In Montgomery, Alabama, on the 2:30 p.m. bus on March 2, 1955, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. Despite threats, she remained seated. After being thrown in jail, she decided to sue the city and plead not guilty. No one had ever dared to do that. And yet, no one will remember her name.
Noire is an immersive experience adapted from a biographical essay written by Tania de Montaigne, which will premiere at the Centre Pompidou on April 20, 2023.
The experience is done in groups of ten people. Visitors prepare themselves with specific equipment: a Hololens 2 headset, a bone conduction headset and a small backpack. They enter a setting that will soon be haunted by the ghosts of 1950s Alabama...
Take a deep breath, breathe, you are now in Montgomery, Alabama in the fifties. Look at yourself, your body changes, you are in the skin and soul of Claudette Colvin, a 15 year old black girl with an uneventful life.
You walk out of class, you wait for the bus, you take your ticket. You've always known that being black doesn't give you any rights, but it does give you a lot of duties. You know that there are white people on one side and you on the other. Once you get your ticket, you will go out and go up the back door. Once you're settled, you also know that if a white person doesn't have a seat, you'll have to give up your seat. This has always been the case in Montgomery.
But on March 2, 1955, Claudette Colvin refused to get up. Despite the threats of the driver, who was armed, despite the threats of the other white passengers and some black passengers, she remained seated. Better still, after being arrested and thrown in jail, she decides to attack the city and plead not guilty, a first. And yet, nobody will remember her name.
It was the beginning of a journey that would lead Claudette Colvin from struggle to abandonment.
When, 9 months later, Rosa Parks, a lighter-skinned seamstress, made the same move as Claudette, everything changed. Soon supported by a young pastor recently arrived in Montgomery, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks becomes a hero, the spark that launches the civil rights movement. History is on the march.
Claudette Colvin made it all possible, but she is the one who has been forgotten. She still lives in the United States today. She is 82 years old.
Published sixty years after the fact, the biography written by Tania de Montaigne, winner of the 2015 Simone Veil Prize, plunges us into a moment in American civil rights history that keeps resurfacing in our own times. The feeling that to be black is to be an inferior race, all the more so if you are a woman.
Following the theatrical adaptation by Stéphane Foenkinos for which Pierre-Alain Giraud directed the films projected on stage, the writing of an immersive version in augmented reality was a necessary and complementary extension in order to transmit the story of Claudette Colvin and continue the work of rehabilitation initiated by Tania de Montaigne.
The immersive installation Noire will be presented at the Centre Pompidou in April/May 2023. It is produced by Novaya and the Centre Pompidou, co-produced by Flash Forward Enternainment (Taiwan) and with the support of the CNC, the Rhône-Alpes Auvergne Region, the French Institute, and the Taiwan Creative Content Agency.
In a set specially designed for the experience, emblematic scenes from the life of Claudette Colvin during the civil rights struggle are replayed before your eyes.