Writing on the Wall: Mathieu Tremblin’s ‘Tag Clouds’ and the Politics of Cultural Assimilation – French Cultural Studies – article

Writing on the Wall: Mathieu Tremblin’s ‘Tag Clouds’ and the Politics of Cultural Assimilation

Aurelie Matheron | French Cultural Studies

2019-10-22

This article explores how French street artist Mathieu Tremblin’s Tag Clouds satirises mainstream French media’s and right-wing politicians’ representations of the French banlieue. As Tag Clouds erases tags and writes over them in a more legible font, I argue that it performs visual sanitisation to satirise the politics and aesthetics of French visual culture affecting urban settings and banlieues. Politicians’ and media’s amalgamation of banlieue with immigration, violence and poverty extends to banlieue visual culture. Tag Clouds’ erasure of tags, I argue, challenges how French visual culture relies on an ‘economy of sameness’ (Brown, 2006) and the formatting of different cultural, racial and political identities into a unique, transparent model of citizenship. Tag Clouds reveals how sameness affects banlieue environments and visual culture. Ultimately, I demonstrate how Tag Clouds ironically calls for recognising the taggers’ ‘right to opacity’ (Glissant, 1990) and their right to refuse to conform to mainstream French visual culture norms.

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