On Sunday, my furthest journey to date with the impediment. To the Armenian church on Rue Charlot, long-time bastion of the free concert, especially at the weekends. The programme is not always riveting, but this time we had to get there for two of my favourite pieces. Two young pianists were working together for four-hand pieces by Ravel and Debussy. Ma Mère l’Oie, with its finale of The Mechanical Garden, reflecting all the clockwork toys and mechanical games that Ravel had in his house in Montfort l’Amaury. You could see the construction of hands required to produce it on the keyboard by sitting not too far from the piano.
Debussy’s setting of the poems of Chanson de Bilitis by Pierre Louys as Six Épigraphs Antiques has been with me since I first encountered it back in the nineteen sixties, with its wonderful finale, that needs restating.
Stepping out, or more like hobbling-out for the first time with the torn ankle, to see the wonderful Alighiero Boetti exhibition I had seen in London last November. In there I heard that Jannis Kounellis, one of his working compatriots had just died. The work was not close at all, but they shared a time of radical change to raw materials that we have still never recovered from. Hearing of him in that context caused a reverie of one of his great works that I had seen in the early nineties in the middle of France in the most unlikely of venues.
It was in Chagny in Burgundy that Pietro Sparta made a gallery to show his Arte Povera friends and a few others, largely, if I remember, because of the presence in Chagny of the truly great restaurant Lameloise. The artists wanted to eat there, and could be persuaded to come to the middle of nowhere and make a large exhibition. Here, passing through Chagny on the way south, Erica and I encountered the remarkable 1988 work of Kounellis, made of glasses of grappa and cut lead shapes. I understood there to be as many as 40,000 glasses of grappa, and the work was arranged in a far more fugitive state than the more formalistic museum presentation of future years. The smell was overwhelming, and you could hardly enter the rooms of the arrangement. Of course, the grappa evaporated and had to be topped-up continuously. An interesting aside to the Bill Culbert work Small Glass Pouring Light which is conserved by drinking, in its case the red wine of its subject.But here there was just far too much grappa to begin with that as a means of conservation, socially involving as both pieces might be. They are both great works and live in the memory.
Pietro Sparta had a partner in the gallery who was called Pascale Petite. There is a poet in Britain of the same name, and I have never known if she took another career. There was loose talk at the time of Pietro doing a show with Ian Hamilton Finlay, if I remember correctly. Not a bad idea I thought to myself, since their combined names made Little Sparta, the homestead of Mr Finlay!
Somewhere on the southern boundaries, beyond the tram lines, but before the péripherique, chasing one Porte or another, what could be the original Jacques Tati ludicrous formica Hotel, in all its early plywood symmetry and glory. The vinyl canopied foyer may be a later addition, but it still speaks of an era frozen in time, even without the nearby seaside
The biggest truck you have ever seen pulled into Rue Crussot to discharge its cargo of caged animals for the Cirque d’Hiver. How it will negotiate its exit, presumably backwards into the main Boulevard, I have no idea, and it certainly cannot proceed down the street, which only gets narrower towards the bottom. The truck is as large as the first part of the street, and painted a suitable beige to camouflage itself from the Hausmann vernacular apartment blocks, corresponding to the vehicle that would have captured the lions and tigers in their own more colourful habitat SC
We’re back again, almost a couple of weeks now. We are starting to walk off the last couple of Portes to be done, the unclear remnants of a self-invented project, so close to others already done, and yet they have names to be ticked and listed.
