As some of you know, I am fascinated and borderline obsessed with the artistic goings-on of Detroit. Although the tragic domino effects of the economic recession are evident there, so is the blossoming art scene.
As a little history intro, Detroit was once considered the world’s automotive manufacturing capital. With that reputation came enough wealth and prestige for the city to be labelled, “Paris of the Midwest.” However - as popularized by the US media - Detroit is more recently known for its unemployment rates, abandoned buildings and high crime statistics.
In the case of many artistic movements, such destitute circumstances usually yield artistic evolution. Detroit is a perfect example of this! In the words of Richard Rogers, president of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, “Artists are moving in from other parts of the world to experience this energy that seems to de developing… [they] go into places that other people aren’t interested in and transform them.” (Quote courtesy of “Detroit a Hotbed of Cool Art” in The Globe and Mail, March 2010.)
To give you a little sample of the guerrilla art emerging from Detroit, here is a photo of The Ice House by Gregory Holm and Matthew Radune.
The Ice House is just one of hundreds of abandoned properties that are being radically transformed into installation art.
Another artist taking advantage of Detroit’s dismal housing market is Ben Wolf. He was recently featured on the Juxtapoz Magazine website for his sculptures. Refer to the image below.
All this free-flowing creativity would not have been possible, however, without Tyree Guyton’s non-profit Heidelberg Project paving the way. Created in 1986, the Heidelberg Project was Guyton’s way of transforming his childhood neighbourhood into a canvas for artistic expression. Rather than acting solely as an interactive gallery, the project’s initiative was to unify the community after the 1967 Detroit Riots, from which the city had never fully covered. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1967_Detroit_riot)
What I find so fascinating about Detroit’s art scene is that the city has come to represent that regardless of the condition of our capitalist society, art can always unify. I believe my sentiment is best summarized by 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon -
“I want to go to there.”
You have seen the stained glass in old European cathedrals, whether in photographs, on television or in person, but I am guessing you have never seen stained glass like this before!
Gilles Rousvoal, Église Saint-Étienne de Brie Compte Robert
Today I had an intro to stained glass with Gilles Rousvoal from the Ateliers Duchemin. It was amazing! Not since my first drawing class at UVic have I felt so excited and comfortable with a medium. The following works are examples of contemporary stained glass, all related to the Duchemin studio.
David Rabinowitch, Cathédrale Notre-Dame du Bourg, Digne
Sarkis, Abbaye de Silvacane (my personal favourite- all those little yellow impressions in the glass are actually the artist’s finger prints!)
Richard Texier, Abbaye de Trizaye, Charentes
Jean-Michel Alberola, Cathédrale Saint Cyr-Sainte Julitte de Nevers
(For more, visit the Duchemin website at http://vitrail-atelier-vitraux-art-verrier.ateliers-duchemin.com/ )
Couple with a Cat, 2010
Léopold Rabus is an artist from Switzerland specializing in surreal oil paintings. I first discovered his work in the summer edition of Drome Magazine. Since arriving in France and beginning my studies, his work as been a huge influence on my own “creative universe”.
Dead Raven, 2007
Veau en train de brouter, 2008
See more work at http://leopoldrabus.aeroplastics.net/index.php
Fiac is an annual art fair held at various locations throughout Paris. The following photographs are some highlights from the Grand Palais exhibitions.
William Pope performance piece
Tomorrow, I find Marcel Dzama.
Tourists are so obvious.
It is not the camera that gives them away. In Paris, there are professionals with cameras dangling from their necks on every street corner, so photography isn’t that unusual. What gives the tourists away is their subject matter- the “candid” Paris. This includes photographs of older women watering flowers, street cleaners, busy intersections, waiters sprinting from table to table, etc. The common theme is people, presumably french-speaking Parisians, living their day-to-day lives with no direct relationship to the photographer.
Voyeurism is an unspoken subculture of the contemporary camera-sporting tourist. I had never noticed it before moving here, but having become the subject of “candid” Paris photography, it is really starting to piss me off. Refer to the photograph below.
Metro 1, Défense. See that man with the Nikon? His wife is the woman looking to the left. A minute before I captured this picture, Nikon took my photograph. He was trying to be discreet. I saw him lining up the shot from the corner of my eye. I turned to face him. He was looking in a different direction as his finger pressed the button. As if it wasn’t already obvious, Nikon looked directly at me after he took the picture and then checked his screen. Busted.
As you can see, I got a photograph of my own. I don’t know if it was my dark Lennon sunglasses or Psycho Killer playing through my headphones, but I suddenly I got the courage to pull out my little Canon. I pointed it in his direction for a good 10 seconds, just so that Nikon could understand how it felt. He turned away and I took my photograph. Just after I captured this, his wife clued in, horrified. She tugged her husband into a different area of the train.
Tourists participate in voyeurism all the time without realizing it. (Mother…) Even I have taken my share of travel candids in the past, but I will be reconsidering them in the future now that I understand how it feels being looked at through a stranger’s lens. Not just a stranger, however, but a tourist who deems my essence worthy of their photo album.
In conclusion, I ask you to contemplate how many coffee tables your face may grace.
My favourite thing about living in Paris is finding myself in an unfamiliar landscape, spinning a 180, and seeing something that I had read about in textbooks.
