Le 104 in the north east of Paris is a breath of fresh air in the art scene. Directed by José-Manuel Gonçalvès, the CENTQUATRE-PARIS provides space for residencies, production and performance for artists and audiences from all corners of the globe. The centre encompasses all forms of art: theatre, dance, music, cinema, video and also culinary, digital and urban art. The vast majority of the centre’s programme is made up of artists who are, have been or are going to be in residence at the CENTQUATRE-PARIS. The centre supports and works with young artists and also provides insight into their artistic creations. Conceived as an artistic collaboration, it provides open access to a range of emerging art through a decidedly popular, contemporary and ambitious programme.
The huge building is light and spacious. wherever you look there is some interesting artistic invention. An ordinary wire fence is turned into a modern screen, its shadow casting a lace pattern on the wall behind. In the main hall a break dancing session is in progress, rhythmic music filling the space.
The exhibition space is a whirlpool of creative talent, drawing you into a vortex where the outside world is forgotten.
A huge heap of bananas lies on the floor of the first room we enter. We are invited to choose one, eat it and discard the peel in a bin, set on a pedestal. Eventually this bin will be the display, I think…
A white room, its walls full of holes, as if sprayed by gunfire with a mirrored disco ball hanging in the centre, creates a disturbing scene. Jorge Macchi describes his installation “Still Song” as follows: “a party that is permanently over, but of which we still seem to hear the music“. I heard it and yet I did not dance…
On the other side of the main hall, a huge stack of bicycles, provides an interesting conversation piece.
There is an enclosed circular passage that leads to a small round room where a tube of vapour is blown down from an enormous pipe. As you move through this ‘cloud pipe’ or try to touch it, the misty twirls seem to dance with you. Hipnotising you with its nothingness, your eyes stuck on the everchanging shapes. You feel like a child blowing bubbles, carefree and happy to be in the moment. Installation by Anish Kapoor.
Most of the art cannot be described in words, you need to experience it. The work “Untitled” by Shilpa Gupta, is a long passage, lined with framed imaged that has been cut in half horizontally. The bottom part is shifted one position, so that it hangs beneath the next picture. The artist collected stories of people who for political reasons, or due to prejudice or out of personal desire, felt restrained by their given family name and chose to discard it for a new one. These fragments of stories are posted on the bottom part of the pictures. “When you fill in a form, the first thing you are asked for is your surname. However here there are a hundred registers of doubt, annulments, modifications or adjustments of an inherited past” explains Gupta.
As with all human motives, some were touching, some funny, some downright ridiculous. Here are a few excerpts:
- In 1933 when the surname law was passed which directed every Turk to select a last name, people’s secret feelings of inferiority surfaced: Some of the world’s stingiest became known as ‘Eliachik’ (Openhanded), the greatest cowards named themselves ‘Yurekli’ (Stout-heart), and many of the laziest took the name ‘Chalishkan’ (Industrious). One of our teachers chose the surname of ‘Cheviker’ (Dextrous) when he could barely sign his name to a letter. The rampant racism present, caused people with mixed blood to grab a surname which signified they were Turks. Invariably, I came last in any kind of scramble; I was no different in this one for nice surnames. no surname remained that I could take pride in, so I assumed the name of ‘Nesin’ (What-are-you?). I wanted to think of what I was and pull myself together whenever anyone called ‘What-are-you?’.
CurtisFreeman – Upon emancipation, former slaves would often let go of the surname corresponding to their owners to adopt ‘Freeman’ in celebration of their new status.
- My given name has the word ‘shit’ in it. When I was a kid, the other kids would make a lot of fun of me. It was a tough name. That’s why I decided to change it. Then people said, “Did you change your name because you don’t want to be Jewish?” I said, “Absolutely not. That’s not what it’s about. My cousins who lived in California had changed their last name to Lawrence. So I just thought, “I’m going to pick a nice last name’ – it wasn’t particularly connected to anything or anyone. Ralph
CoppolaCage – ‘I needed to change my name just to liberate myself and find out I could do it without walking into a Hollywood casting office with the name Coppola’. His uncle, Francis Ford Coppola was one of the most acclaimed directors of the 1970’s, who spearheaded a renaissance in American filmmaking, heralding a golden age which he defined through masterpieces ranging from ‘The Conversation’ to ‘Apocalypse Now’ to his crowning achievement, ‘The Godfather’.
JohnsonWhoopi Goldberg – she adopted the surname Goldberg because her mother felt Johnson was not ‘Jewish’ enough to make a star
MayMarmite – I like the smell, the taste, the texture. I think I pretty much like everything about Marmite. !!!
If anyone read this far let me take you from the ridiculous to the absurd: every morning I do a bit of washing and hang the clothes on a small dry-rack in my room. The rack stands in front of the window, next to the hot water radiator. The next morning I move these almost dry clothes one by one to the other side of the rack and then hang the newly washed items on the window side of the rack. It took me 7 weeks of repeating this process, before I thought, why not just turn the rack around? If you are still reading, you’re thinking what does this have to do with anything? Thing is, how often are we just operating in auto mode? Not looking, thinking or questioning what we do or how we do it. So I was wondering whether it is possible that through seeing all these industrious, creative and sometimes crazy inventions/installations/artworks, something shifted in my mind so somehow I see things now, that I did not notice before? I say thank you Lord Jesus for the blessing of sight and for giving us creative minds.