Monday, October 5, 2009

Art Insomia

Saturday night was an annual event in Paris called “Nuit Blanche.” In French, to have this “white night” is to pull an all-nighter, and the idea of the event is to utilize public space to celebrate modern art (read: film and light installations) from 9pm until 7am the next morning. Across the city, parks, universities, religious buildings and even pools opened their doors to a crazy band of glowstick-adorned art-lovers, insomniacs, street musicians and more.

I met up with Pascal and Thibaut (the French guys from the bar last week) and a few other random friends (Antoine, from Toulouse, Daniel, and American film student, and a girl from Greece) at Luxembourg. The streets were packed with a cheerful, chattering young crowd and dotted with equally jovial policemen who had pretty much given up on trying to clear a path for cars. It was really surreal to have so many people out and about at midnight, and there was a real sense of life and electricity in the air. The line to actually enter the Luxembourg gardens wrapped all the way around the block, although you didn’t have to be inside it to see the main attraction: a huge disco ball, suspended from a crane. Strategically placed searchlights refracted off of the ball’s many faces onto the eerie purple clouds and full moon, giving the impression that tonight, Paris itself was our nightclub.

With Pascal as our guide, we trekked around Paris to see what we could see, speaking French all the while. My favorite destination was the Grande Mosquée, whose central garden hosted an x-ray video installation (one of the only ones I enjoyed…I really need someone with some film background to teach me how to appreciate those because right now I just think most of them are stupid) and a laser installation piece that combined the visuals of the moving lasers with audio voiceovers of the history of the earth and a strong scent of roses. (More art should be scented. It’s like that adult version of those scented markers that were really cool in the early 90s…fun!). The exhibits were cool, the locale was beautiful, and the calm reverence of the crowd in response to our surroundings presented a strange contrast to the delightful chaos around Luxembourg.

Around 4am, my blisters from the previous night’s boat adventures were starting to hurt and my fatigue was beginning to interfere with my French. The boys and I walked up to Chatelet to catch the night buses home…only to find that French bureaucracy, in its infinite wisdom, had decided to suspend almost all of the night bus lines on the one night that they were really needed, opting instead to keep the 11 and 14 lines running (which both lead away from where I live). The result was that I took the metro and then a bus to Pascal’s apartment in Levallois (a cute, upscale Parisian suburb), where we stayed up for another hour or so discussing Sarah Palin (did anyone else know she got punk'd by a a couple of Quebecois radio DJs?), Ségolène Royale and South Park before I gratefully crashed on an air mattress.

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