Sunday, December 19, 2010

À une passante & photography by S.S.

Au revoir, Paris...

A few photos by Sebastian Spader that will remind me of my time living here, plus my favorite Baudelaire poem of all time-- which, in my opinion, perfectly epitomizes the phrase le coup de foudre (double meaning: lightning bolt/love at first sight).

All photos shot on 35mm with a Canon AE-1 Program.

À Une Passante

La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait.
Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,
Une femme passa, d'une main fastueuse
Soulevant, balançant le feston et l'ourlet;

Agile et noble, avec sa jambe de statue.
Moi, je buvais, crispé comme un extravagant,
Dans son oeil, ciel livide où germe l'ouragan,
La douceur qui fascine et le plaisir qui tue.

Un éclair... puis la nuit! — Fugitive beauté
Dont le regard m'a fait soudainement renaître,
Ne te verrai-je plus que dans l'éternité?

Ailleurs, bien loin d'ici! trop tard! jamais peut-être!
Car j'ignore où tu fuis, tu ne sais où je vais,
Ô toi que j'eusse aimée, ô toi qui le savais!

To A Passerby (English Translation)

The street about me roared with a deafening sound.
Tall, slender, in heavy mourning, majestic grief,
A woman passed, with a glittering hand
Raising, swinging the hem and flounces of her skirt;

Agile and graceful, her leg was like a statue's.
Tense as in a delirium, I drank
From her eyes, pale sky where tempests germinate,
The sweetness that enthralls and the pleasure that kills.

A lightning flash... then night! Fleeting beauty
By whose glance I was suddenly reborn,
Will I see you no more before eternity?

Elsewhere, far, far from here! too late! never perhaps!
For I know not where you fled, you know not where I go,
O you whom I would have loved, O you who knew it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Can I Borrow Your Mixtape? #1

Voici, a playlist for that long (or not) plane ride home for the holidays. Just some stuff I've been listening to for the past couple weeks. Let's call it Paris Blizzard in light of the
tempête de neige that has enveloped my current home city for the past two days. Elle est belle alors!

Along with this lovely William Eggleston photo that epitomizes traveling in style.

Longer entries to come soon... having no internet makes blogging difficult. Cheers.

Friday, November 19, 2010

New Math by Craig Damrauer

"Yeah, but you didn't." I can't count how many times I've stopped myself from saying something like that to those mumblers in museums! Craig Damraurer has done a number of prints like this one in a series called New Math. "Modern Art" takes the cake.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hungarian Artist- Roommates, Chez Serge & Murakami at Versailles

For the past month, I've been lucky enough to share a gorgeous apartment in the 7th arrondissement on Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue du Bac (belonging to an American businessman-turned-artist, Giorgio, whose lovely paintings, photographs and sketches adorn every wall) with Ariel, a friend from childhood also studying here in Paris at La Sorbonne, and a Hungarian painter/photographer, Lili Kisteleki. I thought I'd take a moment to appreciate the randomness of our colocation and also the beauty and depth of her artwork (not to mention her incredible cooking skills!!). Lili had two friends, also Hungarian artists, staying with us a few weeks, Babos Bertalan Szili and Lena Kùt. Szili creates incredibly detailed, colorful drawings and paintings, mainly of faces juxtaposed with other objects, while Lena's specialty is performance art (at their exhibition at Place des Vosges, which we attended a few weeks back, she unveiled a video piece of herself being splashed repeatedly with different colors of paint, in slow motion, against a bleak desert landscape). A few of Lili's pieces:

this piece, which is actually gigantic in real life, is ironically leaned against the wall across from me as I type:

And two pieces that Lili and Szili collaborated on, which currently live in the apartment as well:

It's been great getting to know Lili, Szili and Lena, and being in such close proximity with their artwork. Check out Szili's work on his website:

I've also discovered that I'm living right around the corner from late Parisian musical genius Serge Gainsbourg's old house on the Rue de Verneuil. (Side note: literally every time I wear my lace-up patent leather Repetto jazz shoes, at least one French boy compliments me on them, then reminds me that Serge used to wear them). Much like Oscar Wilde's grave, the house is covered in graffiti of the most loving kind-- which changes daily-- sketches of Serge and Jane Birkin, lipstick marks, song lyrics, lovers' initials.

