Perhaps the most disturbing paradox about the recent riots in France is that neighborhoods were self-destructing in order to gain a political voice. Much of the fervor of the past week recalls France’s tumultuous and bloody history of riot and revolt. The difference is that the disaffected rioters were not burning down government headquarters, they were burning their neighbor’s car and their local grocery.
Men with dogs guard a supermarket where the window has been broken
France is going through a cultural revolution - the face of France is changing rapidly towards diversity and multiculturalism. Most of the rioters in France are young, second-generation immigrants from Arab and North African countries, mostly followers of Islam. Their struggle to find work, to integrate into French society, to survive in poverty-stricken areas is cause for both anger, as witnessed during the riots, and for a new pitch of cultural creativity. Hip-hop music, unique clothing designs, books, and film documentaries are some of the positive products of France’s unique mix of cultures and religions, despite - or perhaps because of - the limited social opportunity in which they are created.
A housing estate seen through a burned out truck
Interior Ministers Nicolas Sarkozy and Dominique de Villepin have responded to the riots rather differently. The first has reacted as a man of the people, the second as a man of the Republic. Nicolas Sarkozy, a second-generation Hungarian immigrant who may well succeed Chirac, speaks with a hard and controversial tone. This sharp tongue, as well as his successful crackdown on some well-established drug networks, may be the reason angry youth respect him enough to hate him. Dominique de Villepin focuses on creating jobs and placing more teachers in difficult areas.
The graffiti reads: ‘Baise Sarko’ ( ‘Fuck Sarkozy’ )
As of July 2004, Muslims constituted an estimated 10 percent of the total population but were estimated to represent 50 percent of imprisoned criminals in France. While the riots have opened a dialogue in France, significant change is a long way down the road and some deep and underlying social problems must be addressed before it is achieved.
-Sara White Wilson
Luisa de Miranda on Sara White Wilson:
Sara White Wilson is a curator of the sidewalk. Her photographs capture the palimpsests naturally created in the urban environment through the constant changes of a neighborhood’s businesses, buildings, advertisements, inhabitants, and events. Wilson captures the accidental, as well as the intentional, layering of official and non-official meaning — graffiti on a storefront, a partially torn billboard poster. The build-up of visual representation happens quickly in a city, and Wilson practices a subtle art in choosing the decisive moment at which intervention has brought a climax of meaning, but before decay has set in, and a new cycle begun.
In her photographs, Sara White Wilson probes the meaning of these silent shouts, and adds her own layer of intervention. Sara Wilson lives and works in Paris.More of Sara White Wilson’s photographs can be seen on www.mirandafineart.com, by whom she is represented.