Exhibition at MACRO explores the construction, concept and iconography of the barricade

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Exhibition at MACRO explores the construction, concept and iconography of the barricade
Installation view.

ROME.- Barrikadenwetter (barricade weather) is a term coined by the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin in the newspaper Dresdner Zeitung on May 3, 1849: it denotes the moment of transition in which a revolutionary subject emerges within collective action, and reifies itself as an obstruction that stands in the way of the established order. Starting from a historical survey by the Arsenale Institute—a research group which has long been engaged in projects related to visual arts as well as the critical analysis of the politics of representation—the exhibition explores the construction, concept and iconography of the barricade, from its beginnings in the late Renaissance to present times, tracing its historical connections with the roots of the 20th century avant-garde.

The exhibition walls host an iconography of the barricade which through the collection of 289 images compares three different image acts of looking at the revolt in Paris during May 1968: the rioters, the media and the police.

The imagery in this triptych, although it has the same subject, is the result of opposing politics of representation. In the pictures of the insurgents— photographed by anonymous authors close to the Situationist movement— the actors appear as a general revolutionary collective whose members faces have wisely been made unrecognisable. In their mediatisation through photo-journalism, they are fictionalised and moralised by French newspapers of the time as individuals who perpetuate violence or are exposed to it. From the perspective of the authorities, as revealed by photographs only recently made accessible by the archives of the Préfecture de police de Paris, these people are monitored to ensure both evidence and identification so that delinquency and property crimes can become visually verifiable.

In the middle of the exhibition space, eight glass displays present an overview of the history of the spontaneous act of building road barriers out of found materials. Besides presenting the reflections of theorists and strategists, the collection spans from the first appearance of the term "barricade" in the Commentaires de messier Blaise de Montluc in 1592 to early engravings showing barrel constructions and metal chains, and finally to Charles-François Thibault's first daguerreotypes documenting a barricade in Paris in 1848. A rich repertoire of manuals, plans, maps, postcards and newspapers provides an overview of different political perspectives.

Three focuses are dedicated to the significant contribution made by the Situationists to the Paris student revolt of 1968, the documentation of the barricades in Rome during the same year by photojournalist Rodrigo Pais, and the metaphorical representation of barricades in popular culture.

The printed matter also explores the historical connections between the emergence of 20th century avant-garde techniques and the nature of the barricade. Dadaist artist Hannah Höch, who is also known for her proximity to the construction of barricades during the Spartacist Revolt in Berlin in

1919, pioneered a specific use of collage that brought heterogeneous elements from bourgeois society together, deploying them against it. This desecrating attitude has been applied in many genres of art: the détournement, the cut-up technique of the Beat Generation, Bertolt Brecht's Alienation effect in literature, the assemblage in sculpture, the pastiche and sample in music, deconstructivism in architecture, and montage in cinema.

A single collage by Hannah Höch stands for this revolution in art, derived from the archetype of the barricade.

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Exhibition at MACRO explores the construction, concept and iconography of the barricade

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