Paris Perfume

I suddenly had an image of Paris as a huge Queen Bee. I saw the entire country very busily stuffing her with royal jelly. Beauty, beauty, beauty. Soooo swollen with beauty, she cares not for wings nor even for the rest of her colony. Happily, not all of Paris si so rayal and not all of France cares.

How can women embrace motherhood and womanhood and an ever demanding idea of beauty all at the same time? How exhausting. We are still not free.

I managed to avoid it for four months, but it finally happened. In search of a photo of a beautiful cake, in a posh section of St-Germain, I stepped right in it. Yes, my first pile of dog shit. A shopkeeper was outside on the street and I asked her how Parisians put up with it. She said, “oh, it’s horrible; the city gives out fines for 180€, but that doesn’t seem to stop it.”  I was lucky; it was raining and a puddle was right there beside me.

Stuff is piling up around me again and things are getting jumbled. I feel the pinch of time pushing, people pulling. Is it just Paris or is it me? My two tables are full and my little room is no longer empty. Is this my way of avoiding emptiness, papering it over with little things collected without thought, space and time filled with busy-ness? I think of the video footage I saw in London of Francis Bacon working in what appeared to be a palimpsest of stuff piling up around him in his tiny studio. The chaos that was his ballast is stunning. If Sun King, Louis XIV feared the vertigo of emptiness, to compensate he over-filled his palace at Versaille to nausea. Invited to exhibit there, Jeff Koons has found the perfect home.

My home in Paris is a cell in a hive of some 300 live-in studios. There is a constant hum, but nowhere for us to share the honey. According to the objectives of  La Cité internationale des Arts established in the early 60’s,  “the aim of the scheme is to open the way for artists in many fields and from many countries to gather together in Paris, to work, to discuss and exchange ideas, to contribute to each others’ development and to absorb all that Paris has to offer as one of the world’s great centres of artistic expression.” (Sydney University, Australia who bought a studio at that time)

The objective described on La Cité’s website is surprisingly spare: La Cité Internationale des Arts a pour vocation d’accueillir des artistes professionnels qui souhaitent développer un travail artistique en France. (the vocation of the centre is to welcome professional artist wishing to develop a project in France.)

Perhaps as objectives go, this worked once, but not today. I hear a lot of displeasure from the artists and the host as well is expressing a need for change. A meeting was held earlier in October and all the country partners were invited to participate in a two-day meeting to discuss the future of La Cité. I misunderstood and thinking I was registered tried to enter, but was told I could not. I had apparently only registered for the cocktail before. Not one artist-resident was invited to participate.

There is no place for us to exchange with each other unless we take the initiative and organize an open studio event. And we do; each week there is something going on here somewhere. But, there are no French artists here and if there are, we don’t meet them. We are only here to absorb the wonder and perpetuate the myth of Paris as an artists’ mecca.   The people of Paris do not even know, that we are here. Why does it feel like so much to ask for a conversation? A conversation is not just me listening.

i like to run on the walkway that circles Île-St-Louis at riverside. Often, I have to jump over bright yellow puddles collecting between the cobblestones under the bridge. On the sidewalk under Pont Neuf where the wall and the base of the bridge meet are long fluid shapes permanently etched into the asphalt. From my window, I have witnessed every form of excretion possible from the male body including ejaculation. Male pissing in public is common, just turn your back and let it go, a tree, a post, anything will do. For some, the Seine is a toilet. Dogs are allowed almost everywhere and the shit is absolutely everywhere. Paris perfume.

I grew up on a farm. Beauty was rare. Shit was constant. There was little time to take care of either.