Au Revoir (Joseph Gallieni, Paris), an anticipation film.
We imagined this day would come so we made it up. The day when, without violence, out of an honest reflection, we would take down the statues honoring this kind of military figures. Some months ago François Vergès and Pablo Pillaud-Vivien came to the studio to talk about public monuments, to talk about actions and ideas. We started together a conversation about something to do with this particular statue of Gallieni in Paris.
Joseph Gallieni was a military ideologue of colonization and slavery, author of massacres and forced labor in different colonies in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Also the author of the book “The Politics of Races”, a sort of manual on how to destroy and dominate local communities in the colonies.
Not only the statue in itself is part of a horrible narrative, but the pedestal that supports Mr Gallieni’s image is also horrifying. It represents four women of four different races half-naked, holding with her arms the moustached man of weapons. These women are supposed to represent the continents he dominated.
The message is clear, a powerful and proud military man, walking on top of women, on top colonies, on top of continents, on top of others.
I knew this day wouldn’t come as fast as we wished, so I decided to make that day upm to speculate it. With my studio team we created an official atmosphere, we went on-site with a beautiful red crane, workers well dressed in flashy costumes. We hired extras who look like officials or politicians. We filmed as a news channel or a press agency would do. I put everything in place, I climbed up, attached delicately the statue, and anchored it to the crane. I thought the police would come, but they just crossed many times without saying anything, the Army Museum is right in front. Nothing happened. So we did it again, and again. We made different takes until we consider it was enough.
We didn’t take the statue down (I was tempted), some weeks before we made a 3D scan of the monument, then with this file, a group of animators and FX designers based in Barcelona started working. We made a subtle animation, slow and heavy.
At the same time with Françoise and Pablo we started thinking about how to generate a larger public debate out of this action. Pablo who writes at Regards proposed to host an article mentioning the removal of the statue. We discussed often how there’s a need for actions, and also a need for humor. The world of the moustached military men on top of pedestals is a grey serious world, of sad and greedy feelings and ideas. We wanted to challenge that whit this video, and yes, we wanted to generate controversy, and yes, we wanted to make people think of the possibility of changing this sad icon in our cities. We need to talk about this out loud if we want to create some changes.
The idea with the video “Au Revoir” is to create the possibility of this day, that’s why I think of it as an anticipation film. I believe in five or ten years we will have something different there, as Françoise says, a garden, a comfortable bench, maybe another kind of hosting place. Today we want to think of the day we will say “Au Revoir Mr. Gallieni”.