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Day 110: 59 Rivoli

Only in Paris – legalised art squat.

Just over a decade ago, artists began to squat at 59 rue de Rivoli, a dilapidated former building of Credit Lyonnais. What flourished next was a series of colourful installations at the façade of the street, attracting attentions aplenty and drawing admirers of free expressions of arts. It really is impossible to miss this building if you’re going down rue de Rivoli.

When the building was declared dangerous in mid-2000s, it was thanks to the support of fans as well as the media that the building, instead of simply being shut down, underwent a restoration process that would take approximately three years (between 2006 and 2009) to complete. Its reopening saw legalisation of the premises as free home to resident artists and the birth of 59Rivoli.org, its doors open to visitors without admission charges. It’s a dynamic art house with works at various stages, from inception to finalised pieces.

Day 109: Snowglobe

Some collects shot glasses (my youngest brother), some collects thimbles (one of my best friends), some collects postcards (guilty as charged), and it would appear the owner of this handyman shop on rue Gay-Lussac is a fan of snowglobes. One of the few snowglobes sitting by the window is that of Hong Kong.

At the moment, my pretty collection of postcards from all over the world is sitting in a box back in Dublin, in a haphazard manner. It has been a while since I organised the latest postcards that I’ve acquired, either from friends who were travelling or those that I bought myself. Since arriving in Paris, I’ve received a handful few postcards, so perhaps I should get a new scrapbook and start another collection.

Now, what do you collect?

Day 108: L’Homme aux semelles devant

I first noticed this unusual and whimsical sculpture at place du Père-Teilhard-de-Chardin during a leisurely walk with the girls a couple of weekends ago, and when my random bus exploration took me past it again, I deboarded the bus quickly at the next stop.

A commission carried out by late Jean-Robert Ipoustéguy, this sculpture from mid-1980 parodically depicted the poet Arthur Rimbaud. A restless soul who travelled constantly, Rimbaud had earned himself the nickname l’Homme aux semelles de vent (“man with soles of wind”). Cleverly playing with the homophonic title l’Homme aux semelles devant (“man with soles in front [of him]”), Ipoustéguy had Rimbaud resting upon someone’s soles, perhaps his own, as the body was split in two and time-wrapped in a peculiar machine.

This is a prime example of the relationship between French(wo)men and their love of language. From whatever little I managed to glean from the French culture, everyone seems to thrive on smart plays of words, compositions that are linguistically beautiful, the subtleties in nuances of literature. How else do you explain George Perec’s lipogrammic writing of La disparition? Or the creation of verlanised verlan? Or the delight of my French teacher in showing us “the 8 flavours of passé composé” and the anticipation of other rich variations of all the other tenses? ;)

Day 107: The new sari

I met Anirudh last week at Obscura Day. At some point, our topic of conversation turned to food (my favourite topic, yay!) and he was a tad surprised that I haven’t yet explored the Indian quarter of Paris near Gare du Nord. This has got to be remedied and today, we headed over to the neighbourhood for some Tamil food chez Saravanaa Bhavan. In case you wondered, the food was delicious and reminded me of Indian food in Malaysia. I will be back here before long!

Walking around, there are also a large number of shops selling all things Indian-related, from Indian sweets (I bought some to go) to Bollywood DVDs to colourful bangles to traditional costumes. Then we spotted these updated look to sari. Very stylish, not to mention, errrm, sheer and skimpy. Not quite the sari I know and worn before. If my previous experience with sari was anything to go by – I was worried the entire evening about people stepping on the hem and unravelled the entire 6 metres of turquoise cloth that I’ve ineptly wrapped around me – the likelihood of me ever trying this modern look would be slim to none…

Day 106: Canal St Martin

It has been a week since I left my apartment with a coat. Instead, tucked in my bag, is a small cardigan, which I haven’t been using either. Really, Paris has become the new California. It also makes it very hard for me – quite torn actually – to either stay in and work (I have a lot on my plate right now with looming deadlines) or to go out and profite-bien le soleil.

