Today I visited for the first time ever abroad an Australian Embassy. It was a dark, grey and cold morning, the sky did not come to light before 8am.
Fortunately Paris has a superior public transport system and most of the journey was spent trekking the metro underground, well lit, with bright white fluorescent light, dry and warmer than the outside world.
Our Embassy you will be pleased to know is extremely well located, in Paris’s most affluent district with a permanent view of the Eiffel Tower.
I’m told there are Australian public servants who have worked continuously in this Embassy for many years.
I too could long for a slow death at a desk job, I thought, even inside this brutal concrete block office tower, if my view on the way to work each day was the Eiffel Tower, not to mention getting paid to live in Paris, I mused, before stopping to take a photo of Australia’s concrete block of prime real estate abroad.
Note that cute image of our native koala so prominently draped over the building, promoting our cuddly native as our national image to the French whose national obsession, I understand is spent in a permanent state of ennui, despising and ridiculing anything with a tinge of “naïveté”.
I left the Embassy and took some photos of the Tour Eiffel, but the wind was so strong, all trips to the middle and top were cancelled and the disappointment of the many couples on their honeymoon who had cancelled bookings added to the dreariness of the day.
Note to SSM advocates, do not book in advance your romantic honeymoon trip up the Eiffel Tower in winter, there is a real risk of returning home a gay divorcée. Never mind the marriage advice from a misgamomist, but I should also mention the risk of frostbite from waiting in a queue for a ticket.
Towards the Arc de Triumph I marched in the rain and feeling rather dispirited. I walked down the Champs Élysées, named after the Greek mythological paradise where heroes went to rest, pondering the dreariness of it all, as an international hoard of shoppers clutching store bags, entered and exited luxury brand stores with that kind of satisfied smile that could not be pencilled on my face today.
I stopped and took a photo of the Luis Vuitton shop front window- with a pastiche installation, displaying handbags emblazoned with works of art by a safe impressionist chocolate box artist next to resin white reclining sculpture a parody of classical baroque figurines.
Note the shiny blue orb by Jeff Koons, the international glitterati art/porn star who I like to think of as pop’s chupa-chup artist.
Limping from the cold and hungry, the voice inside my head repeated: god is dead, art is dead, the revolution is dead, long live the market, and with this mantra I decided to take the steps back into the underground to take the metro to the Marais for lunch.
When a friend whose views on life and taste in food I admire, who has spent years living and studying in Paris, but now finds herself evaporating in the hell that is Darwin, recommends in a Facebook post that I should eat at “Miznon” at 22 Rues des Ecouffes, and given her soon to be spouse endorses the recommendation in the same FB post, then that’s what I thought I should do. Perhaps a good lunch imagining these two around me eating a hearty meal and talking passionately about all kinds of stuff would lift my spirits.
I didn’t quite understand the menu or the concept, I thought I was going to be offered a typical middle eastern fare, but the variety was unusual, so I just told the guy to just give me a lamb kebab with whatever vegetable side dish was in his view a good match.
What a surprise, when a whole broccoli with the stalk intact, resplendent and iridescent with olive oil over green, steaming and charred and drizzled in a mint/dill sauce was placed before me with a half pitta pocket stuffed with lamb meatball goodness packed with a mint and parsley salad.
I took some side condiments-runny tahini sauce, pure red tomato purée, green chillies, and finely chopped capsicum dressing. This feast for the stomach was delighting my insatiable eyes. I took my time. I ate slowly, and savoured every mouthful.
I looked around. Mostly happy healthy young people. I ate surrounded by the beauty of youth with that fresh naïveté, conscientious, consuming wholesome organic food. Most of them were American college students talking about all the kind of things young Americans abroad talk about before Instagramming and Snap chatting their green wholesomeness.
The food was delicious, testament to my friend’s discernment and eclectic taste. Some pink returned to my cheeks, but not for long. That grey of conceptual dread that haunted me from the morning returned when in the lavatory I spotted a pyramid of toilet rolls and immediately took a photograph as my 2017 homage to Duchamp’s 100th year anniversary of his urinal.
Paris is cold but great for hanging around in museums and galleries. These are warm places to go an visit another friend in a text advised.
What to do in winter in Paris when the self can’t digest any more art? I’ve made myself sick in Italy with an itinerary immersed in art. Etruscan, Archaic, Ancient, Classical, Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque, Romantic, Modern, Postmodern, advertising, street art, performance art, anti-art. I looked forward to sleep every night just to rest, not to dream, but to stare into my eyelid’s curtain of blackness.
Rome is one open air museum, and so is Paris, so it’s unlikely that I would find anything that is blank or unable to be framed as art by me so instead of opting to spend my afternoon inside a gallery, it occurred to me to continue limping in pain and in the cold without destination in mind, just taking the first street left and then the first street right and then in turn left, right, left, right, and just finding stuff to photograph randomly. I decided to focus particularly on the colour yellow and the reflections I came to notice of myself in the mirrors or window panes on the streets.
What is it about the colour yellow that attracts me and repels me? A past flame loved photographing yellow lines. Yellow, the colour associated with the sun. Was it a desire for the sun, a ray of sunshine sublimation? Was it a psychosomatic reaction because I was lacking in vitamin D?
Or was it pure and simple envy. Envy, that vice that stirred my bile this morning as soon as I saw the Eiffel Tower across from the Embassy. I know that it is the colour green that is associated with envy, but I believe yellow most captures the colour of bile.
I limped and envied all who call this place their home. I envied all who find self actualisation here, in this cold and dark miserable place, I envied all who have the freedom to mark the public space with their tags, their stencils, their posters, their rubbish, their signage, I envied the marks that are left behind by a people not pathologically peripatetic like me wandering in places to escape the dreariness of my own home.
I wandered these streets and envied those who do not feel the compulsion to photograph their own reflection in an alien street scape.
I envied those who can wander the streets and find art on museum-less walls surrounded by a history and a context that does not really care about erasing even the pathetic black texta scrawl mark of the tag vandal.
I envied street art that has been made in earnestness, spontaneous, not the result of a state or philanthropic sponsored grant. I envied public art that was not refined and defined by bureaucratic instruments measuring targets.
I envied a street art that was there to jolt one of an awareness of their subjectivity in space, not an anesthetic derivative art, the safe images designed to sedate an apathetic public made ugly and vicious by their ignorance, a public who need to be persuaded to want an art, a safe art that aims to justify the dullness that amplifies the deadness of their uncivic life.
I envied the uncensored randomness reflecting the irrational spontaneous crazy human urge to say “I exist”.
I know that it is the colour green that is associated with envy, but I believe yellow most captures the colour of venom and bile.
I was so yellow with envy, that when I ended up inside the Pompidou’s bookshop for some more thought surrounded by warmth, I found books on subject matters written by authors who live, talk, eat, theorise, write and teach in the peripatetic freedom one can reach in the streets of a city they so often denounce with complete disdain, yet a place in which they defiantly assert one’s right to leave a mark, a scrawl, a gesture, in any colour, shape, form, expressing all kinds of ideas to assert existence and thus atone.
Please note I am aware of my generalisations, oversimplifications, mystifications, throughout this post.
I am aware of the pathetic and derivative parodies my middle mind considers “provocations”.
I admit I do not have the depth, nor the tools nor the literary dexterity to articulate complexity in all its shades and colours.
I want to end this post with a picture of Paris at night taken as soon as I returned to my hotel room, just before I sat down to edit my photos and to write this post.