It’s easy to miss what is NOT that I presumed to be, in this case, homeless people.
There are NO homeless people in Paris’ 2e. None. This is the way a city should be. Though plenty of hawkers and shysters linger in the streets, they’re far more subtle than the homeless in America and seem to walk away if rejected. I have not seen any drug-addicted, mentally ill homeless men or women muttering to themselves or acting strangely, a common sight at home.
America has a huge problem with the homeless — France, apparently, does not. French society may be more civil because everyone is given a place within it, however small. Whatever Parisians are doing for the mentally ill, addicted and chronically unemployed, Americans need to emulate. Their streets are clear.
Streets are not clear, however, of graffiti. People who talk about graffiti cleave along a line that separates those who think graffiti is destruction of property from those who think it is art. Somewhere, a long time ago, I read that about 85 percent of people dislike graffiti and want it removed. That seemed about right to me then and still does. I wonder if Parisians are like most Americans in this regard — do they want to get rid of their graffiti? I hope so.
But, if they do, they’re failing. Paris is a tagged city. Almost every space that is slightly hidden from the scrutiny of the police and people is covered with graffiti. Some of this graffiti looks like it’s been there for years. People don’t bother getting rid of it.
Let me be upfront — I detest graffiti. To me, it’s a criminal act not creative. I hate the childish, intense colors taggers prefer, the weird, upward-expanding bubble-shaped letters, the excessive scale of the words and images and, if not text based, it’s cartoon-like imagery. Probably the biggest reason why I hate graffiti, however, is that it mutilates it’s underlying structure. Buildings should be beautiful — the purity of architecture should be undefiled. Graffiti ruins my first impression of a building. It moves my eye downward. I find myself focused on the graffiti, not the building on which it was sprayed. Suddenly, my eye is mired in the bottom of pop culture, not the top of high culture. It’s hard to get out of there.
I’m less offended by graffiti in train stations, for example, because buildings haven’t been ruined, at least. Yet even there, it’s gross. Graffiti ruins everything. It destroys a building’s form or line. It’s distracting and, again, just ugly.
As an aside, I was shown, yesterday, a small lump on a high wall. It was pastel-coloured and difficult to see. I had no idea what it was. The man I was with laughed at me and said, “Don’t you recognize yourself?”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s a breast.”
Then, I saw a nipple in the middle of the lump. Ridiculous, I thought. In the middle of a wall, there’s a pale lump that’s supposed to represent a breast, though no one would see it this way unless first told. “Let me guess … feminist art?” I asked.
He nodded. When I got home, I looked it up. Sure enough, “Intra Larue’s colourful sculptures of breasts are all the rage as it takes over the streets of Paris and Dublin ...”
She’s a feminist. Of course. The breast is supposed to be talked about as if it’s a deeply ponderous subject — the Left takes itself so seriously! To put little breasts here and there about Paris is to jog our minds into the wonders of feminism. The article goes on to explain the “logic” behind her art:
By detaching the breast from the body and making it an autonomous object, Larue invests it with a kind of iconic, almost totemic power. The breasts exist independent of the accompanying body and may be viewed in several contexts. It may speak of feminine pain, or a loss of femininity, fragility in a patriarchal society. Some viewers have even interpreted it as a talking point for breast cancer survivors. Sometimes, she paints on symbols like a tie to show the strong hold men have on femininity and its representation.
Lets think about this. Like most women, I have a couple breasts and frankly don’t think much about them. They’re just there. Any pain I have had in life — and there’s been a lot — has nothing to do with my breasts. In fact, though men have caused me pain, I don’t think what’s happened to me is a patriarchal plot or schema to bring down the femme. Men hurt, too — should we put little hanging gonads next to the breast to symbolize their pain?
Furthermore, there’s no totemic power in a plaster cast of a breast glued to a wall somewhere in Paris. None. It has no impact on my femininity. Men may like feminine women — most do — but how this connects to a lone breast on a wall simply escapes me. The problem with symbolic art, as I see it, is it’s meaning must be immediately obvious or it’s just an inconsequential absurdity. Protest art, for example, is very clear in it’s meaning. For this reason, it works. Similarly, the old “Socialist Realism” art during the USSR days, for example, told it’s message clearly. The story was uplifting, or conceived to be so. People could put themselves into it, like it or not.
Exactly what does ONE breast, alone, stuck on a wall, have to do with anything? If it is has meanings — plural — it is meaningless. Communication involves nuance, of course, but also an underlying meaning. A ur-value. Otherwise it’s just gibberish.
- Had this man not pointed out that little blob on a high exterior wall, I wouldn’t have noticed it.
- After he pointed it out, I couldn’t recognize it.
- When he told me what it was, it didn’t elicit any meaning.
- It’s meaning had to be told to me.
When art does not clearly speak … when art is intended to convey political or social meaning … when art has to be explained … it fails it’s stated purpose.
I’m moving apartment today. This one is too dark, moldy, rancid, and dreary. I’m moving to a whoopie-doopsie area between the 3rd and 4th — a gay area! literally — to a second floor apartment with more light and air and less mold.
Also, because I love textiles so much, next week I’m going to visit the Gobelin’s tapestry “factory” which is quite a distance from where I will be.
Will keep you posted.