Friday, 25 April 2014

Place as History as Place (2)

Forty years ago today, when the dictatorship in Portugal was toppled by a set of dissident generals with the desperate support of the people of Lisbon, who first cast down flowers to encourage the generals, then took to the streets themselves, though the generals had told them not to, fearing resistance from the tired but still lethal Salazar regime (now ruled by Salazar’s successor)—forty years ago today, not a single shot was fired. The streets were ours at last, the people must have felt.
These events have been recreated in a series of large format, black-and-white photographs mounted in Lisbon at the points where they were taken in 1974. In the photos we see people shoulder-to-soldier, freedom in their faces. Viewing them, for a moment we stand beside them, reclaiming our places, right here.
Last night, another videomapping event at the Praça do Comércial presented a documentary collage of text and many of the same images. The plaza was full. It was as if that April 25 was on us again, so thrilling and thronged and immediate, even dangerous were the effects of the video. And so stirring. At one point a few bars of the old Salazar anthem broke out, older voices singing along. Later the new anthem gave rise to its own chorus, just as loud.
I’m one who loves such effects—a now and a then in who and where we are.

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