Marais, Montparnasse, and the Biennale de Belleville

Marais, Montparnasse, and the Biennale de Belleville


Over the weekend we went to the La Nuit des Tableaux-vivants II, a part of the Biennale de Belleville. How we ended up doing this was actually set in motion by our attempts to visit the other exhibitions that we had wanted to see but had inexplicably missed on the first day of la rentree (particularly Gallerie Dix9 and Galerie Michel Rein). However, one suggestion led to another; we were recommended to go and see the Biennale de Belleville by the very kindly and inviting owner of Gallery Dix9, where we had visited to see an exposition by Studio 21bis.

Gallerie Dix9 – Studio21bis


Gallerie Dix9 by Hélène Lacharmoise (located at 19 rue des Filles du Calvaire 75003 Paris) is an interesting space that represents artists from all countries, including young/emerging artists. Hélène was very kind to take the time to walk us through the works of her gallery’s current show featuring photographic prints of the works, which are the temporary structures constructed by Studio 21bis (Laurent Lacotte and Romain Demongeot) out of cardboard in spaces from Paris to London.


Most of their works are temporary and built out of cardboard, and then placed in sometimes contentious spaces – which often results in their swift removal from the site. Hence all that remains of these interventions is the photographic trace of the action/performance. For example, the lock was placed on a vehicular road so it was not able to be left on the street for very long. The house above had been chosen for its ‘ordinary-ness’.


The duo play with symbols of architecture (weather vanes and politics), domestic life (the lock of the subprime crisis), and economics (the sharks peeking out from the grass of La Defense, etc). I am always interested when people use materials like cardboard. It might strikes one as a “cheap” or impermanent material (and i have also contemplated it as a material before) but I think the material is befitting of a “guerrilla” action or intervention – which I am reckoning these two are doing, particular with their subject matter. If you had asked me i would have also liked to see it as a video. The pictures left me with more questions and not all about the issues at hand but perhaps about the format of the work and how each particular point or photograph was chosen as the representative image for documentation. Or, what was their intended position of their documentation in such a work, especially as a critique of consumerism? Perhaps this was only something that one could ask of the artist directly.

Galerie Chantal Crousel – Gabriel Orozco


Gabriel Orozco, the well-known Mexican artist, is presenting a new body of work at Galerie Chantal Crousel. Perhaps more famously known for his orange work (where he placed oranges in cups and containers in the windows of flats that were across the road from the Museum of Modern Art (Moma, New York) or perhaps even other works, when I went home and looked him up again, I found out that the Galerie Chantal Crousel represents Orozco in Paris, which explains why the collection here is pretty good and shows his new works.


The feathered mobiles, named by the artist as “Roiseaux”, are impressive and their graceful drifting appearance also draw one into the space. As one walks through the space the mobiles move and change the landscape. Behind them, there are a series of diptychs in which Orozco shows natural works alongside man-made forms, such as the neat concentric circular pattern of raindrops rippling on the surface of water ripple compared with orderly rows of rice shoots poking out of the water in a paddy field.

However, what truly mesmerises me most is “Boulder Hand”, the stone being rubbed by a hand until it is smooth. On a small screen in the adjacent room, there is a video look of the artist’s hand rubbing a stone continuously, shaping and polishing its surface, like water or a river that runs over it continuously…

Consulting the map to find our way around…

Galerie Michel Rein – Elisa Pône



It was a rained out day and we got to the Gallerie Michel Rein rather dampened by a sudden downpour. We could not taste the mercury or quite smell the gunpowder, being so wet. And it was strange to see the traces of gunpowder. I would have liked to have seen it alight, for now it seemed as if we had already missed the party.

The three video works in the adjacent room, collectively titled “À la fuite”, shows the movements of a young woman, an old man, and two teenagers. The reasons for their ambulation is not clear. However, the woman is letting her cigarette burn out quicker than it should by sticking it into the slipstream of air against the moving car that she is sitting in; the old man is walking unusually fast as if he is rushing somewhere; and the two teenagers are playing around and the one behind is being very annoying and constantly disturbing the driver. While watching this I realised I have a problem with being idle”. Perhaps I am perverse but watching idleness (if not intended to be silence, or stillness) has the ability to make me fidgety. Or maybe one could say this could be symptomatic of something else… I do not know. Do most people respond to it like this?

Musée du Montparnasse – Portrait de Famille

The next day! We went to Montparnasse, which I’m sad to say, is plagued by a number of huge boring looking modernist architectures. The station of Gare Montparnasse and Montparnasse-Bievenue is unusually grey and the area is overshadowed by the oppressively massive Tour Maine-Montparnasse. This is said to have been the building that resulted in skyscraper developments being banned in Paris, and for good reason, for it is completely out of its character to have such a surprisingly tall building in a city of scenic, historic buildings. However, one of the best views of Paris can probably be had on top of this building, also since one cannot see this building while one is standing inside it.

