Category Archives: Performance art

Must-sees of the summer

La Chambre à Air event in the basement of the Palais de Tokyo, 30/06/12

The last few months have been a little chaotic for reasons I won’t bore you with, so blogging has slipped down to the bottom of my priorities. But worry not, there’s still been a bit of time for art.

For a start, I’ve squeezed in three visits to the Palais de Tokyo. As well as ‘Intense Proximité’ its Trienniale, which is on until August 26th it now hosts regular free events and happenings most of which are free. Its café has also got a massive open-air space where you can sit and gaze at the Seine and the Eiffel Tower, making it a very cool place to just hang out. To top it off the actual museum space is now HUGE (increased from 7,000 to 22,000 square metres).

Not content with completely transforming the museum, the director of the Palais de Tokyo, Jean de Loisy has also curated Les Maitres du Disordre (The Masters of Disorder) a magical mystery tour through shamanist rituals and its influence on contemporary art. The exhibition is at the Musée Quai Branly, across the river from the Palais de Tokyo.

Next door to the Palais de Tokyo is the Musée d’art Moderne where I saw the much talked about Robert Crumb exhibition. The reason why it’s so hyped, is firstly the French love comics. Pop into the ‘Bande Dessinée’ (comic book) section of any large Paris book shop and you’ll understand the extend of the worship. But comics here aren’t just about kids’ characters and superheroes, there are beautifully illustrated comics and graphic novels on every aspect of life and fantasy.

I then went from the thunder-thighed obsessions of crumb, to Helmut Newton’s perfectly formed supermodels (on until July 30th). It was a great exhibition but after seeing all those perfect bodies I felt like going on a diet.

Last but not least, I saw the Berthe Morisot exhibition at the Musée Marmottan. It’s apparently not very hip place to hang out, (I was the youngest person there), but this means there are less people so you get to see Impressionist paintings that rival the Musée D’Orsay, but with the space and time to appreciate them properly. Although today Impressionism seems very safe, Berthe Morisot herself was actually very cool, like some kind of 19th Century rock goddess (see picture below).

Yet despite seeing some of the best exhibitions in town my hunger has not been satisfied, as the last few weeks has seen a whole wave of new exhibitions opening, which I ambitiously plan to see before La Rentrée (September) comes around. So, to make sure I don’t forget any I’ve put together a list of ‘must see’ shows. If there’s anything I’ve forgotten, let me know!

Ending July

La Promenade, Galerie Paul Frèches until July 13th

Ellsworth Kelly, Galerie Marian Goodman, until July 13th

Artemesia, at Musee Maillol until July 15th

Rêves de laque, Le Japon de Shibata Zeshin, Musée Cernuschi until July 15th

Oeuvres de la collection Züst, Centre Culturel Suisse, until July 15th

Guillaume Bresson, Thomas Lerooy, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, until July 21st

Through my Window, Photography by Ahae at the Jardin de Tuileries, until July 23rd

Le Crépuscule des Pharaons, Musée Jaquemart-André until July 23rd

Claude Parent, Galerie Yvon Lambert, until July 28th

Yutaka Takanashi, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, until July 29th

Le Mont Fuji n’existe pas, Frac Ile-de-France / Le Plateau, until July 29th

Olav Westphalen, Galerie Vallois, until July 31st

Running through the summer

Tim Burton L’exposition, Cinémathèque Francaise until August 5th

Multiversités creative, Centre Pompidou, until August 6th

Anne-Flore Cabanis, Connexions, 104 (CENTQUATRE) until August 8th

Construire, déconstruire, reconstruire : le corps utopique, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris until August 19th

Sur la Route de Jack Kerouac, L’épopée, de l’écrit à l’écran, Musée des lettres et Manuscrits, until August 19th

Misia: Reine de Paris, Musée d’Orsay, until September 9th

Turbulences, Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, until September 16th

Wim Delvoye, Musée du Louvre, until September 17th

Gerhard Richter, Panorama, Centre Pompidou until September 17th

Laurent Grasso, Jeu de Paume, until September 23rd

Louis Soutter, The Tremor of Modernity and Didier Vermeiren, sculptures – photographies, Maison Rouge, until September 23rd

Situation(s) [48°47 34 N / 2°23 14 E], MAC/VAL, June 30th until September 23rd

Alice Springs, Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) until November 4th


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Filed under Installations, Museums, Music, Painting, Performance art, Photography, Public art, Sculpture, Video art

Pins and needles

Desperate to avoid another social network hungrily eating at my time, I did everything I could to avoid the colourful world of Pinterest. But I love pictures and I have no self-discipline, so it’s started. Here’s a link to my first board (let’s face it the first of many boards) of my favourite living artists, these are the artists I follow the works of like a crazy stalker, leaching on them for their inspiration and enlightenment. Tell me if you think there’s anyone I’ve missed.

