In her site-specific installation for Vestlandutstillingen in Stavanger, French artist Dominique Hurth focuses on the use of tree guards as barricades during riots and demonstrations in France. Tree guards are commonly found in French cities to protect trees and their roots: the circular structure made of 4 quarters is thus part of the standard vocabulary of public space infrastructure.

As early as the Paris Commune (1871) — probably the first photographically documented revolt in France — tree guards are used as protective fences and barricades. A practice that can since be followed in photographs of riots, demonstrations and uprisings and is still common practice today. Used alone, free-standing (for the first time in May 1968), or together with other elements from public space (bricks, sheets, benches), the guards become fences. The revolutionary gesture of the barricade exists then in the ephemeral moment of lifting up the guards.

It is this gesture that Hurth focuses on, both quoting and freezing it in her 4-part sculpture that can be placed both indoor and outdoor, and placing it in parallel to a sculptural tradition and to a commemorative gesture of holding onto the infrastructure of the riots as a symbol of turmoil that is usually hastily erased as soon as it happened.

A series of hand-numbered posters with mechanically reproduced pictures of several riots and demonstrations in France between 1871 and 2020 from Hurth's own archives is placed in public space and creates a visual inventory to the sculpture. The hand-written numbering of the edition frictions with the manner the posters are put up: stapled or taped on billboards and thus losing the precious character of the edition.

The title of the work refers to the French republican calendar, a revolutionary system developed during the French revolution and used again during the 18 days of the Paris Commune.
Floréal - Prairial
(on riots, gestures and resistance)

4 elements, steel, each 1m diameter (for indoor and outdoor)
Series of hand-numbered posters, each A0, offset print in magenta and silver pantone, 500 copies

Installation views: Monuments. curated by Espen Johansen, 100th anniversary of Vestlandutstillingen at Rogaland Art Centre, Stavanger (17.06-05.06.2022), Stavenger public space (17.06-05.06.2022) and in Bergen public space (07.10-06.11.2022).

Photos: Espen Johansen and Dominique Hurth