Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Monday 27 April 2009

What to do on a grey and chilly Sunday in Paris..

Definitely a museum day, but what to see? Apart from the well-known permanent collections, current temporary exhibitions that I'd seen advertised included an in-depth study of the crinoline at the Fashion Museum (I think not), art deco jewellery at the Decorative Arts Museum (maybe), Blake or the treasures of Mount Athos at the Petit Palais (possibly the same exhibition on Blake I'd seen in London a couple of years ago, and I've just seen an exhibition on Byzantine art in London, so probably not), Warhol or graffiti at the Grand Palais (hmm, not that keen).

On the other hand, I've never seen the great nave of the Grand Palais, so I thought it might be worth a punt on La Force de l'Art, which turns out to be part of a large festival of modern art, the invited participants being shown in a series of white box spaces in the middle of this huge cast iron and glass cathedral of the old school of world exhibitions.

I'm hardly the most knowledgeable or appreciative viewer of a lot of modern art, but this had its moments.

As well as the houses sliced into bits, and empty carrier bags carefully arranged on the floor, there were the kind of casts of tree trunks and turned earth (by Didier Marcel) that looked like the kind of thing you might see in a corporate HQ. There was a room with an illuminated globe (spinning too fast to make out any detail) in front of a wall painted with stars extracted from national flags (Fayçal Baghriche); Wang Du had created a huge rotating International Kebab from poster-size portraits of people, from which we were invited to slice bits off as though it were indeed a huge doner; Véronique Aubouy offered a continuous screening of people reading two pages each of Proust, in a sequence which she expects to keep her busy till 2050 (the interest for the spectator being not so much in the Proust or the reading, as in the readers' expressions in the seconds of uncertainty before and after their reading). There was also a claustrophobically high-walled space with repeated groups of photographs of the same few individuals gazing out, which makes the spectator feel the subject - but of what? The expressions on the faces mean only what the spectator takes them to mean: and it made me feel very uncomfortable, quite quickly.

I liked Alain Bublex's Passamaquoddy Bay, a huge, grey, bleak Canadian landscape, with a hidden sound recording of a solemn voice reciting legend in a Native American (or since it's Canada, should I say "First Nations"?) language, and Philippe Mayaux's Agitateurs (a line of machine-driven hands waving placards with assorted slogans).

What really seemed to get people's interest were "Le Triomphe de la Neige" by Le Gentil Garçon - white foam-rubber snowflakes forming a snowman within an igloo within a snowflake-shaped framework - and a reflecting ball called "Sans Titre, Silence is Sexy", which slowly inflated and deflated.

Well, it passed the time: and looking at the books on sale, I realised that I'd forgotten to mention in Saturday's post on 104 that the bookshop there had solved a minor mystery: the meaning of the odd little ceramic figures one sees around Paris. A large and expensive book, by someone calling himself* The Invader, charts and reports the "Space Invasion" of Paris, with maps and pseudo-official reports, listings and analyses of "sightings" - of what I suppose we must regard as "guerrilla tiling", if such a thing is possible.
*I think the obsessive detail suggests this isn't a woman, don't you?

Here's some more detail on the exhibits that moved:

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