell hit upon an idea for a painting.  Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April that year, there had been rioting in more than 100 U.S. cities, with a number of people killed and injured.  Rockwell was thinking of a scene resulting from this urban unrest, and he called his editor at Look, Allen Hurlburt, to get preliminary approval and begin work.  What Rockwell began to sketch were two dead men on the ground – one black and one white – both bloodied and beaten,  found on a ghetto street after a riot lying parallel to one another, their blood co-mingling in a pool on the ground.  According to the Norman Rockwell Museum, “Rockwell hoped to show the superficiality of racial differences – that the blood of all men was the same.”

Norman Rockwell, 1968, in front of easel with his “Blood Brothers” painting as shown in photograph from Ben Sonder book, “The Legacy of Norman Rockwell.”
Norman Rockwell, 1968, in front of easel with his “Blood Brothers” painting as shown in photograph from Ben Sonder book, “The Legacy of Norman Rockwell.”

Rockwell continued working on the project though June 1968 when Allen Hurlburt at Look suggested that Rockwell change the ghetto scene to a Vietnam battlefield scene.  Rockwell then had the two men in essentially the same position, now dressed in military uniform, presumably killed in action during the Vietnam War, their helmets cast beside them on the ground.  In war, of course, there was no discrimination; death and injury came to soldiers the same way, no matter if they were black or white.  At this point the painting began to be known as Blood Brothers.   However, later that fall, the editors at Look decided not to use the painting.

Rockwell wasn’t happy with the decision, did some soul searching and talked with friends about the painting, but set it aside and moved on to other work.  But later that year, Rockwell received an invitation from the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), a civil rights group founded by students at the University of Chicago in 1942.  CORE was active in desegregation protests and sits-in from its founding, and became a leading civil rights group in the 1960s, especially in the South, and also helped sponsor the 1963 March on Washington and other events.  CORE wanted Rockwell to do an illustration for a Christmas card that the organization likely planned to use to send to its membership or perhaps for fundraising.  But Rockwell did not send the group a typical Christmas or Holiday-themed illustration.  Instead, he sent them the Blood Brothers painting.  CORE, in any case, was happy to have Blood Brothers.  However, it is not known how CORE used the painting or whether the group reproduced it for other purposes.  One account has reported that the painting is missing from the CORE collection.  The earlier studies and sketches Rockwell did for the painting are still held at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.

Rockwell RFK sketches.
Rockwell RFK sketches.

Rockwell, in any case, had been a very busy man in 1968.  He had done portraits of all the presidential candidates for Look magazine that year – President Lyndon Johnson and U.S. Senators Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey and Bobby Kennedy for the Democrats, and Ronald Regan, Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon for the Republicans.

Also in 1968, Rockwell’s Right to Know – a painting of a diverse group of citizens addressing their government – was published in Look’s August 20th edition.  The 74 year-old artist had a number of other projects ongoing that year as well, including advertising work and illustrations for a children’s book.  He also found time that year to appear on the Joey Bishop Show and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Belated Recognition

Norman Rockwell continued painting through his 70s.  However, it was only in his latter years that his work began to be recognized for its artistic value.  During much of his professional life, especially during his Saturday Evening Post years, Rockwell’s work was dismissed by many art critics who regarded his portrayals of American life to be idealistic or too sentimental.  They did not consider him a “serious painter;” others believed his talents were wasted or put to frivolous purpose.  Yet time would work in Rockwell’s favor.

Today, his body of work, stretching over more that 60 years, is highly regarded and continues to be studied by scholars while  thousands flock to Rockwell exhibitions wherever they appear.  During his lifetime Rockwell completed some 4,000 original works, some lost to fire.  In addition to his several hundred magazine illustrations and covers for Saturday Evening Post, Look, and other publications, he also did illustrations for more than 40 books including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; made annual contributions to the Boy Scouts of America calendars between 1925 and 1976; did illustrations for the Brown & Bigelow publishing and advertising firm between 1947 and 1964; completed numerous illustrations for booklets, catalogs, movie posters, sheet music, stamps, and playing cards; and also painted a few wall murals.  His portrait work in later years would involve a number of famous figures, among them, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Arnold Palmer, Frank Sinatra, and John Wayne.  He also did a few unexpected pieces, such as a 1968 album cover portrait of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper for their rock-blues recording, The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.

In 1969, having lived in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for last quarter of his life, he agreed to lend some of his works to the Stockbridge Historical Society for a permanent exhibition.  Word soon spread that his works were on display there and attendance grew annually, into the thousands.  By 1973, then in his late 70s, Rockwell established a trust to preserve his collection, placed initially in a custodianship that would later became the Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge.  In 1977, Rockwell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Gerald R. Ford, recognizing his “vivid and affectionate portraits of our country.”  The following year, on November 8, 1978, Rockwell died at his Stockbridge home at the age of 84.  An unfinished painting remained on his easel.

Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” became a WWII & women’s rights icon. The original painting sold for .95million in 2002.
Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” became a WWII & women’s rights icon. The original painting sold for .95million in 2002.

In July of 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative series of five Rockwell works including “Triple Self Portrait” and “The Four Freedoms.”  In 1999, New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl said of Rockwell in ArtNews: “Rockwell is terrific.  It’s become too tedious to pretend he isn’t.”  Rockwell’s work was exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York city from November 1999 through February 2002.

Today, Norman Rockwell originals fetch millions at auction, and in recent years the values have been jumping.  Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter painting, used for a Saturday Evening Post cover in 1943 shown at right, was sold twice in recent years – once in 2000 for $2 million, and when resold again in May 2002, escalated to $4.95 million.  His Homecoming Marine sold for $9.2 million at auction in May 2006.  And in November 2006 at Sotheby’s in New York, Rockwell’s Breaking Home Ties sold for $15.4 million.  Collectors of Rockwell art today include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian, The National Portrait Gallery, the Corcoran Gallery, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and others.

1994 U.S. postage stamp for Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want.”
1994 U.S. postage stamp for Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want.”

The Norman Rockwell Museum  in Stockbridge, MA – with visitors now trending upwards of 160,000 annually – holds the world’s largest collection of original Rockwell art, including some 574 original works as well as the Norman Rockwell Archives of photographs, fan mail, and other documents.  Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges painting – The Problem We All Live With – featured at the top of this story, is on display at the White House from June 22 – October 31, 2011.  Thereafter it is scheduled to rejoin the Rockwell museum’s traveling exhibition, “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell.”

Other stories at this website dealing with magazine art and magazine history include: “FDR & Vanity Fair” (cover art in the 1930s);  “Murdoch’s NY Deals” (history of New York magazine, 1970s);  ”Remington’s West” ( art & John Hancock advertising, 1959); and “Christy Mathewson” (art & John Hancock advertising, 1958).  Thanks for visiting. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  September 23, 2011
Last Update:  September 26, 2011
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Rockwell & Race, 1963-1968,”
PopHistoryDig.com, September 22, 2011.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

1940s: Norman Rockwell at work on a magazine cover.
1940s: Norman Rockwell at work on a magazine cover.
"Thataway" - March 1934 Saturday Evening Post cover; example of early "rule" on African American depiction.
"Thataway" – March 1934 Saturday Evening Post cover; example of early "rule" on African American depiction.
Nov 29, 1960: White parent, Rev. Lloyd Foreman (left) walks his five-year-old daughter Pam to the newly integrated William Frantz School where they were blocked by jeering crowd. At right is AP reporter Dave Zinman. AP photo.
Nov 29, 1960: White parent, Rev. Lloyd Foreman (left) walks his five-year-old daughter Pam to the newly integrated William Frantz School where they were blocked by jeering crowd. At right is AP reporter Dave Zinman. AP photo.
Nov 30, 1960: White parent Mrs. James Gabrielle, with police escort, is harassed by protestors as she walks her young daughter home after day in the newly integrated William Frantz school in New Orleans. Crowd wanted total white boycott. AP photo.
Nov 30, 1960: White parent Mrs. James Gabrielle, with police escort, is harassed by protestors as she walks her young daughter home after day in the newly integrated William Frantz school in New Orleans. Crowd wanted total white boycott. AP photo.
Rockwell’s “Breaking Home Ties,” SEP cover art of Sept 25, 1954, depicts father and son sitting on automobile running board as son departs for college, sold for 15.4 million dollars at Sotheby's auction in 2006.
Rockwell’s “Breaking Home Ties,” SEP cover art of Sept 25, 1954, depicts father and son sitting on automobile running board as son departs for college, sold for 15.4 million dollars at Sotheby’s auction in 2006.
Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace,” SEP cover art of Nov 24, 1951 and a fan favorite, depicts an older women and young boy giving thanks for their meal at a shared table amid busy scene in a working class restaurant.
Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace,” SEP cover art of Nov 24, 1951 and a fan favorite, depicts an older women and young boy giving thanks for their meal at a shared table amid busy scene in a working class restaurant.
Norman Rockwell’s "Truth About Santa" or "Discovery,” captures the complete surprise of a crestfallen young boy who has discovered Dad’s Santa suit. SEP cover, December 29, 1956.

DeNeen Brown, “Iconic Moment Finds a Space at White House,” Washington Post, Monday, August 29, 2011, p. C-1.

“Norman Rockwell,” Wikipedia.org.

Richard Reeves, “Norman Rockwell is Exactly Like a Norman Rockwell,” New York Times Magazine, Sunday, February 28, 1971, p. 42.

“Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post Covers in Order of Publication,” My-Mags.com.

