Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Street Scenes, Open Doors, Paris

Paris: blocks away from the whimsical graffiti I featured in my weekend post is this much more aggressive array, reflecting an area (in the 20th) where gentrification is displacing what seems to have been housing more affordable for the area's multicultural population.
Its harder edges are not without humour, though. . .
This mural depicting the street taggers' art tools, the spray cans on the shelf and in the trompe d'oeil nook above amused me, and I had to zoom in to get this image with my son's nickname personalizing a can of paint. A coincidence, I hasten to assure you, as my boy was back home, far from Paris.
I realize that many readers may find this imagery disturbing in its representation of a frightening civic disorder
but I found it strangely beautiful, if sad and, yes, threatening. . .
It reminded me, in its defamiliarization of my notion of a home (that plaid upholstery, the distant "room" with its old couch)
of this poignant, wistful drawing of home, nestled underneath a bridge crossing London's St. Martin's Canal.
What say you? A poet friend of mine sees graffiti as the voice of the city, speaking for the disenfranchised. Loving Paris as I do, I want to hear other voices than those of the pretty arrondissments although I'm not sure I'd want to be staying down the street from these scenes.
There's a powerful energy, though, isn't there, in this collective art. Arresting, at the very least.


  1. I've seen scenes like this in Vancouver and Seattle...
    so interesting that Paris so far away would have similar scenes.

  2. This is reminding me so much of Manhattan subway cars in the early 80s.

  3. Like LPC, I'm reminded of late 70s early 80s NYC subway cars.

    I see your points and your poet friend's perspective, but mainly feel sad when I see widespread defacing of public spaces.

  4. We have had intense debate with our sons over the dining table about whether graffiti are art or vandalism... perhaps that's too simplistic, they can be both. They have now shifted somewhat, talking about tenant or owner permission, dedicated sites, etc. and and the occasion of someone tagging over another (often respected) "artist's" work.

    Outside the périphérique is a whole other Paris. (Have you ever seen "35 Shots of Rum"? A Claire Denis film I love- not about graffiti but the real life of the banlieues.)

  5. I actually love murals like this - I say "murals" to distinguish this kind of expression from just tagging, which is different. I caught some flak on my blog when I featured some graffiti murals.

    I'm not sure what neighborhood in Paris your shots are from. We saw a lot of graffiti murals when we were there. I think, in general, it's a sign of a community's expressive energy. In LA, there are many sites where property owners allow artists to create murals.

  6. Hostess: Yes, the generally shared view of Paris is not nearly as gritty, but it's got its corners too!
    Lisa: Cities everywhere . . .
    Susan: I understand your ambivalence. I feel sad that so many feel no ownership of/in public spaces, so don't feel protective of them. . . and sad that they have good reason to feel that way.
    Duchesse: These shots are taken well within the périphérique, but I can imagine there's much more of this outside. We've visited friends before just outside, but haven't spent much time in the banlieues. The film goes on my list, if only I can find it . . . (always trust your great recommendations)
    Aunt Snow: These shots are all from the 20th arr., from the neighbourhoods of Menilmontant and Belleville which house many immigrants, particularly from Africa. As you can see, there's a mix of tagging and more developed mural art. While there was a time I would have deplored the defacing, I've come to feel much differently about all of it. I love the more sophisticated expressions -- MissTic being perhaps my favourite -- but I also think there's something about the defiant urgency of tagging that needs to be heard. I'll be sure to have a look at the controversy you stirred up with your earlier post.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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