The exhibition From One Revolution to Another - Carte Blanche to Jeremy Deller which is currently running at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris is worth a visit for many reasons (i illustrate some of them in an article which has just been translated in... swedish), the most exciting one for me was a large b&w portrait of the magnificent Exotic Adrian.

Adrian Street was a glam rock wrestler who gained fame for dressing in flamboyant platform shoes and glitter capes, wearing bleached hair and extravagant make up, kissing his opponents on stage and tarting them up with make up when he had them pinned down.

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"Exotic", Adrian Street, and his father a working miner at the pit-head. South Wales, 1973. Photo : Dennis Hutchinson

Born in 1940 in a family of Welsh coalminers, Street left home at 16 to become a pro wrestler. To ensure that he'd get the recognition his talent deserved, he created a persona which puzzled the audience by the way its extreme toughness was paired with the appareance of an outlandish cross-dresser.

Street designed his own outfits, finding inspiration in historical costumes such as those worn by Joachim Murat. His design were so successful that they ended up being worn by Elton John, Gary Glitter, Adam Ant, David Bowie and Marc Bolan. Street's involvement with the world of music stretched to releasing records, I'm Only Happy Breakin' Bones and Imagine What I Could Do To You (see video below).

The best part of his career is that it is still going 'strong'. Street plans to wrestle professionally until 2010 and beyond, making it probably the only wrestler whose fights spanned over 7 decades.

Adrian Street - Imagine What I Could Do to You:

The magazine of the Palais de Tokyo has a wonderful interview in which Street appears to be an extremely witty and smart guy.

From One Revolution to Another - Carte Blanche to Jeremy Deller is on view at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris until January 4, 2009.

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The excuse for my visit to Paris was SmartCity, a conference organized in the frame of the festival Emergences. Emergences is an 'international festival of electronic cultures and new art forms'. However, one must accept that in a city like Paris the word 'international' doesn't necessarily that tacit rules will be respected and that the activities and conferences will be held in any other language than french. That's probably why i enjoyed the event so much. While both the issues discussed and the quality of the speakers invited to the panels were definitely of international relevance, the festival had a homely feeling with an audience ready to participate and dialog, un-refrained as they were by any lack of knowledge of the ubiquitous english.

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The conference focused on urban activism and artistic interventions in public space, a theme which offered a splendid contrast with the venue of the conference: the very chichi Maison Internationale at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris.

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Perfect venue to discuss alternative uses of urban space

There were some good moments but the one that got me glued to my seat, pen in the hand and eyes on the screen was the presentation of mOmentoMoNUMENTO, a joint project by Brazilian collective Coloco & French experimental architects of Exyzt whose pavilion at the Venice architecture biennale of 2006 i had enjoyed so much.

Exyzt's works engage mostly with temporary interventions, ephemeral constructions and the presence of diversity in urban space. They have recently joined forces with Coloco to submit to the institution Cultures France a project that will be part of the official programme of the French Year in Brazil (February-July 2009).

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When located in urban centers, skeletons provide opportunities

The final project stems from a research started in 2001 by Coloco.
The Brazilian collective observed, analyzed and documented a phenomenon called 'skeleton dwellings': in big cities, groups of people decide to occupy then inhabit buildings which were left unfinished and abandoned because of economic crisis, ups and downs of the estate market, war, cataclysm, etc.

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Result of the dead-end of the estate market

The desire of these people is to live in the center of the city, close to the services. They organize the general functioning of the building: bathroom and garden for the collectivity are installed, trash collection is organized, spaces on ground levels are reserved for the elderly, etc. Sometimes, the dwellers are kicked out of the building but in some cases, they manage to reach an agreement with city officials (conscious that the abandon of the center of a city for the suburbs is a growing problem) and their dwelling become permanent and 'legitimate'.

Coloco came to consider that these inhabited skeletons of buildings give way to an unexpected collaboration between the construction industry and invention prompted by necessity. This idea is at the origin of the skeleton dwellings: a safe and assembled structure is supplied to a group of inhabitants-builders. It can be improved according to the needs and resources of its occupants, who contribute their labor, advised by professionals.

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Prestes Maia (Sao Paulo): This building has been abandoned 20 years ago. Its debt in taxes almost equals its value

The skeleton dwellings derive from a logic of opportunity, being easily inserted in dense urban areas and diversifying the supply of low-cost urban housing.

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Building their dwellings, recycling these abandoned structures

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Neighbours organize themselves informally

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Prestes Maia (Sao Paulo): Each family lives in roughly 20 sqm

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Gloria, Rio de Janeiro: Even after renovation, some facades can't hide their history

Meanwhile, Exyzt is also working on the rehabilitation of disused spaces and on alternative and cheap forms of dwellings.

