UnAmerican Graffiti

October 4, 2007 at 11:17 am | Posted in vie quotidienne | 4 Comments
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As ever, I am fascinated and mystified by French vandalism; it always seems to operate on a much higher level than its American counterpart. The poster on the right here caught my eye while riding the metro — basically, it’s an ad promoting some kind of exhibition which is itself promoting the Rugby World Cup, held in France this year.

At first, I thought that scrawled imperative, “luttons” (“fight”) might be  part of the original ad — a sort of pseudo-meta-message meant to imply that the French people were really, aggressively supporting their rugby team.  But I’ve since decided that “luttons” was a genuine graffito, though — knowing French vandals as I do — I now have to assume it was meant at least semi-ironically.  Nevertheless, the precise message is, I’m afraid, lost on me.

But that only brings us to the further mystery of the supplemental message: “dormez!” (sleep!).  Was this intended as a commentary on the original poster?  Or on the (possibly sincere) luttons imperative?  If it’s the former, I can imagine someone walking around with a stack of “dormez!” notes, planning to affix them to every rugby poster in the neighborhood.  But if it is the latter, did someone really see the original vandalism, then run home to print up a single note?  And given that the “fight” command is delivered in the first person plural, whereas the “sleep” command is delivered in the in the second person plural, who exactly is being exhorted to do what?  Is the rugby team supposed to fight, and the potential fans to sleep?  Or vice versa?

And don’t even get me started on the inscrutable bike messages on the left-hand poster.



  1. Yeah, I agree that a lot of the graffiti is inscrutable… But well thought-out, like you said. I think there is a lot of support for groups fighting publicity in general here, and they often mark up ads/posters in the métro with statements like “plus de publicité” — and other such things… So I’m wondering if that “luttons” message is about fighting advertising in general. The “dormez”, though — I have no idea on that one!

  2. Alice, that’s a good point about the anti-pub messages…

  3. “Dormez” might be about the idea that while people are busy supporting some rugby team, they don’t pay much attention to what the government is doing. In short, games put people’s political awareness to sleep. “Panem et circenses” (bread and circuses) and all that.

  4. Ooh, I like that idea — very subversive.

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