There is a specific spot near Saint Germain des Prés in Paris, which is the meeting point of young and trendy parisians. This particular meeting point is located at Carrefour de l’Odéon, and more specifically, around Danton’s Statute. This location intrigues me because it is a total reappropriation of historical monument for the benefit of contemporary practices.
Originally, Danton was a French politician of the 18th century, one of the symbol of the French revolution. He was a charismatic leader and his non-prepared speeches had a way of hypnotizing the Assemblée Nationale audiences. Danton did not physically participated to the French revolutionary days in July 1792; but he did arrange and prepare them. In August 1792, he is appointed Ministry of Justice. However, in 1793, he is supplanted by Robespierre, who, in 1794, will arrest Danton and the party he formed (the Dantonists). Danton will be executed on April 5, 1794. His last words to his executioner were: «N’oublie pas surtout, n’oublie pas de montrer ma tête au peuple: elle en vaut la peine». (‘Do not forget to show my head to the people: it is worth it’).
However, this part of French history, long forgotten by many individuals is not much present in people’s spirits. Today, Danton’s statute functions as a bench for people waiting, rather than as a reminder of our history. In its construction, Carrefour de l’Odéon is a crosswords of culture and represents a meeting point for friends and tourists. It is one of the more lively space in Paris. It is located between two movie theaters (one of them was actually named after Danton), two metro entrances, a newspaper kiosk, as well as a bonbon stand. Over time, this spot flourished with new cultural and transportation commodities that fulfilled a growing need for movement and for advertisement.
In this sense, Carrefour de l’Odéon is a reappropriation of cultural monument and lieu de mémoire in a way that adapts to contemporary ways of living. Indeed, when sitting at Danton’s feet, one would rather think about the movie he is about to watch with his friends than about French revolution…