The hazard has been that I fell down the stairs in the apartment and severely sprained my right foot, and I’ve been in this condition for almost a week and I don’t see it changing very soon. Good for desk work, but not for road work. I did manage to pass, before all this, the mysterious Rouge Limé on Rue de Charonne in the 11th. It had taken me ages last year to begin to understand the notion of the limé : the glass filed to its brim, so that it it almost has a convex meniscus sitting on top. It’s my kind of thing, with my one glass per day, so I tell myself it might as well be limé. SC
We have been lucky to have had yet another Urban Hibernation. We have loved walking and working from this starting point. We have loved walking and working from the quiet and private sanctuary out and into the city, and then coming back in again. I hate using the word bustling but cities do bustle. There is so much activity which just goes on all the time and variations of activity which gets busier and quieter at different times of the day and night. It is good to know that it is all happening but I do not need to know all about all of it. Or I do not need to know about any of it. Just by looking out the window of the apartment, I can see the butcher shop across the street starting its set-up at 6 in the morning. It continues to do that, even while I am far from there. I am absolutely nothing to do with their actions. We have left the city but the city does not note our absence. Very little happens here. From these windows there is not much action. Yesterday Joe’s tractor crossed the near field bringing up the cows. For a few minutes, I heard the engine and I thought I was hearing the post man’s van. But it was Saturday and the post man does not even deliver on a Saturday. Here in Tipperary, we continue our Walking and Working. Otherwise not one single thing is the same.
I had seen it many times, but didn’t know what it meant, The Eyebrow Academy, even though I had used the phrase Sourcils des Poétes in other contexts. It is also the name for Sweet Williams. But what of a studio of them, what goes on behind that shroud? SC
She appears erratically. Sometimes I do not see her for a week or ten days. Sometimes she pushes and sometimes she pulls a large cart full of bags and boxes and stuff. Sometimes there is a piece of furniture among her things. She does not pay any attention to traffic. The pavements are too narrow for her load, so she stays on the street. She weaves back and forth making diagonal cuts through intersections. Cars just have to go around her or else they wait for her to be out of their path. There are some homeless people who are local. They sleep regularly in doorways or in the shelter of shop awnings. They have dogs and they know all of the people both in the shops and the shoppers. They know the people and the people know them. There is a man who sits near to the supermarket all day and then he sleeps there at night. I bought some early daffodils from a boy one morning. He did not have change so he went to the man sitting outside the supermarket to get my ten euro note changed. The homeless in the neighbourhood sort of have their home places within the place of immediate quarter. Maybe homeless is not really the right word. There is a sense of home and there are regular places. Sadly the places are outside in the cold. I do not know where the woman pushing the large cart full of her worldly goods sleeps. She just passes through. She never seems to linger. She does not acknowledge anyone. This is not her neighbourhood. Maybe she does not even sleep on the street. Maybe she just likes to keep a lot of things with her all the time.
We have our very own Book Artist on Rue de Bretagne. He has been here ever since we started coming in the winter, and he makes fan and bellows-like constructions from the pages of books held open by their covers. The local wine shop uses one such construction to file away their delivery notes and receipts, much as we had done with postcards held in a rubber filter contraption from the inside of a Citroen car. It is always interesting to note the dichotomy between concept and content, even as close to home as this is. By far the most interesting thing about the Book Artist is his table, held up at one end by a broom handle and where you can feel the force of the willow bristles to push upwards and achieve their purpose. Now that is content, not decoration. SC
Every visit to every museum leaves me with at least one thing I think about again and again. It might be something I made a note about or it might be something I did not even fully register at the time but it returns again and again for me to think about. Sometimes I have to go back again to see the thing which has settled into my mind. The Carnavelet seems to be the place which pulls me back again and again this trip. I adore the Musée des Arts et Métiers, but I return again and again to the Carnavelet. I have tried to get a good photograph of the feather of a carrier pigeon (Plume de Pigeon Voyageur) from the time of the Siege de Paris (1870-71) but it is in a little frame and the frame is in a glass fronted vitrine. There is just too much glass between me and the feather. The feather is bedraggled. At the end of the feather there is a tiny little knot tied with the thinnest ribbon imaginable. The ribbon even in its thinness shows stripes of red, white and blue. I think my drawing is better than the photograph. Also from the time of the Siege and in the same vitrine is a glass container holding pieces of bread. The bread was prepared with a mixture of flour and sawdust. Times were hard and there was little to eat. A painting of a man selling rats for roasting is another example of reduced eating options.