A first project they presented is République Ephémère where 450 architectural students from Europe were given some rudimentary tools and materials to organize for 2 weeks their life as a big community in the enclosed space of the two wharehouses?

The challenge took the form of a one-to-one scale construction game that doubled as a laboratory of architectural and social research. The conceptor team built the main collective equipment (kitchen, washrooms, a hotel) beforehand. The rest would be a village autoconstructed and automanaged by its inhabitants.

Each student was untrusted with a survival kit, including a construction manual and security instructions, and a defined quantity of scaffolding and textiles. Geometrical problems could arise, as this amount of scaffolding, sufficient to build one cubic room could then be combined with others: for example, 2 kits put together could give rise to 3 dwellings.

Video:

The affinities and exchanges between the participants were gradually translated into architectural terms. More complex, personalized structures were developed over time. The implantation looked like a cross between an organic. medieval village and a refugee camp. It kept transforming itself, not only on the level of the individual sphere, but also on the level of the collective organization.

The second project Exyzt spotlighted was an intervention inside and outside of the Palast der Republik, a gigantic relic of the communist era, now demolished and about to be replaced by the (very tacky imho) reconstruction of its predecessor, the Berlin Stadtschloss.

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Der Berg (image southwarklido)

Under the menace of a demolition act, Raumlabor, one of the most brilliant group on the German architecture scene, decided to occupy and open the monument to the public. They called Exyzt to give them a helping hand.

Der Berg (in german: the mountain) is an artificial mountain, a surrealist architectural performance built to react to the absurdity of making a tabula rasa of a part of Berlin's history in order to build the replica of a long disappeared building.

This collaboration resulted in a 20 meters high triangulated structure made out of scaffolding and fiber glass textile. The installation invaded the theater, while another team made it spread through the roof and onto the front porch of the building. Der Berg became a monument inside a monument.

Movie:

After this introduction, Exyzt and Coloco focused on mOmentoMoNUMENTO, the project they are working on for the official programme of the French Year in Brazil (February-July 2009). The idea is to follow on the steps of the French tradition to 'offer' monuments to foreign countries (think of the Statue of Liberty). This monument, however, is already on site. Well, sort of. The architects have obtained the help of the city of Sao Paulo to spot one of the many skeletons that have been standing for years in the city center, waiting to be reconquered by Exyzt and Coloco.

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Saõ Paulo: an apartment building for the wealthy overlooks a favela, ironically called Paraisópolis (Paradise city). Photo: Luiz Arthur Leirão Vieira (bigger view)

The building they've set their sight on was built in 1965. It is the first building with a facade entirely made of glass. Occupied at some point by the federal police it has now been left to decay. The main problem the architect have to solve is that living inside the building is almost un-conceivable without air conditioning which has been dismantled in the meantime. The whole electrical setting has to be re-installed as well (especially if one wants to have access to the top floor by lift.)

The project responds to Sao Paulo government's desire to find new solutions that will inject life back into the center of the city: inhabitants have moved to the edge of the city, leaving many abandoned buildings and a thick infrastructure of roads behind them.

The building is left at the disposal of the architects for one year. If at the end of the project, the result is deemed good enough by the city, it could become a space left permanently occupied by cultural organizations, art galleries, artists residencies, etc.

Exyzt and Coloco want to make the rooftop (originally planned as a landing spot for helicopters) accessible to the public.

The project is currently self-funded. Any help and feedback would be most welcome.

Related: Global Cities, The Morrinho Project at the Venice Biennale and Juan Freire - From the Analogue Commons to the New Hybrid Public Spaces.

In little more than 24 hours, i managed to visit some compelling art events in Paris. My first stop was for numeriscausa, a gallery that dedicates its energy to prove critics, audience and institutions (hence the market) that the so-called digital arts have achieved maturity.

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Image courtesy France Cadet

The space is currently inhabited by the robots of France Cadet. With her exhibition, Artificial Curiosity, the artist questions once again the relationships we have with our pets, whether they made of hardware or flesh and blood, she also takes a critical look at the limits of science and eugenism.

At the entrance, you're greeted by a wall of Hunting Trophies (video), then by an installation bearing a title that references one of Philip K.Dick's most famous novels: Do Robotic Cats Dream of Rlectric Fish?. An electronic kitten is sitting in front of the TV set, transfixed by the image of a virtual fish, floating around the screen.

Video:

Will one day robotic pets behave like our cats and dogs? Will they be willing to engage in social activities or watch TV? Will they want to be entertained like the rocking robot that awaits visitors in the back room of the gallery?

