September 24, 2008 French Postcards
A blogger on Libération’s Web site, Agnès Viard, reports that, in June, in Cahors, in the southwest of France, the mail artist Philippe Pissier (pronounced piece-Y¥) was being subjected to criminal investigation for having mailed a postcard of a bare-breasted woman, a nipple pierced with a safety pin, to a German exhibit of erotic mail art that had invited him to participate. After the assistant prosecutor Isabelle Ardeef began the investigation, Pissier was informed that he risked three years in prison and a fine of 175,000 euros for the crime of “disturbing public order and mentally endangering children by means of a pornographic work.” The following month, his computer and many of his works were confiscated, but the artist has remained without official word since then. As Pissier remarked, I am an adult, the mail sorters are adults, the mailman is an adult, and the addressee is an adult. I don’t see what the problem is. The local press has weighed in, heaping scorn on Ardeef for the inquiry. Giard reminds readers that such paintings as “Gabrielle d’Estrées,” by an anonymous French artist of the sixteenth century, is on open display at the Louvre, including to minors. “Le ridicule ne tue pas” (“You can’t be killed by ridicule”), the French say; but officials there would do well to remember that, in 1966, Charles de Gaulle’s regime was shaken by its (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to ban Jacques Rivette’s movie “La Religieuse,” a misstep that definitively revealed the aged President’s incommensurable distance from modern life.