Jean-Gabriel Périot – Even if she had been a criminal…


In a montage of documentary footage, Jean-Gabriel Périot investigates the public punishment and humiliation of French women accused of having relationships with German men during the Second World War. To the alienated melody of the Marseillaise – as rendered by Mireille Mathieu and others – the video runs through in fast motion the chronology of events from the turn of the last century to the liberation of France in the summer of 1944 and the retreat of the Germans, followed by rejoicing. The joyous spell is abruptly broken by acts of retribution, however, culminating in a public stigmatization of the women that recalls the persecution of people during the Third Reich. The gesture of the victory sign imitates the Hitler salute, a swastika in ashes the Jewish star. Périot draws here on universally understood imagery created by the media that has the effect of making events like the Second World War or the terrorist attacks of September 11 readable irrespective of cultural background. The instant classification of these images is only called into question when, as happens in Périot’s video, a shift in the roles of perpetrator and victim provokes a disruption of the familiar scheme. Only then is the viewer forced to delve into the individual subtext in order to re-evaluate what he has seen on the cognitive level. Against this backdrop, Even if she had been a criminal ... takes on a greater significance as a universal statement against the hubris of those who would rob others of their freedom and dignity.


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