Katy Reckdahl, “Fifty Years Later, Students Recall Integrating New Orleans Public Schools,” Times-Picayune,(New Orleans, LA), Saturday, November 13, 2010 (with photo gallery).

Angelo Lopez, “Norman Rockwell and the Civil Rights Paintings,” EveryDay Citizen.com, February 11, 2008.

Kirstie L. Kleopfer, “Norman Rockwell’s Civil Rights Paintings of the 1960s,” Master of Arts Thesis, University of Cincinnati, Department of Art History of the School of Art, College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning, Cincinnati, Oho, May 16, 2007.

“Killers’ Confession: The Confession in Look,PBS.org (Reprint of January 1956 Look article, “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi,”by William Bradford Huie).

“Freedom Summer: Newsweek Civil Rights Covers,” DailyBeast.com, 2011.

Richard Halpern, Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence, University of Chicago Press, 2006, 201pp.

“Rockwell’s Four Freedoms: The Historical Context,” Fulbright American Studies Institute, University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Rockwell’s Four Freedoms: The Paintings Evolve,” Fulbright American Studies Institute, University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Four Freedoms (Norman Rockwell),” Wikipedia.org.

“Building Bridges,” Teachers College, Columbia University, June 1, 2004.

Ken Laird Studios, “The Problem We All Live With” – The Truth About Rockwell’s Painting,” HubPages.com, 2009.

Leoneda Inge, “Norman Rockwell And Civil Rights,” North Carolina Public Radio, WUNC, Friday, December 17, 2010.

Andy Brack, “Rockwell Painting Nudged Nation,” LikeTheDew.com, January 18, 2010

Robert Coles, “In the South These Children Prophesy,” Atlantic Monthly, March 1963.

Robert Coles, The Story of Ruby Bridges. New York: Scholastic Press, 1995 [ Tells the story of Ruby Bridges’ first year of school through words & illustrations; for children, ages 4-8 ].

Ruby Bridges, Through My Eyes, New York: Scholastic Press, 1999.

“Ruby Bridges,” Wikipedia.org.

“‘Brown v. Board at Fifty’- When School Integration Became the Law of the Land,” Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Claude Sitton, “3 In Rights Drive Reported Missing; Mississippi Campaign Heads Fear Foul Play–Inquiry by F.B.I. Is Ordered…,” New York Times, June 24, 1964, p. 1.

Joseph Lelyveld, “A Stranger In Philadelphia, Mississippi,” New York Times Magazine, December 27, 1964, p. 139.

William Bradford Huie, Three Lives for Mississippi, Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 2000 (first published in 1965).

Shaila Dewan, “Former Klansman Guilty of Manslaughter in 1964 Deaths,” New York Times, June 22, 2005.

“Look Magazine on ‘Suburbia’,” America on the Move, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Inst., Washington, D.C.

Louie Lamone (American, 1918–2007). Photographs for New Kids in the Neighborhood, Exhibitions: “Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera,” Brooklyn Museum.

Laura Claridge, Norman Rockwell: A Life, New York: Random House, 2001.

Brian Lamb, Conversation with Laura Claridge, author, Norman Rockwell: A Life, Booknotes-TV (video), C-Span.org, October 11, 2001.

“Norman Rockwell, Cover Gallery, 1920s,” CurtisPublishing.com.

“Norman Rockwell, Cover Gallery, 1940s,” CurtisPublishing.com.

“Norman Rockwell Biography,1953 Through 1978,” Best-Norman-Rockwell-Art.com.

Thomas S. Buechner, Norman Rockwell, Artist and Illustrator, New York: Abrams, 1970. (includes reproductions of 600 Rockwell’s illustrations).

Norman Rockwell, My Adventures as an Illustrator: An Autobiography, Indianapolis: Curtis Publishing, 1979.

Anistatia R. Miller, “Norman Rockwell,” Illustration, 1994 Hall of Fame, Art Directors Club, 1994.

Maureen Hart-Hennessey and Anne Knutson (eds), Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People, New York: Abrams, 1999.

G. Jurek Polanski, Review, “Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People” (at Chicago Historical Society, Feb 26 – May 21, 2000), ArtScope.net.

“The U.S. Civil Rights Movement,” Photo Gallery, State.gov.

Linda Szekely Pero, “Norman Rockwell, Year by Year – 1968,” Portfolio, Magazine of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Autum, 2004, pp. 8-14.

Carol Vogel, “$15.4 Million at Sotheby’s For a Rockwell Found Hidden Behind a Wall,” New York Times, November 30, 2006.

Jack Doyle, “Rosie The Riveter, 1941-1945″ (WWII & women’s rights icon), PopHistoryDig.com, February 28, 2009.

Ted Kreiter, “Norman Rockwell: Getting the Real Picture,” SaturdayEvening Post.com, 2009.

Carol Kino, “The Rise of the House of Rockwell,” New York Times, February 4, 2009.

“The Art of Rockwell” (Gallery), New York Times.com, February 2009.

CBS News, “Lucas and Spielberg on Norman Rockwell,” CBS.com, July 10, 2010.

Brooklyn Museum, Teacher Resource Packet, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, November 19, 2010–April 10, 2011.

The Saturday Evening Post: Norman Rockwell Covers,” My-Mags.com.

Life Covers: Civil Rights,” Photo Gallery, Life.com.

See Also, These Stories:

Jack Doyle, “Dylan: Only A Pawn…, 1963″ ( Bob Dylan’s Medgar Evans song & other civil rights music, w/video link ), PopHistoryDig.com, November 23, 2010.

Jack Doyle, “Strange Fruit, 1939″ ( Billie Holiday song history & bio ), PopHistoryDig.com, March 7, 2011.

Jack Doyle, “Motown’s Heat Wave, 1963-1966″( pop music history, 1960s), PopHistoryDig.com, November 7, 2009.

Jack Doyle, “Reese & Robbie, 1945-2005″ (Brooklyn baseball statue of Jackie Robinson & Pee Wee Reese), PopHistoryDig.com, June 29, 2011.

Jack Doyle, “When Harry Met Petula, April 1968″(television, music & civil rights history), PopHistoryDig.com, February 7, 2009.

Voir aussi:

Norman Rockwell

Once upon a time there was the American dream…

The artist’s paintings on display in New York next to the photos from which they were taken. The photographic sets were mounted with impeccable attention to the details.

His extraordinary capacity to render the atmosphere of an epoch. His commitment to civil rights behind an apparent naivety

Tiziano Thomas Dossena

I live in Crestwood, an idyllic neighborhood in the city of Yonkers, which is just north of the Bronx. Here, many years ago, Norman Rockwell, (New York, 1894 – Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1978) the great American artist, had chosen to depict the local train station in one of his magnificent paintings (Commuters, 1946). When I saw it for the first time I realized why he had become an icon in the American art world. The painting was “alive” in all senses. Not only were the images carefully studied and replicated, but the overall feeling of the composition conveyed the mood, the characteristics of that community at that time, or at least it gave the impression of doing so. I admired his work without realizing what it really entailed.

It took a visit to the exhibition Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera (one of Norman Rockwell Museum’s traveling exhibition, on until April 10th at the Brooklyn Museum) to open up a new world to me about his painting techniques and his deeply professional artistic approach to reality as he chose to reproduce it.

I always knew he used models for his paintings, but never realized that he staged their positions, photographed them and then painted them, always retaining the original idea, but adding his own particular twist to the images. He used these photographs as building blocks for his compositions, allowing him to develop flawless images which have enhanced and beautified the covers of many popular American magazines and advertisements for almost 60 years. In the exhibition, organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, some of the artist’s photographs (spanning from the early ‘40s to the late ‘60s) are placed alongside his paintings, drawings, and commercial illustrations to enlighten us about the working process of one of America’s most beloved artists.

A superlative narrator of the American way of life through his popular illustrations, Norman Rockwell stood for what is right in American life even when he portrayed scenes that depicted controversial situations such as struggles for civil rights, the war on poverty and discrimination.

Rockwell, unlike Walter Molino in Italy, aimed at something more than to illustrate an episode or an attribute of the society of which he was such an outstanding member. He may have been appearing to recreate endearing and adorable images of little girls dealing with approaching adulthood, boys’ exchanges with bullies and children’s escapades. His illustrations or paintings, which always brought a smile to the face of the viewer, clearly give the first impression of having been just simply created for the visual enjoyment of the readers. Observing his work, though, we may notice two major tendencies developing through the years. The first is the complexity of the pictures, which tended to acquire more and more details, and the second is the depth of the message that came with the image. His details allow for an educational experience about the specific decade in which the painting was produced. Nothing is left to chance. The clothing, the gadgets, the cars, the houses and all the particulars that pervade his creations are true to life and reflect his exactness. In the painting New Kids in the Neighborhood(1967), for example, the cat that the little black girl is holding in her hands is white, while the puppy alongside the white kids is black, a silent comment on the unimportance of color, and both the black boy and the white one carry baseball gloves, a common bond that will allow for the overcoming of prejudice.

Moreover, Rockwell also stood for an America free of the bigotry, discrimination and racism which had characterized it throughout his lifetime. He expressed what the common decent citizen of that country felt and was sometimes too timorous to articulate: America was a beautiful country, but changes had to come, as they eventually did. He was criticized at first for his adamant pro-civil rights stand and his portrayals of delicate situations aimed at awakening the American fairness, in which he undoubtedly believed. However, even that criticism could not damage his powerful and undisputed artistic reputation.

