Soulèvements exhbition, Jeu de Paume Paris

Uprisings (Soulèvements) is a trans-disciplinary exhibition on the theme of human gestures that raise up the world or rise up against it: collective or individual gestures, actions or passions, works or thoughts. They are gestures which say no to a state of history that is considered too “heavy” and that therefore needs to be “lifted” or even sent packing. They are also gestures that say yes to something else: to a desired better world, an imagined or adumbrated world, a world that could be inhabited and conceived differently.

I went to this exhibition about art and political protest yesterday at the wonderful Jeu de Paume, on the edge of Tuileries Gardens and Place de la Concorde in Paris; the square that was renamed Place de la Révolution and saw the execution by guillotine of King Louis XVI on the 21st January 1793 - and later his wife, Marie-Antoinette, among others - to cheering crowds of onlookers. Post-revolution, the square was renamed after the murdered King and then following the 1830 revolution it became known as the Place de la Concorde.

This exhibition, which ends on the 15th January cleverly combines photographic journalism, with conceptual art; historic artefacts (for example, the written notes by Victor Hugo from 1855 against the death penalty; or on the anniversary of the 1848 revolution, written in exile; or the first known photographic image of an uprising or political event, the Barricade at Saint-Maur Popincourt, published in 1848) and sketches by Miro, for instance.

Hiroji Kubota, 'Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois' 1969

Hiroji Kubota, 'Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois' 1969

Much of it impressed and touched me, while I also noted how intelligently the work was put together in spaces linked by captions (Les murs prennent le parole/The walls speak up) and at one point linked by colour, but the murky, green video by Argentine artist Hugo Aveta in his work called 'Ritmos Primarios, la subversion del Alma' (Basic rhythms: subversion of the soul) from 2014 really struck me.

Included below is an image from the series, which is based on photographs of 2001 protests in Buenos Aires, as Adriana Almada writes in her article on the work:

Hugo Aveta produces the ultimate artistic achievement: distance. We can even say he has found the right distance: between close and far, before and after; he has built this distance on the fringes of the legible and the indecipherable, thus exposing the subversive power of the image. An image in revolt against its own representative role, obsessed by the desire to show that in passing from one instant to another, it is possible to insert the unrepresentable.

Nothing is quite as it should be, everything can become what our intuition senses: the tension of friction and/or the encounter; the pleasure principal and the death impulse; the secret and the explicit, the public and private, the whole and the parts.
The images — fallout from a bigger story, fragments of a grand yet incomplete vision — resume the violence between those who hold power and those who confront it; between those who resist and those who defend it.

Once the event has faded out, only the shadow remains. These images are the shadow and, with only themselves as references, they enter the cellular memory of the entire social corpus. The video shown in this exhibition can be interpreted as an extended cry that ends in silence.

Silence that is as painful as a non-consensual disappearance. The rise of indignation, in Latin America as elsewhere around the world, is expressed in the form of society’s rebellion against its own creations: the individual against the State, minority communities against big corporations; individuals versus a universal power that governs from the shadows.