On June 20th of 1789 the French deputies of the National Assembly came together – for the first time without the participation of royal authorities – in a celebrated day that culminated with the Tennis Court Oath, named so because it took place in such a place. During that historical debate they agreed, with full participation from representatives from the town and the more politically avant garde members – or perhaps the most astute and farsighted – of the clergy and aristocracy, that they should give a Constitution to France. The legislators drew up a formidable document, based on the Magna Carta of the United States of America that had been decreed two years prior – and at the same time was inspired by illustrated Gallic and British philosophers, namely Montesquieu, Rousseau and John Locke. The French document implemented a constitutional monarchy that had the modern division of the State in three powers with the objective that each division limited each other, and proclaimed a period of freedom of thought, of press and religion, as well as equality for all men under law. With that, the ancient régime of absolutism was definitively guillotined. In a moment of clarity without precedent, the members of the assembly considered that text of the Constitution as stated should be preceded by a succinct and cogent statement of the principles that it governed and of the spirit that it inspired. From the 20th to the 26th of August, the proposals were discussed, corrected and voted on until they drew up a preamble of 17 articles that would change the world, and whose content has not lost validity: The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It is not possible to exaggerate its importance, or to present it in this space. It will suffice to remember here that, among other equally transcendent content, it is affirmed in article I: “Men are born and will remain free and equal regarding their rights”; in article X: “No man shall be bothered for the reason of his opinions”; and in article XI: “Since the free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man, every citizen may speak, write and publish freely”.
The brief notes that precede explain why Paris was a key objective in the monumental sculpture display, for which a presentation was designed and costly logistics implying access to Paris were carried out – from the English Channel, Le Havre and Rouen – along the Seine River. It ends up becoming more difficult to understand that a change in focus around a certain court case – The Florence Cassez affaire – would grow to such a degree that it would force the suspension of El año de México en Francia where Rivelino’s colossal statues would be on display. With the event canceled, the giants had to temporarily stay in Rotterdam, Holland, even though the silence they were forced to endure contributed to the goal of the exhibit: denounce the infringement on the right to freedom of expression, which – in an unexpected and undesirable way – was secretly achieved.