Revolutionary Encounters draws on personal on-the-ground testimonies in performance, film screenings, dance and discussions. Taking centre stage during the evening is the elusive character of the wealthy dowager Duchesse d'Elbeuf and her remarkable eye-witness account of the Terror from her chateau overlooking the guillotine. Based on the recent discovery of the Duchesse’s letters, the performance by theatre-makers Nicola Baldwin and Saskia Marland sheds an intimate new light on the period, unfolding against a backdrop of film installations by Sal Pittman (Klanghaus). The evening also presents 18th century dancing with Mrs Bennet’s Dance Group; paper fan-making with artist Rebecca Loweth whose work also features in the exhibition; an insight into Madame Defarge and her revolutionary knitting with Dicken’s scholar Miriam Helmers; a century of revolutionary heroes on film and television discussed by cultural historian John J Johnston; and Revolution-inspired board and card games.
The exhibition Witnessing Terror explores the role of images in the Terror, the two-year period during the French Revolution when state-sponsored violence was rife, and image-making accelerated in the first major European media event. Witnessing Terror provides a rare glimpse of the visual material that the French and the rest of Europe were exposed to when events that had no precedent in Europe were rapidly unfolding before them, including original eighteenth-century printed pamphlets and posters, paper money, passports, maps, playing cards, the ‘new’ Revolutionary calendar, and other domestic artefacts. The prints often depicted revolutionary martyrs, the attire of revolutionaries, satirical sketches and dramatic scenes of protest and conflict, which illustrate how people observed and understood what was happening around them.