The heads of states met at the end of World War I to sign the Versailles treaty in 1919 in the Palace's hall of mirrors. This was at the time when Europe was infected with the Spanish flu pandemic that lasted until 1922. The project is a visual narration of the conjunction of these two historical events that have uncanny reverberations in the present: the Versailles treaty has charted the path towards present-day geopolitical crises, and the Spanish flu can be seen as a prelude to the COVID pandemic and its response.
The heads of states met at the end of First World War to sign the Versailles treaty in 1919 in the Palace's Hall of Mirrors. This was at the time when Europe was infected with the Spanish flu pandemic that lasted until 1922.
US president Woodrow Wilson went to Versailles in the hopes of getting approval for his 14 points. He was one of the “Big Four,” along with the French. British, and Italian leaders. While in Paris, Wilson contracted the Spanish flu, from which he recovered. He was still frail and exhausted by the time the Big Four signed the treaty. France and Britain were allies and together they decided on the treatment of Germany and the rest of the world.
Italy felt left out, and the extreme right took over, with Mussolini coming to power in 1923. Germany was severely punished, and incurred astronomical debts and territorial cuts that ultimately opened the way for Hitler and the rise of Nazism, paving the way for the Second World War.
The preventive measures Europe took to curb the number of infected people is not so different from today. The movement of citizens was controlled through the radio. Wearing protective face masks and distancing were obligatory. Work was organized in shifts, so that buses and trams would not be crowded. A vaccine and antibiotics were the means available to control the Spanish flu.
The death rate caused by the Spanish flu was higher than during the Great War.