Paris Dispatches is the blog of ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist-in-Residence, Brett Day Windham, who undertook her residency in Paris during January and February 2015. She used the blog to share her process, work, and experience throughout the residency.
Georgia Fee Summer 2015 Residency Session is now accepting applications. You can find more information about the residency and how to apply here.
Suddenly I am back in Brooklyn. After an exhausting arrival (much weighed down by the addition of a cheap duffel bag filled with flotsam and jetsam—how did that get through customs?) I woke to a white-out snowstorm. I returned to Armory Week, daylight-savings weekend, and the eve of the full moon in Virgo. I have stockmarket tips from my airplane seatmate scribbled on the end pages of my book, and a new-old french fedora from the Oberkampf Brocante. I have borrowed a studio, where I have begun to coerce some structure from two months' worth of piled-up receipts, tickets, hair curlers, records, found flowers, and barbie heads. I am listening to The Wild Heart start to finish, and thinking about the thick humid air in Paris. The pastry in my handbag somehow made the journey from Montmartre semi-intact, and delighted my husband. My small white cat has attached herself to my writing arm in a determined and permanent manner, and I type slowly as a result of this newfound barnacle.
Here is a portion of the accumulated objects: I am hanging them on the wall to begin exploring
fabrication processes for a free-hanging tapestry-sculpture.
I wanted to push the limits of how much raw material I could generate within these two months of creative immersion, so I let the project expand and branch out at will. I was seeking out the strongest ways to communicate this experience, as I hope to continue these walking and collecting projects in as many cities as will have me. (What would I find in Mumbai, Berlin, Manhattan, Mexico City, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, or Rio?) So, in Paris, every whim was permissible: pedometers, pressed flowers, museum tickets, found objects, collages, photographs, amateur cartography, books, and watercolors have all been dragged back to Brooklyn for further examination.
I have also been examining the flowers I’ve pilfered and pressed in an abandoned Moleskine.
I truly believe this project to be not an indulgence in nostalgia but a historically-inspired and time-based exercise in pursuit of something new. In the end, I felt I had embodied (at various times) many of Baudelaire’s archetypes, from flâneur to glaneur to flamboyante to badaud. As an educated woman walking alone through present-day Paris (with nothing to sell and a home to return to), I was reconsidering and re-contextualizing those gendered and outdated tropes, and I enjoyed them more as costumes to slip in-and-out-of at will. As promised in my earlier discussion of flânerie (with the help of Matthew Lancit), here is my completely biased and non-hierarchical list of guiding flâneurs/flâneuses. I have (dis)organized them into my own royal court. These artists, writers, and thinkers have expanded and enhanced the concept of Flânerie for me into something essential and relevant.
Rebecca Solnit: The Queen. Read anything/everything this funny, sharp, brilliant woman writes.
Dan Estabrook: The Jack Of Hearts. My brother in arms, who taught me to relish the creative clarity derived from walking.
Candy Jernigan: The Royal Conjurer. Ghostly godmother of New York found object and social practice arts. I honor her with this project in so many ways.
Matthew Lancit: The Royal Advisor. A lovely man doing some deep thinking and documentary filmmaking—currently philosophizing on the possibilities of the nostalgic/contemporary flâneur.
Tatiana Trouvé: The Countess. Her new project for the Public Art Fund is a sculpture, spooling up lines of rope that equal all the pathways in Central Park: she spent months walking them all.
Francis Alÿs: The Alchemist. A singular, inspiring and shamanic artist who makes poetic and beautiful works that speak to cultures all over the world.
Katarina Jerinic: The Dauphine. A dear friend and cohort who creates smart and humorous work about the landscape: urban, rural, and astrological.
Richard Long: The Court Painter. Our own Mid-Century-Walking-in-the-Landscape Master.
Speed Levitch: The Harlequin. One of the most natural and wonder-full people I’ve ever met. Look for him in many of Richard Linklater’s films. Or watch Bennett Miller’s film about Speed, The Cruise, and enjoy.
Hamish Fulton: The Captain of the King’s Crusade. Bold and singular British practitioner of minimalist long-form walking.
(left) A list of my walking partners (right) A list of miles walked and steps taken, minus a few evening strolls.
As this is my final post, I would like to offer some thanks:
To my Mom, who supports my most cockamamie schemes, and who likes my work more than any of you. To my Dad, who inspired me to collect weird objects without shame. To my husband George, who made it possible for me to play truant for two months in the most beautiful place I could imagine.
To Sarah Bachelier and Risa Puleo, for their camaraderie. Teenage-me would never believe that present-day-me would get to walk through the Louvre's Masterpieces of European Painting collection at night with two brilliant curators. Next time we will put champagne in our water bottles; next time we will be in Venice and the champagne will be in glasses. To my spirit sister Jessica Sagou, who befriended me and took me on adventures in Belleville and Barbéz—showing me into the tiny the atelier of le Bachelor where he outfits Congolese-French Sapeurs, walking me through a West African cornerstore, and treating me to a traditional Côte D’Ivoirian lunch complete with attieké eating lessons. To Kristen Roller, for her friendship and support. To Mister Matty Hart, socialist Parisian by way of Philadelphia, who took time from his insanely busy life to speed-walk me through some serious Parisian culture lessons. To Liz Collins, the generous spirit and talented artist with a perfect track record for friend recommendations. To Amber Winick, and Cydney Puro, international lightening-rod connectors.
To ArtSlant and the Georgia Fee Residency, for allowing me this singular experience. To everyone who walked with me, and who read along with me, thank you for sending such encouraging emails.
And finally and most especially I would like to thank my ArtSlant editor, Andrea Alessi. My advocate and invaluable first-reader, Andrea helped me form these essays into something palatable, let me know when I had lost the plot, and advised me about Google Analytics and what people like to read on a blog. As a result of two months in Paris speaking some questionable franglais and getting happily lost, unhappily sick, elated and confused, working off hours, I sent her some odd notes. She gave me support and feedback about each piece I wrote, no matter if it was submitted on a Sunday afternoon or at two in the morning on a sleepless Wednesday. I loved having her as my editor and sometimes anchor, and cannot thank her enough.
The finished map-drawing of my flâneries
Brett Day Windham (born Cambridge, England, raised Providence, Rhode Island) is a multidisciplinary artist working with sculpture, installation and collage. You can find the full list of blog posts from her Paris residency here.
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