Friday, February 27, 2015

REALITY UNADORNED, Slouching towards Bethlehem & Raining Cranes

Imagination is the eye of the soul
    - Joseph Joubert (Recueil des Pensées de M. Joubert)

Full Moon Over Charras - December 2014

Charras Sky - December 2014

"Slouching Towards Bethlehem" - Dawn on the way to Vertaillac - December

"...The darkness drops again; but now I know that twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, and what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"     W. B. Yeats

Cranes still flying south - January 2015

Wild Ginger - February 14, 2015

I know. I know.  It's February, my missing Valentine's day, notwithstanding, I'm still in love with you, dear readers, though I've been unfaithful.   I promised you Alchemy & A Paris Hangover - Part II, but it's nowhere to be seen.  Each time I set about spilling my guts, poised to share the further adventures of the époustouflante (breathtaking) dreamscape that is Paris, the world changed once again.  Montmartre + the inaugural opening of the renovated Picasso Museum + the Catacombs + Sacré coeur + Lapin Agile... now blurred and diffused.  And to be fair, Joan d'Arc, Niki de St. Phalle, and Napolean are a hard act to follow.

So let's see if I can perform a little alchemy and transmute the ordinary days of my simple country life into something of merit. Mais avant, a few photos of my last days in Paris before all the leaves tumbled down and the cartoonists fell.

Monsieur Dutilleul - Sculptor Jean Marais

Without Mila, our Venezuelan friend, Dermot, Marsha and I would never would have shook hands with the sculpture above:  Le Passe-Muraille, homage to the writer, Marcel Aymé, depicting his anti-hero, Monsieur Dutilleul, from one of his stories, "The Man Who Walked Through Walls" (later made into a film).  Dutilleul discovered he had an unusual talent to be able to walk thru solid walls, but sadly, instead of using his power for good, he abused and lost it, ending up forever stuck in a wall. I hate it when that happens!

But you have to admit that loafer he's wearing is truly "luxe de l'esprit"*  - luxury of the moment.

Mila - Montmartre

Here's Mila giving him the golden handshake - it's supposed to bring you good luck (so maybe you can walk thru walls too). *wink wink, Mike.

Another treasure Mila led us to was the "I love You Wall"  - The initiative of Frédéric Baron is engraved in this long chain of silent passions.  It is a meeting place and a space where love comes together in every language on 612 enameled lava tiles.  The shape of the lava tiles echo the sheets of paper on which Baron wrote his texts. The splashes of color on the fresco are fragments of  broken hearts; the Wall bringing about a reunification of humanity torn apart - a place of reconciliation.

"I Love You:  The Wall" - Butte Montmartre, Paris

A disciple of Phileas Fogg, Baron dreamed of a trip around the world in 80 "I Love You's." He started by asking his brother to write "I love you," then neighbors, Arabs, Portuguese, Russian, Hawaiian, Irish, etc. Eventually he filled three notebooks with "I love you" written a thousand times in 300 different languages.  Claire Kito, an oriental calligrapher assembled the script. Maybe it is not as architecturally imposing as Venice's Bridge of Sighs or the Taj Mahal, but it certainly is as romantic. 

Trying to point out "I love you" in Gaelic for Dermot & Kevin, but it's up too high

Marsha, pointing to Hungarian "I Love You" for Lorenc

But here's my favorite part of the Wall - Wallflower Rita Hayworth's thought bubble:

Love is messy, let's love!

I became intrigued by the rubbed out figure to the right.  Was it supposed to be a man looking messy? A bit of research led me to a street photographer's blog:  Sab's Secret Paris (Sab Will,  Therein he revealed it was originally Ava Gardner up there with a thought bubble that said:  "Soyons raisonable... exigeons l'impossible, a quote from Che Guevera, "Let's be reasonable...demand the impossible."

