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"The widespread perception in French society is that the gulf separating those 'inside' society, even if they are badly paid, from those 'outside', in particular living in the suburbs, has become more accentuated over the past 20 years." - Sociologist François Dubet.

As far as I can understand, the "riots" or rather demonstrations (video) (with a core of violent rioters) are a symptom of a much wider malaise and distrust for neo-liberal style of politics trying to sneak in France's back door. But it's always handy for the media to be able to call a larger social movement a " violent riot". I can only guess at the (gleeful) coverage in the US - because I can't bear to tune in.

These protests against the CPE are just part of a broader movement against the US/UK-style infiltration of the French economy, and follow other public rejections of these policies, such as the referendum which gave a firm 'non' to the proposed European constitution and its raft of neo-liberalisations.

According to thisfrenchlife

"a poll of over 20,000 people, when asked if “the free enterprise system and free market economy is the best system on which to base the future of the world”, 61 per cent agreed. The highest level of support for the free enterprise system came from China, with 74 per cent, but France was the one country where most did not agree with this proposition.  Only 36 per cent of French people agreed that the free market economy was the best system, while 50 per cent disagreed."


Erotikon in Bastille

Last night I squeezed myself into the packed salle for Erotikon, one of the 5 monthly parties exploring the erotic and it's effect on art and culture. I would say it was a theatrical-intello crowd from 25 - 55 years old, a lack of noticeable sleaze-balls and a good vibe.  But it was busy, thoroughly packed, hot and sticky (but a pleasant absence of too much smoke).

I had to go home early after the sexy breakdancing,  writhing Geisha woman, art-house porn (people cat-called and hackled the director shouting it was too long) and the couple that did a tap-type routine about Baked Beans on the bar - in English.

The best act ( it was almost a cabaret-style evening) was the Italian lady who did a puppet show featuring two amorous turtle glove puppets.  It was all too much for a Monday evening but probably a lot more interesting than Pigalle or St Denis, if you're looking for a little titillation with a  slightly intellectual edge. I didn't feel much frisson in the air but there was very little room to move.

The next events are in April and May, last Monday of the month at Le Reservoir, 16 rue Forge Royale, 75011.

Photographs by David Mccairley, who got frightened and ran off home leaving me to walk around looking for him for 45 minutes - or rather walk around feeling paranoid that people thought I was looking for someone to have sex with.

Espace Canopy

A new gallery has opened in La Chapelle, the first in the neighbourhood. There was a great atmosphere at the launch and the space was full of local characters, including some idiot american with a video camera who told me, "This is my quartier, these are my people".  I don't think he was joking.

The initiative comes from Marie-Line Tassius and Charlotte Ferron who live in this working class, multi-ethnic neighbourhood. Future plans include painting and photography expos, slam poetry and debates.

The name "Canopy" relates to the layer of the rainforest containing the all the species as-yet unknown to man. The gallery hopes to be the conduit for unknown artists to find their way to public attention.

I loved the colourful mural-type images from French-Cameroonian artist Marie Sabal-Lecco and the paintings featuring glued on kids toys (guns, dinasours etc) by Ugos.  They only become visible as you get closer to the painting.

Espace Canopy
19 rue Pajol

Every weekend and public holidays

Prix Goncourt in Les Halles?

Le Comptoir du Terroir is owned by a charming man with flowing grey locks called Claude from the Sud-Ouest. It's stocked with produits du terroir, brandies, jams, Fois Gras, sel de Guérande. The design of the shop is magnificent, kind of Dean & Delucca but more understated with superlative jazz at the right volume.

Claude is opening a bookshop opposite which will be part bar, literary salon and quiet reading/study space - especially for young writers. It will be specialising in contemporary fiction and the last Prix Goncourt winner François Weyergans (Trois Jours Chez Ma Mere) is involved in the venture.

5 rue etienne marcel

01 42 33 99 24

Craigie Horsfield at Jeu de Paume

I saw a fabulous Craigie Horsfield exhibition yesterday at the Jeu de Paume, a British artist (I hadn't seen) and was left wanting more time to discover his intricate body of work on show.

A career spanning 35 years has taken him down varied paths of creation.  Photography,  film, theatre, installation, performance, dance, sound and architecture.  His idea of "social project" means that many of his works were made in collaboration with other artists and explore how we think and interact together.