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Image courtesy France Cadet

Its name, Gaude Mihi, comes from a Latin expression that can be translated as 'amuse me', 'entertain me'. As soon as the robot feels a presence it starts balancing itself. All the robot wants is to have fun without any consideration whatsoever for the entertainment of its owner (though i must say that i found his behaviour hilarious), it rejects 'interactivity' (the presence of a proximity sensor is not enough to qualify the piece as really interactive) and participation, redefining in the process the roles of the toy and the player.

Video visit with France Cadet (in french.)

On view at the Gallery numeriscausa in Paris, until October 25, 2008. France Cadet will also have some work exhibited on October 20 to 28 at Slick, a young contemporary art fair which takes place in Paris on the occasion of FIAC in Paris.

Sorry for the long silence. I made a few trips, spend two days offline (not my choice obviously) but i'm going to be back on track and in full swing tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a quick post to remind you that this blog is alive.

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Sans titre (detail), 2008, in collaboration with Marion Hanania

Two days ago, i was running around Paris trying to cram as many exhibitions as possible into one single Tuesday. One that stood out was a solo show of David-Ivar Herman Dune aka Yaya at Lucile Corty, a gallery that makes out for his tiny size by spreading over three floors off the Arts & Métiers metro station.

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Sans titre, 2008 in collaboration with Trésor

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Sans titre, 2008 in collaboration with Marion Hanania

David-Ivar Herman Dune aka Yaya sings and plays the guitar in a band called Herman Dune but he also creates drawings, illustrations, and collaborates with other visual artists.

Summoning recurrent characters such as aliens, surfers or the blue big foot, his drawings are referencing his songs, everyday-life thoughts or popular culture connected to childhood like Disney's Pete's Dragon.

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Yaya's graphic works about the Blue Bigfoot Of The Negev, an endearing blue creature living on a black ink and white paper land, are shown at the Lucile Corty Gallery until October 25, 2008.

Built in 1975, the Superdome stadium has hosted numerous Super Bowls (the American football championship's final), a Rolling Stones concert, Pope John Paul II, the Republican Convention and in 2005 it served as a "shelter of last resort" for the refugees of Hurricane Katrina. The Louisiana Superdome builds thus a bridge between entertainment and anguish. Taking inspiration from the paradoxes of the stadium, the Palais de Tokyo in Paris is currently running SUPERDOME, a set of five solo exhibitions balancing between entertainment and desolation, pop culture and religion, minimalism and über-geekery. They continue a program testing the notion of the elasticity of art which started with the exhibition Five Billion Years (see report, part 1 and part 2). All artists were showcasing only one large-scale piece, apart from Jonathan Monk whose paintings and installations were spread over both the Palais de Tokyo and the neighbouring Musee d'Art Moderne. It was, how can i put it... very Palais de Tokyo. Slightly edgy but not too much, fun, pop, easy to understand by the hoi polloi like me but nevertheless carrying more substance than it might seem at first sight.

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Daniel Firman 's elephant Würsa stand still and upside down on her trunk. The pachyderm could only manage this delicate exercise at a distance of 18,000 km from the earth or if she were on a planet with a circumference of 2,484,0031.1 m (because of its weak gravitational pull). It is on the basis of learned scientific calculations that Daniel Firman reached these conclusions. The life size and hyper-realist sculpture borrows from the skills of a taxidermist named Jean-Pierre Gérard and puts into a new perspective the most basic physical laws of this world.

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The super-star and borderline kitsch (but don't we love kitsch?) installation is Fabien Giraud & Raphaël Siboni's Last Manoeuvres in the Dark is a networked field of 300 terracotta Darth Vader masks, perched on high sticks and aligned in a military formation like the Xian army. Outfitted with a set of ethernet ports and a microprocessor, each mask is wired to a monolithic black computer fitted with an artificial intelligence program. The system has been given the task to compose and play the darkest song ever. The evil anthem is assembled from a huge catalog of music that range from Gabriel Fauré's Requiem to heavy metal songs.

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The sources of inspiration for this installation are many. The main one is the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. As Siboni explained in an interview i read in the Palais magazine: 'And then there's that scene where the character realizes the computer is taking over and disconnects it, and the image of a computer that regresses to the point of reciting the children's song. That scene gave us real inspiration for the project. What is meant by an 'evil' computer or indeed by a computer that 'regresses'? It's by making the computer regress that Kubrick demonstrates its intelligence.'

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Photo Didier Barroso

Arcangelo Sassolino's Afasia 1 is a nitrogen-powered sculpture that shoots empty beer bottles, those icons of rock culture, against a wall at 600km/hr inside a zoo-like metal cage. The shooting happens every few minutes. Meanwhile you're left wondering whether you should opt for safety and step back or let curiosity take over and walk closer to get a better view of the blast. The waiting for the upcoming and -let's face it- absurd blast only adds to the anxiety. The artist wanted visitors to add a visceral experience of art on top of the usual intellectual one.
Green shards pile up as the days pass.