His art was more than messages about the rights of the underprivileged. The America one may see and appreciate through his magnificent art work is a sanguine, true to itself, sometimes slightly kitsch but always fascinating, intriguing and unique America, the land of liberty, Coca Cola, skyscrapers and the bald eagle, the land of Norman Rockwell. That is why, even today, as I pass by Crestwood station, I can’t help but smile, reliving that image in my mind as if it was the first time.


Société: Cachez cette différence que je ne saurai voir (When in doubt, sexualize or butcher the quote!)

21 novembre, 2012
http://vulpeslibris.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/victorians.jpg?w=280&h=443Il n’y a plus ni Juif ni Grec, il n’y a plus ni esclave ni homme libre, il n’y a plus ni homme ni femme; car tous vous êtes un en Jésus-Christ. Paul
C’est dingue ! Si on n’est pas branchée sex-toys, si on n’aime pas parler de masturbation en gloussant autour d’un mojito, et qu’on ne cumule pas les amants, on est… nulle. Anonyme
It’s easier to mangle an analogy and ridicule it than grapple with its reality. Volkoh
"Hooking up" is a common phrase among young people today, but as journalist Stepp (author of Our Last Best Shot, 2000) discovered, the term is nebulous in meaning. Covering a range of sexual behavior, hooking up can mean anything from kissing to intercourse, as well as everything in between. Stepp conducted extensive interviews with young women in high school and college to find out how this casual approach to sexual encounters is affecting a generation. What she learned is that in large part hooking up had supplanted dating, with both young men and women eschewing deeper relationships for casual encounters with little or no commitment involved. Stepp looks at how the culture of today fosters these attitudes, noting that when young women are expected to excel at school and have numerous outside activities, many feel they don’t have time to form a deeper bond with a significant other. Eye-opening and powerful, Stepp’s book also offers empowering advice for women as they navigate today’s sexual landscape. Kristine Huntley
What makes hooking up unique is that its practitioners agree that there will be no commitment, no exclusivity, no feelings. The girls adopt the crude talk of crude boys: They speak of hitting it, of boy toys and filler boys, "my plaything" and "my bitch." Why hook up? According to Stepp, college women, obsessed with academic and career success, say they don’t have time for a real relationship; high school girls say lovey-dovey relationships give them the "yucks". Stepp is troubled: How will these girls learn how to be loving couples in this hook-up culture? Where will they practice the behavior needed to sustain deep and long-term relationships? If they commit to a lack of commitment, how will they ever learn to be intimate? These questions sound reasonable at first, until one remembers that life just doesn’t work that way (…) In fact, Unhooked can be downright painful to read. The author resurrects the ugly, old notion of sex as something a female gives in return for a male’s good behavior, and she imagines the female body as a thing that can be tarnished by too much use. She advises the girls, « He will seek to win you over only if he thinks you’re a prize." And goes on to tell them, "In a smorgasbord of booty, all the hot dishes start looking like they’ve been on the warming table too long." It seems strange to have to state the obvious all over again: Both males and females should work hard to gain another’s affection and trust. And one’s sexuality is not a commodity that, given away too readily and too often, will exhaust or devalue itself. Tell girls that it is such a commodity (as they were told for a number of decades), and they will rebel. The author is conflating what the girls refuse to conflate: love and sexuality. Sometimes they coexist, sometimes not. Loving, faithful marriages in which the sex life has cooled are as much a testament to that fact as a lustful tryst that leads nowhere. In the final chapter, Stepp writes a letter to mothers and daughters, in which she warns the girls: « Your body is your property. . . . Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you? » And: « Pornographic is grinding on the dance floor like a dog in heat. It leaves nothing to the imagination. » The ugliness of these images seems meant to instill sexual shame. Stepp is most thought-provoking when she considers the culture at large: All the females she interviews come from reasonably well-off families, we’re told, and all are ambitious. "Hooking up enables a young woman to practice a piece of a relationship, the physical, while devoting most of her energy to staying on the honor roll . . . playing lacrosse . . . and applying to graduate programs in engineering." In a culture that values money and fame above all, that eschews failure, bad luck, trouble and pain, none of us speaks the language of love and forbearance. But it is not hooking up that has created this atmosphere. Hooking up is either a faithful reflection of the culture, a Darwinian response to a world where half the marriages end in divorce, or it is an attempt at something new. Perhaps, this generation, by making sex less precious, less a commodity, will succeed in putting simple humanity back into sex. Why bring someone into your bed? Maybe because she is brilliant and has a whimsical sense of humor, or he is both sarcastic and vulnerable, and has beautiful eyes. And perhaps as this generation grows up, they will come to relish other sides of an intimate relationship more than we have: the friendship, the shared humor, the familiar and loved body next to you in bed at night. This is the most hopeful outcome of the culture Stepp describes, but no less possible than the outcome she fears — a generation unable to commit, unable to weather storms or to stomach second place or really to love at all. Kathy Dobie
Suppose that everything we think we know about ‘The Victorians’ is wrong? That we have persistently misrepresented their culture, perhaps to make ourselves feel more satisfyingly liberal and sophisticated? What if they were much more fun than we ever suspected? As Matthew Sweet shows us in this brilliant study, many of the concepts that strike us as terrifically new – political spin-doctoring, extravagant publicity stunts, hardcore pornography, anxieties about the impact of popular culture upon children – are Victorian inventions. Most of the pleasures that we imagine to be our own, the Victorians enjoyed first: the theme park, the shopping mall, the movies, the amusement arcade, the crime novel and the sensational newspaper report. They were engaged in a well-nigh continuous search for bigger and better thrills. If Queen Victoria wasn’t amused, then she was in a very small minority . . . Matthew Sweet’s book is an attempt to re-imagine the Victorians; to suggest new ways of looking at received ideas about their culture; to distinguish myth from reality; to generate the possibility of a new relationship between the lives of 19th-century people and our own. Inventing the Victorians (Book presentation)
Butchering quotations or taking things out of context quotes is unfair, but when the butchered text is then ridiculed further, the unfairness tends to be compounded. So it was with great interest that I followed Glenn Reynolds’ "ridicule and ellipsis" link to Eugene Volokh’s take on a WaPo book review which butchered the author’s words until they looked ridiculous enough to ridicule, then ridiculed them for looking ridiculous! (…) Although times have changed (along with, fortunately, the consequences of lost virginity), this is not complicated stuff. To understand it does not involve social conservatism, nor is it necessarily about morality. (I think it’s more about mechanics, laws of physics, coupled with basic self awareness.) It’s just that on this one key point, there is a huge difference between men and women. A Basic. Biological. Difference. (Sorry if I plagiarized your technique, Rachel Lucas, wherever you are.) Mechanically and from a mental perspective, sex is just very different for the two sexes. It’s inherently more special for women than for men, and that’s reflected in the nature of the way the gametes are both presented and delivered. One egg released per month versus hundreds of millions of sperm cells released for every male ejaculation. The rare and precious versus the common; the internal versus the external. Because of the mechanics involved in sexual penetration, the loss of virginity in women is accomplished by the breaking of something which can never be restored as it once was. The "loss" of virginity in men, on the other hand, is not a loss, but a gain. A man’s first sexual experience involves a physical venturing out and a penetration into a hitherto unknown area, into which an invading army of tiny millions is released. The accomplishment of this act for the first time is a demonstration to the man that his reproductive system is functional and working properly. In this regard, it makes no sense to speak in terms of a "loss" of male "virginity"; it is actually a gain of a new skill, one which is required if he is to do it again. Thus, what has been "broken" for the woman has, for the man, been "fixed." I don’t think it’s complicated at all. I just don’t think most people are comfortable recognizing any reality which goes to the difference between the sexes.(…) It strikes me that shaming virginity is just as bad as shaming the loss of it. And why the refusal to acknowledge that it’s a different thing for men and women? I can’t help but wonder whether the deliberate disregard of the differences between the sexes might be another form of sexual shame. Classical values
In a 2000 lecture dealing with (among other things) the mutation of "virtues" into "values," Gertrude Himmelfarb asked whether the covering of piano legs by Victorians really involved sexuality: This mutation in the word "virtue" has the effect first of narrowing the meaning of the word, reducing it to a matter of sexuality alone; and then of belittling and disparaging the sexual virtues themselves. These virtues, chastity and fidelity, have been further trivialized by the popular conception of Victorians as pathologically inhibited and repressed. Thus "Victorian values" have been associated with piano legs modestly sheathed in pantaloons, human as well as table legs referred to as "limbs," and books by men and women authors dwelling chastely on separate shelves in country-house libraries. In fact, these were not the normal (or even abnormal) practices of real Victorians. They were often the inventions of contemporary satirists (writers in Punch, for example), which have been perpetuated by gullible historians. "The woman who draped the legs of her piano", one historian solemnly informs us, "so far from concealing her conscious and unconscious exhibitionism, ended by sexualising the piano; no mean feat". In fact, it is this historian who has sexualized the piano and has imposed his own sexual fantasies upon the Victorians. Classical values

Refus de la différence, quand tu nous tiens!

Découvert sur le net …

En ces temps étranges de parent 1 (ou A) et de parent 2 (ou B) …

Et en ce bientôt meilleur des mondes de mamans (porteuses) ou de putains remboursées par la sécu

Cet intéressant site de réinformation culturelle (Classical values) qui prétend, ô périlleuse mais louable ambition, "mettre un terme à la guerre culturelle en restaurant les valeurs culturelles" …

Où l’on apprend par exemple comment pour mieux enfoncer un livre déplorant la véritable mise au ban de la virginité dans certains milieux, un critique du Washington post n’hésite pas, au point de la dénaturer complètement voire de lui faire dire le contraire de ce qu’elle disait vraiment, à charcuter une citation …

Ou, alternativement, comment,  pour ridiculiser la prétendue obsession de la même virginité de nos arrières-parents victoriens, certains de nos historiens trop crédules ont pu prendre pour argent comptant les plaisanteries des Victoriens eux-mêmes (sur leurs cousins… américains!) et ainsi, pour des générations après eux, sexualiser malgré eux les pieds de leurs pianos …

Shaming the unshattered?

