Nothing much happens on Mondays

Monday is a good day to travel to Paris, but not a good day for doing a great deal there, as so much is still closed on Mondays (and no, they don’t really enjoy that mythical ‘continental weekend’ that big business uses to push for more Sunday opening of shops here, as most places are also closed then too – or as they often like to put it more positively, “ouvert tous les jours, sauf lundi et dimanche.”

Quite a lot of the galleries add jeudi and/or samedi to the list also, and for most of them don’t bother to get up before lunch. Finding shows open in Paris can be quite a problem, and actually finding and getting in to the galleries can be even more so.

Of course, both the Mois de la Photo and the Photo-Off give dates of shows and time and dates of opening and I’d spent some hours poring over their leaflets to find four shows that should have been open and in roughly the area where we were staying in the north of the city.  The first, by Frédéric Delangle, I’ve already covered, and offered no problems of access, though we did manage to walk past the door and explore much of the rather interesting building before deciding to try the cafe in which it was taking place.

Next we went to see Harry Gruyaert‘s TV Shots, listed as being in the Passage du Desir, although actually in the building adjoining this. Fortunately this was something I’d discovered on a visit to a previous show, so this year I wasted no time, although I don’t think there was anything on the street to tell people that this was were the show was.

We walked into the darkened space where we sat surrounded by 4 screens on which images were projected (mostly these seemed to be the same images, but shown a few seconds later on the different screens) to a specially compiled soundtrack using archive TV material.

Gruyaert found himself living in a flat in London with a malfunctioning TV set, and instead of doing the sensible thing and turning it off and going down the pub, he started to photograph the screen, moving the aerial and fiddling with switches to distort the colour and displace the tri-colour images even more.  He seems to have wasted quite a few films this way, as the show included several hundred pictures. For the installation these images were digitally enhanced to give even more garish results.

The installation is supposed to immerse the viewer inside a box of sound and pictures, cutting off other sensory inputs, producing a “hypnotic or hallucinatory” effect. According to the notes this also “seems to be calling into question the vocabulary and habits of photojournalism” though mostly to me it seemed to be showing how boring most sports coverage on TV is (and we did also get some dancing and news.)

Watching TV in France – as I did for a few minutes most days in my hotel bedroom – actually seems to me to call much more into question about TV. One of my questions would certainly be how a country which shows such great interest in film can produce and put up with such terrible production for TV.

I could not stop thinking while sitting in the box that I would have found it much more interesting if Gruyeart had gone out and taken his camera with him. As you can see from his Magnum pages he is a far more interesting photographer than this show would suggest.  And of course another to add to quite a long list if anyone ever asks you to name a famous Belgian.

Our next call was to view ‘Semantic Tramps‘ by Christophe Beauregard, and we walked up and down the Rue de Lancry looking for any sign of the Galerie Madé. What you can see from the street at the address given is certainly not a gallery. But as in many Paris streets there was also a door at roughly the right place.  We pushed it, tried pushing the buttons but it remained firmly shut, and we were about to give up when someone came out and we could get in to the yard.  Walking through this it still wasn’t clear where the gallery was, but eventually we saw a small poster and made for the door.

One of the things that I remember came as a shock on my first visit to Paris in the 1960s were people living on the street and begging. I’d lived in London and in Manchester and in those days this was an extremely rare sight, certainly in the city centres, though a few years later it became common here too – and for a short while perhaps even more common than in Paris.  Here of course there are many – particularly asylum seekers – who fail to get adequate support from the state and are not allowed to work, but in France the problem seems to be greater still.

At a glance,  Beauregard’s pictures might appear to be of some of the homeless on the streets, but looking closer you can see that this is not the case. They are too clean, too wholesome, too pandered.  These are images ‘posed by model‘, and the images are nicely made and use the whole team of stylists and more and could well appear on the pages of Vogue with  captions under telling us those distressed jeans cost only 300 Euro a pair.

Do I see any point in this exercise? I tried hard, but couldn’t. You can see more pictures and the photographer’s text (in French) and make up your mind.

The next show we tried to find had an address that was even less useful, although the small print (which I only read later) did actually tell you it was somewhere accessed from a different street a quarter of a mile away – as we’d found after only around half an hour of searching.  Unfortunately the door was locked and the building empty. It was also ‘exceptionally closed’ on the Tuesday and Wednesday too.)

By contrast, after our evening visit to Chartier (more for the experience than the food) we took the Metro to Montmartre and a ride on the funicular for a quick visit to Sacre Coeur – getting in almost all the tourist stuff in one go.  There we saw a 24/7 photography show; the former water tower on the RueNorvins is now the home of La Commanderie du Clos Montmartre, a body dedicated to Parisian wine-making, and on the railings were landscape photographs of wine-making areas around the world.

2 Responses to “Nothing much happens on Mondays”

  1. Jim Thorp says:

    It’s not just in Paris of course that opening times for exhibitions can be a bit of a hit or miss affair. Only two days ago I tried to find the Schwartz Gallery, advertised as being at 92 White Post Road, Hackney, and supposedly open on Friday to Sunday, but to no avail. A great shame as I had made the trip especially to see what other photographers besides myself had produced in relation to the infamous “blue fence” and surrounding areas of the Olympic site. A similar thing happened with another gallery (or non-gallery?) at last year’s Photomonth, and I find the fugitiveness of some galleries quite frustrating! Luckily I had a back-up plan, so the journey was not completely wasted. Indeed, I don’t think I have ever come away from Hackney or Tower Hamlets, whatever the time of day or night without at least something grabbed photographically.

  2. Funnily enough I followed those same signs to try and see where the gallery was when I was there last month ( without managing to find it.

    But I think they have taken it rather further in Paris, really making it more of an art form than their photography. I’ll probably mention a few more of my experiences there in later posts.

    And of course that blue fence appears quite regularly on My London Diary, starting with it being put up

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.