Monday, 25 April 2011

Sab's Top Ten Totally Offbeat Paris Things To Do

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesListsPeculiar

Sab's Top Ten Totally Offbeat Paris Things To Do
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

When I was asked to produce a list of my Top Ten Offbeat Things To Do In Paris for the GotSaga website, I thought, 'Easy-Peasy, Lemon... Squeezy!'. I was wrong.

For a start, Paris is SO famous, even what seems to be offbeat, if you look into it, actually has about a hundred articles written about it already out there.

I mean, there are entire books written about 'The Secret Paris' and 'The Unknown Paris' and 'The Hidden Paris' and the list goes on.

So in the end I thought, worrying about it ain't gonna get the piece written; just get started and forget what's gone before, and see what happens. That's what I did, and this is the result: a totally personal selection of places or ideas for doing something just a little different in the so-called City of Light.

You'll find most of these offbeat attractons involve discovering the city through walking, and are things that can be enjoyed outside. There are vast armies of people who talk about restaurants and cafés and bars and clubs and boutiques far better than I ever could, so I stick to my thing: the streets of Paris.

Here's a video I made where I basically talk you through each of the Ten Things To Do. It seems to take quite a while to load, so you could open it in You Tube, let it charge up happily with the sound off, and watch it after you've read the article. Just an idea :-D

Oh yeah, and almost everything in the list doesn't cost a thing. Offbeat, fascinating and free! What more could you possibly ask for? Bonne visite!

 Sab's Top Ten Offbeat Paris Things To Do

1) Come on Down to the Catacombes

OK, OK, I know that this might be considered one of the biggest clichés of all. But then again it's not quite up there with the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, and it's weird. I mean, TOTALLY weird. Imagine heading down a twisting hole in the ground to wander a couple of kilometres of passages to end up in a spooky labyrinth of bones, bones and more bones, all lined up nice and neat in aesthetically pleasing patterns and pictures.

There are other surprises down there too: countless enigmatic inscriptions line the walls, strange sculptures are hidden away in recesses, deep deeeep subterranean water holes get you wondering and cave ceilings arch up so high you worry that a Parisian apartment block might come crashing through the roof at any moment. Which is precisely what used to happen on a regular basis before some consolidation work. So worth doing, either just to say you've done it, if you're the box-ticking type, and to experience something really unique if you're the adventurous kind. Put it at the top of your list please, like I did, and report back. Thank you. (This is the paying one, by the way, about €8 I believe, plus a queue)

Visit the Catacombes website

2) Follow the Street Art Trail

We need to distinguish between street art, and graffiti or 'tagging' here. Paris has a ton of both, but it's the street art which is really exceptional. I'll lump graffiti and tagging together as the stuff which we generally think of as ugly and not particularly creative. This includes big colourful names which may show some artistic ability, and scrawled slogans which usually don't.

Street art, on the other hand, is where people genuinely offer meritworthy works to the world for free, try to make the urban landscape a more interesting place than before, often make us think, and theoretically respect people's property and historical monuments, as they'd like people to respect their art.

In this latter camp are a whole bunch of Parisian street artists who have now become famous and you can have great fun looking out for their work all over the place. Check out Miss.Tic, Jerôme Mesnager, Rue Meurt d'Art, Jef Aerosol, Mosko et Associés, Nemo, Speedy Graffito, Lézarts de la Bièvre, Jana und Js, Space Invader, Gregos and infini2, to name a few, whose work is particularly in evidence in Belleville and Ménilmontant, Montmartre and the Butte aux Cailles, amongst plenty of other places.

Visit Miss.Tic's website
Visit Jerôme Mesnager's website
Visit Rue Meurt d'Art's website
Visit Jef Aerosol's website
Visit Mosko et Associés' website
Visit a webpage about Némo
Visit Lézarts de la Bièvre's website
Visit Jana und Js' website
Visit Space Invader's website
Visit Speedy Graffito's website
Visit Gregos' website
Visit infini2 's website

3) Book your Passage to Paris

The Paris passages are one of those extremely pleasant, intriguing and somewhat hidden away aspects of the city which take a little while to notice if you don't have them specifically pointed out to you. They're rarely on 'Top Ten' lists of things to do and yet some of them would almost merit the epithet 'spectacular' in terms of atmosphere and otherworldly charm. I'm thinking of places like splendid Galerie Vivienne and quaint Passage Jouffroy.

