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 Marcel Broodthaers, Décor: A Conquest by Marcel Broodthaers, XIXth Century, 1975/2007, mixed media. Installation view, Galerie de France, Paris, 2007. Photo: Patrick Müller. All works by Marcel Broodthaers © Broodthaers Estate/SABAM.

THE SHOOTING OF MARCEL BROODTHAERS’S FILM La Bataille de Waterloo, at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts in June 1975, was timed to coincide with the British military pageant known as Trooping the Colour. The spectacle is staged annually on the Mall, and as the infantry and cavalry perform elaborate drills in full dress, a mood of orderly festivity prevails, betraying little of the ceremony’s origins in the psychic exigencies of war. Trooping the Colour re-creates an old battlefield ritual in which flags representing the regiment and the sovereign were paraded through the ranks before fighting commenced, encouraging soldiers to feel protective not of their own lives but of the “colors” and the military and the state they represented. To defend the symbolic silk, and to capture the enemy’s, were among the more stupendous demands of battle, the kind that try the imagination of

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