Suisse Marocain

Suisse Marocain (b. David Hardy) is a German artist who was born in the air between Tangiers and Geneva.  When he’s not off traveling and collaborating with artists in Sicily and Madagascar, Germany or Portugal, he lives in Paris.  If you see him here in the winter, he usually has a good tan, choosing his déplacements wisely.  He’s a person who lives and wears his art.  Put him inside the Musée Igor Balut, his ever-evolving installation in his studio on the 4th floor of 59 rue de Rivoli, and he’ll seem to disappear.

Suisse inside his installation at the Vagabond Gallery show in a store-front space on rue des Saint Pères.  Paris, 2009.

Suisse inside his installation at the Vagabond Gallery show in a store-front space on rue des Saint Pères. Paris, 2009.

When I think of Suisse, aside from his incredible dimples, I think of freedom. Freedom of expression in fashion, painting, collaboration, performance.  I’ve seen him wearing pink knit legwarmers, a harlequin-printed jumpsuit, a top hat with a red heart on top (a favorite), and usually clothing he or another artist has painted on.  His playfulness says, “c’est pas grave” just have fun with it all, we don’t have to be so serious all the time, here’s a paint brush.

A random day at rue de la Tour des Dames.

A random day at rue de la Tour des Dames.

Suisse is one of the original residents of the well-known squat in the center of Paris at 59 rue de Rivoli that began in 1999, was bought by the city who renovated it from 2006-2009, then returned to the artists who now pay a nominal rent, and re-opened to the public on 09-09-2009.  I became friends with him when I hung around photographing in 2006 while they moved the entire 6 floors of studios over to the temporary one-floor space in the 9th, which the city loaned them during renovations.

One of the last days in the old version of 59 Rivoli.  Suisse going into his old studio through walls that have since been torn down.

“I came to tell you I’m leaving,” the title of a Serge Gainsbourg song painted on the walls of the former Musée Igor Balut, on one of the last days in the old version of 59 rue de Rivoli. Suisse Marocain can be seen walking into his old studio, through doorways that have since been torn down. Paris, 2006.

59 has the kind of energy that makes you feel something is always just about to happen.  It’s an adult fun house where the paintings don’t end at the borders of their canvases and there is always live music being played somewhere.  The entire place is a collaborative installation, or as my friend Holden calls it, “an art zoo.”  Being open to the public, it has become a tourist attraction.  If you stay there for an entire day, you meet a lot of people (artists, musicians, curious people, and some lost, who just want to be pointed toward the Louvre or the Notre Dame).  As Suisse has been working there for over a decade, he’s made a lot of connections and has often helped bring over artists from Lisbon, Madagascar, Italy, Germany and elsewhere to collaborate here and hold exhibitions.

Suisse & collaborative painting on a truck during Nuit Blanche, Paris, 2010.

Suisse & collaborative painting on a truck during Nuit Blanche, Paris, 2010.

I had a small studio at 59 in 2009/2010, around the corner from Suisse.  During that time, a part of my practice became devoted to self-portraiture, which began by using elements from Musée Igor Balut.  (The last photo on this page is one shot I did of myself inside the MIB that gives an idea of what it’s like, and features part of Suisse’s suitcase collection.)  At that time, his generosity encouraged me to claim space that I may never have asked for let alone taken, without having him metaphorically open the door and say, have a look in there, you can work here you know, we’ll make room for you.  Last summer I was looking for a studio and he cleared out a corner for me to use while he was in Sicily working and doing his under-water art show, an installation of artwork that requires viewers go diving in goggles to discover his work.  Because, why not?  With Suisse, anything is possible.

Hanging around during the 2nd move, from rue de la Tour des Dames back to 59 rue de Rivoli.  Paris, 2009.

Hanging around during the 2nd move, from rue de la Tour des Dames back to 59 rue de Rivoli. Paris, 2009.

Sea Eymere

The first thing she ever said to me was, “Did you hear, there’s no hot water!?!”  I looked at her in horror and she laughed.  “Just kidding!”  We met at a 10-day meditation retreat in Brittany, France.  Ten days in silence: that I can handle.  Ten days with cold showers… I’m not that courageous.

There was something familiar about her right away.  Later she would tell me I look like her cousin, so having me there in a neighboring bunk-bed gave her some comfort.  She had looked comfortable enough to me.  In the meditation room, as I sat struggling not to fidget, in pain from the torture of sitting still for hours without moving, she looked the definition of peaceful.  With folded-up legs, a straight back, and years of yoga practice behind her, she was planted stillness.  

One day on the Pont des Arts

One day on the Pont des Arts

The girl is a bit of a hippy, a word we laughed about the last time she was in Paris because though she does not like it, it pretty much fits.  This free spirit has been traveling almost non-stop for the last three years, and her agenda has included much yoga teaching (often near a beach), surfing, and Amazon tribe commiserating.  A recent Facebook post of hers informed us she was traveling around in a van in Australia with surfboards on the top.  I had lost track after I saw photos of her teaching yoga to children in Sri Lanka.

One morning in the Tuileries

One morning in the Tuileries

Born and raised in Paris, she has always been looking at the horizon.  In the five years we’ve been friends, she has lived/traveled in Iceland, Brazil, Finland, Sri Lanka, Japan, Australia, Mongolia, The Philippines, Bali, Peru, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Namibia, Costa Rica and likely many other places I haven’t been able to keep up with.  I include her in my favorite Parisians because this is the city that nourished her, it was her trampoline, where she has flown away from and, luckily for us, sometimes flies back to.  It’s inspiring to keep up with her courageous free flight around this planet.

One morning at the Louvre

One morning at the Louvre

Through the years, we’ve had many coincidences in our friendship.  One night when she helped me move some things into a friend’s cellar, it turned out to be just below the apartment where her brother lived.  Last winter when, for the first time in my life I suddenly wanted to spend all my time in the kitchen baking, she was doing the same five hours south.  And tonight, as I tell her about starting this new blog on my birthday, she tells me she is also starting a new blog, planned to be launched on her birthday, though it’s a week late.  It seems like it’ll be born the same time as mine.  Happy Birthday dear Sea.