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French cultural groups organise anti-Le Pen rally

Organisers fear the presidential candidate's policies would curtail artistic freedom

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A citizens' rally, Culture against the Front National, is taking place this evening, 2 May, at the Philharmonie de Paris in protest against Marine Le Pen's presidential bid.

Orlan, one of the artists attending the rally, has made an anti-Le Pen declaration calling on people to vote for the centrist Emmanuel Macron. “Let's barricade Le Pen who makes references to tradition, although there are nice and festive traditions,” Orlan says.

Accusing Le Pen of being against freedom of expression, she says: “Freedom is needed by all of us and for artists working on the representation of the body and with the body, we absolutely need freedom of expression, without which we cannot make any work. Le Pen would like to prevent us from showing the body, sex and our sexuality even though we are all made alike.”

Orlan refers to her own work, La Liberté en Ecorchée (Flayed Liberty, 2013), to highlight the need of ethnic tolerance. “La Liberté en Ecorchée is a self-portrait in 3D video but above all a manifesto artwork, this character is skinless. One can't see if the skin is white, black, yellow or read; racism cannot be inscribed.”

Although Le Pen has temporarily stepped down from presiding over the party in order to widen her appeal, her nationalistic programme remains harshly criticised by art professionals. According to the latest poll, Le Pen is expected to gain 41% of the votes, with Macron winning by 59%.

Some 60 organisations and associations—including the CFDT-Culture (the Ministry of Culture's union), AICA (International Association of Art Critics) and CIPAC (Federation of Contemporary Art Professionals)—are calling on people to vote against Le Pen on 7 May. The rally, aimed at highlighting cultural diversity and open-mindedness, will include artists' reactions and performances.

“We cannot accept the banalisation of the Front National and its anti-democratic ideas of rejecting the other and an inward-looking attitude [...] that runs contrary to republican values,” reads a statement from the organisers.

“Voting against the Front National means voting for Macron because a blank vote would benefit the Front National,” says Raphael Cuir, the president of AICA France. “In the FN's 144 engagements, culture is reduced to heritage, to the 'promotion of the national novel', which translates as 'national propaganda',” adds Cuir, who fears that, “The FN in power would be the end of the freedom of expression and the Ministry of Culture's vital support in all forms of cultural and contemporary, artistic expression.”

A parallel event this evening at La Colonie, the arts space opened by the artist Kader Attia in Paris, is a programming of 100 anti-racism poems. “I believe that Marine Le Pen and culture is like radical Islamists and culture: hatred of freedom and difference,” says the French-Algerian artist.