Friday, 11 February 2011

Paris Palavers ~ 'Collage Sauvage' with Rue Meurt D'Art

POSTED IN:  ~ PalaversArt ~ Streets ~ 20th

Collage Sauvage
with Rue Meurt D'Art
(also known as Jean Marc Paumier)

And what, exactly, is a 'Collage Sauvage' when it's at home, you may be asking.

Literally, collage means something stuck (such as bits of paper glued together), or in this case, more of an actual posting up of things. You can see plenty of evidence of gooey sticky stuff in some of the pictures on this page.

The event itself was organised by ace Paris street sticker, Jean Marc Paumier, who invited me along to see what it was all about. He's also known as the Paris street artist Rue Meurt D'Art, and I'd come across (and admired) his work so often I finally decided to track him down and get to know him better.

So his collage sauvage turned out to be all about sticking stuff on assorted walls in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. It was also about celebrating, and I think that's the right word, the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune.

JM and Friends did seem to be quite politically engaged, although there were others, like myself, who were more interested in the actual phenomenon of wandering around Paris illegally posting stuff up than the motivations behind it. Or perhaps both.

I am fascinated by Paris history, as it happens, and the revolutionary period is one of the richest of them all. Back in 1871 the internal management of Paris was in a real mess, Napoleon III's Prussian campaign having ended in defeat and a bitter and humiliating seige of the city.

To cut a long story short, The Commune was a two-month attempt at some sort of rule by the working classes, which ended in disaster, chaos and bloodshed.

There's a wall in the Père Lachaise cemetery, which we passed through, against which a large number of Communards were riffled down at the end of the makeshift Paris government-by-the-people.

This wall can be seen in the picture where the group is singing, rather emotionally, Le Temps des Cerises, which was written in 1866 and is thought to be about a nurse who was one of the many women who suffered or died during the Semaine Sanglante, or 'Bloody Week', when the Commune was finally overthrown by French government troops. You can still see what look like dozens of pockmarks from the violent end of that particular chapter of French revolutionary history.

And talking of women, Jean Marc's posters are actually all pictures of ladies who took important social and often feminist stands during this period, and ultimately suffered for it.

As soon as the group gathered around this particular wall in Père Lachaise, a couple of rather edgy cemetery attendants appeared and watched warily as the placards were placed by the memorial and the song was, very peacefully and beautifully, sung.

I heard them muttering to each other as we left that 'you never know when these 'flash mobs' are going to appear or what they are going to do', and they seemed rather relieved that we didn't, in fact, do much at all.

The legality of it all had been running through my mind for a few days, perhaps for more than one reason that you might be able to guess, but in the end there didn't seem to be any problems despite the undoubtedly shady-side-of-the-law we, or at least the actually brush-wielders, were treading. Maybe it was a question of safety in numbers, because I don't think I'd have been brave enough to go around posting things like that (with a political agenda, after all), in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon!

The route of the 'wild sticking' went from the village-like Saint-Germain de Charonne churchyard, along the famous 'Mur des Fédérés' (Communards Wall) of Père Lachaise, both inside and out, and then winding through some of the most charming and characterful streets of the Belleville area. Real Willy Ronis territory it was, and a treat for lens-toters like myself.

Strangely, the route followed, almost street for street, a 'photography and curiosities' walk I did recently with the Paris If You Please Meet Up group, called Taming The 20th, (the first of... 20!), so I was quite pleased with myself for having chosen the same streets as someone who undoubtedly knows them much better than I do.

Apart from getting lost about three times (blame it on my camera's eye - a mind of its own), I didn't really have much of a chance to talk to the man himself, at the epicentre of events as he was. I'm hoping to catch up with him in a much more leisurely atmosphere, however, and discover to what extent he is politically motivated in his art, and also what drives him to decorate the walls of the city where quite a few have gone before. I'd also love to know a bit about his modus operani - like if he has permission to put his cutout pictures up or if he has to sneak out in the middle of the night and hope he doesn't get arrested!

In any case, from what I sensed during the day, he's a thoroughly nice chap, and I'm looing forward to confirming that intuition soon. As a contemporary of Miss.Tic, with his images linked to words which actually mean something and make us think, I can't but admire him, and be influenced and inspired by his drive and approach.

In case any of you are thinking that what he does is vandalism or dangerously provocative, consider this. He's only putting up paper and paste which will be effaced slowly with the weather or quickly with a bit of elbow-grease. Indeed, the very first drawing, which he simply placed on a gravestone and secured with pebbles, was being removed by officials only seconds after he left the cemetery. And Paris, of course, is such a revolutionary place, if you have the right to free speech and a certain 'reclaiming' of the walls, as it were, then it's here as much as any other place on earth I reckon.


Here are a few more pics from the walk. Click on any of them to see a bigger version.

Thanks a lot to Jean Marc for this friendly and unusual event. You can visit his site to discover his great and thoughtful art, or just hit the streets: you've sure to stumble over some of his work sooner or later!
© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and commissions always welcome!


Rob said...

That is what I like; Artistic Anarchy. The collages are perfect in that they are not permanent. Sounds like an interesting day participating in detainable activities.

More than once myself along with fellow photogs have been detained by authorities for simply being where we shouldn't. We count those as excellent days.

Sab said...

Hi Rob - this guy is quite 'engagé' as they say in French, but in the nicest possible way - peacefully and with the aim of using art to make us think, which is worthy I believe, and what art should be for me, over and above just being 'nice to look at'.

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