Classical values

March 03, 2007

Butchering quotations or taking things out of context quotes is unfair, but when the the butchered text is then ridiculed further, the unfairness tends to be compounded. So it was with great interest that I followed Glenn Reynolds’ "ridicule and ellipsis" link to Eugene Volokh’s take on a WaPo book review which butchered the author’s words until they looked ridiculous enough to ridicule, then ridiculed them for looking ridiculous!

The book in question is Laura Sessions Stepp’s Unhooked, and as Volokh makes clear, the butchery of the quote renders her thought almost incoherent.

Here’s the mangled (and subsequently ridiculed) WaPo quote:

Your body is your property…. Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you?

Yeah, that makes very little sense. But here’s what’s omitted:

Your body is your property. No one has a right to enter unless you welcome them in. Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you? Is your body worth less than a house?

And here’s Eugene Volokh:

The second sentence (the omission of which the Post noted with the ellipses) explains why we’re talking about nonconsensual rock-throwing. In this paragraph, the author seems not to be faulting fully consensual, enthusiastic casual sex, but rather casual sex of the sort that is at least not entirely welcome (a characteristic that I take it the author thinks is not uncommon in casual sex). Many young women, the author is suggesting, let men have sex with them even though they do not fully "welcome them in," perhaps because they feel pressured by the man or by social expectations. Not-fully-welcome sex is not the same as rock-throwing, but at least the analogy is closer than it is between presumably enthusiastic "hooking up" and rock-throwing.

The fourth sentence (which is also omitted in the Post review, though conventions of quotation allow the omission not to be marked with ellipses) then tries to tie the body with the house: They aren’t the same (for instance, in the sense that they’re both great places to have a party), but rather they’re both valuable, and your body is if anything even more valuable. Again, not a terribly convincing metaphor, but not as zany or worthy of derision as some might think. Among other things, try the lampoon quoted above on the whole paragraph:

I don’t think Stepp’s broken window analogy is either zany or worthy of derision, although I understand why others would. I suspect that those who derided the analogy are only pretending not to understand it, and I think they wouldn’t want to get it (and would claim not to get it if someone explained it). That’s because the broken window analogy goes to the center of the difference between the sexes that people imagine can be dismissed. Therefore, it’s easier to mangle an analogy and ridicule it than grapple with its reality.

The broken window analogy (to a woman’s loss of virginity) is hardly new. Ask anyone who studied art history.

There’s Bouguereau’s Broken Pitcher, Greuze’s Broken Pitcher, and I even found a cute little narrative about the subject coming up in an art history class:

She is actually relieved to be in Art History discussing Greuze’s Broken Pitcher, even if there are idiots in her class. The girl with the jewel-encrusted crucifix obscuring all her other features insistently claims the girl in the painting signifies the masses, and the broken pitcher is their broken relationship with Christ. The cocky guy who has missed half the classes since joining his frat, is spinning the class all off on a tangent somehow connecting the broken pitcher to unemployment rates during the Great Depression. Stupid.

Sighing, she is patient, sighing again and again as she digests her so-called peers’ comments and systematically discards their worth. The class wallows in a pit of circular reasoning. Just as she is about to reach her limit and set them all straight, the teacher says, "What if it’s about sex? What if the pitcher is her virginity?"

Silence blooms. Her classmates look at each other, some giggling.

I don’t know whether the teacher planned on show-and-tell, so I’ll complement her lecture by adding Bouguereau’s Broken Pitcher:

It’s tough to unwrite Art History, but I’m sure they’re working on it.

Although times have changed (along with, fortunately, the consequences of lost virginity), this is not complicated stuff. To understand it does not involve social conservatism, nor is it necessarily about morality. (I think it’s more about mechanics, laws of physics, coupled with basic self awareness.) It’s just that on this one key point, there is a huge difference between men and women. A Basic. Biological. Difference. (Sorry if I plagiarized your technique, Rachel Lucas, wherever you are.) Mechanically and from a mental perspective, sex is just very different for the two sexes. It’s inherently more special for women than for men, and that’s reflected in the nature of the way the gametes are both presented and delivered. One egg released per month versus hundreds of millions of sperm cells released for every male ejaculation. The rare and precious versus the common; the internal versus the external.

Because of the mechanics involved in sexual penetration, the loss of virginity in women is accomplished by the breaking of something which can never be restored as it once was. The "loss" of virginity in men, on the other hand, is not a loss, but a gain. A man’s first sexual experience involves a physical venturing out and a penetration into a hitherto unknown area, into which an invading army of tiny millions is released. The accomplishment of this act for the first time is a demonstration to the man that his reproductive system is functional and working properly. In this regard, it makes no sense to speak in terms of a "loss" of male "virginity"; it is actually a gain of a new skill, one which is required if he is to do it again. Thus, what has been "broken" for the woman has, for the man, been "fixed."

I don’t think it’s complicated at all. I just don’t think most people are comfortable recognizing any reality which goes to the difference between the sexes.

As to what is going on in the mind in the mental or moral sense, that’s more complicated. The WaPo reviewer touches on a favorite subject of Classical Values, and that is sexual shame:

In the final chapter, Stepp writes a letter to mothers and daughters, in which she warns the girls: "Your body is your property. . . . Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you?" And: "Pornographic is grinding on the dance floor like a dog in heat. It leaves nothing to the imagination." The ugliness of these images seems meant to instill sexual shame.

Look, I’m more against sexual shame than anyone I know. Seriously, I am not kidding; just poke around the blog.

But I have one question for the WaPo writer. Since when is a dog in heat (actually, it should be "bitch in heat") an ugly image? The reason I’m asking is because I’m harboring a bitch in heat right now, and Coco does not take kindly to being called ugly by the MSM! She’s not ugly, and she leaves plenty to the imagination. Well, maybe not when she’s waving her little vagina around and her tail curls and the coat of hair on her butt gets all wrinkly and slitherers forward in anticipation of a tie-up. But even that is not without it’s charm, at least for a shameless relativist like me. The bottom line is that Coco is not ugly, and I don’t consider any of this shameful. (Although I suspect the WaPo might be trying to shame Ms. Stepp.)

I keep saying that what we call the Culture War is really a war over sex, because I think it is. At the heart of that, though, is a war over sexual shame. While I don’t know whether Ms. Stepp is trying to instill feelings of sexual shame as the Post says, I do know that plenty of people are very frustrated by the absence of sexual shame in others.

The problem is, as I keep saying, you can’t feel what you don’t have, nor can you expect that if you’re disgusted with something, that others will share your disgust. Sometimes, I think there’s on one "side" a demand that others not be disgusted by things which disgust them, while on the other "side" there’s an equally shrill demand that they be disgusted by things that don’t disgust them.

Right now though, I’m feeling a little disgusted by the lack of honesty in the way this argument is being addressed, because it just isn’t being addressed. People yell at each other’s tastes or what they perceive as a lack thereof, and they don’t even seem to realize that what they’re doing is demanding not accommodation or tolerance of their tastes or disgusts, but a sharing of them. While this strikes me as an unreasonable argument, there’s no way to discuss whether it’s a reasonable argument if people aren’t even aware that it is in fact an argument.

Take Leon Kass’s wisdom of repugnance. Please!

No seriously, let’s take it, because I’ve devoted time to it and gotten not very far. There is no question that sexual shame varies from person to person, as do sexual tastes. From a previous post, here’s Martha Nussbaum, interviewed by Reason’s Julian Sanchez:

Unlike anger, disgust does not provide the disgusted person with a set of reasons that can be used for the purposes of public argument and public persuasion. If my child has been murdered and I am angry at that, I can persuade you that you should share those reasons; if you do, you will come to share my outrage. But if someone happens to feel that gay men are disgusting, that person cannot offer any reasoning that will persuade someone to share that emotion; there is nothing that would make the dialogue a real piece of persuasion.

Reason: As a follow up, can you say something about how that cashes out into a critique of communitarian ideals?

Nussbaum: The prominent defenders of the appeal to disgust and shame in law have all been communitarians of one or another stripe ([Lord] Devlin, [Amitai] Etzioni, Kass), and this, I claim, is no accident. What their thought shares is the idea that society ought to have at its core a homogeneous group of people whose ways of living, of having sex, of looking and being, are defined as "normal." People who deviate from that norm may then be stigmatized, and penalized by law, even if their conduct causes no harm. That was the core of Lord Devlin’s idea, and it is endorsed straightforwardly by Etzioni, and, in a rather different way, and in a narrower set of contexts, by Kass. My study of disgust and shame shows that these emotions threaten key values of a liberal society, especially equal respect for people and for their liberty. Disgust and shame are inherently hierarchical; they set up ranks and orders of human beings. They are also inherently connected with restrictions on liberty in areas of non-harmful conduct. For both of these reasons, I believe, anyone who cherishes the key democratic values of equality and liberty should be deeply suspicious of the appeal to those emotions in the context of law and public policy.

