There are a couple of ways to approach art fairs: one could subscribe to a strict itinerary of events, talks, exhibitions, and parties, planning out every moment in an attempt to experience as much, meet as many people, drink as many free drinks and see as much art as possible during that relatively brief moment in a city when every art space, gallery, and arts organization seems to go into hyperdrive. Or, one could simply let go and go with the flow. There are benefits to both, but I should remind you that Paris is one city that encourages a degree of aimlessness, of drifting, of letting the hours go.
In the 1950s the nineteen-year-old Lettrist Ivan Chtcheglov, writing in a state of Dada-disenchanted Surrealist hangover, formulated a theory for a new way to approach the city, a “New Urbanism.” Primarily a critique of architecture, his short essay advocated an endless dérive, a continuous drifting through the city as a revolutionary tool of direct experience and fulfillment of desires, a basis for an entirely new civilization. Successors brought the dérive into practice—at its most basic, it was a sort of playful drunken wandering through the city. FIAC seems to be an excellent opportunity for such disorientation, so in the spirit of Chtcheglov’s utopian construct and the facility of Paris’s winding streets for such endeavors, I offer a sort of hors les murs game to play, hopefully not as dismally quotidian as a scavenger hunt, but something of the sort.
Herman de Vries, i am, 2011, Banner in linen and gold letters, Various sizes; Presented by Aline Vidal, Paris.
1 Paris Pratique
A pocket-sized Paris Pratique map is readily available at any kiosk and is an invaluable tool for navigating Paris. “Oh but I have a map on my phone,” I hear you protest. No. Get a Pratique. It in itself is an object of exquisite beauty, with each arrondissement on its allotted pages, ordered in such a purely Parisian way. My own Paris Pratique, weather worn and marked, remains in a special place on my bookshelf and often becomes a subject of spontaneous contemplation and reverie.
The corkscrew you’ll need for opening bottles of wine. Cafés are wonderful, and there are many in Paris, but you can also feel free to simply uncork a bottle of wine on a bench anywhere. And that is the best way to drink wine in Paris. You’ll need the euros to buy the bottle(s) of wine.
The game is merely a list of places, things, performances and people that you may or may not encounter during FIAC week. Some you can seek out, others you’ll have to come across by mere happenstance. Some are art works, others are good places for that bottle of wine. All are worth seeing.
Dominique Ghesquière, bateau, 2011, Wood, paint, 18 × 112 × 210 cm; Presented by Valentin, Paris
An inflatable Stonehenge[i]
A broken Velib left smashed in a desolate corner of the street
A digital billboard in the Marais[ii]
An old woman playing one plaintive note on a stringed instrument in front of the Pompidou
The labyrinth of the Jardin des Plantes[iv]
A couple of people reading numbers aloud[v]
A pseudo-Bedouin tent[vi]
A crocodile of coins[vii]
The Canal St. Martin[viii]
A submerged boat[ix]
A sound installation situated by a park bench[x]
A rubbish bin tossed in another rubbish bin[xi]
The steppes of the Parc de Belleville
2 stuffed sheep with golden horns[xii]
The word FLASK written in chrome and black spray paint[xiii]
A nightclub designed by David Lynch[xiv]
The tip of Paris[xv]
An existentialist tree[xvi]
[iii] The performance artist is easily recognized by her full red lips, black on white hair, and the plastic surgery cheek implants inserted in her temples, invariably highlighted with translucent shimmery powder.
[iv] Found at the back of the park. Often inhabited by children.
[viii] Popular among young people, skateboarders, and hash dealers.
[x] There are two of these. One is presented by FIAC: Dominique Petitgand, Exhalaisons, 2002 / 2009, at the Jardin des Plantes. The other is by Christian Boltanski, Murmures, located at Parc Montsouris.
[xiii] Often found in underground tunnels and on rooftops.
[xv] Where the Île de la Cité juts into the Seine. Nearby is Place Dauphine, what Andre Breton called “one of the most profoundly secluded places I know of, one of the worst wastelands in Paris.” (Andre Breton, Nadja, originally published 1928)
(Image on top: Jeremy Deller, Sacrilege, 2012, Stonehenge bouncing castle, Diameter: 34 m, Circumference : 120 m, Height : 7 m ; Presented by Art : Concept, Paris.)