30 November 2009

SPONT'EX, part 1

So by an open invitation of Madjid, I should tell you about Spont'Ex.
Where do I start? Probably with the 16th of January 1994.
It wasn't the day we started Spont'Ex. But it was the day we first demonstrated as a group - if I recall well. The right-wing Balladur government (with Bayrou as the ministre of Education) had passed a law that, in short, offered better conditions for private, often catholic, schooling thus threatening the foundation of the public and secular ( laïc ) schooling of the French republic. The law was subsequently emptied of its core by the Conseil constitutionnel but 1 million people decided nonetheless to remind the governement of its attachment to the public school by demonstrating in the streets. That was probably the biggest demonstration I ever attended.
It was thrilling to be there, exciting and powerful. We were all caught in the hope of a yes future. We were carrying fake pink flowers and giving people appointment for May (rendez-vous en Mai) in stickers. We were hoping for a political change (that happened 3 years later with Jospin) that would knocked down the same ambient tight-ass conservatism that suffocates us nowadays since 2002. It just gets me crazy how we've been stuck in a political limbo for 7 very long years, first with Chirac and now with Sarkozy and that we can't seem to put an end to it. What's worse is that when I'm looking at the current left-wing opponents, none of them inspire me a sense of happiness, modernity and intellectual brightness that I'm striving for : a sense of Spont'Exitude.
Well, I still have at least that fake pink flower, ever since then, by my bed.

03 November 2009

The new new testament

In these days of brought out of blue ridiculous debate over national identity in France, one book comes to mind that I was shown by David G. last time I visited in Milan in spring this year. "Italianità" curated by Giulio Iacchetti is an amazing graphic design book that captures the essence of what it is to be Italian or, like the Wiktionary defines, "the peculiarities of Italians or their language or culture". 30 of those peculiarities are picked and commented (and beautifully illustrated by ale+ale), such as the Tabu licorice box, the Sambuca drink, the voting card, the Tabacchi sign, the comics Diabolik, the Gazzetta dello Sport, etc...

I guess it has to do with pop culture and daily life. The little things that you don't pay attention to much, that you might not share an interest about, but that are part of the landscape of signs that surround you. And in this regard, I find it easy to adopt a culture wherever I go. Parts of me are italian, french, japanese, israeli, american, british... I never think about these things really, they come naturally to me. I dislike the expression "citizen of the world", it resonates very dull in my mind. I just experience very strong cultural bonds wherever I go, wherever I live. I find myself enjoying the local lifestyle with a twist of my own blend. Usually, it comes first through experiencing food, graphic design, architecture, cinema and fashion. Which is probably why I hate shopping at Zara, H&M, Ikea and The Gap because you can find the stores everywhere.

I do have a problem though of adjusting to my own city, my own country. After all these years, I still haven't figured out how I can change the fact that I don't feel free in Paris. It gets on my nerves because I'd like to be able to stay in one place. Therefore the question for me is certainly not what is a national identity but what makes a place a home.

--Joëlle