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Filed under Installations, Misc, Painting, Performance art, Photography, Public art, Sculpture, Video art

Adventures in suburbia

MAC/VAL – Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne

I’ve wanted to take a look at the MAC/VAL gallery for a long time but was put off by the trek out to the suburbs. Apparently many people feel the same, as despite free entry offered by a Paris listings magazine that weekend, the gallery was almost empty. I was only one of four going along for the guided tour. But, you’ll be happy to know it was definitely worth the trip.

The visit to Vitry-sur-Seine is a bit of an eye-opener. Paris is a bubble defended by ‘Le Périphérique’, the huge motorway that circles it. The suburbs outside consist of pockets of either beautiful countryside or badly-designed tower blocks of council-owned apartments that make you feel depressed just looking at them.

I find this weird after living in London, which I loved for its complete mixture of people from all walks of life. Where I used to live in South London, there were politicians’ second homes on one side of the road and council estates with teenage gun crime on the other.

The bubble of Paris means that when you get off the train on the other side of Le Périphérique you may as well have got in and out of a tardis. It’s a completely different world.

After living in Paris for a year and a half I consider myself able to blend in the crowd. I know this is true because French people ask me for directions everyday, or should I say, everyday I get people lost. When I arrived in the neighbourhood of Vitry-sur-Seine, all of a sudden I looked like a tourist, an invader from the big city.

Following the initial culture shock we headed through the town centre to find the bus. This was an alien concept for me. I love bus journeys but in Paris the Métro is so good there’s no point in getting the bus, it’s even the same price.

On the way to the bus stop there is an unplanned free exhibition of street art. Some official, but the most impressive was the unofficial, delicately drawn paste-ups and pastel murals. In the centre of Paris there’s a lot of graffiti, but most of the time people can only get away with a quick tag before they get caught. In the overlooked suburban towns there is more time for creativity, which is lucky as this grey town needs brightening up.

Arriving at the MAC/VAL gallery was like checking into a space colony. It’s a huge building with a peaceful sculpture garden at the back. Hungry and tired from the overwhelming journey we tried out the gallery’s restaurant. It made the over-priced salads and lemon cake that you find in most galleries look like McDonalds and was really good value for money.

As well as the amusing temporary exhibition of video and performance by Éric Duyckaerts, the gallery has a permanent collection that includes many of France’s most-loved contemporary artists such as Christian Boltanski, Pierre Soulages and Annette Messager. It’s a thoughtful collection reflecting the gallery’s surroundings with themes of urban development, multi-culturalism, migration and family.

My favourite piece was actually a collection of robotic sculptures by Malachi Farrell that imitated electrocution torture, but I’m not in the mood to write about such deep, political subjects today, so instead I’ve decided to show you these clever circles.

This is one of the first pieces of art you see in the gallery. It’s called Trois Cercles Désaxés and was created in 2005 by Felice Varini. If I hadn’t taken a guided tour I’d have thought it was just a load of random lines, but from one single point in the room it all comes together and the lines form three circles. Magical.

As you leave the gallery you notice there’s a giant neon sign displaying the words, ‘Please come back’. Don’t worry MAC/VAL, I won’t be long!

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I Heart Bonaparte

Since downloading came along and made records free but gigs really expensive, bands have had to pull their socks up.  As recently as five years ago, if a lead singer climbed on top of a 15 foot amp it would be a classic rock moment. However, high ticket prices in a time when people are wondering if they will still have their job tomorrow, mean audiences want more for their money.

People are starting to wonder why they spent all that money on a gig ticket when it sounds pretty much the same as the album they downloaded illegally (apart from the guy behind them talking loudly all the way through).

If the success of Lady Ga Ga is anything to go by, people expect the entry price to include at least one blow-torch bra and/or meat dress moment, and as a result the line is blurring between art, music and theatre. It’s nothing new, it’s been happening since the beginning of time, from Andy Warhol’s darlings The Velvet Underground to George Clinton. Yet until recently things have been quiet. Since the 90s it seems that musicians have been trying to show that their music is powerful enough to stand on its own.