Sab (a fine detective) tracked down the artist, Rue Meurt D'Art (Jean Marc Paumier), who had the original Ava rolled up in the back of his studio. The master of "Collage Sauvage," Rue earned the title for his zealous, revolutionary sticking of stuff all over the walls of the 20th arr., which reached its savage peak on May 28, 2011, the 140th anniversary of the two month long siege by the Paris Commune in 1871.  It's a rich and complex chunk of history which made me so weary reading through it that I am cribbing Sab Will's pithy summation:  "The Commune was a two-month attempt at some sort of rule by the working classes, which ended in disaster, chaos and bloodshed."

Aux Morts de la Commune 21-28 Mai, 1871, Photo Sab Will

At the wall above, in Pere La Chaise cemetery, 147 brave communards fought in the mud with their bare hands, were lined up against the wall and executed. In all an estimated 30,000 commune members fell, many of whom were women. This ended what was dubbed, Semaine Sanglante, the Week of Bloodshed. The group in the photo are singing Le Temps des Cerises, a revolutionary song dedicated to a nurse who supposedly died during the bloody week.  It's a beautiful song, and you can hear Yves Montand singing it on You Tube if you need a good cry. 

Women of the Commune - Les Morts - Photo Sab Will

I discovered the graphic account below by the English journalist, Archibald Forbes, who recorded the aftermath of the Commune in an article in The Daily News, 26 May, 1871:

"When I returned, the communists were at their last gasp in the Château d'Eau, the Buttes de Chaumont and Père-Lachaise. I visited Père-Lachaise, where the very last shots had been fired … the ghastliest sight was in the south-eastern corner where, close to the boundary wall, there had been a natural hollow. The hollow was now filled up by dead. There they lay, tier above tier, each successive tier powdered over with a coating of chloride of lime - two hundred of them patent to the eye, besides those underneath hidden by the earth covering layer after layer. Among the dead were many women … faces distorted out of humanity with ferocity and agony combined. How died these men and women? Just yonder was where they were posted up against that section of pock-pitted wall … and were shot to death as they stood or crouched.”

Victimes des Revolutions, 1909, Paul Moreau Vauthier - Outside Wall Pere La Chaise

And for those of you rabid Eco-Warriors, lest you think Rue is degrading the landscape or has much in common with the Graffiti Artists, who indelibly mark their territories, you'll be happy to know, that slowly, (if by weather) or quickly, (if by random officials) the gluey collages degrade and disappear.

Ava Gardner reasonably demanding the impossible

Rue Meurt D'Art (Jean Marc Paumier)

Rue Meurt d'Art changing Ava's thought bubble

Ava went from "demanding the impossible"  to "alors aimons"...maybe Beaudelaire was right when he wrote in "Les Fleurs du Mal" :   The form of a city changes faster than the heart of a mortal.

Well, that wasn't a very cheery patch of history, started out so fun-loving.  Perhaps I'll pull a rabbit out of my pan.

Cabaret au Lapin Agile (The Nimble Rabbit Cabaret)  - Montmartre Cabaret, 18th arr.

Interior ca. 1880 - 90

I know this is going to reveal a très grand slice of my cultural ignorance, but I didn't know that Lapin Agile was a real place.  I thought Steve Martin a clever bunny for coming up with the concept and the play.  Finding out the authentic history does not make him any less clever, but he did have some good stuff to work with.  Originally called the Cabaret des Assassins, it was a favorite watering hole for struggling artists and writers like Picasso, Modigliani, Appolinaire, Utrillo, Ernest Heminway, Henry Miller,  also had its fair share of pimps, eccentrics, anarchists, students from the Latin Quarter and the Bourgeoisie, always up for a bit of slumming.

I would have loved to hang out there for the evening, drinking Pernod, jabbering about art, and carving my initials into the table top, but it was closed and one needs reservations for everything these days.  Oddly, despite all the tourism, the place still seems to retain its original charm, and looking at the posted menu, even the prices seem more in line with the last century.   Paris manages to be so enduringly optimistic, or as one cynic asked:  is it just a city in love with its own myths? 

Me & Marsha hopping about

Picasso - Les Noces de Pierrette, 1905

Next time: Slouching Towards Christmas Fetes/Events = Tarot, Tarot, Tarot, more rains, more cranes, & Unadorned Reality

William Blake- Prophecy

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