Marais Men

Two workers on the rue Charlot.

Two workers on the rue Charlot.

I don’t remember what I looked like that day on rue Charlot, but I wasn’t feeling very good about myself, I do remember that. I was just walking along when I felt le regard of these two men across the street. When I saw the way they were looking at me, it was a bit awkward and so to break that up, I instinctively motioned with my camera, “can I take a photo of you?”

It was only later, when I looked at the photo, that I really saw them, their eyes, their smiles, and myself reflected. A reflection so different than the way I had been feeling. There were no words exchanged, no street harassment or power play. Just a couple of human beings smiling, seeming to appreciate the existence of the young woman across the street.

Their faces woke me up.

I thought, the person they think they see should have no reason to be down. So I borrowed their perspective to use as my own and continued the day lighter on my feet.

The night before the night before Christmas, when Chris was told to f*ck off

A tender story from a café terrace in Paris.

Moping around the Marais in the rain, I was eating Belgian chocolates out of my pocket, longing for Chicago and slipping into the dream of old horse-drawn, cobble-stoned Paris, fantasizing that I’d find a small abandoned Christmas tree that I could drag home and hang my earrings on.

Sinking comfortably into solitude, my eyes hidden under the shadow of a wide-brimmed winter hat, I took the least populated streets until I reached a clean, dimly-lit café terrasse and installed myself in the corner. There were only two other people outside: men bent over smartphones, quietly complaining to each other about their jobs. Inside, the only customer I could see was a young woman standing at the bar, poking fiercely at an iPhone.

The waiter was cheerful and so was I, when he set down my glass of rouge that sparkled so prettily in the over-head heat lights. Two days before Christmas, this normally busy Marais street was wonderfully silent. Sitting in the warm red light, across the street from a building draped in twinkling blue, with both colors swirling around each other on the shiny pavement in between, it was a lovely scene.

Until it got better. The men had just left and the girl from inside the bar came out, apparently needing some privacy to yell at her boyfriend. I looked up and our eyes met. I expected her to turn around and find somewhere to be alone, but she didn’t seem to mind me eavesdropping. She faced me as she yelled into her phone. “T’es ! Un ! Vrai ! Con ! Tu m’as pris du fric puis tu m’as jeté ! Je ne vais PLUS être ta connasse ! Je comprends pourquoi les gens te jettent, Chris ! Et moi, je te jette ! VA…TE…FAIRE…FOUTRE ! ET CREVER DANS TA MERDE !”* With that, she went back inside, gathered her things and left.

Stunned at the beauty and force of her efficacy, I smiled and took out a pen to write it down.

Merry Christmas eve eve Chris, wherever you are with this girl’s money.

Lonely man, green light.

Lonely man, green light.

* P.S. Translation of the rant: “You’re! A! Real! Asshole! You took my money and threw me away! I’m THROUGH being your bitch! I understand why people reject you, Chris! And I’m rejecting you! GO…FUCK…YOURSELF! AND DIE IN YOUR OWN SHIT!

Originally published on Dani’s Blog.

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.