Summer in the City

Programming

Summer for me tends to mean either working on or recovering from a festival, but I still remember fondly the French summer school holidays – Les Grandes Vacances, a seemingly endless 8-week stretch of perfectly free time. However, Summer in the Suburbs wasn’t exactly action-packed, so I would have been grateful at the time for this Mairie de Paris initiative: the Pass Jeunes (Youth Pass), a bundle of free or heavily discounted cultural offers for anyone aged 15-25 and living, studying or working in Paris.

Amongst the 26 free activities, pass holders can choose from admission to several museums, temporary exhibitions, cinema, music festivals (jazz, world, and classical), heritage buildings and sports activities.

13 further activities are offered with a discount: a visit of the Eiffel Tower and the zoo, a river cruise, a hot air balloon trip and more exhibitions.

As an added incentive, there’s a competition to win a few more cultural/lifestyle activities: more exhibitions, singing and circus lessons and free subscriptions to Vélib, Paris’ shared bike scheme. Each voucher used unlocks a password to input on the Pass Jeune website – so the more offers they access, the more likely users are to win rewards.

Here’s my imaginary summer line-up of Grandes Vacances weekly activities – if only I were a few years younger and living in Paris – for a grand total of €8.5.

 

1. Les années 50 at the Musée de la Mode

Not just any 50s fashion but 50s fashion in France – Givenchy, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, Pierre Balmain, Jacques Fath, Christian Dior, Jacques Griffe, Pierre Cardin… Here’s a teaser in French with sweeping views of the outfits on display.

 

2. Ballon de Paris

Billed as the biggest in the world, this hot air balloon changes colour to indicate the quality of air, from red for very bad to green for excellent.

Here’s a Go Pro video filmed 2 years ago – according to the comments, the orientation is all wrong, but it’s still a nice view.

There’s also a permanent webcam to see Paris from the sky whenever the balloon is up and flying.

 

3. L’Etat du ciel at the Palais de Tokyo

I try to go to the Palais de Tokyo whenever I’m in Paris, because it’s actually quite small and exhibitions i’ve been to so far felt slow-paced and spacious. I also like the fact that it’s right next to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (which permanent collections are always free to visit).

L’État du ciel – a title borrowed from Victor Hugo’s essay Promontoire du songe, in which the author wrote that “the sky’s normal state is at night” – is “a homage to many artists’, poets’ and philosophers’ reflections on the physical, moral and political factors that shape our world”. Artists include Ed Atkins, Camille Henrot, Steve McQueen, Tony Oursler, Dominique Ghesquière and more, with a focus on performance and time-based art.

 

4. JR au Panthéon

The Panthéon is a 17th-century neoclassical church that has been used as a burial place for eminent French citizens – all men except Marie Curie – since the Revolution. It is currently one of 9 heritage sites hosting a participatory photographic installation by artist JR, whose mobile “Inside Out” photobooth van travelled through France earlier this year to collect photographic portraits.

The Panthéon is undergoing major renovation work, and the commission is a great way to draw attention to the building and its signification in French history, whilst questioning its function as a place of consecration of the great and the good by infiltrating it with 4,000 anonymous portraits.

The video below is in French but shows lots of views of the installation.

 

5. Jeux, Ruses et Hasards at the Forum des Images

3 short films – Zig-Zag, Le Jeu de l’Oie by Raoul Ruiz, Le Coup du Berger by Jacques Rivette and La Boulangère de Monceau by Eric Rohmer, as part of the “Goût du Jeu” thematic retrospective, surveying the notion of play in films. There are many more of the 70+ films that I would like to discover or watch again, but this selection of shorts by 3 great filmmakers seems like a safe bet.

 

6. Marc Ducret – Tower Bridge at the Paris Jazz Festival

Marc Ducret’s Tower Bridge is a project based on “an attempt at transposing in the musical world a short chapter from Vladimir Nabokov’sAda, in which the writer weaves a whole labyrinth made of mirrors, memories and correspondences, eventually building a form which in turn leads to his other books, themes and emotions”  (from the press release). The 12-piece band incorporates two-third of the excellent Trio Journal Intime (Matthias Mahler on trombone and Frédéric Gastard on bass saxophone), so it’s got to be good.