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All my little Superdome images.

Superdome runs at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris until August 24, 2008.

Some notes from an exhibition i saw a month ago in Paris:

Bêtes et Hommes is a 3500m2 exhibition which explores the relationships between humans and animals.

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"Frog and a Praying Mantis," from the Food Chain series. Photo © Catherine Chambers, 1994-96

The exhibition takes place at the Grande Halle of La Villette which used to "welcome" animals in the past: the space had been initially built in 1867 as a slaughterhouse for the cows which would then feed the Paris markets.

The exhibition takes individual situations involving a human being and an animal as its starting point and suggests an alternative way to think about living creatures, questioning their place in our society and proffering ideas about cohabitation that might inspire the world of the future.

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Bêtes et hommes, photo © Christophe Raynaud de Lage

Patrick Bouchain based the design of this exhibition on structures that brings man and animal together: the shelter, the refuge, and the den. Visitors navigate from one tent to the next one, the way to move from the beginning to the end of the exhibition is not always clear which makes the experience all the more interesting, it felt sometimes like being lost in a cozy jungle.

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Map of the exhibition parcours

Once again congratulations to the press office people for their poor job: i was not allowed to take pictures and could only use the few images they provided us with. Their photos show the exhibition without visitors (which makes it hard to judge the scale of the tents designed by Bouchain) and most of my favourite works were not featured in the image press kit.

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Bêtes et hommes, photo © Christophe Raynaud de Lage

Still, Bêtes et Hommes is a very good exhibition. La Villette is an exhibition centre dedicated to science and technology and it was exciting to see how well this exhibition makes use of artistic works to highlights some key concepts (full list of art works).

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Grizzly little fucker, by David Mach, 2003. Photo © David Mach - Courtesy Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris

The exhibition proposes new ways to think about animals, challenging preconceived ideas you might have, giving different points of views, asking questions but never coming with answers for you to swallow passively.

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Fuck'd Tony Matelli, 2004. Photo © www.frigesh.at - Coutesy : Fondation culturelle Ekaterina, Moscou, Galerie Gary Tatintsian, Moscou et Studio Tony Matelli

Four themes are presented:

Animals affect humankind
Human beings have tried to learn from animals and to acquire some of their characteristics. Example: Inspired by the way bats are able to navigate in darkness, the Batcane uses ultrasonic echoes, signals which bounce off objects present in the environment, and feedback information to the cane.

Animals are strangers to men
Animals live in a world apart from our own. For us to gain access to it, we have to understand what interests them, what affects them, what motivates them. An attempt at this understanding has led to some of the most astonishing discoveries about them.

Ethologists' recent discoveries reveal that animals have abilities which have traditionally been attributed to men only (for example Wattana, an orangutan living in a Paris Zoo is able to make true knots using her hands, feet and mouth) while the experience of people who actually live with animals (breeders, shephers, care givers or pet owners) show further unexpected skills.

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Orang-Outang, Carsten Höller, 2000-2001. Photo © Carsten Eisfeld - Courtesy Esther Schipper, Berlin

When devoid of his or her hair, isn't Höller's Orang-Outang more human-like?

Animals have a job to do
One of the best-known forms of connection between man and beast involves working together, forming a team with an animal - the blind and their guide dogs or circus trainers and their animals are just some examples. But what function do today's pets and livestock have? Why do we feel sad and angry to see images of a baby seal killed for its fur but have next to no qualms at the idea that thousands of pigs are slaughtered every day to feed us.

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Zoopsie, Philippe Loparelli, 2003

Animals force us to choose
Some people want bears to keep on living in the forest, others would rather see them safely locked in a zoo. Crows are ok, but not in your own backyard. In the Pyrennes, vultures used to be allies but when there are too many of them, they are not welcome anymore.
Who do we want to live with? That's the question at hand. The current debate is unique in that it concerns so many different characters: ecologists, scientists, breeders, animal lovers, tourists, inhabitants, and animals.

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Série Lucky Family Yang Zhenzhong, 1995. Photo © Yang Zhenzhong - Courtesy Shanghart Gallery, Shanghaï

The exhibition space is also hosting living animals in residency (a bit as if they were artists) such as Mynah birds, iguanas, buzzards, crows, vultures, and otters. Each of them is a witness of the conflict and cooperation relationship with humans. These animals were either hurt or healed by humans, seized at customs or at private homes, etc.

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Evolution, 1971 - Série Jours de cirque. Photo © Jill Freedman

Henry Horenstein's Aquatic photo series with an amazing close-up of a squid and other marine portraits

M6info has a great slideshow of images from the exhibition, and i have a small selection online (please respect the credits if you ever want to use these images).

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Photo © Christophe Raynaud de Lage

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