Did you know that statues of great men in France were 93% male? This figure, quoted by historian Emmanuel Fureix in an article in Politis (“History is not a novel”, June 25, 2020) calls out, let’s face it, by its spectacular side, but above all reflects an era, specifies he, where women, but also workers, slaves, colonized people and peasants were hardly considered, and even less statuefied. The golden age of “statutomania” was, we learn, between 1880 and 1930. And the author of “The Wounded Eye.” Politics of iconoclasm after the French Revolution” to envisage not a massive unbolting “and moralizing” sculptures, but a reflection “ on another possible statutory landscape”. Like the erection, in Bordeaux, of a statue of the slave of African origin Modeste Testas.
Which brings us to the initial subject of this article: the implementation by Snapchat, from this Wednesday, March 8 and for an indefinite period, of an augmented reality experience called “March 8, 8 women”. That is, in 8 cities in France, the possibility of “showing up” virtually, via its app, the women who have marked French history and society alongside the representations – hard – of their male counterparts.
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Obviously, it is unlikely that Emmanuel Fureix ever thought of Evan Spiegel’s network to reconstruct a public space “shared and negotiated”, but the experience, not only is stunningly realistic, but it allows at least to become aware of the little place given to women in urban statuary.
Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux precisely, alongside Montesquieu, who needs no introduction, now stands Françoise de Graffigny. The author of “Letters of a Peruvian” (1747), can be read by clicking on her smartphone, “is one of the most emblematic female figures in the literature of her time”. Follows a quote on the “general contempt for women”. And perhaps the desire to know a little more about this author of the Age of Enlightenment. As on the resistant Manon Tardon, in Nantes or the painter Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun in Marseille. Donatien Bozon, director of Snap AR Studio explains:
“We did not want to replace. We were in a process of parity: next to a statue of a great man, a statue of a great woman. In Paris, Simone Veil and General de Gaulle; in Metz Joséphie Baker and Jean Moulin; in Lyon Simone de Beauvoir and Saint-Exupéry… We wanted a silent dialogue between personalities who would have had things to say to each other. »
Installed in Paris since this summer, this center dedicated to augmented reality is the first in the world. A commitment made by Evan Spiegle to Emmanuel Macron during the Choose France summit in Versailles, in July 2021. His mission? Democratize access to augmented reality in France (one of Snapchat’s hobbyhorses, it should be specified), by forging non-commercial partnerships with cultural and educational institutions.
“The idea is to show that augmented reality is certainly very nice when you add dog ears to your head, or transform your face into a cartoon character, but that it also allows realize world-oriented experiences. We use the world around us as a canvas to improve the user experience,” enthuses the former head of YouTube Space France.
Active for barely six months, the AR Studio has already joined forces with the BNF to offer a dive into the architectural history of the Richelieu site or transform the facade of the Pompidou Center into a musical instrument. “March 8, 8 women” is the third event organized by the team based at Station F, in Paris. A 3D artist and an augmented reality engineer designed the statues and developed the interactivity of the app based on in-house technologies. And we must admit that by pointing her smartphone at the imposing statue of General de Gaulle, roundabout of the Champs-Elysées in Paris, the presence at her side of a Simone Veil, gaze pointed towards the sky and open book in hand, seemed obvious.
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