Those that don't merit 'spectacular' are actually just as good in my book. Offering another ambience entirely are Passage des Panoramas and Passage Brady. The first is a coin, stamp and old postcard collector's paradise, and the latter one of the top spots for curries and... incredibly cheap haircuts (see any photo of mine for evidence of this ;-).

4) Turn Japanese at the Jardin Albert-Kahn

Hey, looking for cool things to do in Paris? Well what about... getting out of Paris?! Only a little bit, you understand. We're still on the metro system, which is my personal 'loose' definition of what Paris is anyway.

This place is a marvel among marvels. It's basically the fantasy of a rich philanthropic banker who fell in love with photography, gardens and the planet in general, and funded various trips to far off places to record them on the 'latest technology' (stereoscopic plates and others). He was one for peace, whatever that is, and decided to symbolically represent this in the form of a 'garden of gardens'.

We have a truly beautiful Japanese garden (originally created by an imported master gardener donated by the Japanese Emperor himself) sitting comfortably next to a delightfully haphazard English garden and a regimented French one. Further on there are wilder areas consisting of two distinct types of forest of sentimental significance to Mr.Kahn. I was missing a pic of all this, so I stole one from the Internet - I'll replace it with a proper one of my own shortly. (It cost's a couple of euros come to think of it, but cheap at the price)

Visit the Jardin Albert Kahn website

5) Become a Quirks and Curiosities Hunter

Be they architectural, statuesque, historical or just good old plain weird, Paris is absolutely packed full of curiosities, and I think anyone who wants to say they truly know this city needs to get out there and find a few! Of course, I'm a bit obsessed by them myself, but to get you started I would like to share with you my series of 20 absolutely fascinating Parisian curiosities for free, and that's just the tip of the iceberg!

As a taster, when you start receiving the articles, you'll get answers to these intriguing questions, which you can immediately go and discover yourself in the streets of Paris, amongst many others...
   1) When is a door not a door?
   2) Who exactly is the 'woman without a head'?
   3) Where is the man who can walk through walls?
   4) What is the Louvre's most astonishing carving?
   5) The 'work' of a true Napoleon hater, or just an idiot?
   6) What's does the mysterious medieval carving 'FDT' signify?
   7) A sickeningly racist anacronism or a quaint reminder of yesteryear?
   8) What's the surprising secret of the ugly-looking fountains?
   9) Where is the statue that watches you pass?

   10) Just how authentic does the last Paris Vespienne smell?
   11) What is the magic that happens on a certain bridge at sunset?
   12) Ever seen a ghost station? I'll show you one.

And specially for those of you who think you are clever for knowing where the 'other' Statue of Liberty in Paris is...

   13) Where exactly can you find the FIFTH version of this statue I know of in the French capital?!  ;-)

Get your 20 Paris Curiosities here!

6) Walk the Abandonned 'Petite Ceinture' Railway

All around Paris there used to run a little train, and remnants of its tracks can still be glimpsed all over the city... if you know where to look. Deep cuttings terminating in spooky tunnels can be spied in several of the outlying parks, and you'll occasionally be wandering under a dubiously darkened bridge if you're the wandering type like me, and suddenly realise that is seems to be serving no purpose whatsoever, if it isn't to provide dubiously darkened bridges for wanderers like me to wander under. Another vestige of the circular Parisian 'Little Belt' railway of yesteryear.

The good news is, if you get yourself out to the 16th arrondissement of the city, wrongly dismissed as merely a boring bourgeoie backwater, there's a good kilometre chunk of the old tracks in the open air free to walk along if you wish. A perfect place for thinking about how a city changes and doing something probably fewer than one in a million visitors to Paris ever does. You're one in a million - félicitations! And talking of millions...

Visit the Petite Ceinture page on Wikipedia

7) Visit the Memorial to the Deportation  

And talking of millions... of the many millions who visit France's most famous religious edifice, only a tiny fraction of those are even aware that just behind this tourist trap lies a far more touching monument: the Mémorial de la Déportation.

In a tiny park on the tip of Ile de la Cité, literally across the road from Notre Dame, a moving experience awaits at the bottom of a steep flight of austere steps. This place is to the memory of all those who were rounded up and sent away to the concentration camps by the Nazis during the Second World War. Don't miss the explanation panal at the entrance, explaining the coloured star system used to identify and stigmatise all the various despicable miscreants from the Hitlerites' point of view. It won't leave you indifferent.

