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Après 1871

Après 1871 2014 a project by Cindy Smith

Après 1871 is the second project in a trilogy that explores the notion of utopian impulses and their dystopian counterparts through a miniaturized lens. The Paris Commune of 1871 is habitually referenced as a template for revolution and utopian thought. The visual sign most often associated with this uprising is, of course, a “barricade”; a disordered urban structure deployed against the state; a DIY relic that endures to this day. By representing the Paris Commune through the visual motif of a barricade; recasting factual information with other elements in a fictional framework anchors the theoretical impact of the project: to present the past as it continually haunts and pulls at the present.

One cultural critic attributes a potentially destabilizing function to this address of the past as a kind of productive anachronism, describing a kind of “temporal drag” or “the interesting threat that the genuine past-ness of the past makes to the political present.”* The visual result invites a narrative reading around the viewing that is historically grounded while at the same time, not strictly ‘true.’ Its blend of story and history does not appear seamless, but rather fabricates seams where alternative versions of history begin and end, showing up its own contructedness.

*E Freeman, ‘Packing History, Count(er)ing Generations’ in New Literary History, 31.4, Autumn, 2000 p. 728.