His photographs are large-scale black-and-white with an amazing tactile looking surface resulting from a labour intensive developing process. They are labelled with "Do not touch" signs, which heightened (my) desire to "feel" the images.

My favourite was "El Hierro Conversation", a film/sequence of images/vignettes almost, shown in a spacious darkened room where each of the 4  walls was a floor-to-ceiling screen. The Jeu de Paume kindly provided two beds/reclining sofas. Images of clouds, sea and mist rising from landscapes led into a series of excerpts exploring life in rural El Hierro, westernmost of the Canary Islands.

According to his Spanish galerist;

"Horsfield is not the type of artist          that arrives somewhere seeking images and people to use, from the distance          of his photographic lens, to obtain a beautiful, interesting, or personal          image. His images arise -and are inseparable- from his experience in the          observation of and interaction with a reality. In this case, contact would          be established with people able to tell stories about the island, and          to indicate places and experiences that seem important for their identity          and survival.

I almost had to be forcibly removed as the Museum had to close. Definitely worth a return visit.

Blake lifts my spirits

In light of the moaning I have been doing (yes, Je suis raleur d'art, must have picked it up from the French) I had a rare treat last night.  I was invited by a friend to Sotheby's preview of "French furniture, sculpture and works of art of the 18th century".  The French headquarters of the British auction house are situated in the heart of the Faubourg Saint-Honore, opposite the Elysée Palace, in the famous Galerie Charpentier Hôtel Particulier. It made a change from art squats and collective-run galleries.

A very smart affair and I noticed my winter coat looked a little tatty on the rack with the Chanel. The Louis Quatorze furniture was brazenly over-the-top and as knowledge of these fine items is not my forte (except for what I've gleaned from The Antiques Roadshow) I was content to merely fantasise about the items I would choose for my home.  The four poster bed? No - it's bigger than the bedroom.  The bronze bust of Voltaire? Only 18,000 euros.  I settled for a golden dressing table, (pictured) for a cool 1/2 million.

The real treat was on show in a gallery upstairs. Nineteen exquisiteWilliam Blake watercolours created for a book called "The Grave", a meditation on mortality and redemption by Scottish poet Robert Blair. The romantic but macabre watercolors - depicting angels, death beds, sarcophagi, graveyards and heavenly bodies are rendered in a subtle range of grays, black and pastels.

I felt privileged to see them on display together as the collection will probably, very sadly, be split up after the sale, estimates are around 17 million$ for the entire collection. Not bad for something that turned up in a leather covered binder in a second-hand bookshop in Glasgow 5 years ago.

They will be sold in New York on 2nd May so stop by and see them while they're still in Paris.

Art moderne?

I went to artparis for the first and last time. I thought it would be a mini FIAC - which is quite fun. It was great to see inside the Grand Palais but that was it. After 30 minutes I was almost asleep. Apart from seeing a woman wearing what seemed like a polar bear skin as a coat it was dullsville. Oh, and the Australian gallery with the aborigine work.

It seems that "contemporary art" means anything since the 1930's now.

I went on the last day so I guess it's unfair to expect a very lively atmosphere but all in all it was such a bore. People smoke on their exhibition stands too,even cigars, which stink the place out.

All in all, I felt the same way as I did while watching a Phillipe Parreno video at newly opened Musée d'Art Moderne on Saturday.

Bored and completely unmoved.

Irony of Ironies

First day of the "wedding diet". Things don't go as planned.

I arrive at the swimming pool for the first time since joining about a month ago. It's closed, Monday. I should have known. Never try to do anything on a Monday, it's like a Sunday but more confusing. About 50% of services are closed.

Next I cross the street onto rue Bonaparte past Pierre Herme to find he has declared 20th March "Jour du Macaron" and we can pick 3 flavours for free! My fave French treat no less. I've already marked it in my calendar for next year when I will be able to partake.

I have an appointment at Musée du Luxembourg and afterwards console myself with a tour of the Phillips collection currently on show.

If I was the Musée Luxembourg I'd be worried about the average age of the audience. I was the youngest person in the expo buy about 40 years. It's very hard to navigate too as everyone was wearing those little guide headphonee. There is no space to move, when you say "Pardon", no one hears so there is a bit of unseemly shoving.

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