Monday, 10 January 2011

Artists required to save the neighbourhood

'Artistes contactez nous' cries the text painted on a wall on the Passage Beslay. The mission? To 'embellir (decorate) le passage' or transform a narrow, nondescript pathway into something more attractive.

The passage is in fact little more than the facades of two schools, with apparently limited scope for artistic projects. However, closer inspection reveals the real objective of this initiative.


The artists are in fact being asked to improve the 'cadre de vie' (surroundings) of the neighbourhood. In other words, artwork that might firstly make a rather drab passageway seem less threatening, and secondly that might protect it from less official 'artwork', including tags.

Taking the picture, I remembered that I had been this way before and had previously snapped the passage. The photo below is how the wall above one of the schools looked on my last visit.


The idea that walls can be protected from unofficial usages through commissioned artworks is an interesting one. Would an attractive mural stop taggers operating in the area through some kind of respect the organisers hope they have for the creations of street artists? Certainly it is not something that has worked in the past (with the Rue Cavallotti being a good example). Although I previously came across one shop that had managed to channel taggers onto a set aside space next to a creation, it would seem that in general taggers do not appreciate being 'manipulated' in this way, and will only respect spontaneous and 'illegal' creations.

More globally though, it would seem to be a reflection of another rule of the city. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so the city abhors clean and neutral surfaces. If the space is not used for advertising hoardings it will be used for bill posters, street art or tagging. How will this particular space develop? We will just have to wait and see if the chosen artists can come up with a winning solution.

6 comments:

Owen said...

I guess some of the questions are...

Is it possible for people to learn the notion of respect if they were raised without it ?

Is it worth creating something beautiful if one knows in advance it will only be defaced and degraded ?

Hope springs eternal though, so why not give it a try ...

You will let us know what happens, right ?

Adam said...

Owen: I fear that this project is doomed to failure because of the way it has been organised. It's almost a challenge to taggers now.

It seems to be all about the appropriation of public space. I'm no fan of tagging, but I guess they are motivated by seeing their identity associated with a particular area, and they wonder why an artist should be allowed a large canvas, simply because a committee has declared the work to be 'attractive'.

Roxane said...

Interesting post, it doesn't seem to be mentionned in the article, but would you happen to remember where this passage is ?

Adam said...

Hello Roxane and thanks for your message. The pictures were taken on the Passage Beslay in the 11th, near Oberkampf and Parmentier.

Baley Petersen said...

Interesting... I live in Portland, Oregon where many of our community facades have been legally landscaped with murals. Sadly, tenacious taggers are often tagging over the artwork. I'm not sure it's a question of respect for the art, though. I believe that taggers aren't always artists--some are simply looking for the rush of an illegal act.

Peter said...

As you may know, I'm rather in favour of urban art, (I repeat “art”)at appropriate places. When I started to read your post I thought I would refer to rue Cavallotti, where I pass regularly. Really unfortunate what happened there. Fortunately I managed some two or three years ago to take some photos, before the arrival of the taggers. Let’s hope the best for this passage!

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