Saturday 25 June 2011

Défense d'Afficher - again?

I previously wrote about the ubiquitous 'Defense d'afficher' signs that can be seen painted on municipal walls around France, but my attention was drawn recently to another variation on this message.

This one was a small white plaque screwed into a brick wall in a non-descript back street, but what particularly stood out was the date of the law. This was not the standard 1881 decree, but rather one that dated from 1943 and France's infamous Vichy regime.

As the scrawled message on the plaque says, this was indeed a 'loi Pétainiste' (or rather a 'loi Laval'), but what exactly is being forbidden here?

The message writer here has spotted the date, and looked to make comparisons between France's collaborist state during the Second World War and today's perceived authoritarian rulers, but in reality the law mentioned is rather banal. However, it is also one that had a big effect on the way French cities looked.

Look back at old photos of Paris and you will see advertising painted onto all visible wall surfaces. Some of these traces remain as so called 'ghost signs', but this law is in fact the edict that signed their death warrant. It was the first law in the country that seeked to protect the esthetics of the city from rampant advertising, limiting the publicity to a restrictive maximum size and height.

Two questions remain though. Whilst the world was at war, why was the Vichy regime worrying about city esthetics? Secondly, why is a law voted by this regime still applicable today?

The first question is very difficult to answer. It is unlikey that the law had anything to do with restricting the actions of the resistance, and is probably more a reflection of the lack of important decisions the puppet state had to make.

Concerning the second question, the answer is that many of the Vichy regime's voted laws were allowed to stand after the war. As soon as De Gaulle returned to France and assumed leadership of the country, the collaborationist government was declared null and void. However, in the interests of simplicity, only the laws relating to the war were immediately repealed. All other laws were examined by jurists and very often reissued with no modifications, including the addition of a 'Mother's Day' to the French calendar!


Suze said...

Thought-provoking. And enlightening for me as I am rather ignorant of such things.

Thérèse said...

Food for thoughts in this post!

PeterParis said...

I think that the 1881 law was actually more linked to the "liberté de la presse", the right to placard political messages - which could only be done on limited, indicated places, whereas the 1943 law really should take care of (stop) unathourised publicity.

Richard said...

As usual an excellent post!

Perhaps the Vichy regime were simply trying to stamp there mark as the 'legitimate' French government at the time - after all, although Petain collaborated with the Nazis, the Vichy regime were keen to assert their authority.

Interesting about Mother's Day too - and again something taht would have been in keeping with a right-wing Catholic government.

Finally, where is this remarkable sign?

Adam said...

Richard - Yes, this is something I should have mentioned. It's on the Rue des Cascades in the 20th, quite low down on a wall. You can see it here on Google Street View (if this link works!).

The building it is on has a bare stone wall on one side, so perhaps it was regularly targetted by advertisers.

Richard said...

The link works! Thank you again Adam.

PS Apologies for mispelling of 'that' in earlier post - fingers don't dance as quickly as my thoughts!


Hello Invisible Paris, On a similar subject, I launched a global project entitled DEFENSE D'AFFICHER...

It is about posting posters all over the world, regardless of whether you should or not...and there is much political about it....


Adam said...

Hello Matthew - thanks for the link - an excellent project!

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