 

7. Pierre Henry: Voyage à travers ma modernité at Paris Quartier d’Eté

A pioneer of musique concrète and precursor of electronic music, Pierre Henry has been artist-in-residence at Paris Quartier d’Eté (an annual eclectic programme of performing arts) for the past 7 years. If I had to choose only one of the 6 concerts presented at the recently renovated Carreau du Temple, it would probably be Symphonie pour un homme seul, a musical collage in 12 movements featuring vocal fragments recorded backwards, accelerated or repeated, whistles, footsteps, doors slamming, metallic sounds and a prepared piano, which he composed with Pierre Schaeffer in 1949-1950.

Here is a film of the choreography of the same name by Maurice Béjart, created in 1955 and based on the Eroïca movement of the “symphony”.

 

8. Avec motifs apparents at the Cent Quatre

Large-scale in situ installations by 5 artists at the Cent Quatre, a new(ish) arts centre opened in 2008 on the site of the former municipal undertaker services.

Artists include Pascale Marthine Tayou, Xavier Juillot,  Jérémy Gobé, Alice Mulliez and Prune Nourry.

Second Floor

Virtual Street Art: Tour Paris 13

Spotlight

Tour Paris 13 is an old crumbling residential tower in Paris’ 13th arrondissement marked for demolition in less than a month. It’s also, for that remaining time, allegedly the biggest collective street art project realised to date. Over 100 artists, coming from 16 different countries, were invited to use the 9-floor, 36-apartment tower as their canvas – from the basement to the facade and every single inch of the floors, walls and ceilings.

The art is as real as it gets and visiting the tower is free as long as it’s still standing, in small groups of 49 people maximum at a time for safety reasons. So what’s virtual about it? How we can experience it.

El Seed

El Seed

While the artists were working inside the tower, the project was kept under wraps and extensively filmed by Thomas Lallier – in preparation for a documentary – and audio recorded by French public service Radio France (well known for their excellent ‘création radiophonique’, or radio art), to create an immersive digital experience.

Second Floor

Second Floor

When ‘visiting’ an apartment, a collage of user-generated images scrolls across the screen, revealing the space by fragments, and the voices of the artists at work raise above the ‘soundtrack’: traffic, sirens, footsteps echoing in these empty spaces, doors creaking, phones ringing, and the sound of the spray can, with that clicking of the shaking and phrasing of the breathing, in long lines and short bursts.

Sébastien Preschoux

Sébastien Preschoux

The project was spearheaded by Galerie Itinerrance, a local gallery specialised in street art. It’s not the first time that it spills out of the walls: as well as representing artists and showing their work, gallery owner Mehdi Ben Cheikh has been offering ‘official’ outdoor tours to discover large-scale murals in the neighbourhood (presumably commissioned). In an interview available on the Tour Paris 13 website (with English subtitles), he talks about his remit, as a street art gallerist, to have an ‘urban practice’. He also tries to describe the tower project:

I don’t like the word exhibition. It’s something a bit strange… It’s not a museum, it’s not a gallery, it’s not a wasteland neither, it’s not a squat… It’s a mix of all of these. It’s something more or less organised, but that still has a soul.

He also talks about the role of the internet – and therefore of digital experiences such as the tower’s – in making street art “the first truly international movement”.

Shoof

Shoof

After 31st October, the Tour will be closed to the public, but the website will remain accessible. During the following 10 days, virtual visitors will be asked to ‘save’ the art by clicking on what they want to keep, pixel by pixel. The resulting archive will become a ‘witness’ of the artistic project.

Mosko

Mosko

Finally, the 52-minute documentary that will be released in September 2014 will reveal the creative process of the artists involved, but also the history of the tower itself and of the neighbourhood, pre- and post-urban renewal.

