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#JeSuisCharlie

I was going to write a poem about this important moment for Paris and France because it is difficult to capture the many thoughts and sentiments that the Charlie Hebdo incident provokes  (an apparent lack of talent, and a reality check dissuaded me from doing so). However,  in encountering the difficulty of articulating the space between thought and the written word made me appreciate what Charlie Hebdo achieves through its satirical work. Charlie Hebdo articulates the liminal, those in-between spaces that do not easily lend themselves to the written or spoken word: gasps, sighs, silences, the unsayable. Paris is palpably saddened for reasons that fall into that space that defies definition. It would be great to have a sketch, a cartoon, caricature to capture this moment. In one regard, it is an offensive assault on the values that French people (and others who have moved here)  hold dear: the liberty to be and to say, the sense of equality and a jealously protected togetherness in the defense of those values. Yet, beyond being a personal affront, the Charlie …

Paris, this time, 70 years ago…

The past weekend was all about the decisive allied intervention in Normandy that turned  the tide of the Second World War. For Paris, liberation was not too far in the future. But, one would imagine that the atmosphere would have been tense and uncertain in occupied Paris. Late Night News On the 10th of June, the British tract, Le Courrier de l’air  would be printed and then delivered over the course of the following days, overhead and at night, to occupied areas of France, informing them about the success on the beaches of Normandy. Occupied Life The  experience of the city remained that of an occupied territory. The sights, sounds, and the broader sensory experience of  Paris were oppressive, one might imagine. Here are a few images of the time that I found striking, while combing through archives of the time: Age and a Sense of Occupation Fabulous and Fierce Under Fire The Fearful Sound of Thudding Boots Stripping the city Forced Taste   Still to come…

Left, Right, Left: A Historical, Parisian Tale of University Graffiti

I came across graffiti while working at two very different Parisian universities.  They gave me  pause to think about how graffiti, as a sensory tool, is a powerful mechanism that engages – or maybe even ‘politicizes’ our sense of sight. Graffiti can challenge the beholder on several levels – as a critique and legitimator of the existing social order, as a historical tool and a gauge of the present –  all through  the sense of sight. Graffiti proves just how much our senses are  subjective and conditioned  – our judgement of graffiti as ‘ugly’, ‘beautiful’,’offensive’ etc.. – are all ideas that we receive or that we decide to hold as true. Left, Right: Graffiti at University A This university has become a home of conservative student politics but was at the forefront of radical left activism in May 1968.  Thanks to online archives, one can explore how graffiti has changed/remained the same since. Then: It was all about justice, solidarity with the weak, an inclusive social and economic order.  Graffiti offended the eye as a means of …

City of love graffiti

So, one of the enduring myths about Paris is that it is a – no, make that the , city of love. I had to take a picture of this piece of graffiti, a declaration of love, a literal writing on the wall. The graffiti basically is from someone too afraid to reveal his/her true feelings, and feels unable to ever dare say it.. A love that dares not say it loves.

Paris and Reckoning

It’s a moment of reckoning again. Or not. The current furore surrounding the French  political ‘earthquake’  –  brought about by significant far-right party gains in recently held European elections –  seems to be the cusp of one of many moments of ‘reckoning’ that have shaped French political life and Parisian history. Indeed, the theme of ‘reckoning’ appears at many key turning points in the dynamic trajectory of French (and Parisian) history. There are a few, striking images that come to mind in reflecting upon the theme of ‘reckoning’ in French political life: Place de la Bastille It is a poignant monument  within the city that signifies this theme of ‘reckoning’ in Parisian history and French political life. It symbolizes not only a moment of reckoning for the old order but also one  of redemption. It is as much a symbol of the Parisian bourgeoisie’s determination to dismantle a system that was no longer supportable  as it is a symbol of other key themes (progress, human flourishing, innovation). Marie Antoinette This image of Marie Antoinette on her knees …

Imagining Central Paris of the Middle Ages: A comment on bells and the medieval soundscape

If only one could time travel – the sensory experience of Paris of the middle ages would be interesting to have, but as a 21st century being. This little advertisement for a DVD tour through Paris of the middle ages had to serve as the next best thing to a time machine, it offers a useful tool to begin to imagine how Paris could have been experienced, through the senses, at the time. In terms of trying to determine the sounds of the time, it seems especially important to be attentive to the church bells of Notre Dame that was one of the more key, distinguishing landmarks – if this imagined representation is anything to go by; In an era where there was no recorded sound,  the bells offered a consistent sound effect to scenes of daily city life: a  sound of a predictable quality and tenor. This predictable sound stands in strong contrast to our world where several programmed sounds form part of our city soundscapes. In addition to the programmed sounds that we may carry with us …