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Indepth Arts News:

"Ben Fitton: La Barricade de la Rue Basfroi"
2002-09-18 until 2002-11-10
Contemporary Art Society
London, , UK United Kingdom

As part of the Contemporary Art Society's exhibition programme for autumn 2002 they will be exhibiting La Barricade de la Rue Basfroi, a new work by Ben Fitton, located on the North wall of The Economist Plaza at 25 St. James's Street London. La Barricade de la Rue Basfroi follows a series of similar works that Fitton has produced over the past year, within both gallery settings and publications. Focusing on transient politicised structures and systems, Fitton creates silhouettes from wooden garden trellis-work. Panels are cut to form the outline of a chosen image and then located in the exhibition space, fastened to a wall, as trellis would normally be installed.

For The Economist Plaza, the outline of the trellis panels is extracted directly from a photograph taken on the first day of the insurrection that led to the formation of the Paris Commune in 1871. A group of men, soldiers, pose before, atop and behind an irregular barricade; some with rifles others with drums. There are also a number of women and a dog. The barricade is fashioned from paving stones, torn from the street and piled about six or seven feet high. Gaps in its construction reveal a pair of cannons, their barrels pointing somewhere above the head of the photographer.

The photograph was taken on the afternoon of Saturday 18th March 1871, Rue Basfroi, Paris. The French government had, that morning, comprehensively failed in its attempt to wrest control of the four hundred and seventeen such cannons in the hands of the National Guard, and had fled to Versailles at the sight of its own troops 'fraternising' with the Guard and the general populace of the city. Eight days later the Paris Commune (a government of workers and workers' delegates) was elected, beginning a desperate attempt to implement social and political reforms demanded by the populace for over fifty years.

The Commune was to meet its bloody end two months later at the hands of the newly reinforced army of the Versailles government. Around thirty thousand men, women and children were slaughtered in the streets in what Friedrich Engels described as, "the frenzy of which the ruling class is capable as soon as the working class dares to stand up for its rights".

Situated on the north wall of the plaza, behind a row of benches, the trellis outline of the barricade quietly implicates seated pedestrians in its pictorial space. Directly opposite, below the southern perimeter, are offices of BNP Paribas, a private French bank whose history is intertwined with the rebuilding of industrial Paris after both the February Revolution of 1848 and the Paris Commune.

Fitton originally from Sheffield, lives and works in London. He graduated from the MA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art & Design in 2001. Fitton has exhibited nationally since 1996, including Overhang at Site Gallery, Sheffield (1999), Nerve at the ICA (1999), Unfound at the Chisenhale Gallery (2000), Tippi Hedren at VTO (2001) and most recently at IBID.Projects, London in January 2002.

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