Visit the Mémorial de la Déportation page on Wikipedia

8) Climb a Mountain in a Park

"A mountain in Paris - are you kidding me?" you ask. No, I'm really not, and I don't mean 'Mount' Parnasse or 'Mount' Martre either! OK, it's not an enormous mountain, but it is high in relation to what's immediately around it, it's in the middle of a lake, it has two definite bridges spanning impressive drops to get to it, one of which sways a little if you jump up and down on it, so... don't!

I'm talking about the spiky little mountain in the middle of Parc des Buttes Chaumont, and if you know it, fine, but I'm always amazed by how many people have never discovered this stunning place, just because it's not in the centre of Paris.

On top of the peak is the Temple of Sybil, no less, which offers a lovely view over some of Paris,especially to the north and north-east, which is where Sacré Coeur and its milky domes live, so that's pretty.

The park itself is also great - lots of ups and downs and grassy slopes and little grottos to explore with streams and the odd waterful to admire, not to mention all the botanical interest if that's your thing.

Visit the Parc des Buttes Chaumont page on Wikipedia

9) Follow the Old Philippe Auguste Wall 

This one might require a bit of research, but I just typed 'Philippe Auguste Wall map' into Google and found all you need on the very first page (and a link to a great site in English is below too).

Paris grew outwards organically and somewhat concentrically, like a lichen on a wall, continually building defensive boundaries, bursting through them, building new ones, tearing through those, and so on, until we have what we see today. The Philippe Auguste wall was one of those defenses, encircling the city on both the left and right bank over 800 years ago, and we are lucky today that we can still more or less follow its path and see quite a few intriguing remains, including several towers, well, bits of towers, along the way.

King Philippe Auguste built his big wall, wisely so as it turned out, to protect the city whilst he was away with Richard the Lionheart killing non-Christians who only had little walls to protect themselves.

I recently did a fantastic walk right the way around the thing, and I think I've managed to find most of the remaining... remnants. You have to do it in stages really, as it takes a while, but is thoroughly rewarding in the end... if you like seeking out stony ghosts of the past, of course.

I can organise one of my Paris Photo/Curios Tours on this exact theme for anyone who's interested...

Visit a great Philippe Auguste Wall website

10) And Finally, Let's Go Shoot Parisians! 

Ending on what will be a high point for some, I suggest a good session of Parisian shooting. With cameras, obviously. Humanistic street photography was practically invented in this city, by the likes of Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Luckily for us, Parisians themselves show no signs of letting up on their eminent photographability just by going about their daily baguette buying, cigarette smoking and dog walking duties.

Indeed, the average city stepper positively revels in seeing and being seen; just witness any café terrasse for evidence of this. And you are free to get some classic street shots of your own with whatever gear you're packing. I always tell my photo tour clients that I don't care if you have the latest digital SLR or a throwaway point and shoot or a fancy iPhone. The great street photographers of the past had none of that and look at the results.

It's truly the eye that counts in street photography, and yours can be as good as anyone else's so get out there and have fun. Great places are Montmartre, Belleville and Menilmontant, the Seine and, well, all of Paris really. Make sure you do something useful with your pictures afterwards, like put them on a free Flickr page so that we can all enjoy them. Themes help a lot too, like 'Paris', or better 'walls', 'people', 'cafés', 'parks' and so on. It focuses the mind (and the eye). And only one shot of each subject. And... oh, don't get me started!

Click on my Paris Set Me Free blog or my You Tube page to access over 130 free videos of friendly and constructive Paris street photography commentary on some of my clients' photos and a lot of my own stuff too.

By the way, almost all of the photos in this article (not Nos.4,8,9) were shot with my humble little iPhone camera to give you an idea of what's possible with a very simple device (and a little help from some Apple apps afterwards, admittedly - the iPhone's fancy, but the camera most certainly isn't). Happy shooting, and be nice to the locals - a smile and a 'Bonjour!' normally does the trick!

* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Book Review ~ "Histoire de la France" by Henri del Pup & Robert Pince

POSTED IN:  ~ PublicationsReviews ~ Books

Histoire de la France
by Henri del Pup & Robert Pince
Milan Jeunesse 2003
ISBN 9782745911414

Book Review
(Note: This book is in French)
It took me ages to read this, but that's more down to its rather large hardback format as I generally read on the train or in bed, and this isn't too convenient for either. But it's a great book, boy is it a great book!

