In previous articles I've complained about certain aspects of the Parisian art scene, one of which being that it lacks the spark and energy of new things. It's difficult in a conservative country that holds fine art and culture so close to its sense of identity.
Last night was fortuitous. The PRs all spoke about Miami. It was very cold and grey in Paris. There was nothing to catch the eye. I walked into Shanaynay to find, among other artworks, a bicycle upturned and surrounded by tools. I took a look at it, before a man appeared from behind a curtain. He denied that it was an artwork. We spoke for a while and he explained that the sculptures, not including the bicycle, were tied into a video by the artist Laure Prouvost. He tottered on a ladder and unsuccessfully tried to turn on the projector. I got a blast of Elton John but nothing to see. He ceased to press buttons and informed me of a performance taking place that night involving the aforementioned artist and a colleague Alex Cecchetti. It suited my plans perfectly.
Laure Prouvost, Screen shot 'The artist', 2010, multi screened video installation, mixed media and back projection; Courtesy of the artist.
Returning two hours later – via a bar that bordered on insalubrious – I crowded back into the gallery to watch Prouvost's film. We followed a disconnected journey through bits of life and her studio, the camera guided by her index finger, punctuated by finger clicks. It was intriguing and edited tightly enough to hold the attention throughout. I used the break before the performance to find a beer in the back room. And in doing so made the loser's mistake of getting trapped in a slightly uncomfortable viewing position.
The performance began as they locked the door of the gallery. What ensued was a narrative that played between the two artists; Alex tried to change the tyre on the aforementioned bicycle while Laure made tea and each in their turn took up a thread of their own story. It managed to perform that trick of the absurd, balanced between discomfort, curiosity and engagement, performing many actions and touching on lots of responses simultaneously. Overall it formed a coherent connection between the object, video and itself: in other words, it was a very successful performance. Particularly at those moments when people were banging on the blacked-out windows demanding to be let in.
Laure Prouvost, 'the bunker'; Courtesy of the artist
The point is that I have been critical about the lack of this kind of thing. Shanaynay first came to my attention as one of the very few artist-run spaces in Paris although Romain, one half of the duo who runs the space, called it 'independent'. Still the point remains. Both artists are young, just out of their MA programmes, and this type of thing doesn't happen in a commercial framework; it's exciting, there's nothing to sell for big bucks but the value is contained within the room.
The whole experience felt very much like a night out in Berlin or London, and it was refreshing. An arts venue such as this has the freedom that neither public institutions nor commercial galleries are permitted, and when something like this is executed as well as it was on this night, it is special.
(Image on top: Laure Prouvost, The Artist, 2010, multi screened video installation, mixed media and back projection; Courtesy of the artist)