by Jacqueline Feldman
I recently visited Bohèmes, the current Grand Palais exhibit about bohemianism in Paris. A supporter of La Miroiterie, the squat in the Twentieth, visited the exhibit in October and told me, “This is us!” — brandishing the catalog, meaning squatters.
The Grand Palais posted a video titled “Squat d’artists: la bohème aujourd’hui?” about Jardin d’Alice, one of a few squats near La Chapelle in the Eighteenth.
One of the exhibit’s best-known paintings is Van Gogh’s “A Pair of Shoes.” He grabbed the shoes at one of Paris’ puces and painted them at his Montmartre studio. They are open and expressive, like two mouths.
Scott Horton breaks down reams of discussion around this painting in Harper’s on the occasion of a 2009 German exhibit about the work. Heidegger admired the shoes’ earthy, peasant quality. Derrida’s preoccupation was the threading of the laces.
The artists still smart from their March eviction and feint at protesting the situation, which is irreversible. On December 12, Yabon Paname, who led the squat, mailed a pair of shoes to Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, and Christophe Girard, who is the mayor of the Fourth Arrondissement and was the adjoint chargé de la culture to the city at the time of the eviction. Yabon included no notes. He wanted to throw a shoe at the mayor during a public address earlier that fall, but feared the cops: hence the cryptic, diffuse gesture of disapproval. (Yabon also mailed copies of a year-old e-mail from officials of the Twentieth Arrondissement, where the squat was located, that indicated the city might return the space to its squatters after conducting repairs.)
I appear in a video included in the post (the concerned reporter). But the really interesting image is of Yabon’s shoes.
Artists who speak with me about their lives in squats usually believe they are the inheritors of bohemian Paris. But they inherit imperfectly, and they recognize the general absurdity of certain protests as contrasted to the specific tragedy of those who lost their home in an eviction.
Roma proverbs dot the exhibit at the Grand Palais. For example:
“Ce que le vent apporte, il le remporte aussi…”
“What the wind brings, it also takes away…”
For example, if you are alive today, you will never see another 12-12-12!