WIRED has a really nice new piece (with photos and a video of some of the clock restoration!) on one of my favourite inspiring secret-art collectives, UX, the dreamy Parisian group that specializes in fantastical heritage restorations and interstitial spaces:
A mysterious band of hacker-artists is prowling the network of tunnels below Paris,
secretly refurbishing the city’s neglected treasures.
Thirty years ago, in the dead of night, a group of six Parisian teenagers pulled off what would prove to be a fateful theft.
[…] This stealthy undertaking was not an act of robbery or espionage but rather a crucial operation in what would become an association called UX, for “Urban eXperiment.” UX is sort of like an artist’s collective, but far from being avant-garde—confronting audiences by pushing the boundaries of the new—its only audience is itself. More surprising still, its work is often radically conservative, intemperate in its devotion to the old. Through meticulous infiltration, UX members have carried out shocking acts of cultural preservation and repair, with an ethos of “restoring those invisible parts of our patrimony that the government has abandoned or doesn’t have the means to maintain.” The group claims to have conducted 15 such covert restorations, often in centuries-old spaces, all over Paris.
[…] UX’s most sensational caper (to be revealed so far, at least) was completed in 2006. A cadre spent months infiltrating the Pantheon, the grand structure in Paris that houses the remains of France’s most cherished citizens. Eight restorers built their own secret workshop in a storeroom, which they wired for electricity and Internet access and outfitted with armchairs, tools, a fridge, and a hot plate. During the course of a year, they painstakingly restored the Pantheon’s 19th- century clock, which had not chimed since the 1960s. Those in the neighborhood must have been shocked to hear the clock sound for the first time in decades: the hour, the half hour, the quarter hour.
[…] One summer, the group mounted a film festival devoted to the theme of “urban deserts”—the forgotten and underutilized spaces in a city. They naturally decided the ideal venue for such a festival would be in just such an abandoned site. They chose a room beneath the Palais de Chaillot they’d long known of and enjoyed unlimited access to. The building was then home to Paris’ famous Cinèmathèque Franèaise, making it doubly appropriate. They set up a bar, a dining room, a series of salons, and a small screening room that accommodated 20 viewers, and they held festivals there every summer for years. “Every neighborhood cinema should look like that,” Kunstmann says.
“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”
– Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are
via karen meisner of strange horizons:
Tilda Swinton, from her second State of Cinema address, San Francisco, 2006:
Can I be alone in my longing for inarticulacy – for a cinema that refuses to join all the dots? For an a-rhythm in gesture, for a dissonance in shape? For the context of a cinematic frame, a frame that – in the end – only cinema can provide. For the full view, the long shot, the space between… the gaps… the pause… the lull… the grace of living…
The figurative cinema’s awkward and rather unsavoury relationship with its fruity old aunt, the theatre, to her vanities, her nous, her beautifully constructed and perennially eloquent speechifying, her cast iron – corset-like – structures, her melo-dramatic texture and her histrionic rhythms. How tiresome it is, it always has been. How studied. The idea of absolute articulacy, perfect timing, a vapid elegance of gesture, an unblinking, unthinking face. What a blessed waste of a good clear screen, a dark room and the possibility of an unwatched profile, a tree, a hill, a donkey…
How I long for documentary, in resistance – for unpowdered faces and unmeasured tread – for the emotionally undemonstrative family scene – for a struggle for unreachable words, for the open or even unhappy ending? The occasionally dropped shoe off the heel, the jiggle to readjust; the occasionally cracked egg; the mess of milk spilt. The concept of a loss for words. For a State of Cinema – as the state of grace that it affords us – in which nothing much happens but all things are possible, even inarticulacy, even failure, even mess…
tilda swinton painted by (her partner) john byrne
In Finnish, “onni” means “luck”.
I think of them in metaphor. Black doves, shape changers, the old stories of Prometheus. I lick my writing from the taste of their skin, my words from the twists in their gestures. By the woods of our correspondence, a river flows. From the shape of their hands, I can place every single one against my fingers, the places I truly call home, and leaf through our fingertips touching. Encapsulated interaction, catalogued small details that I can carry later. Preferences. Coffee, cigarettes, tea.
“That’s a hundred dollars to cover a taxi to get you into town and back.”
“What? That’s too much. I can’t take that. You know most men give flowers or chocolate or, like, earrings.”
“Well, I’m giving you money.”
“You tawdry American. You’re just buying off the guilt of leaving me.”
“If I give you another hundred, will you just get the abortion and promise never to talk to me again?”
“It only costs fifty here in Canada, but I’ll take the other fifty as a promise never to send you bronzed booties. Is that what they’re called? Those little knitted baby shoes?”
They are the second generation warfare of my inspiration, prodigies, a reason to ‘take my shoes off and throw them in the lake’, the impetus I require to create, to claim the word artist as my own. Without these black and ivory dreamers, I have no focus, no lens to collect light into fire. That high holy spark. The currency of competition. Engendering wonder by twisting the world into a better configuration. The etymology of the word awesome, a sacred dread mixed with veneration, an education in love.
In Japanese, “oni” means “demon”.
Foxtongue Productions Inc. is still selling shares for 200$CAN. If you’re interested, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew pointed me to a nice site today – The Unseen Video. It’s a dynamic flash music video with content changing based on weather data from your area. It’s really very pretty. Mine today is olive green, with light rain and complicated branches that fade into tender vintage photographs and flowers made of small crawling clips of footage. I like this kind of thing, that people took the time to make it and let it loose.
There’s a Flickr.pool of screencaps of the video from all over the world, that’s nice to peer through. I posted four of mine there. The amount of variation seems a little intense. I’m going to try and remember to check back later in a few months, when Vancouver has weather again. I’d like to get the clip of the woman or see what the crystals look like when they’re animated. This rainy hail doesn’t change the details very much from viewing to viewing.
Nick Carr calculates that a Second Life avatar consumes as much electricity as a Brazilian.
There’s a letter from Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille (that Duncan posted, bless his soul) that burns my heart with accuracy:
“There is vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.
No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatsoever at any time. There is only a queer, divine, dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
Archaeologists discovered an artificial eye dating from the times of the great pyramids and Stonehenge.