The following bronze sculpture is Shiva, Lord of Dance, circa forever ago. It is included in the ancient India collection at Musée Guimet (http://www.guimet.fr/-English-). Discovering this museum - and specifically, this sculpture - is a result of getting lost and seeking refuge from the cold.
Having said that, I have also come to realize that nobody can ever truly get lost in Paris; something illustrious is only ever a few steps away.
Well, actually, sharing a gallery space.
The Paris branch of Galerie Lelong is hosting a Nancy Spero and Kiki Smith exhibit from now until November 20th. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of checking it out.
Kiki Smith, Empty, 2007, from her series, Mortal.
My drawing instructor told me to reference their art for examples of “creative universes.”
Note: the wonderful thing about living in Paris is when someone suggests checking out artists’ work, they mean literally, as opposed to Wikipedia or the library.
Bernard Moninot - my drawing studio instructor - believes that each artist needs to build their own world with objects, people and situations that inspire them. Once a world is created within the artist’s mind, their expression can take the shape of sculpture, painting, drawing, video art, etc, all within the framework of their creative universe. To put it simply, Moninot suggests that an artist should be confined to their inspiration and constantly seek new mediums of expression, as opposed to only practicing one medium and bouncing from topic to topic.
Both Smith and Spero have developed incredibly elaborate worlds. Smith’s work represents a lifelong study of mortality, while Spero’s art makes reference to folklore surrounding antiquity and lost civilizations. Both artists practice in many mediums. Thematically, their art presented together makes for a beautiful and thought-provoking exhibit.
Nancy Spero, Goddness Nut, 1989
(This piece was not included in the Galerie Lelong exhibit, but it is from the same series.)
The view from my window, 6:48 am.
Although I obsessively shut my blinds at night to prevent passers-by from seeing inside my house, I love looking through the windows of others! There is something so human about capturing moments of peoples’ lives framed within the confines of a window, whether the moments be as quaint as folding laundry or as ridiculous as singing karaoke.
Something that I really wish I could have seen this summer was the Tate Modern exhibit, Exposed : Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera. Here is an excerpt of the official press release:
Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera will explore themes of eroticism, celebrity and conflict, as well as instances of surveillance in the world around us. Taking the idea of the unseen photographer as its starting point, the show will include images of clandestine, informal or candid situations, impromptu and even intimate moments. It will feature a wide range of works made by photographers who have worked in ingenious and inventive ways, often using small or easily concealed cameras. The exhibition will explore the ambiguity of exposing private moments to public scrutiny and will examine the complex issues raised by voyeuristic looking. It will focus on examples of erotic photography, on the cult of celebrity and the paparazzi, and recent works engaging with the phenomenon of surveillance.
I remember a couple years ago in Kelowna, there was huge controversy over the City’s decision to install cameras around Queensway, a high-crime area downtown. Debates spanned over months. Cameras were installed, removed, reinstalled, vandalized, reinstalled, etc, until the issue became old news and everyone forgot about it. Now, only a few years later, nobody questions cameras stationed at street corners or within buildings. Surveillance has become the norm.
So I guess my take on voyeurism is a redefined not-in-my-backyard stance; I do not want to be on the film, but I wouldn’t mind playing the photographer.
Here are some of my favourite voyeuristic photographs featured in the exhibit…
Chris Verene, Untitled (Red Back), 1997
Shizuka Yokomizo, Stranger No.1, 1998
Harry Callahan, Atlanta, 1984
Yesterday, taking the suggestion of my friend Luke, I visited La Hune bookstore in St-Germain-des-Prés. It is a quaint and elegant establishment, something akin to an overstocked candy store for bookworms. Among the treasures, I found this comic - or band-dessiné - by Nine Antico.
Apart from being aesthetically gorgeous, the plot is genius! Girls Don’t Cry is Tintin-esque subtle witticism infused with some good old fashioned girl drama. This book has restored my faith in comic strips.
(La Hune Librarie, 170 Boulevard St. Germain, Paris 6)
I am losing my mother tongue.
I had been in denial for a week, blaming my poor sentence structure and obsessive rereading a result of indulging in too much Ulysses. Then yesterday, I said “strawberry” instead of “Saturday”. Saying “strawberry” was the straw-breaking moment when I realized that my brain is not programmed for mastering two languages; it can only either master one or half-ass both. Thinking back over the past week, I realized that I had started speaking my English with a slight French accent to English-speaking French people because it was easier for them to understand. My mother tongue leaving me is obviously punishment for the betrayal. Now not only am I panicking about losing my flair for language, but neither my English nor my French sound proper anymore.
I think I am going to start keeping my mouth shut.
*20 minutes later: I just wrote rainbows instead of rain boots in a list of things to purchase.
Would you like to see what a 7 story abyss looks like? Welcome to my staircase…
This is my flat in Paris. From talking with other exchange students about their accommodation woes, I have to say that I am living in luxury. In all honesty, as small and creaky as it is, I love it. This studio is the perfect representation of my overwhelmed consciousness.
And a true Parisian view…
Today, my class examined original Dürer drawings/engravings that are included in the Beaux Arts permanent collection. Here are some highlights:
(Le monstre marin, 1495-ish)
And one of my favourite drawings of all time…
(Adam and Eve, 1504-ish)