Last week, in my post on walking, I mentioned the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, in which the figure of the flâneur emerged. I first heard Baudelaire’s stuff as a youth, in translation, in this extraordinary recording made in 1968. It was good to hear it again, and I thought it worth sharing.
Twelve months ago I spent a few days wandering round Paris, in the symbolist tradition sketched in my walking blog, exemplified by Baudelaire. Taking photographs wasn’t uppermost in my mind, but I thought it would be good to make some kind of visual record, and so I offer a little video/photo journal of that visit.
Art for art’s sake
Part One: The Public Sphere
In visiting Paris last year in pursuit of art I had two specific objectives: an exhibition and a gig., But as I outlined in my walking blog, the journey would be nothing without the unexpected. I thought I’d offer a more focussed look at what art I found, beginning with the art of the street, the public arena where commissioned sculpture, modern and historic, competes with graffiti, architecture, and gardens, to create an admixture, a many-voiced public conversation we call ‘the city’.
Elegy & Memorial
In 2015, in advance of the COP21 climate change conference, France’s state owned national rail commissioned the Angel Bear sculpture from artist Richard Texier, which I encountered in front of the Gard du Nord’s classical facade. According to the Solis Art Conseil:
the 7.5 metres high silhouette seems to disintegrate under the effect of a mysterious evil…the silent cry of the bronze animal captures passers-by to raise awareness of the urgency to act. Air despite its 4.8 tons, the chimera spreads its wings in an attempt to escape, out of the world alreadyhttps://solisartconseil.com/en/notre-serie-de-lete-oeuvres-monumentales-a-paris-lartiste-richard-texier-2/
More memorials of Paris
Pasted on a pillar, letter by letter, one Zebodj Mohamed ‘killed by the police’ remembered alongside a graffiti artist’s memorial to 17 Octobre 1961, the Paris massacre; the Fontaine Molière, a memorial in the 1st arrondisment to the playwright with whose name the French language is sometimes associated, is the work of two sculptors directed by an architect; and tucked away in a park lies a small but powerful memorial to the Shoa survivor, writer and activist Elie Wiesel.
Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office, and assasinated a year later is memorialised with a Place name, while a street memorial commemorates some of France’s colonial history, the inscription reading ‘A Nos Morts (‘to our dead’) INDOCHINE ALGIERS,
And then there are those big public statements of Paris architecture. My wanderings led me to my first view of the Eiffel Tower, icon of modernity, foreground traffic between us. An outdoor exhibition attracted me from afar, with its colour and shapes, to the Louvre, where I became fascinated by the people, their identities framed against the scene.
In Part Two of this travelogue I’ll take a look at the free open-air exhibition Cabanes Imaginaires autour du monde
Part Two: Cabanes Imaginaires Autour du Monde
This is the second in a series of posts relating my visit to Paris in October 2019.
See Part One
My first day’s Parisian wanderings led me to the Louvre, which I’d not planned on visiting. Before I even realised that’s where I was, my eye was drawn from a distance to this free outdoor photo exhibition, works by the photographer artist Nicolas Henry.
At first sight it reminded me of a fairground, being a collection of three colourful, slightly higgledy-piggledy, circular structures.
Closer up, the work revealed itself as a collection of photographs of people in what appeared to be staged environments.
The work was made over a number of years, Henry travelled the world to explore diverse communities, and enlisted the help of his subjects to produce these fabulous, very human and charming images. According to the blurb from the book of the project:
these participatory stagings are composed of large-format sets bordering on theater and installation, produced with the help of part of the village or neighborhood.translated from Cabanes imaginaires autour du monde: Worlds in the making Hardcover – Illustrated, 28 Sept. 2016
According to the theatre director, producer and actress Irina Brook, M. Henry’s photographs illustrate perfectly Shakespeare’s sentence:
Le monde entier est un théâtre, et tous, hommes et femmes, n’en sont que les acteurs“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely Players”
As You Like It Act II Scene VII
The backdrop of the Louvre can be seen advertising its Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition, a sell-out show and one of the largest ever collections of Da Vinci in one place at one time.
You can see more of Nicolas Henry’s work, including selections from this project, on his website.
If you want to see Cabanes Imaginaires Autour du Monde for yourself, it remains on show in Paris until the 30th November 2023.