How did such an artistic area become like this? The whos-who of the artistic world was said to have met here in this very spot; the playground of so many endless writers and artists that if i tried to write a list it would never end. Hemingway, James Joyce, Cocteau, Beckett, Henry Miller, Breton, Dali, Degas, Zola, etc etc etc. To top it off, in the midst of the cold pavement and endless concrete blocks, there was a cute little merry-go-round in the main square, which at the moment, seemed to lend ominously to the subtopian effect as it spun along with a few well-wrapped-up children on top of the toy horses mixed along with toy mechanical diving bells.


We visited the Musée du Montparnasse along Avenue du Maine to see an exhibition of a few generation of italian artists whose work, apparently, had similar inspirations over the years. The family of Peluzzi/Bonichi has had a number of outstanding painters and artists, starting with Ezo Peluzzi the pointillist painter, and then Gino Bonichi the painter, of which Claudio Bonichi was both their nephew. Benedetta Bonichi is the daughter of Claudio Bonichi.




With Works by:
Eso Peluzzi (1894-1985)
Gino Bonichi (also known as Scipione) (1904-1933)
Claudio Bonichi (1943-)
Benedetta Bonichi (1968-)

The show featured paintings (some reproductions of older works), sketches, and photographs; the different works spanned a range of over 100 hundred years. Some of the connections made were rather obvious so for visitors, very little had to be done except come in and look at the striking visual similarities in themes.



While common threads can certainly be found in the works of all four artists, they all have huge oeuvres of work so naturally one is bound to find some commonalities if one were to go through it with a fine-toothed comb. A more subtle approach to the curation could have actually been employed to just as an good effect, as some of the paintings were lush and full of rich imagery that would actually really lend to a wider interpretation; more than what was currently being suggested in the present selection and hanging.


Opposite the Musee lies a space known as Immanence, which is where we will be exhibiting our work on November 16! It is run by Cannelle Tanc and Frederic Vincent, who have run it for ten years now and celebrated it with the publication of a book about the artist-run space, titled “Esthétique passionnelle”.


We departed the bright lights of Montparnasse for Belleville. Armed with a very tiny map, we were determined to find the various assemblages of images and actors that were to be part of La Nuit des Tableaux-vivants.

This is the tiny map. It doesn’t get any bigger.
Running up a small hill, we discovered some red theatre curtains draped over some human forms. Elio reached to pick up the curtain to see what was underneath. “Stop!” a girl rushed forth and told him to leave it be.


The story should have ended there, with a whodunnit cliffhanger mystery. But unfortunately like nice polite people routinely visiting galleries, we continued with a normal art-world conversation with the people watching over the works, “are you the artist? is this your work?” I found the words tumbling out of my mouth “oh, so do you work with theatre? how did it inspire you?” “how long have you been making installation works?” Blah blah blabbity blah…

This was wrong. This was not the correct move. Instead Elio should have clung onto the theatre curtain and wailed “WHY NOT!” We should have shaken the bodies and asked, “what has happened to these people!” “are they still alive?” “should we get some help? its freezing out here!” and then we should have run around in mad circles and made a real fuss about it.

They also should not have answered us politely. They should have gone with the act and pretended to be security or pre-police teams waiting for the real police team to arrive. I’ve just made up the word pre-police, but I’m thinking that if in a hospital you can see a triage-nurse who can maybe do a first level diagnosis before the doctor sees you, then why not a pre-police who can do a first diagnosis because calling the right police team? Also, no one would believe that a 20 year old girl in a black leather jacket would be a real policewoman. Oh! The illusion! The illusion of the tableaux! Its slipping away fast from me! Why do I talk with so many words…

This photo looks better because its blurry. Things always seem fuller and brighter when they are mysterious.


We walked up another hill and then we saw this. There were youths all over the place, having a drink in the dark with bottles of beers on tops of their bikes, practically disregarding these strange artistic occurrences.


On another part of the hill, there were big screens. Crowds soon formed around it after the lights came up. Like moths to the light.


A turkish woman and her family walked past us, muttering something in Turkish to her husband while pointing at the screen. “Oh, look at all these funny french youngsters, wandering around lost and searching for art around our neighborhood at 1 in the morning…”


We were alerted to some activity down the road. There was a cluster of people using their smartphones opposite a door where a woman was standing alone. This was a strange sight in itself that persisted for a long while, I know this because I walked back to the spot a few times that night and there were always new groups of people standing there, staring blankly about, scratching their heads over the tiny tiny map that had been provided, or simply using their handphones while standing there. In fact it was a pretty consistent way of finding works in this art walk: FIND THE CLUSTERS OF HIP-LOOKING AND CONFUSED YOUNG PARISANS.


This night was suddenly punctuated by a decision to watch a band play in the cave. It was a good decision. The band was very good. I have the name of the band in my pocket but right now I can’t be bothered to find it. I’m going to edit this post tomorrow.


So that was my weekend.