In the end, the good old adage of balancing work and fun makes more sense. Instead of just gazing longingly out my window, I steal a couple of hours to be out, walk about, and to soak up some Vitamin D. At Canal St Martin, hundreds of sun lovers obviously have less qualm about spending their time outdoors. They lounged canal-side, with picnic spread and chilled drinks, chatting and laughing. Worry not, I will have my share of fun this evening – piña colada party, here I come!

Day 105: Théâtre optique

I passed by Maison Internationale today to be tested for acceptance into a French course (general level: intermediate, grammatical proficiency: rubbish – seems like I’ve forgotten most of the conjugations I learned in the past, ops) and on my way out, there was a groovy little box with dancing people in it.

Closer look please. There’s a disco ball, a spinning disc, a general vibe from Austin Power, there are even weird observers – but the dancers, they look unsteady on their feet. Of course, they are, errm, how do I put it delicately – a tad indisposed but happy?

This théâtre optique by Pierrick Sorin is rather amusing, depicting an universal day-to-day scene, however with subtle messages that can be interpreted in one too many ways. Which is what art is about. I think. It’s open to observers’ commentaries and subjective to each opinion. To some, this is a youth night out just for fun. To some, this is a social issue fueled by alcohol. To some, this is just another funky installation.

Day 104: Trusty steed

In history, a chevalier would never go without his trusty steed, usually a beauty with incomparable loyalty. Or so the romance novels had me believe. It is no wonder then, statues of men who are deemed leaders and heroes are normally depicted on the horseback, sword-yielding and all. Even the word chevalier itself, used to mean a knight, is of French origin with its root lies in the word cheval, i.e. horse.

Adjacent to the Hôtel de Ville, the statue of Étienne Marcel looking out to River Seine can hardly be missed. Looking from the side, it looks almost mundane but looking up from underneath, it always strikes me how magnificent the horse looks, and in part, rather menacing too. I have never felt the urge to look at sculptures this way (there are a lot of equestrian statues in Paris) but perhaps it’s the nature of this particular one which juts out over the footpath – it opens up an accidental opportunity to see the statue differently?

Day 103: Metallic light

The area around Forum Les Halles is under some reconstruction works at the moment. Colourful boards have been put up to cover the garden and the buildings, although shopping, at least for now, continue as usual with the few still accessible door opens to shoppers. Unsurprisingly, a good few of the shops are now running sales to work away their stocks before upcoming temporary closure to facilitate the works.

I arrived at Forum Les Halles a little late in the day to do any shopping (not that that was my intent, but I should come back to check out the bargains) but happily for me, not too late to grab this shot of metallic refraction of the sun at the end of a warm evening. We have been in luck of late with the weather – warm, bright and sunny – it feels more summer than spring! :D

Ps: ok, the shot could have been better if the light actually bounced against the Art Nouveau grille instead of the portakabin from the reconstruction works. Oh well…

Day 102: Fameux ce saucisson?

Something happened today that left me fuming, and to clear my head I decided to take a random bus in the city and see where it takes me. Perfectly reasonable strategy too to see more of Paris that I would not otherwise be familiar wth.

As soon as I spotted this mural on rue Oberkampf (near the junction to rue St Maur), I rang for the bell and got off so I can check it out. It’s a curious work that’s still ongoing, with students from Cergy and Havre working on the piece in collaboration with L’Association le M.U.R. (Have a look in larger size)

There’s a mixed message on it right now, with strange faint writing (that makes the title of today’s entry), naughty gnomes, McDo etc. I’m not quite sure what’s intended for the final picture or if someone has tampered with this. The artists were packing up their materials when I was there, but since I lost my voice today, I couldn’t really talk to them.

It seems from the association website that the artworks on this mural wall changes every couple of weeks, and this one will be there until 18 April 2011. Only 6 more days to catch it.

Day 101: Petal drops

I have been trying to photograph the city from different places but today, I decided this courtyard in Cité U is just too pretty to not show it off ;)

While we had had very sunny few days in the last week, it started to get a bit chilly again, and a tad windy, with the forecast for the remainder of the week to be somewhat grey and wet. Still, all thanks to the wind, we also now have this blanket of cherry blossom on the ground, almost like snowfall in winter at a glance. I just love it. It makes me want to pull a blanket out and sit amidst the petals. Now, wouldn’t that be nice?

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