I wasn't sure whether to talk about it here, because my policy (and USP) is to only review books which are resolutely Paris-themed, Paris-based, Paris-inspired or Paris obsessed. This is about France, and there are plenty of people out there reviewing any old book about this country so although I'm interested I tend to avoid them.

In this case though I thought it was justified. For a start, so much of the history of France revolves around Paris in one way or another. And then it was my first real delve into French history in any serious way, so I thought I'd share that with you too.

Histoire de la France is actually targeted at kids, but for me it was just perfect. Really, I far prefer a richly illustrated, thematic, one-topic-per-spread, lots of little coloured boxes all over the place volume like this than a heavy, boring text only tome.

There are nearly 300 pages of fascinating content presented in an extremely attractive way, taking us from hundreds of thousands of years ago when Homo erectus (which would make an excellent name for a club in the Marais, come to think of it) was just working out what fire was all about up to almost the present day. I say almost because President Sarkozy is missing from the end of my 2003 edition, but that's utterly irrelevant in fact.

The book is divided into twelve sections, and you can just about read the titles if you click on the picture on the left to blow it up.

I personally found the whole work riveting, as the style is crystal clear, the pages all divided up into managable paragraphs with headings and, unlike a lot of French and Parisian histories these days, you don't have to wade thigh-high through the author's personality to get to the actual facts, which in this case was exactly what I wanted.

The book is in French, as I indicated at the start of this review. As most of you will be anglophones, I'll say a bit about the level of the book. Despite it being targetted at a juvenile readership, I judge it to be far from simplistic. Clear it is, I would say, but the writing is both elegant and detailed, and it's probably not suitable for a complete beginner if you were thinking of using it as one of your first adventures into the language of Molière.

Having said that, for an intermediate level reader with a solid interest in the subject, I'd thoroughly recommend it as enabling you to chop two heads of with one guillotine, so to speak. You get the most accessible and engaging French history I've yet to see, in any language, along with a thorough immersion in well-written but straight forward French which will do wonders for your vocabulary as long as you have a good dictionary handy at all times!

My favourite chapters were probably those dealing with the various revolutions and empires and all the bloody events that surrounded them. The history of France is really bloody... bloody, you know!

I have terrible problems getting my head around the ins and outs of how all the various Louis and Napoleons and Communes and Sun Kings (thought it was a Beatles song..) and Terrors and Republics fit together, and this Histoire de la France went  a long way to helping me out of my own personal dark ages. A very useful geneology is included at the back, which I found myself referring to regularly, so thanks for that too, Messieurs Pince & del Pup.

I mentioned the goriness of much of French history, and this isn't hidden in the book. Chapters are devoted to the Nazi occupation of Paris, the concentration camp horrors, various religious massacres (a recurring theme), the slave trade and the war of the trenches, to name but a few.

It's not all horrors though, and there are plenty of double page spreads on more optimistic matters. The art and craft of Cro-Magnon man is revelatory as Homo sapiens came on the scene (not such a cool name for a Marais club). We learn of cathedral building techniques and the daily lives of students in the middle ages. We see how the countryside is exploited differently over the centuries. We are told about the Italian and French renaissance periods and the enlightenment times, which unfortunately didn't last too long before obscurantism took over again. It's all engrossing stuff in any case.

The modern era isn't ignored, and I was able, for once and for all, able to both situate and distinguish between 'la Belle Epoque' and 'les Années Folles', although don't ask me for the details if you don't mind.

The wars are covered sensitively and intelligently, while later times such as the notorious May '68 student protests are elucidated for those of us for whom it was all a bit of a mystery. The whole De Gaulle phenomenon is much clearer to me now, thank you.

After a bit about the recent French presidents and the 70s oil crisis the book finishes with France winning the football world cup (oh, I remember it well, old grannies dancing in the street... well, almost) and the introduction of the euro.

A youthful approach may be taken by Histoire de la France, but puerile it certainly isn't, and I can't think of a better introduction to the basics of what has gone to make France and its people the nation it is today. A slight disclaimer would be that I haven't exactly read many, so hopefully there are a few other great ones out there which I'll be bringing to your attention in due course. An English version would be nice.

