The revolutions that began to sweep across countries in North Africa and the Middle East in December 2010 – like other revolutions in diverse modern historical contexts – have often been articulated, internally and externally, in black and white terms of success or failure, liberation or constraint, for or against, friend or enemy. These internal and external clichés are perpetuated by what Jellel Gasteli has called ‘icons of revolutionary exoticism’. Paying particular attention to works from the Tunisian Revolution of 2011, this paper examines photography, video, and online displays of street art. It considers how art reveals a new way of understanding the revolutions and the meaning of the term ‘revolution’ itself.
Siobhán Shilton is Professor of French Studies and the Visual Arts. Her research and teaching interests lie in cultural encounters (particularly in France, the Maghreb and West Africa) in late twentieth- and twenty-first-century photography, video, graffiti, graphic novels, installation, performance art and literature. She has also published on art and the ‘Arab Uprisings’. Her most recent book is Art and the Arab Spring: Aesthetics of Revolution and Resistance in Tunisia and beyond (Cambridge University Press, 2021).