So now the pyrotechnics are back and it’s not just multi-platinum stadium-fillers storming the stage. Named after the French inventor of the leggings-boot combo, Bonaparte is the brainchild of Berlin-based Tobias Lundt. Originally from Switzerland, he is supported by a troupe of around 20 live performers from all over the world.

The first time I saw Bonaparte play was by accident; I went to a small festival to see another band but was drawn into the auditorium by the sight, through a crack in the door, of a bath on stage and couldn’t stop watching for the next hour.

To be honest the music was nothing special, spoilt brat-rock with super-catchy repetitive lyrics, designed to make you either laugh or wince. Whatever I thought of the songs they worked as a perfect soundtrack to the bedlam that was happening on stage. It was Nathan Barley meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Each song has a story, represented by dancers, actors, gymnasts and contortionists who find bizarre and sometimes very uncomfortable ways of reflecting the lyrics. Each song has a total of about ten costume changes, often on stage. It was so hard to walk away when each performance got more shocking, more funny, more surreal and just as you thought it couldn’t get any weirder…it did.

Bonaparte combine music with performance art, theatre, burlesque, circus and silliness. One thing’s for sure, the crowd of mostly under-25s at the gig would never go to the theatre to see ‘Bonaparte the show’. This is evident in the constant cut-price or free tickets for this age group at theatres across Europe. But ‘Bonaparte the band’ is selling out well-known gig venues and collecting die-hard fans as it goes.

Also featured on Artsharks

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Magic Roundabout

Le manège carré sénart, François Delarozière at CENTQUATRE, Paris

A few years ago I followed the performance of the Sultan’s Elephant through the streets of London to Trafalgar Square. It was one of the most magical things I’ve ever seen and could tell that the thousands of others stood with me felt the same way.

When I heard that François Delarozière, the artist behind the elephant had created a work for the CENTQUATRE gallery, I got my coat and headed out.

The CENTQUATRE is a huge space with exhibition galleries, independent shops and artist’s studios. I was introduced to it through ‘Nuit Blanche’ an annual night of art events across Paris. That night was an evening of fantastic happenings, yet my visits since have been a letdown with nothing to do there but have a coffee and wander round the bookshop. It didn’t make sense that a place with such potential felt so empty.

I kept coming across articles about the CENTQUATRE in the newspaper, unfortunately only bad news – funding cuts, directors leaving etc. Just as I’d given up hope I heard that a programme of events was planned for the Christmas period with exhibitions, performance and music, the centerpiece being a magical merry-go-round by Delarozièas.

In fact, with a bit of research I realised that the roundabout is not just the work of Delaroziè but that of his company. I found this disappointing as in my head Delaroziè is a Gipetto-like figure crouched over his workbench pain-stakingly producing each beautiful creature that you see on the carousel. Instead, the work was created by his business ‘La Machine’, where a team of experts collaborate with global corporations to produce bespoke art and theatre.

I guess this is as much an engineering project as art, so it does need to be commercial. At least the team that works with Delaroziè get the credit (and money) they deserve for their involvement. So many famous artists e.g. Warhol, Hirst, Michelangelo had a production-line behind them who worked, often for free, only to get glossed over by the historians.

The merry-go-round or ‘manège’ as it’s known in French, is beautiful. Sadly I was too old to go for a ride without being labelled as a loon by the many parents waiting with fidgety children in the queue.

Strangely, none of the families seemed to notice how odd the creatures were on the ride. Inspired by Da Vinci, Verne and the surrealists, most of them were capable of giving their little ones nightmares for years to come. Yet, the macabre feel of the carousel fits right in here, as the impressive building of the CENTQUATRE used to be Paris’ main funeral parlour. Although a thoroughfare for the dead, with 27,000 hearses leaving the building every year, it was also bursting with life. The 1,400 who worked here were a strong community who socialised together outside work with sports teams and an orchestra.

Today the CENTQUATRE is a cold empty space, a perfect blank canvas for the art community. The building is eerie when you first arrive but is given warmth by those you constantly come across making use of the area to rehearse for plays, hone their sporting skills, make music and of course create artworks. It’s like walking around a park that someone has kindly put a roof on. La Machine’s carousel acts like a mirror to the world of the CENTQUATRE, reflecting the mixture of macabre and community spirit that you experience around you.

This post also appears on Artsharks

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