Lastly, yesterday I paid a visit to the Château de Versailles with a few friends to see the Takashi Murakami installation. I've always had slightly mixed feelings about Murakami's work-- his colorful plastic animé sculptures hinge on kitsch and, in my opinion, don't offer a great deal of originality-- but it was interesting to see such utterly contemporary works set against the sweeping bay windows, marble statues, ancient ceiling tableaus, chandeliers and gold filigree of the Galerie des Glaces. You can see what I mean in the following pictures:

though most of the pieces in the exhibit explored the bounds of irony and juxtaposition, this piece worked a little better in my opinion, as Murakami completely outfitted the entire room in his (slightly creepy) grinning-rainbow-flower motif (notice the carpet?)

closeup on the lantern from the last shot

Suffice it to say that even though the weather has been absolutely horrendous for the past two weeks (nonstop pouring rain and wind), having all of this incredible art at my fingertips has lessened that concern!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Paris Hodgepodge: Yeasayer at Le Bataclan, French "Halloween," & Pigeons

It's been a crazy few weeks. Midterms muddled with concerts, apartment-hunting, watching Guillaume Canet's
Les Petits Mouchoirs without subtitles (a daunting feat), discovering the discreet charm of the Passy bourgeoisie, inhaling wonderful new scents on the métro, witnessing more than a few grèves (strikes), learning new French slang-- for example, "c'est ta vie, mec" (it's your life, dude) is apparently a slightly kinder way to blow off a French guy than "ta gueule" (shut your fucking face) or "plutôt crever" (I'd rather die), etc. First of all, I finally got to see Yeasayer again! The last time I saw them was two years ago, at a slightly awkward, seated concert at NYU's Skirball Center. I can only surmise that it was before they had achieved a great deal of mainstream recognition, because everyone just sort of sat there and nodded their heads. To my great dismay, I missed them at Coachella this year... and so when I heard they were playing at legendary Parisian theatre and concert hall Le Bataclan, I was obviously ecstatic. This show was much different from the seated head-nodding ordeal at Skirball. Same eclectic electro-meets-world-music style, different phenomenal light show-- and people were actually dancing! And singing along! And cheering! Quelle surprise... Although we arrived a bit late (apparently, Parisian concerts start on time, unlike everything else here...) and missed Suckers, the opening band (who are actually great, download Beach Queen if you don't know them), we made our way to the front of the crowd and danced ourselves silly.

Next order of business: Halloween. Anyone who's lived in New York in the fall will agree with me when I say that New Yorkers don't mess around when it comes to Halloween. Parades, costumes, haunted houses, all-night, all-weekend parties, candy, fake blood, streamers & TP... Alors, malheureusement, c'est pas la même chose à Paris. Halloween fell on a Sunday, which is a bit of a buzzkill on its own... and I cannot say that I saw one person dressed up on the street the entire day! In fact (as is the norm on Sundays in France) there was barely anyone on the streets. Yet, Halloween being my absolute favorite holiday, I would not be deterred. After a slightly eerie afternoon romp in Père Lachaise cemetery (complete with cobblestone malfunctions and visits to the famed graves of Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf and Oscar Wilde), we made our way home. Though I hadn't planned out a costume as I usually do, I rifled through my suitcases and found all the necessary accoutrements to transform myself into the one, the only super-kla$$y all-American pop princess Ke$ha. Glitter, ripped tights, feather earring, half-dreadlocks, studded converse and all... in fact I was a little ashamed to discover that I could easily find everything she wears among my clothing. With two slightly less-conspicuously clad friends, I ventured out to a French friend's Halloween gathering. Though I was definitely the most dressed-up of the bunch, and I desperately missed my usual American-style Halloween bacchanalia, we did have a great time dancing and drinking and drawing/tagging/painting on the walls of the apartment we were in (it was being remodeled, so we had permission!).

leaves changing in Père Lachaise

sunset on Halloween night

Oscar Wilde's tombstone, covered in lipstick kisses

I guess this feels a little bit Halloween-y?