I'll sum up with the back cover blurb in French, in case you wanted to see how much you understand:

"S'intéresser à l'histoire de la France, c'est suivre le fil des événements qui ont marqué la vie de notre pays : depuis la conquête du feu, ses habitants successifs ont notamment vécu l'arrivée de l'agriculture, l'apparition de la métallurgie, la guerre des Gaules, les grandes migrations, l'euphorie du XIe au XIIIe siècle, la guerre de Cent Ans, les guerres de Religion, la Révolution et deux guerres mondiales. C'est un véritable roman, avec ses batailles et ses intrigues, ses personnages d'exception et ses traîtres. Mais l'ouvrage raconte aussi la vie de tous les jours, ses lentes transformations et les grands mouvements de pensée qui font évoluer la société française et la conduisent à ce qu'elle est devenue aujourd'hui. Une plongée dans le passé qui permet au lecteur d'éclairer le présent et de mieux baliser l'avenir."
Bravo, I couldn´t have said it better myself. Translations on a postcard (or in the comments section if you prefer). There will be a test on Monday morning, don't be late.


© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly with suggestions, questions and requests.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Interview with Jean Marc Paumier ("Rue Meurt d'Art")

POSTED IN:  ~ PeopleInterviewsArtists

Rue Meurt d'Art
Committed Urban Artist

One of the first things you notice as your train from Saint-Lazare draws into the station at Colombes... is a series of three circular wall paintings characterfully decorating the side of a building. Weary commuters have used this for many years now as their signal to wake up and get off.

And it's true that Jean Marc's colourful larger than life portraits and their thought-provoking speech bubbles have accompanied me too on my Paris peregrinations for quite a while now.

It was just recently though, on discovering two superb new pieces side by side in a little hidden Parisian square, one of which inspired this artistic iPhone photo on the left, that I decided to find out more. Which wasn't difficult, as I was starting from zero.

I literally knew nothing of the person behind the paintings on plaster (via canvas), and it's been a fascinating process discovering who he is and what makes him tick.

You can learn about our first meeting here where I accompanied Jean Marc / Rue Meurt d'Art on a 'Collage Sauvage'  through the streets, cemeteries and revolutionary urban landscape of the 20th arrondissement.

Now I am proud to offer you an interview with the man himself, when he showed me around his home turf, Colombes, in the north-west suburbs of Paris. I also visited his studio, which is a delightfully tucked away little artistic haven and is where most of the photos here are from.

I appreciate Jean Marc's openness and willingness to take the time to talk with me in between painting restauration and preparations for the happenings and 'public hangings' (!!!) he so enjoys participating in.

Do click on any of the pictures in this article to enjoy larger versions of them, showcasing some of the amazing works of art that are just lying around Jean Marc's studio waiting to be discovered.

Keep your eyes up also, as you walk around the streets of the city, both in Paris and Colombes, and you'll see work by 'Rue Meurt d'Art', which is a pleasurably ambiguous play on words where we aren't sure if it's the streets which are killing art, art which is smothering the streets, the streets which are dying for lack of art, or if it all isn't just a bunch of vicious rumours...


 The Interview

 ==> Note: My 'artistic' translation into English is followed by Jean Marc's original French, in purply-pink italics, if you'd prefer it.

Paris If You Please: Does Paris please you?

Rue Meurt d'Art: Yes, a lot, I'm an authentic lover of Paris, a town with is constantly in motion, sometimes extremely lively, close to a certain tension.

I'm still discovering the city, I walk there often, sometimes crossing it in its entirety with my partner.

Oui beaucoup, je suis un authentique passionné de Paris,  ville sans cesse en mouvement, vivante parfois à l'extrême, proche de la tension.

Je continue sa découverte, j'y marche beaucoup, on la traverse de bout en bout parfois avec  ma compagne.

PIYP:  Do you have a favourite place in the city?

RMd'A: I like the 18th a lot, because I had a studio in rue Ramey, between Barbès and the Butte. It was still a bit of a working class area at the time, in fact it was rather mixed, workers, executives, artistis, old Parisians who would delight in telling you about the Paris of the 30s and 40s. There was a friendly atmosphere, almost village-like.