Sean Hart

Sean Hart

All photos are from Tour Paris 13‘s website; click on images to access the artists’ individual photo gallery, interview and biography.

Sleepless Night, Healthy Cities: the Nuit Blanche charter

Spotlight

It’s Nuit Blanche everywhere tonight: in Toronto, where I currently live, and where I’m hoping to catch, amongst others, Your Temper, My Weather, an intriguing exploration of collective meditation and bees at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the giant Ai Weiwei bicycle installation outside City Hall (where, ironically, the current mayor is not known for his love of alternative transportation); in Paris, where it all started in 2001 (or so the legend goes, but it appears that Helsinki’s Night of the Arts and Nantes’ Les Allumés have been paving the way since 1989-1990); in Brussels, where intrepid urbanites, smartphone in hand, can take part in an interactive game called Raiders of the Lost Archive; in Metz, where one of last year’s piece was this mesmerising all-night video mapping of the markings left by mysterious deep-sea creatures called paleodictyon nodosum, projected on the Centre Pompidou-Metz (below); and possibly elsewhere, as the number of participating cities keeps growing year on year, although some celebrate their participatory art extravaganza at other dates or under other names, such as Light Night in Liverpool.

Given the success of the event, an umbrella organisation, Nuits Blanches Europe, was created to enable participating cities to share their experiences and exchange projects and artists. The project does not seem to have its own website, but I found the following charter on the Nuit Blanche Brussels website, in English and French, which articulates the civic impact ambitions of the initiative:

(English)

  • NUIT BLANCHE is a free cultural event open to all which takes place every year from the end of the summer to the beginning of autumn and lasts one full night.
  • NUIT BLANCHE gives pride of place to contemporary creativity in all its forms: the plastic arts, projections, installations, music, performance art and street theatre, circus arts and travelling shows.
  • NUIT BLANCHE turns the spotlight on public spaces from every angle: places normally closed off or abandoned, peripheral locations or even prestigious or heritage sites, are revisited in a unique way by artists.
  • NUIT BLANCHE allows organising cities to reflect together on how life after dark in cities is currently changing and to put in place appropriate services and methods of organisation (local economy, signposting, lighting, safety, services, etc).
  • NUIT BLANCHE provides an opportunity to promote environmentally-friendly mobility: easier access for cyclists, use of the tram, public transport, river buses.
  • NUIT BLANCHE encourages interaction between city centres and outlying districts.
  • The partner cities of Nuits Blanches Europe decide on a joint artistic project to be implemented each year with a view to developing exchanges not only between cities but also between artists and European audiences.

(French)

  • NUIT BLANCHE est une manifestation culturelle ouverte à tous et gratuite, qui se tient chaque année de la fin de l’été au début de l’automne, durant une nuit complète.
  • NUIT BLANCHE privilégie la création contemporaine sous toutes ses formes : arts plastiques, projections, installations, musiques, arts de la scène et de la rue, arts du cirque et arts forains.
  • NUIT BLANCHE met en scène l’espace public sous tous ses aspects : lieux habituellement fermés ou abandonnés, lieux périphériques, ou encore lieux prestigieux ou appartenant au patrimoine historique de la ville, revisités singulièrement par les artistes.
  • NUIT BLANCHE permet aux villes organisatrices de réfléchir ensemble aux évolutions actuelles des nuits urbaines et de mettre en place des services et modes d’organisation adaptés (économie, signalétique, éclairage, sécurité, services…).
  • NUIT BLANCHE est l’occasion de promouvoir des formes de mobilité « douces » : facilitation de parcours à vélo, recours au tram, au transport en commun, aux navettes fluviales.
  • NUIT BLANCHE favorise les échanges entre les centres-villes et les quartiers périphériques.
  • Les villes partenaires de Nuits Blanches Europe décident, dans le but de développer les échanges entre elles et entre les artistes et publics européens, qu’un projet artistique commun sera mené chaque année.