And now for something completely different to end this hodgepodge of an entry: I have noticed that pigeons in Paris have completely different personalities than those in New York. They are incredibly and almost freakishly bold around humans (sort of like the squirrels in Washington Square Park), and not only do they walk verrrrryyyy slowwwwlyyyy (like most Parisians, at least compared to New Yorkers), but they don't move skittishly out of your way when you walk towards them like American pigeons do. Also they have no problem flying directly at people, or dive-bombing people (I've seen it happen on countless occasions). My favorite Parisian pigeon incident was when one of the lovely little creatures found its way into Paul, a boulangerie/pâtisserie, and neatly wedged itself among the pain-au-chocolats and tartes aux pommes sitting in the window. Of course, as we American girls squealed and gasped by the entrance, the boulanger calmly grabbed the pigeon with both hands and showed it to the door, then (thankfully) tossed out the soiled pastries. Needless to say, that's the last time I'll be eating anything that appears in the window of Paul.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Old & New Art Around Town: FIAC 2010, Chartres Cathedral

Last weekend, I took a trip to Chartres, a small town in the Eure-et-Loire region of France just southwest of Paris, to see the famous gothic cathedral there (anyone who's ever studied art history will be very familiar with it and its 176 stained glass windows!). Though it was freezing and there wasn't much to do in the town itself other than eat and drink (which we took full advantage of), the cathedral was absolutely breathtaking: probably the most beautiful I'd ever seen in my life. I'm not so sure I would recommend honeymooning in Chartres, but it's definitely worth visiting for a day or two to see the cathedral if you have an interest in art history (or religion, for that matter). Another highlight of the trip was our visit to the stained glass museum, where we learned how stained glass is made and viewed some contemporary works that utilized the "archaic" medium.

the cathedral at Chartres

one of the famed "rosette" windows

modern stained glass

On a modern/urban note, this weekend the FIAC (Foire International d'Art Contemporain) took place in Paris at two locations: the Grand Palais and the Cour Carrée du Louvre. The fair showcased the "crown jewels" of contemporary art galleries hailing from Paris, London, Madrid, Milan, Brussels, New York, Los Angeles and other large cities. Some of the pieces were conceptually interesting, some shocking, some downright weird-- and of course some looked as though they could've been made by my 6-year-old niece. There was a man made of noodles, a compressed square of roadkill, a bicycle made of salt crystals-- such is art nowadays. Nonetheless, the Grand Palais provided a stunning and slightly ironic backdrop to the roadkill and noodle men, while the people watching was nothing short of extraordinary: almost everyone there looked as though they had just stepped out of the Sartorialist. Amongst the chic/dapper crowd, a few pieces that caught my eye:

the aforementioned bicycle


this piece is deeper than it looks.. on the opposite wall there was a framed sketch of a woman on a bed with the text "You made me feel like nothing." The coolest part is that the fluorescent signs reflected onto the glass over the drawing so it looked like they were part of the picture.

a mushroom!

one of the more normal pieces

the Grand Palais

Looking forward to the Basquiat exhibit at the Musée d'Art Moderne and the "Brune/Blonde" exhibit at the Cinémathèque Française!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Les Amours Imaginaires: Xavier Dolan, boy genius