J'aime beaucoup le 18ème, parce que j'ai eu un atelier coté rue Ramey, entre Barbès et la Butte, c'était à l'époque encore un peu populaire, en fait plutôt mélangé, prolos, cadres, artistes, des vieux parisiens qui vous racontaient volontiers le Paris des années 30-40. il y avait une ambiance chaleureuse, villageoise presque.

PIYP: You put your works on the walls of Paris like many others, but your approach is not that of a simple 'street artist'. What drives you to do what you do?

RMd'A: I've always conceived of what I do as what you could call a transversal body of work, completely opposite to the approach of what is generally known as street art. I always install my urban collages in public, during the day, and involve other artists and other ways of expressing one's self. This was pretty unusual at the time when I started. What drives me.. a sort of unconsciousness I think.., no, I'm joking, in fact it's the desire to develop a global approach through urban art which isn't solely centred on myself.

This approach is guided by an attempt to create links between people, both artists and non-artists, in a specific location in the town, at the time of installing the artistic piece. We need to change the perception of art and of artists, to give them a real approachability, to rediscover a kind of social role.

J'ai toujours conçu mon travail comme un ensemble disons transversal, et très à l'inverse des pratiques de ce que l'on appelle le street art. J'installe  toujours mes collages urbains en public, de jour, et implique d'autres artistes d'autres modes d'expression. C'était assez rare à l'époque où j'ai commencé. Ce qui me pousse..une forme d'inconscience je pense, je plaisante, c'est en fait le désir d'avoir à  travers la peinture urbaine une démarche globale pas seulement centrée sur moi.

Cette démarche est guidée par la tentative de créer du lien entre les gens , artistes et non artistes, dans un lieu spécifique de la ville, au moment de la mise en place de l'ouvrage. Il faut changer le regard sur l'art et les artistes, leur donner une proximité réelle, retrouver une forme de rôle social.

PIYP: Your decision to add a 'speech bubble' to your images, which used to be solitary, has created both a unique 'brand' and also the opportunity to enrich your creations with words. Why this change?

RMd'A: It was above all an evolution more than a change. At the beginning I had a project with a series of collages of writers and poets, starting with Prévert, and the addition of words seemed natural. And in the end I carried on, which enabled works which at first were simply aesthetic pieces to take on an other, rather offbeat, dimension. Words are now an important element of my work - they allow me to synthesise my thoughts, but also sometimes to throw people off track; I have fun, in other words!

Ce fut surtout une évolution plus qu'un changement, j'avais initialement un projet d'une série de collages sur les écrivains et poètes, et j'ai commencé par Prévert, l'adjonction de mots semblait évidente. J'ai en fait continué, permettant à des représentations qui n'étaient qu'esthétiques d'avoir une dimension autre et décalée. Le verbe est un élément important maintenant dans mon travail, il me permet de préciser ma pensée, mais aussi parfois de brouiller les pistes, bref, je m'amuse!

PIYP: Vous êtes un artiste engagé au niveau politique et au niveau de la ville. Qu'est-ce que c'est, pour vous, être un artiste 'engagé', et quel est la place, justement, pour l'art là-dedans ?

RMd'A: Yes, I am committed, as every citizen should be. Political issues affect all of us, and if more people were active in this sphere we wouldn't have these oligarchs who confiscate the power and misuse our democracy. For me, there isn't art on one side and politics on the other. Getting involved in associations and so on is all part of a coherent whole, which underlies and continually enriches my artistic endeavours, giving them their strength, if they have one.

Oui je suis engagé, comme tout citoyen devrait l'être, la chose politique est l'affaire de tous et si cela était plus fréquent parmi nos concitoyens nous n'aurions pas ces oligarques qui confisquent le pouvoir et dévoient la démocratie. A mes yeux il n'y a pas l'art d'un coté, la politique de l'autre et  l'implication associatif  etc.. c'est un tout  cohérent, qui enrichi perpétuellement mon travail artistique, le sous tend, lui donne sa force si elle en  à une.

PIYP: I accompanied you one Sunday on a 'collage sauvage' (loosely organised poster pasting) to mark the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune. What does this even represent for you?

RMd'A: The 140th anniversary of the Commune was important for me; of course this historic event remains a failed revolution, but a victory nevertheless in terms of the ideas it brought into existence. These ideas are forever valid, this desire of the people to be involved in their own destiny, to control it, to aspire to freedom. What else are the Arab countries looking for at the moment? I'm not nostalgically attached to the past; I believe that we can use symbolism to better understand what is happening today, in a very authentic way.