While I think trying to make someone feel shame who does not feel it is a waste of time, my point is that even if you put sexual shame aside, in logic something is being given up by a woman that is not being given up by a man. To deny this denies reality.

Denial of reality has a way of annoying me, but it’s even more annoying when it’s done in the name of reality.

But I think there’s something more going on than denial. I think the attempt to tar Ms. Stepp with the accusation that she’s fostering sexual shame obscures something else which Eugene Volokh mentioned, and that is the pressure of what he calls "social expectations."

From the Amazon book description:

In Unhooked, Stepp follows three groups of young women (one in high school, one each at Duke and George Washington universities). She sat with them in class, socialized with them, listened to them talk, and came away with some disturbing insights, including that hooking up carries with it no obligation on either side. Relationships and romance are seen as messy and time-consuming, and love is postponed-or worse, seen as impossible. Some young women can handle this, but many can’t, and they’re being battered-physically and emotionally-by the new dating landscape. The result is a generation of young people stymied by relationships and unsure where to turn for help.

If it is true that some of the young women doing this cannot handle it, then I wonder why. I haven’t read the book, but might another form of shame be going on?

Is it possible that not wanting to have sex might be considered shameful in some circles? Might there be a stigma attached to virginity?

Apparently, there is. And it didn’t take me long to find it. Here’s the (U Va) Cavalier Daily’s Kate Durbin:

Having or abstaining from sex is a personal decision. Like drinking alcohol or eating meat, it is a choice that each person must make for him or herself, free from the pressures of peers and society in general. No reason need be given as to why someone chooses to abstain from sex, just as no reason need be given when someone chooses not to consume alcohol. Personal decisions are just that — personal. They should be respected as such. Virgins, angered by the negativity surrounding their choices, should seek to change societal attitudes instead of spending time enumerating the reasons they chose to be a virgin.

[...]

….if society is really so open when it comes to sex, why is it that virginity remains such a curse for those college students choosing it? For whatever reason, abstaining from sex has somehow come to be a socially isolating factor, making virgins feel like their choices are somehow viewed as wrong.

As long as current attitudes about sexual choices persist, refraining from sex will continue to be seen as some kind of problem. Having sex or not having sex is a personal choice. This fact must be accepted and respected by our generation.

Hmmm….Virginity a curse? At the University of Virginia at that!

Oh the irony!

I don’t know how typical the above complaint is (there’s more, of course, and it seems to be a response to another column poking fun at virgins), but as someone who is against sexual shame, I try to at least be consistent about it, and it strikes me that shaming virginity is just as bad as shaming the loss of it. And why the refusal to acknowledge that it’s a different thing for men and women?

I can’t help but wonder whether the deliberate disregard of the differences between the sexes might be another form of sexual shame.

Voir aussi:

Without Victorian modesty, even pianos can get carried away!

Classical values

March 13, 2007

In a 2000 lecture dealing with (among other things) the mutation of "virtues" into "values," Gertrude Himmelfarb asked whether the covering of piano legs by Victorians really involved sexuality:

This mutation in the word "virtue" has the effect first of narrowing the meaning of the word, reducing it to a matter of sexuality alone; and then of belittling and disparaging the sexual virtues themselves. These virtues, chastity and fidelity, have been further trivialized by the popular conception of Victorians as pathologically inhibited and repressed. Thus "Victorian values" have been associated with piano legs modestly sheathed in pantaloons, human as well as table legs referred to as "limbs," and books by men and women authors dwelling chastely on separate shelves in country-house libraries.

In fact, these were not the normal (or even abnormal) practices of real Victorians. They were often the inventions of contemporary satirists (writers in Punch, for example), which have been perpetuated by gullible historians. "The woman who draped the legs of her piano," one historian solemnly informs us, "so far from concealing her conscious and unconscious exhibitionism, ended by sexualising the piano; no mean feat." In fact, it is this historian who has sexualized the piano and has imposed his own sexual fantasies upon the Victorians.

I have a minor correction. While I must necessarily take no position on the perpetuation of satire by gullible historians (lest I get into a conflict of interest), and I cannot claim to know who is right about sexualizing the Victorian penchant for covering piano legs, I can state with some confidence that the historian Himmelfarb criticized was not the first to sexualize the piano.

Unless the Victorian satirists were first, I’m afraid the credit must go to Salvador Dali, who did a pretty good job of it back in the 1930s:

Once again, here’s "Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano" (1934):

atmospheric_skull_sodomizing_a_grand_piano.JPG

And from the same year, here’s "Skull with its Lyric Appendage Leaning on a Bedside Table which Should Have the Exact Temperature of a Cardinal’s Nest":

SkullWithLyricAppendage.jpg

I don’t know whether this means the couple had a child or just merged with each other, but the presence of the bedside table indicates some that some sort of ongoing intimacy occurred.

I scrupulously take no position on whether any of this could have been avoided had the piano been appropriately covered.

And at the risk of being anthropopianomorphic, I have to venture that Dali might have been using the pianos as some sort of substitute for his own libido, or maybe his sex life. Because in the same year he painted the indisputably sexualized pianos, he also painted "Cardinal, Cardinal!":

cardinal.jpg

Note the same bedside table. The man (IMO) is clearly Dali, and he’s leaning towards the bedside table at the same angle as the skull does. His shirt even looks like a skull! Not only that, he’s holding a pitcher (the breaking of which artistically symbolizes lost virginity), and seems unable to put it back where it belongs. The uncovered woman is of course his wife Gala. (A divorcee who could not be considered virginal by any definition.)

As to what the reference to the "exact temperature of a cardinal’s nest" might mean, I’m tempted to speculate that it might involve a failure of the human fertility cycle, and I’d note that by 1934 Gala seems to have left her fertility cycles behind her.

Whether Dali was making any judgment about virtues or values (or what that judgment might have been) I’ll leave to others.

Politics is surreal enough as it is.

(I’ve tried not to politicize art, but the piano meme seems to have legs.)

MORE: While I wasn’t thinking about her when I wrote the post, a Hot Air commenter named OBX Pete says that Hillary Clinton looks like a piano:

I’ve seen her legs and believe me you don’t want to see them. If you take a picture of her and crop everything above the waist she could be mistaken for a grand piano. Actually she is doing us all a favor by wearing those pantsuits.

On the other hand, she has to work with what she was born with (as we all do) so she can’t help it if she has piano legs. I’m more concerned with that ultra-liberal mind.

I looked into this and discovered that it’s worse than I imagined — to the point where the Urban Dictionary includes Hillary in the very definition of "Piano Legs":

1. piano legs

Disproportionately thick calves and/or ankles on a woman with otherwise normal body weight.

No wonder Hillary Clinton always wears pant suits. She’s got a humongous set of piano legs.

Voir également:

Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both (by Laura Sessions Stepp)

Going All the Way

 By Reviewed by Kathy Dobie

The Washington Post

February 11, 2007

UNHOOKED

How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both

By Laura Sessions Stepp

Riverhead. 288 pp. $24.95

Reviewed by Kathy Dobie

Articles, op-ed pieces and radio shows have been devoted to the sexual practice of "hooking up," but Washington Post reporter Laura Session Stepp’s Unhooked is the first book on the phenomenon and, one hopes, not the last. For when someone takes such a volatile aspect of young people’s lives and puts it under a microscope — or in this case, a concerned, disapproving gaze — you want the large, well-lit view.

Stepp follows three high school girls and six college women through a year in their lives, chronicling their sexual behavior. These girls and women don’t date, don’t develop long-term relationships or even short, serious ones — instead, they "hook up." Hooking up, Stepp writes, "isn’t exactly anything." It can "consist entirely of one kiss, or it can involve fondling, oral sex, anal sex, intercourse or any combination of those things. It can happen only once with a partner, several times during a week or over many months . . . . It can mean the start of something, the end of something or the whole something." If that sounds as if hooking up can mean almost anything but "fried fish for dinner," Stepp goes on to offer something more definite: What makes hooking up unique is that its practitioners agree that there will be no commitment, no exclusivity, no feelings. The girls adopt the crude talk of crude boys: They speak of hitting it, of boy toys and filler boys, "my plaything" and "my bitch."

Why hook up? According to Stepp, college women, obsessed with academic and career success, say they don’t have time for a real relationship; high school girls say lovey-dovey relationships give them the "yucks."

Stepp is troubled: How will these girls learn how to be loving couples in this hook-up culture? Where will they practice the behavior needed to sustain deep and long-term relationships? If they commit to a lack of commitment, how will they ever learn to be intimate? These questions sound reasonable at first, until one remembers that life just doesn’t work that way: In our teens and early twenties, sexual relationships are less about intimacy than about expanding our intimate knowledge of people — a very different thing. Through sex, we discover irrefutable otherness (he dreams of being madly in love; she hates going to sleep alone ), and we are scared and enraptured, frustrated and inspired. We learn less about intimacy in our youthful sex lives than we do about humanity. And of course, there is also lust, something this very unsexy book about sex doesn’t take into account. In fact, Unhooked can be downright painful to read. The author resurrects the ugly, old notion of sex as something a female gives in return for a male’s good behavior, and she imagines the female body as a thing that can be tarnished by too much use. She advises the girls, "He will seek to win you over only if he thinks you’re a prize."And goes on to tell them, "In a smorgasbord of booty, all the hot dishes start looking like they’ve been on the warming table too long."

