Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Out in the World of Public Art and Sculpture: Paris La Defense

It's been at least a decade since visiting this area of La Defense with Pop. walking the long esplanade towards the Grande Arche...which you can see all the way from the Arche de Triomphe at the very top of the Champs Élysées.

Back in the day,  we came to see the public sculpture recently installed here : a Calder Stabile, Takis blinking lights like an airport runway, a Miro (sculpture ! go figure.) None of the work here on the esplanade or in the area of la Defense is site specific to my knowledge.  perhaps the Takis...I don't know. These pieces have much in common with much large scale /city public sculpture. They are like beings parachuted into place. Doing their very best to exist in such overwhelming surroundings.  


The architecture, with the exception of the Grande Arche is unexceptional. No human scale element whatsoever. He very much liked La Grande Arche and the fact that it is slightly turned to one side and not directly facing the long esplanade. He asked what was "in it" ? "Nothing! I replied This is simply one very large and very expensive piece of public sculpture as only the French know how to offer!" He laughed !   


At La Defense the human is either underground, pushed off to one side in tunnels or barricaded in one of these great tours (towers), their surfaces mirrored glass, reflecting, no transparency. They look out but you don't look in. These buildings seem so totally unaware of the humans they contain within or that pass alongside.   

The other thing missing in this environment is the enclosure and enticing visual chaos and titillations of a city. The intricate detail, sounds and layers of visual and sensory information. The human element if you will ! None of that on offer here. 


The balance is very much on the side of the building. 

We talked about the density in La Defense. How it is less felt than say a place like New York City. In New York despite the height of the surrounding buildings, there is still traffic and people walking in great numbers at any hour. Even late at night, when the streets are pretty much empty, traffic lights flashing, the ghost of this density and activity remains.

He said the best sited pieces were those that found the closest building, huddling in its embrace and protection and even reflection/repetition, multiplying their mass by two. 

Nature (trees) too. For the trees, there is strength in number! Using that strategy or getting as close as possible to some sort of edifice whether that be sculpture or building! To add to the indignity, all trees are closely cropped. The french version of the control of nature! ugh!
 
Pop said that spaces on this scale have real difficulty with sculpture and visa versa. Sculpture looks doll sized. Only the sky, clouds, light and weather seem to be able to join these games among giants. 

We talked about how much fun it might have been to fly one of the mile long red lines down through here. How that might have worked, scale wise. An ephemeral piece like that would have been wonderful he thought. Lots of wind 24/7 rushing through here !

Wind, sky, air, light all powerful elements to be used in public sculpture. Invisible until harnessing this life force. This is what I remember him telling me on that day, so many years ago, walking in La Defense. 

- Lissa 







3 comments:

  1. Great pictures and text, unfortunately it's forbidden to fly over Paris area; you would have to hijack a plane. Frantz, a french (parisian) contact improvisation dancer (https://www.facebook.com/frantz.depaulis)

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  2. Great pictures and text, unfortunately it's forbidden to fly over Paris area; you would have to hijack a plane. Frantz, a french (parisian) contact improvisation dancer (https://www.facebook.com/frantz.depaulis)

    ReplyDelete