Les 140 ans de la commune était un anniversaire important pour moi, cet évènement historique reste  une révolution certes vaincu mais vainqueur dans les idées qu'elle avait fait naitre. C'est idées sont éternellement d'actualité, ce désir du peuple de se mêler de son sort, de le gérer, d'aspirer à la liberté. Que cherchent d'autre les pays arabes actuellement? Je ne suis pas un passéiste, je considère juste que les symboles peuvent être utilisés pour éclairer ce qui ce passe aujourd'hui, ce n'est pas artificiel.

PIYP: You seem to thoroughly enjoy bringing people together for modest local community events, be they political or purely artistic. What gives you the most satisfaction, either artistically, politically or simply in life in general?

RMd'A: You're right, I love getting people together for these little events, because they bring pleasure to living together and remind us that our culture isn't sad or staid. I'll say again that my collages represent a certain type of street art, but that they are also a pretext for get-togethers, for stimulation and for forging links.

Oui, vous avez raison,  j'adore réunir les gens autour de ces petits évènements, parce qu'ils donnent du plaisir de vivre ensemble, que la culture n'est pas triste et compassée. Mes collages ont une expression  particulière dans l'art de la rue, mais ils sont aussi des prétextes à réunions, à mouvements, à liens, je le répète.

PIYP: Have you ever had any problems linked to your artistic approach, seeing as it's potentially provocative and sometimes illegal to post stuff up in the street?

RMd'A: The only time I had problems with the constabulary was, ironically, a time when I had all the official authorisations necessary. It's enough to make you sick of wallowing in legality!

La seule fois où j'ai eu des problèmes avec la maréchaussée, c'est justement la fois où j'avais toutes les autorisations officielles, c'est à vous dégouter de se vautrer dans la légalité!
PIYP: What are the reactions to your art, positive or negative, which have marked you most?

RMd'A: I've had many reactions to my artistic urban activities, most of the time positive, and of course occasionally negative. Not everyone likes these strongly political statements, and so much the better.

What really strikes me though is the warm approval of the people who actually live with my collages every day. One time I was taking down a piece for restauration, when a lady who lived next to it came down from her apartment to hurl abuse at me and demand to know who had given me the authority to remove it. It was comical, she was really angry about it!

J'ai eu beaucoup de réactions à mes interventions urbaines la plupart du temps positives et forcément parfois négatives, cela ne plait pas à tout le monde ces propos  très politiques et c'est tant mieux.

Ce qui me frappe c'est l'appropriation des gens qui vivent au quotidien avec mes collages, ainsi un jour que décollait l'un d'eux, une dame, voisine de l'endroit est descendue de chez elle pour m'apostropher et me demander qui m'avait donné l'autorisation d'enlever çà!! cocasse! elle était très en colère!

PIYP: What are you working on at the moment?

RMd'A: At the moment I'm working on three collages that I have to do for next June, and above all an evolution of my artistic expression - not a change in my working methods or theatre of operations (still the streets) but on what I'm going to respresent. I'm taking a few new directions, so stay tuned - I hope to surprise.

En ce moment je travaille sur trois collages que je dois faire au mois de juin prochain et surtout à une évolution de mon expression artistique pas sur le mode opératoire ni sur les lieux (toujours la rue) mais sur ce que je vais représenter.. à suivre j'ai quelques pistes nouvelles, que j'espère vont surprendre.

PIYP: If someone wanted to become a 'street artist' of some sort or other, what would you say to them?

RMd'A: There's no method. I'd tell them just to do what they want to do, to be coherent with themselves, don't try to please others, don't try to 'find a theme'...

Il n'y a pas de méthode, je lui dirais juste fais ce que tu as envi de faire, soit cohérent avec toi même, ne cherche pas à plaire, n'essaie pas de trouver un truc...

PIYP: And finally, what's your philosophy on life, if you have one?

RMd'A: It's what I said earlier - that's my philosophy of life, plus a quest for harmony with others of my kind.

Ce que j'ai dis au dessus c'est çà ma philosophie de la vie, plus la recherche de l'harmonie avec mes congénères.

Note: Once again, thanks to Jean Marc for this great interview and do check out his work on his Rue Meurt d'Art site here, and also in my Paris street photography - he crops up quite often you'll find!
© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!
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