It seems strange to have to state the obvious all over again: Both males and females should work hard to gain another’s affection and trust. And one’s sexuality is not a commodity that, given away too readily and too often, will exhaust or devalue itself. Tell girls that it is such a commodity (as they were told for a number of decades), and they will rebel. The author is conflating what the girls refuse to conflate: love and sexuality. Sometimes they coexist, sometimes not. Loving, faithful marriages in which the sex life has cooled are as much a testament to that fact as a lustful tryst that leads nowhere.

In the final chapter, Stepp writes a letter to mothers and daughters, in which she warns the girls: "Your body is your property. . . . Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you?" And: "Pornographic is grinding on the dance floor like a dog in heat. It leaves nothing to the imagination." The ugliness of these images seems meant to instill sexual shame.

Stepp is most thought-provoking when she considers the culture at large: All the females she interviews come from reasonably well-off families, we’re told, and all are ambitious. "Hooking up enables a young woman to practice a piece of a relationship, the physical, while devoting most of her energy to staying on the honor roll . . . playing lacrosse . . . and applying to graduate programs in engineering."

In a culture that values money and fame above all, that eschews failure, bad luck, trouble and pain, none of us speaks the language of love and forbearance. But it is not hooking up that has created this atmosphere. Hooking up is either a faithful reflection of the culture, a Darwinian response to a world where half the marriages end in divorce, or it is an attempt at something new. Perhaps, this generation, by making sex less precious, less a commodity, will succeed in putting simple humanity back into sex. Why bring someone into your bed? Maybe because she is brilliant and has a whimsical sense of humor, or he is both sarcastic and vulnerable, and has beautiful eyes.

And perhaps as this generation grows up, they will come to relish other sides of an intimate relationship more than we have: the friendship, the shared humor, the familiar and loved body next to you in bed at night. This is the most hopeful outcome of the culture Stepp describes, but no less possible than the outcome she fears — a generation unable to commit, unable to weather storms or to stomach second place or really to love at all.


Expo Abdessemed/Centre Pompidou: Avec fil de fer barbelé de Guantanamo, s’il vous plait! (20 years of gratuitous provocation and they hang you at the Pompidou!)

18 octobre, 2012
Depuis que l’ordre religieux est ébranlé – comme le christianisme le fut sous la Réforme – les vices ne sont pas seuls à se trouver libérés. Certes les vices sont libérés et ils errent à l’aventure et ils font des ravages. Mais les vertus aussi sont libérées et elles errent, plus farouches encore, et elles font des ravages plus terribles encore. Le monde moderne est envahi des veilles vertus chrétiennes devenues folles. Les vertus sont devenues folles pour avoir été isolées les unes des autres, contraintes à errer chacune en sa solitude. Chesterton
Le nouveau rebelle est un sceptique, et ne fera confiance entièrement à rien. Il n’a aucune fidélité ; donc il peut ne jamais être vraiment un revolutioniste. Et le fait qu’il doute de tout l’empêche de dénoncer quoi que ce soit. Car toute dénonciation implique une doctrine morale d’une certaine sorte ; et le revolutioniste moderne doute non seulement de l’établissement qu’il dénonce, mais de la doctrine par laquelle il la dénonce. Ainsi il écrit un livre se plaignant que l’oppression impériale insulte la pureté des femmes puis il écrit un autre livre en lequel il l’insulte lui-même. Il maudit le sultan parce que les filles chrétiennes perdent leur virginité, et puis maudit Mme Grundy parce qu’elles la gardent. En tant que politicien, il criera que la guerre est un gaspillage de la vie, et puis pleurera, en tant que philosophe, que toute vie est perte de temps. Un pessimiste russe dénoncera un policier pour avoir tué un paysan, et puis prouvera par les principes philosophiques les plus élevés que le paysan devait être tué. Un homme dénonce le mariage comme mensonge, et puis dénonce les libertins aristocratiques pour le traiter comme mensonge. Il appelle un drapeau une babiole, et puis blâme les oppresseurs de la Pologne ou de l’Irlande parce qu’ils emportent cette babiole. L’homme de cette école va d’abord à une réunion politique, où il se plaint que des sauvages sont traités comme si ils étaient des bêtes ; puis il prend son chapeau et son parapluie et se rend à une réunion scientifique, où il montre qu’ils sont pratiquement des bêtes. En bref, le revolutioniste moderne, étant un sceptique infini, est toujours occupé à miner ses propres mines. Dans son livre sur la politique il attaque des hommes pour piétiner la moralité ; dans son livre sur l’éthique il attaque la moralité pour piétiner les hommes. Par conséquent l’homme moderne dans la révolte est devenu pratiquement inutile pour tous les buts de révolte. En se rebellant contre tout il a perdu son droit à se rebeller contre quoi que ce soit. Chesterton
Nous ruinerons cette civilisation qui vous est chère… Monde occidental tu es condamné à mort. Nous sommes les défaitistes de l’Europe… Voyez comme cette terre est sèche et bonne pour tous les incendies. Aragon (1925)
Que les trafiquants de drogue se jettent sur nos pays terrifiés. Que l’Amérique au loin croule de ses buildings blancs… André Breton (1925)
L’acte surréaliste le plus simple consiste, revolvers au poing, à descendre dans la rue et à tirer, au hasard, tant qu’on peut dans la foule. Breton
Il faut avoir le courage de vouloir le mal et pour cela il faut commencer par rompre avec le comportement grossièrement humanitaire qui fait partie de l’héritage chrétien. (..) Nous sommes avec ceux qui tuent. Breton
Bien avant qu’un intellectuel nazi ait annoncé ‘quand j’entends le mot culture je sors mon revolver’, les poètes avaient proclamé leur dégoût pour cette saleté de culture et politiquement invité Barbares, Scythes, Nègres, Indiens, ô vous tous, à la piétiner. Hannah Arendt (1949)
I’m having my work made by Indonesian children who work 16 hours a day and get paid $10.00 a month. I’m doing it as an act of controversy to make people think about the unjust nature of the world economy. Thumbs up or down?  Matthew Weinstein
Thirty years ago when I was 25 years old, I made a film in which I shot a dog. It was an indefensible act that I am deeply sorry for. Many of us have experienced profound emotional turmoil and despair. Few have made the mistake I made. I hope people can find it in their hearts to forgive me. Tom Otterness
Dans La Crucifixion, de Grünewald – dont cette quadruple sculpture s’inspire –, ce sont les mains qui crient. Je l’ai réalisée avec le fil de fer barbelé de la prison de Guantanamo. Adel Abdessemed
Dans ma sculpture, ce n’est pas le cheval qui reçoit des coups, mais lui qui s’apprête à en donner. C’est comme renverser un pouvoir… Adel Abdessemed
Pour moi, les animaux ne sont pas des signes, pas des symboles, pas des icônes, pas des métaphores. Ce sont mes frères lointains, de vraies présences, mes compagnons silencieux. Adel Abdessemed
Les sans-nation, les sans-continent, les sans-papiers, les sans-abri, les sans-baluchon… Où vont-ils ? J’ai pensé à cette peinture de naufrage. Un bateau abandonné, un espoir échoué. Adel Abdessemed
On peut dire que l’idéologie crée des moules, moule un peuple. J’ai pensé à une voiture brûlée, piégée. Je l’ai traduite dans mon langage. Ma voiture est en terracotta. Elle est comme un corps qui respire, comme un cœur qui palpite. Adel Abdessemed
Cette pièce est née d’un coup de fil à ma mère pendant la période du ramadan. Je précise : je ne suis pas musulman. Mais je suis spirituel et j’ai le sens du sacré. Je suis un artiste. Mon ascèse, c’est la créativité. Adel Abdessemed
Abdessemed fait une allégorie zarathoustrienne du désir de déclin. Jean-Philippe Toussaint
Une apologie de la violence ? C’est ce que dénoncent les détracteurs de l’installation posée sur le parvis du Centre Pompidou : une statue de bronze d’Adel Abdessemed, qui représente l’inoubliable geste de Zinedine Zidane envers Marco Materazzi, lors de la finale France-Italie du Mondial 2006. Intitulée « Coup de tête », haute de plus de cinq mètres, elle fait partie de l’exposition de l’artiste, "Je suis innocent", qui ouvre le 3 octobre. Ce "coup de boule" avait valu un carton rouge à Zizou, et encouragé, selon certains, la défaite de la France. Le commissaire de l’exposition, Philippe Alain Michaud, affirme que "cette statue s’oppose à la tradition qui consiste à faire des statues en l’honneur de certaines victoires. Elle est une ode à la défaite." Malgré la polémique naissante, l’œuvre est censée rester sur la Piazza Beaubourg jusqu’au 7 janvier, fin de l’exposition. Evene
Don’t Trust Me déroute car l’image est dépouillée de toute mise en spectacle ou dramatisation, il est aussi à l’opposé d’un rituel sacrificiel ou d’une tradition culturelle. La brutalité du pouvoir se concentre sur cette capacité de la main de l’homme à donner la mort, d’où l’impensé du pouvoir. Rappelons aussi que l’histoire visuelle du cinéma au XXe siècle s’est construite à partir de ces images d’abattage : en 1903, Thomas Edison a filmé l’électrocution d’un éléphant au Luna Park de Coney Island (Electrocuting an Elephant). En 1949, Georges Franju réalise "Le sang des bêtes" en filmant les techniques d’abattage et de dépeçage des animaux dans les quartiers Vaugirard et La Villette à Paris. Les films de Pier paolo Pasolini et ceux de Rainer Werner Fassbinder ont aussi visualisé ces scènes d’animaux abattus et sacrifiés. Chez Abdessemed, cette croyance sacrificielle a disparu et il y a dans son art une exigence irascible à pousser au plus loin la représentation de la folie du pouvoir de l’homme. Wikipedia

