• Paris d'Exil

Sidewalk of the 40 000

In front of FTDA, where policemen still gas and club people waiting to enter the PADA (platform for first registration of asylum), a graffiti has been drawn on the ground : "le trottoir des 40 000” (sidewalk of the 40 000), demarcated by white dotted-lines.

Little exercice of semiological analysis :

- a very clear message, délimitation between “them” and “us”, the 40 000 are only a number ; behind the will to intrigue (but without any hashtag or web link to deliver a message), it's the reduction of men and women to a sheer number, a figure, non human, an object or objects of indignation. Giving only the number, as a subtitle of a ten or so meters' frame on the sidewalk, this writing questions us on conceiving 40 000 we-don't-know-what being on this little perimeter : impressive, hard to imagine, invisible sidewalk if it was to be covered by those thousands of people, who were, if we accept this number, never all at the same time in this place. Yet it's what we are being asked to imagine.

- the determiner inlcuded in “des” (of the) guides us to another fantasy : « the 7 » are mercenaries (or a club of young people from the “bibliothèque rose” (a popular book for youngsters in France)), « the 300 » are warriors in epic movies... which terrible battle is being engaged on the sidewalk ? How couldn't we imagine those 40 000 as terrible invaders ? This number consciously drawn alone and isolated, obliterates the essence of the constituents being counted here, to let only appear a mysterious crowd, necessarily threatening.

- dotted-lines framing the sidewalk : this zone has a special status, separated from the urban space by those dotted-lines drawn on the ground, that call to the mind those, black inked, followed by little scissors, which demand to cut a section from an administrative paper, or a discount coupon : the part to cut out, to draw away and... to send back.

- the side walk is rarely empty. Indeed between the last hours of the night and 10 am in the morning, until 200 persons can stand on this frame, the rest of the day we can still see a dozen persons, tangled in sleeping bags and cardboard, directly on the ground, small protection against the winter freeze arriving in this period. What a picture gives this graffiti from the subway - reading it from a point of view the graffiti seems to aim at - from the moment it becomes a living painting, in spite of the people who are implied in it ? It writes the script, contributes in giving a show, a form of distant poverty, of the one we can watch, but above all without being part of it, without getting closer : the triple protection of the dotted-lines, seen from above, through the subway's windows, puts us as spectators-voyeurs, viewers unconcerned by this fragment of sidewalk, so well segregated, which, on top of that, has a name. A name excluding us for our own security and comfort, since we are not comprised in those 40 000 to whom this space belongs : phew !

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