I've just come out of the equally inspiring, mind-blowing and utterly depressing filmic experience that was Les Amours Imaginaires (English/American title: Heartbeats), the 2nd feature-length film project of Xavier Dolan, 21-year-old French-canadian director/actor/writer/prodigy. Why depressing? Oh, just because Dolan wrote his first screenplay at the ripe old age of 17. He put the film (J'ai tué ma mère, 2008) into production two years later, and was subsequently recognized with an 8-minute standing ovation at the 2009 Cannes film festival and nominated for best foreign film both at the Oscars and the Césars. Though I haven't seen Dolan's debut film, I'm really looking forward to it if Les Amours Imaginaires is anything to go by. Putting his own unique twist on the tongue-in-cheek Nouvelle Vague-inspired concepts of jump-cuts, black comedy and brash primary-colored landscapes, Dolan paints a gorgeously refined (if nearly impossible to understand without subtitles, even for the French, à cause de l'accent quebecois), hilarious portrait of a twisted love triangle-- that of Francis and Marie, two best friends who fall for the same unattainable golden god, Nicolas. Dolan himself, adorable in Montreal-hipster attire (including but not limited to bleached oversized denim jackets, bright pink skinny jeans and skeleton-painted fingerless gloves) and the James Dean-esque haircut that every young lad below 14th street seems to be sporting nowadays, plays Francis, while Monia Chokri, in attire that floats somewhere in the region between 50's housewife and Audrey Hepburn, plays his best friend, Marie. Then there is the gorgeous Niels Schneider as Nicolas, the object of their affection, who seems to seduce everything that moves. Don't discount the beginning of the film as pretentious or "faux-indie"-- yes, Tarantino did use that song in Kill Bill; yes, Gus Van Sant already coined the "frozen snapshot" style of shooting sex scenes in My Own Private Idaho,yes, we've already seen the 2-guys-one-girl-ambiguous-sexuality-waking-up-in-bed-together-jealousy-etc scenario in Bertolucci's The Dreamers-- just keep watching and you may fall in love; or better yet just come out of the theater with a new knowledge of Quebecois slang... (par exemple, "Le shmoke cache le marde!"). That having been said, the self-admittedly "hysteria-worshipping" Dolan completes the package with a killer soundtrack, stunning cinematography and a gripping and ultimately hilarious plotline (oh, and a guest appearance by the one and only Louis Garrel!) Dolan's next project, Laurence Anyways, about a transsexual, is slated for 2012. And he's only 21... bon courage!

Monia Chokri (apparently one of Dolan's best friends in real life) as Marie

Xavier Dolan as Francis (I wasn't lying about the clothes...)

hmmm where have I seen this image before?

the director/actor/writer at work

and the trailer, of course:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ma voisine Agnès Varda

So I'm all moved into my new apartment in Paris, where I'll be studying French literature, cinema, and art history for the school year. Though I'm considering moving in with a friend in a few weeks, my current studio is in the 14th arrondissement near Montparnasse. My landlord was kind enough to show me around the neighborhood on the day I moved in, and I discovered that not only did Simone de Beauvoir live in a townhouse a few streets over until the mid-1980s, but New Wave filmmaker Agnès Varda, née "La Varda," currently resides just one street over from me, in a charmingly unconventional bright pink house. Her office is just across the street, and though it was closed on the day I passed by, I'm hoping to go check it out sometime soon-- or maybe just run into Agnès herself one of these days!

Chez Agnès

her office across the street

"La Varda" was one of the sole female filmmakers involved in the Nouvelle Vague. Born in Brussels, she studied photography at L'École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and later married filmmaker Jacques Demy. Her first major film, about a singer who falls ill, was Cléo de 5 à 7. Her most recent work, the surrealist filmic autobiography Les Plages d'Agnès, came out in 2008. Check out her work if you haven't already, she's incredibly talented (not to mention the cutest little old lady on earth)!!

an early photo of Demy and Varda

More on Paris to come soon. Bisous!

Below, a trailer for Les Plages d'Agnès: