"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  --William Shakespeare

Entries in street art (14)


A Rimbaud Kind of Day


Rimbaud by Ariane Pasco/Nice Art


Sunday was a Rimbaud kind of day.

In the morning I posted an aerial image on Facebook of l’Île de la Cité and the Seine in Paris that my friend Anne Hines Reese had posted earlier. This worldwide Facebook interconnectivity is such an astonishing thing. You can participate in a salon that reaches beyond your city, beyond your country, beyond your continent, and discuss whatever subjects fascinate you, with like-minded people.

So I shared this beautiful aerial photo of Paris that morning, and was struck by how much the island looks like a boat from this angle, which made me think of Rimbaud’s poem, “Le Bateau Ivre.” We have a book of his poems in our apartment, but I didn’t have the book at hand in my studio, so went online, looked up the poem, found an English translation, and posted just one stanza below the photo.


"What a Surprise," street art by Kashink


I think a lot about time, especially the spirit of time. Sunday: the Sun’s day: Apollo’s day: a good day for entertainment and enjoyment, a good day to take a break from work. 

Richard and I set out for a long walk from our fifth arrondissement through the fourth through the eleventh to the twentieth. It was a sunny day, bright blue sky, and all along the rue de Charonne we passed newly pasted-up work by one of our favorite street artists, Kashink. Each of her double-eyed colorful heads had either a number or an image on the brow. Richard photographed each one and I wondered aloud if the numbers corresponded to street addresses. We checked, but no. A mystery. We’d have to ask Kashink.



At the corner of rue de Charonne and Boulevard de Charonne, I had a drunken boat conversation with a local clochard wearing a plush cheetah as a stole (C'ést votre petite amie? Oui! Et elle est féroce. Oui! he roared), while Richard shot his portrait, then paid him €2 for the privilege.  

Richard took me to a wonderful old brick factory building on Villa Riberolle, an alley that dead ends at Père-Lachaise cemetery, where artists had either squatted or leased space. We’d considered renting one for a studio that doubled for photography and writing, but I needed something closer to home, or I’d never have used it.


In the Name of Love #4, by Roswitha Guillemin


We walked on to a squat on rue Stendahl to catch the closing day of Walls and Rights (Richard had photographed opening night), an exhibition filled with the work of street artists in support of gender and sexual equality, and AIDS research. We talked with three members of the seven-member art collective, No Rules Corp. And to two artists, Roswitha and Christine, who were long-time friends who have been sending each other postal art for 20 years or so.


Ariane Pasco of Nice Art


Then an artist named Ariane (my favorite mythical figure) walked up to me and handed me a collage with a portrait of Rimbaud on it. A gift! Astonishing! It was black, white and gray with rosy red marks and torn on the edges and I instantly loved it. And at the same time was struck with wonder: I’ve never posted a poem or even a line by Rimbaud on Facebook before. How very odd that the only day I happened to do this, Ariane should give me her collage with the poet’s face on it. I exclaimed over this to her, and to Roswitha and Christine.

Roswitha told me that one day she went to a Serge Gainsbourg event in Paris, and that same day, an envelope with an image of Serge Gainsbourg arrived at her house from her friend Christine. They’d never discussed the French actor/singer. It was just…

What do you call this? The word synchronicity doesn’t seem to capture its magic. I’m looking for a new word to describe this phenomenon, the “aha!” moment that happens when it shows itself so clearly and deliciously. 

I asked the organizer of the show if she had some cardboard that I could place around the collage to protect it on our long walk home. Yes, she said, and brought me a roll of cardboard, which I wrapped in a clean trash bag.



But first we stopped at a restaurant at Place Gambetta. As we sat eating a Caesar salad and onion soup, I looked up at the side of the entrance. There, in big letters: Absinthe Traditionnelle Rimbaud.

Okay, let’s just call it magic.

Later at home, in a phone call with my brother, Jon, I told him the story and he described a similar experience of what he calls “the connectivity of the universe,” with his green building company and community. Then he proceeded to answer a question that Richard and I have in a way you might call lightning (an idea so brilliant I can’t talk about it until we make it happen)—lightning, yes! And magic.   

I think I’m going to name days from now on.

Sunday was Rimbaud Day.



The Drunken Boat

by Arthur Rimbaud,
translated by Rebecca Seiferle, editor, The Drunken Boat


As I descended impassible Rivers,

I felt no longer steered by bargemen;

they were captured by howling Redskins,

nailed as targets, naked, to painted stakes.


What did I care for cargo or crews,

bearers of English cotton or Flemish grain—

having left behind bargemen and racket,

the Rivers let me descend where I wished.


In the furious splashing of the waves,

I — that other winter, deafer than the minds

of children — ran! And the unanchored Peninsulas

never knew a more triumphant brouhaha.


The tempest blessed my sea awakening.

Lighter than cork, I danced the waves

scrolling out the eternal roll of the dead—

ten nights, without longing for the lantern's silly eye.


Sweeter than the flesh of tart apples to children,

the green water penetrated my pine hull

and purged me of vomit and the stain of blue wines—

my rudder and grappling hooks drifting away.


Since then, I have bathed in the Poem

of the Sea, a milky way, infused with stars,

devouring the azure greens where, flotsam-pale

and ravished, drowned and pensive men float by.


Where, suddenly staining the blues, delirious

and slow rhythms under the glowing red of day,

stronger than alcohol, vaster than our lyrics,

ferment the red bitters of love!


I know heavens pierced by lightning, the waterspouts

and undertows and currents: I know night,

Dawn rising like a nation of doves,

and I've seen, sometimes, what men only dreamed they saw!


I've seen the sun, low, a blot of mystic dread,

illuminating with far-reaching violet coagulations,

like actors in antique tragedies,

the waves rolling away in a shiver of shutters.


I've dreamed a green night to dazzling snows,

kisses slowly rising to the eyelids of the sea,

unknown saps flowing, and the yellow and blue

rising of phosphorescent songs.


For months, I've followed the swells assaulting

the reefs like hysterical herds, without ever thinking

that the luminous feet of some Mary

could muzzle the panting Deep.


I've touched, you know, incredible Floridas

where, inside flowers, the eyes of panthers mingle

with the skins of men! And rainbows bridle

glaucous flocks beneath the rim of the sea!


I've seen fermenting— enormous marshes, nets

where a whole Leviathan rots in the rushes!

Such a ruin of water in the midst of calm,

and the distant horizon worming into whirlpools!


Glaciers, silver suns, pearly tides, ember skies!

Hideous wrecks at the bottom of muddy gulfs

where giant serpents, devoured by lice,

drop with black perfume out of twisted trees!


I wanted to show children these dorados

of the blue wave, these golden, singing fish.

A froth of flowers has cradled my vagrancies,

and ineffable winds have winged me on.


Sometimes like a martyr, tired of poles and zones,

the sea has rolled me softly in her sigh

and held out to me the yellow cups of shadow flowers,

and I've remained there, like a woman, kneeling . . .


Almost an island, balancing the quarrels,

the dung, the cries of blond-eyed birds on the gunnels

of my boat, I sailed on, and through my frail lines,

drowned men, falling backwards, sank to sleep.


Now, I, a boat lost in the hair of the coves,

tossed by hurricane into the birdless air,

me, whom all the Monitors and Hansa sailing ships

could not salvage, my carcass drunk with sea;


free, rising like smoke, riding violet mists,

I who pierced the sky turning red like a wall,

who bore the exquisite jam of all good poets,

lichens of sun and snots of azure,


who, spotted with electric crescents, ran on,

a foolish plank escorted by black hippocamps,

when the Julys brought down with a single blow

the ultramarine sky with its burning funnels;


I who tremble, feeling the moan fifty leagues away

of the Behemoth rutting and the dull Maelstrom,

eternal weaver of the unmovable blue—

I grieve for Europe with its ancient breastworks!


I've seen thunderstruck archipelagos! and islands

that open delirious skies for wanderers:

Are these bottomless nights your nest of exile,

O millions of gold birds, O Force to come?


True, I've cried too much! Dawns are harrowing.

All moons are cruel and all suns, bitter:

acrid love puffs me up with drunken slowness.

Let my keel burst! Give me to the sea!


If I desire any of the waters of Europe, it's the pond

black and cold, in the odor of evening,

where a child full of sorrow gets down on his knees

to launch a paperboat as frail as a May butterfly.


Bathed in your languors, o waves, I can no longer

wash away the wake of ships bearing cotton,

nor penetrate the arrogance of pennants and flags,

nor swim past the dreadful eyes of slave ships.



Le Bateau Ivre

Comme je descendais des Fleuves impassibles,
Je ne me sentis plus guidé par les haleurs :
Des Peaux-Rouges criards les avaient pris pour cibles
Les ayant cloués nus aux poteaux de couleurs.

J'étais insoucieux de tous les équipages,
Porteur de blés flamands ou de cotons anglais.
Quand avec mes haleurs ont fini ces tapages
Les Fleuves m'ont laissé descendre où je voulais.

Dans les clapotements furieux des marées
Moi l'autre hiver plus sourd que les cerveaux d'enfants,
Je courus ! Et les Péninsules démarrées
N'ont pas subi tohu-bohus plus triomphants.

La tempête a béni mes éveils maritimes.
Plus léger qu'un bouchon j'ai dansé sur les flots
Qu'on appelle rouleurs éternels de victimes,
Dix nuits, sans regretter l'oeil niais des falots !

Plus douce qu'aux enfants la chair des pommes sures,
L'eau verte pénétra ma coque de sapin
Et des taches de vins bleus et des vomissures
Me lava, dispersant gouvernail et grappin

Et dès lors, je me suis baigné dans le Poème
De la Mer, infusé d'astres, et lactescent,
Dévorant les azurs verts ; où, flottaison blême
Et ravie, un noyé pensif parfois descend ;

Où, teignant tout à coup les bleuités, délires
Et rythmes lents sous les rutilements du jour,
Plus fortes que l'alcool, plus vastes que nos lyres,
Fermentent les rousseurs amères de l'amour !

Je sais les cieux crevant en éclairs, et les trombes
Et les ressacs et les courants : Je sais le soir,
L'aube exaltée ainsi qu'un peuple de colombes,
Et j'ai vu quelque fois ce que l'homme a cru voir !

J'ai vu le soleil bas, taché d'horreurs mystiques,
Illuminant de longs figements violets,
Pareils à des acteurs de drames très-antiques
Les flots roulant au loin leurs frissons de volets !

J'ai rêvé la nuit verte aux neiges éblouies,
Baiser montant aux yeux des mers avec lenteurs,
La circulation des sèves inouïes,
Et l'éveil jaune et bleu des phosphores chanteurs !

J'ai suivi, des mois pleins, pareille aux vacheries
Hystériques, la houle à l'assaut des récifs,
Sans songer que les pieds lumineux des Maries
Pussent forcer le mufle aux Océans poussifs !

J'ai heurté, savez-vous, d'incroyables Florides
Mêlant aux fleurs des yeux de panthères à peaux
D'hommes ! Des arcs-en-ciel tendus comme des brides
Sous l'horizon des mers, à de glauques troupeaux !

J'ai vu fermenter les marais énormes, nasses
Où pourrit dans les joncs tout un Léviathan !
Des écroulement d'eau au milieu des bonaces,
Et les lointains vers les gouffres cataractant !

Glaciers, soleils d'argent, flots nacreux, cieux de braises !
Échouages hideux au fond des golfes bruns
Où les serpents géants dévorés de punaises
Choient, des arbres tordus, avec de noirs parfums !

J'aurais voulu montrer aux enfants ces dorades
Du flot bleu, ces poissons d'or, ces poissons chantants.
- Des écumes de fleurs ont bercé mes dérades
Et d'ineffables vents m'ont ailé par instants.

Parfois, martyr lassé des pôles et des zones,
La mer dont le sanglot faisait mon roulis doux
Montait vers moi ses fleurs d'ombre aux ventouses jaunes
Et je restais, ainsi qu'une femme à genoux...

Presque île, balottant sur mes bords les querelles
Et les fientes d'oiseaux clabaudeurs aux yeux blonds
Et je voguais, lorsqu'à travers mes liens frêles
Des noyés descendaient dormir, à reculons !

Or moi, bateau perdu sous les cheveux des anses,
Jeté par l'ouragan dans l'éther sans oiseau,
Moi dont les Monitors et les voiliers des Hanses
N'auraient pas repêché la carcasse ivre d'eau ;

Libre, fumant, monté de brumes violettes,
Moi qui trouais le ciel rougeoyant comme un mur
Qui porte, confiture exquise aux bons poètes,
Des lichens de soleil et des morves d'azur,

Qui courais, taché de lunules électriques,
Planche folle, escorté des hippocampes noirs,
Quand les juillets faisaient crouler à coups de triques
Les cieux ultramarins aux ardents entonnoirs ;

Moi qui tremblais, sentant geindre à cinquante lieues
Le rut des Béhémots et les Maelstroms épais,
Fileur éternel des immobilités bleues,
Je regrette l'Europe aux anciens parapets !

J'ai vu des archipels sidéraux ! et des îles
Dont les cieux délirants sont ouverts au vogueur :
- Est-ce en ces nuits sans fond que tu dors et t'exiles,
Million d'oiseaux d'or, ô future Vigueur ? -

Mais, vrai, j'ai trop pleuré ! Les Aubes sont navrantes.
Toute lune est atroce et tout soleil amer :
L'âcre amour m'a gonflé de torpeurs enivrantes.
Ô que ma quille éclate ! Ô que j'aille à la mer !

Si je désire une eau d'Europe, c'est la flache
Noire et froide où vers le crépuscule embaumé
Un enfant accroupi plein de tristesses, lâche
Un bateau frêle comme un papillon de mai.

Je ne puis plus, baigné de vos langueurs, ô lames,
Enlever leur sillage aux porteurs de cotons,
Ni traverser l'orgueil des drapeaux et des flammes,
Ni nager sous les yeux horribles des pontons.





Street Legal Art (for a few days)

Mural by Bustart

What a fine week it was for street art in Paris. The equivalent of, if not Woodstock, at least 1967's Monterey Pop Festival.

Last week, Paris Play joined the organizations Alternative Paris and My Life on My Bike to provide wall-to-wall coverage of the four-day long urban art exhibition featuring the work of fifty street artists from all over the world, organized by Le M.U.R. de L'Art. The documentary crew of six (including Richard, and our nephew, Jonathan Edwards) shot photographs and conducted thirty-five videotaped artist interviews in ninety-six hours, with the eventual goal of producing a documentary about this effervescent scene.



Le M.U.R. de L'Art was founded in 2007, and serves as a legal, aboveground, as it were, gallery for street artists. To make a long story short (you can read the long version here), street artists began hijacking billboards here in Paris in the early 2000s, replacing advertising with street art. Finally, one billboard company simply gave up the fight for one piece of turf, and donated its ground-level billboard on rue Oberkampf to the community. Hence, Le M.U.R., which presents a different artists' work made on that billboard every two weeks, to celebrate both street art and its ephemeral nature. If you miss that fortnight's work, it's gone.

But here's where relationships get strange. Le M.U.R. gives each artist €500 to create his or her piece, a stipend provided by the City of Paris. And this four-day exhibition was supported by the City, in a city arts center in the Marais. So, while much of the art we are so fond of photographing and showing you here on Paris Play is illegal, and artists can be fined and jailed for putting it up, detente exists, though some artists do not want their photographs published. Nonetheless, it was great fun putting faces to many of the names whose work we've admired for the last few years.


Kashink with her sculpture, "Cash Cow"  

Each of the fifty artists who exhibited last week in this benefit for Le M.U.R. had previously been featured on a billboard. Some, like Jérome Mesnager, Mosko and Associates, Speedy Graphito, and Gérard Zlotykamien are the equivalent of O.G.s (original gangstas) on the street, and have already been the subject of books, museum catalogs, and have their work in contemporary art museums and galleries, selling for thousands of euros apiece. Others, many of them women, have been in the game for a lot less time, but their work is of a high enough quality that it rivals that found in the formal galleries in the Marais and St. Germain des Pres, and is often more interesting. 

And since the work, by artists from as far away as Chile, Argentina, Canada, Italy, Spain and Scandinavia, speaks for itself, we'll be quiet and let you enjoy. If you like a name, Google it for more examples; just about everybody has a Website or Facebook page. And Le M.U.R is a non-profit, which welcomes your support.


Jérome Mesnager




Mosko et Associes

Gérard Laux of Mosko et Associes, surrounded by the staff of Graffiti Art magazine





Speedy Graphito
























Thom Thom

Thom Thom (Thomas Schmitt) is co-founder of Le M.U.R.





Ella & Pitr















Mural by FKDL (left) and Stoul (right)










Le Cyklop







Teaching his son how to mix paint





Jana and JS



















Surfil with Alternative Paris' Demian Smith











H101 and Zosen









Rue Meurt d'Art





Kenor teaching a fan




No Rules Corp












Michael Beerens





If you've scrolled this far, thank you. And here's your surprise: links to the four two-minute or so videos the team produced each day of the event, as teasers for the eventual documentary. Video one, two, three, and four. Enjoy. 



Here's Looking at You, USA!

Street art by Speedy Graphito

While April in Paris is the customary month for visitors, October is also huge. We like to say that we've had more visitors from L.A. (and elsewhere in the U.S.) in those two months than in the last five years we spent in Los Angeles itself. 

Top question we get asked, after "How can *I* move here?" is, "Do you miss the States?"

How? It's impossible to walk more than a few blocks in Paris and not see some American iconography, or a reminder of that cultural tsunami.



Back in 1982, the incumbent French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, gave an incendiary speech in which he blasted the United States's "cultural imperialism," and advised that other cultures enact protectionist measures against the way the American cultural/consumer juggernaut "grabs consciousness, ways of thinking, ways of living." 

In those days, to cite but one example, the Hollywood machine was squeezing smaller French films out of the marketplace in both countries, a cultural trend that required state intervention, Lang thought.



Interesting concept, but there was no way American culture wasn't going to overwhelm the world like a tsunami. The French Academy tried to ban English words like "weekend," and "hot dog," but what do the French now celebrate on Saturday and Sunday?--"le weekend," when they eat "le hot dog." McDonalds, Starbucks, and KFCs are ubiquitous, and American apparel stores dot the Champs Elysses like chocolate sprinkles on a cappuccino.



The list of American words is endless now, as are the American images, for better or worse, that form a great deal of the street art, and advertising, that we see daily.



So, a portfolio of Americana, as filtered through the French consciousness and reflected back. Then just for fun down below, another Paris Play Pop Quiz.








Street art by GZUP






Street art by Shadee.K











Street art by Jef Aerosol, legs by Jerome Mesnager



















Paris Play Street Art Pop Quiz


Below you will find twenty more American-inspired images from Paris street art.

Look at each of the twenty images, then post a single comment listing the names of the person, character, or American cultural icon you see; i.e., #1 is ____________________, #2 is _______________________, and so on through twenty.

We suggest you enter your answers in your own word processing program, then cut and paste them into the comments section below, which sometimes eats or loses comments entered directly.  

The first five people who get every one right will each get their choice of photograph from any 2012 Paris Play post, e-mailed to them in high-resolution, from which they will be free to make a single print for their own enjoyment.

Leave your e-mail when you leave your guesses, so we can contact you with your prize. We will favor longer than shorter answers (i.e. Michael Keaton as Batman), but these aren't essay questions.

If no one gets them all right, we'll take the answers with the best nineteen of twenty, or eighteen of twenty, etc. You have until midnight, Paris time, October 26 to get your answers in.

Good luck, and thanks for playing.












#8. Street art by Jef Aerosol


#9. Street art by Jef Aerosol 



















#19. Street art by Jef Aerosol


#20. Street art by Gilbert Shelton




Evolution of An Octopus (or, Poulpe Fiction)

One of Richard's and my favorite mutual Paris pastimes is walking around and visiting the art gallery in the streets. It changes daily; as artists emerge, old art gets covered by new, or by swaths of paint or whitewash applied by building owners and city crews, or it ages from weather and wear.

Fifteen months ago, walking hand-in-hand in the Marais, after marvelous galettes in our favorite crệperie, we spotted some new work, a spray-painted outline of an octopus, with some vertical lines scrawled to either side to signify motion. Richard photographed it for the street art database he's accumulating, and a few streets farther, we spotted another couple of octopi, these filled in with orange and green paint.



Still nothing to write home about. The octopus outlines were a step above mere tagging--marking ones' initials, the way dogs mark territory--but not particularly brilliant.

We're not big fans of tagging, even if it metamorphoses into huge, swirling, psychedelic-colored initials or names. Those are still a territory-marking syndrome, not yet over the border into art.

What's the difference? Here's a BBC article on pre-Olympics London street art cleanup that applies the "I'll know it when I see it" standard that the U.S. Supreme Court also applies to pornography. In London, as in Paris, the works of certain artists are protected, while city clean-up crews ravage others.




As months went by, the octopus artist graduated to creating creatures with a variety of colors and expressions, on die-cut plywood sheets about two feet square super-glued to the sides of buildings, mostly on the second story (first story in France). But it was hard to know if it was a single artist, or if a meme had begun to spread. One other street artist, who glues life-sized ceramic "death masks" of his face with four different expressions all over Paris, allows people to buy them and paint their own designs and decorations; perhaps these octopi (who were beginning to look more like space aliens) were a collective expression.



Then, a few months ago, we spotted new octopi with a tag, GZUP, and we had a clue to follow. An Internet search revealed that the artist who calls himself GZUP was a suburban army veteran in his mid-thirties who had just returned to the streets after a hiatus since the mid-nineties, according to this interview with a street art blog. His return was prompted by seeing a street art show at the Cartier Foundation, where he realized that what had begun as a step above vandalism had become "democratized."



(While GZUP didn't mention it, gallery street art is also attracting impressive prices from collectors, which might be a tiny, niggling nudge toward more permanent materials. Die-cut plywood is easier to curate and collect than paint-bomb scrawls.)




His influences are "those who make me dream and constantly raise the level, those who innovate. People coming out of the 'Classics' in all fields: Keith Haring, the dribbling of Cristiano Ronaldo, dialogues from movies of Tarantino…Rihanna, Shakira, the Air Max 90, DJ Quik, [and] Nate Dogg (RIP)," while his pseudonym is taken from a particularly raunchy Snoop Dogg song (if that's not oxymoronic), "GZ UP, HOES DOWN."




According to the interview, "GZUP does not like octopi, neither in the sea nor on his plate; he just liked that shape when he began drawing." When asked his favorite color, he said, "The green without hesitation. A color that made me vomit when younger." (A mythical note: in Greek myth, the goddess Athena is associated with octopi (among her many totems), and in our personal mythology, her color is green.) Obviously, these pieces of art are evolving beyond mere sea creatures.




For more on GZUP, here's a You Tube video, a second, and his Flickr page.



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