Christs en fil de fer barbelé certifié de Guantanamo, amoncellement de véritables animaux sauvages naturalisés brûlés au chalumeau (aux proportions, s’il vous plait, du Guernica de Picasso!), vieille barque chargée de boat people africains préemballés, cercles concentriques en barbelé à nouveau certifié de Guantanamo, accumulations d’animaux morts, moulage en terre cuite d’une voiture brulée garantie émeutes françaises de 2005, vraies carcasses d’avions enlacées, auto-transformation en torche vivante, glorification monumentale du geste d’antijeu du siècle,vidéos d’insectes et de reptiles on ne peut plus rassurants, vidéo grand écran de porcelet tétant en dolby stéréo une jeune femme, vidéos d’animaux les plus divers (coqs, serpents, pitbulls, tarantules, iguanes, souris blanches, scorpions, crapauds) se déchirant les uns les autres, photos de villes vidées de leur population et envahies par les animaux sauvages, religieux nu et rasé joue des airs berbères à la flûte, danseuses en burqa mises à nu au son d’une sensuelle mélopée orientale, titres provocateurs (Also sprach Allah, God is Design, Tolérance zéro, cocktail), références lettrées à l’histoire de l’art (Géricault, Goya, Grünewald) …

Après les photos volées de cadavres d’une morgue parisienne ou les décoctions de christs dans l’urine et le sang  (Andres Serrano), autodafé de rate vivants (Kim Jones), pipe à un poète essayant de lire son oeuvre (Kathy Aker), contemplations assistées de col d’utérus (Annie Sprinkle), abattage de chiens ( Tom Otterness) …

Comment un artiste pressé et immigré de surcroit obtient la consécration d’une rétrospective au Centre Pompidou à 41 ans ?

Facile!

Multiplier les provocations les plus simplistes et les plus explicites …

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Les coups de tête d’Adel Abdessemed

"Je suis innocent", l’exposition-manifeste d’Adel Abdessemed au Centre Pompidou

Laetitia Cénac

Madame Figaro
08 octobre 2012

La violence du monde, cet artiste plasticien la sublime à travers un spectaculaire manifeste esthétique. Le titre de son exposition au Centre Georges-Pompidou ? Je suis innocent. Voici son plaidoyer en huit œuvres chocs.

Adel Abdessemed est un artiste pressé. À 41 ans, l’enfant chéri du collectionneur François Pinault

exposé cet automne au Centre Pompidou, lâche ce commentaire : « Enfin ! » C’est tout lui, cette réplique : il est vif-argent, tranchant comme une lame de rasoir et sûr de lui à défaut de l’être de l’univers. Il faut dire que l’étranger lui a déjà rendu hommage (comme l’Art Institute de San Francisco, en 2008) et que ses œuvres se vendent comme des petits pains (la galerie David Zwirner, à New York, a été dévalisée au printemps dernier). Arrivé en France en 1994, après l’assassinat du directeur de l’École des beaux-arts d’Alger où il étudiait, il s’est hissé en une décennie au rang d’icône de l’art contemporain. La clé de son succès ? Des œuvres d’une redoutable efficacité en phase avec la violence du monde, doublées de références à l’histoire de l’art, Géricault, Goya, Grünewald… Impossible d’oublier ses images : une voiture carbonisée réalisée en céramique, un bateau de clandestins rempli de sacs-poubelle, un bloc d’animaux empaillés et brûlés, des carcasses d’avions enlacées… Lui qui a connu les « années de sang » dans son pays, pour qui la jeunesse se confond avec le désespoir, répète : « L’art était la seule porte de sortie », avant d’ajouter : « Mon moteur, c’est la lutte. » Un art de la guerre construit sur fond d’exil, donc. Son exposition, intitulée paradoxalement Je suis innocent (1), s’ouvre dès la Piazza Beaubourg (place Georges-Pompidou) avec une sculpture monumentale, Coup de tête, qui grave dans le marbre le geste de Zidane en finale de Coupe du monde. « Je me suis construit dans la férocité, confie-t-il dans un livre d’entretien (2). Dans la dispute, je n’hésitais jamais à donner un coup de tête. »

(1) Jusqu’au 7 janvier. http://www.centrepompidou.fr

Voir aussi:

Adel Abdessemed frappe fort à Pompidou

Métro

01-10-2012

Sa statue en bronze du fameux coup de boule de Zidane à Materazzi n’est pas passée inaperçue. Le Centre Pompidou ouvre mercredi la première grande exposition consacrée à l’artiste Adel Abdessemed.

A l’entrée, une mise en garde : attention aux arêtes et aux éléments coupants. A l’intérieur, nouvel avertissement : des scènes explicites peuvent choquer le jeune public. Va-t-on sortir choqué et sanguinolent de l’exposition d’Adel Abdessemed ? Cet artiste, né en 1971 en Algérie, est connu du grand public depuis qu’il a installé sur le parvis de Beaubourg Coup de tête, sa sculpture de cinq mètres de haut immortalisant la fin impactante de la carrière de Zidane. Le reste de son œuvre risque aussi de faire parler de lui.

Des rêves violents

Le Centre Pompidou abrite une autre œuvre clé d’Abdessemed, Telle mère tel fils, trois carlingues d’avion entrelacées. Un matériau pour le moins inusité dans l’art contemporain, que l’artiste reprend pour l’enrouler dans Bourek. « Adel dit souvent qu’il rêve ses pièces, explique Philippe-Alain Michaud, commissaire de l’exposition. Bourek a été fait après un rêve où sa mère lui donnait une recette de ce sandwich roulé, avant de rêver d’avion." Jusque-là, tout va bien. Les âmes sensibles sont plutôt concernées par certaines vidéos : un porcelet tète une jeune femme avec des bruits de succion assez pénibles (Lise), un religieux nu et rasé joue des airs berbères à la flûte (Joueur de flûte), des mygales, reptiles et chiens s’entretuent dans Usine. Tout au fond, devant un immense tableau tapissé d’animaux naturalisés (Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf ?), une vidéo montre des couples faisant l’amour devant un public qui les applaudit debout.

"L’oeuvre d’Adel se découvre en deux temps, poursuit Philippe-Alain Michaud, il y a d’abord l’impact immédiat de l’oeuvre, comme une détonation, puis un renvoi à des formes inscrites dans l’histoire de l’art." Ce sont notamment les quatre Christ en fil de fer barbelé à doubles lames (Décor), qui fait écho au Christ de Grünewald sur le retable d’Issenheim (1516). Ou les cercles, dans la même matière coupante, rappellant Sol Lewitt. "Cette exposition inscrit aussi Adel dans l’histoire contemporaine, par la rédemption ornementale du matériau." La quoi ? Comprendre : comment se servir de terre cuite pour reproduire des carcasses de voiture brûlées (Practice zero tolerance) ou de résine pour remplir de sacs poubelle un bateau de clandestins (Hope).

L’exposition s’appelle Je suis innocent. En prévision d’un scandale que pourrait provoquer l’une de ses œuvres ? Adel Abdessemed a déjà été censuré à San Francisco à cause d’une vidéo qui montrait l’abattage d’animaux. Cette exposition y répond avec des éléments autobiographiques, sans chercher à choquer. Ni innocent, ni coupable, Abdessemed maîtrise sa matière.

 Voir également:

Adel Abdessemed, je suis innocent, jusqu’au 7 janvier au Centre Pompidou, Paris 4e.

Pourquoi Abdessemed tape-t-il si dur ?

Philippe Dagen

Le Monde

04.10.2012

Une rétrospective à 41 ans au Centre Pompidou, peu d’artistes peuvent se flatter d’une reconnaissance si prompte en ce lieu. Aux Etats-Unis et en Allemagne, où il n’est pas rare que des artistes encore jeunes soient ainsi mis en évidence, ce ne serait pas étonnant. Au Centre Pompidou, où l’on est timoré quand il s’agit de défendre des artistes de moins de 50 ans, surtout quand ils travaillent en France, le cas est exceptionnel. Adel Abdessemed ne l’ignore pas, mais quand on le lui fait remarquer, il répond sur le ton de la plaisanterie que 41 ans, ce n’est plus si jeune

Lequel l’admet évidemment, tout en faisant observer qu’il a d’autres collectionneurs et que Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf ? lui appartient et qu’il se refuse à le céder, fût-ce à son prestigieux amateur. Or, l’œuvre est emblématique d’Abdessemed. C’est un panneau de 363 cm de haut et 779 de long couvert d’animaux sauvages naturalisés dont la fourrure a été légèrement brûlée à la flamme d’un chalumeau. Son efficacité visuelle est immédiate, en raison de ces dimensions et de ce qu’il a de farouche et de funèbre. Abdessemed précise que la plupart des bêtes – renards, lièvre… –ont été abattues en France, à l’exception des loups, qu’il a ajoutés aux Etats-Unis pour des raisons juridiques. Couchés les uns contre les autres, ces cadavres évoquent un massacre monstrueux, la folie d’un dépeupleur.

Destruction de la nature par l’homme ? C’est l’interprétation première. Une deuxième, qui fait de l’œuvre une allégorie de tout carnage, se trouve renforcée quand on s’aperçoit que le panneau a les proportions du Guernica de Picasso, l’allégorie de la guerre la plus célèbre de toute l’histoire de l’art.

