Liberty igniting the World

In June 1789…

… the members of the French Third Estate assembled, vowing to obtain a constitution, thus launching the French Revolution. When the representative of the crown tried to break up the assembly, the Count of Mirabeau presumably retaliated with the famous words: “Go tell your master that we are here by the will of the people, and will leave only by the force of bayonets!”

Léon Cogniet, Scene of July 1830, musée des beaux-arts d’Orléans, 1830
The white royal flag morphing into the republican Tricolore.
Source: Wikipedia
Anne-Louis Girodet, Jean-Baptiste Belley, 1798, château de Versailles
This first representation of a Black legislator in official attire is a reminder that one of the results of the 1789 Revolution was the abolition of slavery in all French territories.
Source: Wikipedia

In January 1943 …

… nineteen-year-old Ukrainian Ulyana Gromova was executed by the Nazis and thrown into a pit, together with fellow members of the resistance in her village. Her story and that of the Young Guard, an anti-fascist organization set up by the youth division of the Communist Party, is difficult to untangle from the web of Soviet propaganda that was deployed after the war.

Portrait of Ulyana Matveevna Gromova
Source: Wikipedia

Nevertheless, she was an adolescent who stayed behind when the rest of her village was evacuated, so that she could take care of her sick mother. She took part in organizing a group of young people animated by the desire to do whatever they could to stop or slow down the invaders: they distributed leaflets, stole medicine, etc. As a final act of disobedience, on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the 1917 Revolution, they hoisted the Soviet flag above a local mine.

The Soviet and the German pavilions facing each other at the 1937 International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life in Paris.
Source: Sylvain Ageorges, Sur les traces des Expositions universelles, Paris 1855-1937, Parigramme, Paris 2006
Dennis Adams, Patriot, 2002, photo from the Airborne series
A mundane red plastic bag is in reality a sinister sign of a catastrophe: Dennis Adams photographs debris floating around after the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Source: http://

In March 2011 …

… the Rome Opera played Verdi’s Nabucco to celebrate 150 years of Italian independence. It is a story taking place during the Babylonian exile of the Jews, whose Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, Va Pensiero (Go, thought), has since become a second Italian anthem. It was first set on stage in 1842, when Italians, occupied by the Austrians, could identify with the oppressed Jews.

A still from Maria Kourkouta’s Idomeni, 14th of March 2016, video, 17’48”
Maria Kourkouta’s video is a quiet march of refugees crossing the border between Greece and Macedonia during the European migrant crisis.

The 2011 performance was extraordinarily stopped by the director Riccardo Muti after the famous aria, and he subsequently expressed his concern that the lyrics “O, my homeland, so beautiful and lost!” could soon ring too familiar during a time when funds for culture were being cut. He then turned his back to the stage and directed an emotional encore, sung this time by the entire hall.

After the 2005 destruction of an artists’ village in Beijing, Liu Bolin started a series in which he fades into the background, hiding in plain sight, to protest the lack of protection for Chinese artists.
Liu Bolin, Hiding in the city
Source: Wikipedia

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