LA DÉMESURE POUR ALLIÉE

C’est dire qu’Abdessemed n’hésite pas à se mesurer à des rivaux de premier plan, mais aussi qu’il revendique la valeur symbolique de l’œuvre d’art. Ses quatre Christs en sont une autre preuve, ainsi que Hope, vieille barque chargée de sacs de plastique noir qui symbolise de toutes les émigrations tragiques, celles du passé autant que celles d’aujourd’hui. Le Wall Drawing, composé de neuf cercles de barbelé, est aussi explicite : titre ironique, matériau cruel, perfection de la forme close.

C’est sa force : Abdessemed invente des expressions plastiques à la fois intensément provocantes, simples à appréhender et vivement explicites. La démesure est l’une de ses meilleures alliées : accumulation d’animaux morts, terres cuites aux dimensions de voitures brûlées, vraies carcasses d’avions enlacées de Telle mère tel fils. Susciter un malaise physique est une autre de ses bonnes manières : ballet d’insectes et de serpents inquiétants dans la vidéo Usine ou jeune femme allaitant un cochon de lait dans Lise, autre vidéo sur grand écran. On se souvient, bien qu’il ne les remontre pas ici, de ses photographies de sangliers et de serpents sur un trottoir parisien, qui semblent prophétiser qu’après une catastrophe planétaire, les animaux sauvages envahissent les villes vidées de leurs populations.

Abdessemed frappe dur, comme Zidane un certain soir. Pourquoi si fort ? Dans une société saturée de fausses images et hébétée de divertissements, son art de l’irruption et de la percussion est l’un des derniers modes de dénonciation qui puisse opérer encore. Il entend retourner contre la société du spectacle ses procédés habituels, avec ce que cela exige de violence. Le danger serait que cette société le récupère et fasse de lui un de ces artistes stars qu’elle aime d’autant plus que leurs productions sont anodines et consensuelles. Comme suffisent à le suggérer les titres, l’auteur d’Also sprach Allah et de God is Design ne risque pour l’heure rien de tel.

Il n’ignore pas non plus qu’une trajectoire si rapide lui vaut des détracteurs qui veulent croire que son succès s’explique par le soutien de François Pinault. Pour l’exposition, celui-ci a en effet prêté Décor, les quatre Christs en fil de fer barbelé que le collectionneur a acquis au début de l’année lors de leur présentation dans la galerie David Zwirner, à New York, et qu’il a présentés cet été à Colmar à proximité immédiate du polyptyque de Grunewald, donc du Christ qu’Abdessemed a transposé de la peinture à la sculpture.

Chez Zwirner, le collectionneur a pris aussi le groupe de marbre Coup de tête, d’après celui que Zinedine Zidane assena à Marco Materazzi, dont une version plus grande en bronze est placée devant le Centre le temps de l’exposition, et suscite d’innombrables photographies. Qui a visité à Venise la fondation de François Pinault sait combien il défend de longue date l’artiste.

Voir encore:

Adel Abdessemed’s Fighting-Animal Video Sparks Art-World Uproar

Jerry Saltz

Right now there’s a short video at David Zwirner Gallery that has some of the art world up in arms. Adel Abdessemed, 38, who was born in Algeria and now lives in New York, is a big deal on the international circuit. He had a one-person show at P.S. 1 last year, was included in the last Venice Biennale, and has had numerous solo museum exhibitions. The Zwirner show is a bit of a fizzle, an example of huge expensive gestures producing paltry effects. (As such it’s a throwback to the art of the recent past.) The work that has people furious is Usine, a 1:27-minute color video made in Mexico depicting a bunch of different animal and insect species thrown together into a pen: We see fighting roosters, snakes, pit bulls, tarantulas, iguanas, white mice, scorpions, and one toad. The creatures maul or ignore one another. The tape freaked me out, turned me off, and even outraged me. But I admit to being intrigued that in many cases the creatures fighting one another were like unto like, that the same species went after the same species. I looked, I shuddered, I passed on to the next disappointing work, not giving the moral dimensions of Usine too much thought.

This morning as I was getting down to work, I posted to Facebook a comment made to me by someone else. People instantly went batshit — given the topic, actually, I shouldn’t refer to animals, and instead say they went bananas. At 12:47 p.m. I posted the following comment, made by my friend, New York Times critic Ken Johnson: “I think that Adel Abdessemed’s video of animals fighting and killing each other (at the David Zwirner gallery), is the most appalling and evil work of art I have ever seen. Michael Vick went to prison for far less. Why so little outrage?” Within minutes scores of comments poured in, almost all of them saying that this work was “evil,” “despicable,” “100 percent cruel,” and that this piece represented “the faux avant-garde bullshit that has become the New York art world.” The conclusion of many was that “art should be moral.” That’s when I started to get uncomfortable.

My Facebook friends had found solid ground. They were absolutely, irrevocably against art that involved any cruelty to animals whatsoever. Abdessemed was called “a fucking voyeur,” “a sadist,” and compared to Nazis who were “just following orders.” Artist Oliver Wasow rightfully raised the old issue as to what to make of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will Olympia, her depiction of the 1936 Olympics held in Hitler’s Berlin. Then people starting bringing up past pieces of art that also violated moral codes: Andreas Serrano photographing corpses in a Paris morgue without permission from the families of the deceased; Kim Jones burning a rat alive; Kathy Aker performing oral sex on a poet who was trying to read his work; Annie Sprinkle inserting a speculum into her vagina and inviting audience members to view her cervix; Tom Otterness shooting a dog. The list went on to include depictions of rape and artists who portray children too seductively. Most of this work is just awful. I began to get a queasy feeling in my stomach. Then I remembered how people railed against the work of Kara Walker because it was thought to be racist.

I understand the conviction and compassion aroused by Abdessemed. The work is exploitive and intense. I hate cruelty to animals. Still, I did come away from the Abdessemed piece knowing more than ever that I don’t believe in certainty, that even though the work wasn’t good, I was snagged by the paradox it raised about what kills what. Still, two of the best comments in the Facebook thread came from artist Matthew Weinstein, who is very certain about his position against cruelty to animals. First he made a good comparison: “I’m having my work made by Indonesian children who work 16 hours a day and get paid $10.00 a month. I’m doing it as an act of controversy to make people think about the unjust nature of the world economy. Thumbs up or down?” Of course, I’d say thumbs down, but just as quickly I thought about how the artist Santiago Sierra paid Mexican workers to do things like get tattoos on their backs or to hold up cement walls. Regardless, another Weinstein comment to someone may say it all: “Go cut the paws off a kitten.”

Voir enfin:

Eloge du doute

Adel Abdessemed

Palazzo Grassi

Né en Algérie en 1971, Adel Abdessemed quitte son pays à cause de la guerre civile, qui y éclate au début des années quatre-vingt-dix, et arrive en France en 1994 pour étudier les Beaux-Arts. Depuis il a vécu dans de nombreuses villes – New York, Berlin, Paris. Sur la base d’une pensée nourrie de nombreuses lectures philosophiques, politiques, sociologiques, Abdessemed concentre son regard sur les failles et les contradictions du monde contemporain. Il réalise des œuvres qui ont valeur d’ « actes » prenant la forme de sculptures, d’installations, de vidéos, de dessins : « Mon art n’a pas la prétention de représenter la réalité, dit-il, simplement de toucher le réel ».

Practice Zero Tolerance (2006), est un moulage en terre cuite d’une voiture détruite au cours des émeutes de 2005 dans les banlieues françaises. La sculpture fait référence à la politique de « tolérance zéro » revendiquée alors par le pouvoir constitué en Europe comme aux Etats-Unis. Mais, loin d’ être une simple présentation, l’œuvre met en jeu une série de tensions plus profondes : entre la violence de l’impact visuel et la douceur quasi-sensuelle de la terre cuite, la fragilité et la solidité du matériau, la puissance destructrice du feu et sa dimension créatrice (la céramique est précisément un « art du feu »), l’immédiateté et l’archéologie d’un présent dont Practice Zero Tolerance serait le vestige.

Taxidermy (2010) est un cube formé d’animaux empaillés (récupérés dans les brocantes), assemblés avec du fil de fer puis brûlés. Abdessemed a souvent utilisé les animaux dans ses travaux, en tant que victimes silencieuses de toutes sortes de violences (lesquelles semblent indigner davantage l’opinion publique que les injustices, pourtant bien pires, perpétrées contre les êtres humains), mais aussi en tant que témoins d’une existence en deça du langage. En choisissant la forme du cube – référence iconique des sources de la modernité, puis de l’art minimal – qui pourrait sembler aux antipodes de son vocabulaire, Abdessemed établit un lien de tension extrême entre la notion de pouvoir/abus et l’acte de création artistique.

Wall Drawing (2006), est constitué de neuf grands cercles dont les diamètres correspondent exactement à la taille de l’artiste ou à celle de sa compagne, réalisés avec le même type de fil barbelé que celui utilisé dans les prisons américaines de Guantanamo. La perfection de la forme géométrique contraste avec l’aspect menaçant du matériau et ses terribles connotations d’oppression, établissant là encore une tension très forte entre forme et expressivité, dimensions conceptuelle et existentielle.

Cocktail (2007) joue également sur le registre de l’ambigüité du titre (événement mondain ou cocktail Molotov ?), la contradiction entre le caractère inoffensif des pupitres de musiciens et le sujet des dessins présentés. C’est le regard du spectateur, passant d’une image à l’autre de cette sorte de flip-book immobile, qui met en mouvement cette révolte silencieuse et minimale.

(2) Adel Abdessemed. Entretien avec Pier Luigi Tazzi (éd. Actes Sud).


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