The Art of Connection: Part 1, Paris.
We, as humans, strive for a connection to everything we encounter. We want to connect not only to people, but objects, experiences, and our environment. I believe, that we as humans believe we are good at connecting. But, I also believe we are naive in this notion. Yes, we connect easily with "objects". Our perception of an object is so easily influenced by our experiences that we reflect ourselves personally within the object, therefore connecting to it. The smell of St.Ives Apricot Face Scrub reminds me of Las Vegas and Los Angeles, because it was the face scrub I used on a family vacation. My Raggedy Anne Doll reminds me of my grandmother. I keep every and all cards I receive, whether it be from birthdays, holidays, or just because. I connect to all of these objects/items rather well due to past personal experiences or memories. (That, I also believe is what drives our materialistic nature, we want to physically hold on to our memories from past experiences. I refuse to throw away the cards, because I fear I will lose “something”. Even though I am fully aware that those memories and past experiences never leave me...that's another post for another day...)
Paris is the city of love and it's very apparent. Paris has this aura of romance. Now when I say "aura of romance" I don't necessarily mean, "lovers romance", more of Paris is romantic because it's also poetic. The romance of Paris is felt in the motion of the city. My hostel was in Montmartre, the district of artists, of social movements, of a different way of thinking and viewing life. In Montmartre I felt connected to an aura of artistic freedom and creation. The air for me was different, still but moving enough to create energy for me to create work. I took many walks in Montmartre and in Paris. I took more walks than I actually did sight seeing, but I was constantly connecting to my environment, the world around me and in turn changing the way I think.
This new way of thinking and experiencing lead to several interesting and important moments and thoughts for me.
I went to the Pompidou Center to view the Jeff Koons Retrospective and I hated it. Now, I should probably preface this, I used to be a huge fan of Koons. His commentary on the novelty of American Consumerism has always been very powerful to me. I've been fascinated with the American culture and the birth/death of the American Dream for as long as I can remember. My (poorly) executed series BANG! is an (again, poor) example of my fascination with America.
So the chance to see Koons' work in person was a chance I was not going to pass up. When viewing Koons' work in books there was always a description of thought behind each collection or piece of work. That's expected in book. But upon entering the gallery I immediately became frustrated and disheartened. What was so frustrating and disheartening about Koons at the Pompidou, was that every single piece had a description right next to it. There was no freedoms to interpret what was placed in front of you. No chance to come up with your own ideas on the blow up bunny on a mirror. Instead you were force fed the true meaning behind the blow up bunny, bought in Chinatown, and how it represents the throw away novelty culture that is America. Duh. We get it. The “American Consumerism” narrative is very apparent in Koons’ work, but one can still come up with their own connection to a piece without knowing the narrative…apparent or not (or should I say explained or not?). The hype surrounding Koons' force fed commentary on America is just as inflated as his ego, as seen in Made in Heaven. *Note the link to Made in Heaven is NSFW.*
Looking around the Koons' retrospective at the viewers, I witnessed one kind of group, people who went solely to take selfies in front of Balloon Dog and to say "I saw that in person!". Not to actually experience these pieces of art around them, not to take in Balloon Dog, but to only say "I was there”. “There” being only physical. This group of people do not revere Koons as an artist, he is a celebrity to them. This group is the group of people that Koons is commenting on, American or not. His work represents the novelty, the short attention spanned, celebrity throw away culture, society as a whole is becoming in the western world. What is more novel than a selfie in front of Balloon Dog from a "cultured" trip to Paris? I have nothing against the selfie, I think they are wonderful, but the irony of this situation was not wasted on me. Maybe Koons is a genius, and my reaction is what he is aiming for…but I still find his work inflated (no pun intended Balloon Dog).
The Mona Lisa was something else. I'm not talking about the painting but about the crowd. I became more fascinated with the crowd than I did the painting. The painting is beautiful and there has always been an aura of mystery that will keep attracting viewers for years to come. The popularity of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre has me wonder, how many of the audience members are here to view the Mona Lisa as a work of art, to take it in, as opposed to how many are here to say "I saw that! Here is the selfie to prove it!". The Mona Lisa became less of a work of art, and more of a tourist attraction. The Mona Lisa has never struck me as a work of art where the subject appears to want attention. She is rather plain (and in that beautiful). I wonder what she thinks when she see the crowd in front of her fight to get closer to view her (often times to get closer for a selfie). I wonder what she thinks of her environment. I wonder what she takes in when viewing us, the audience.
While in Paris I went to several movies. One nigh,t I decided on a whim to go see Inherent Vice. I enjoyed the movie immensely. After the movie was over I had two options. Either take the nearest metro (down the street) to my station in Montmartre, or walk along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower, then use the metro there. There was a slight breeze, and it was drizzling however, I decided I would walk to the tower. I took my time. While I walked I viewed the Eiffel Tower move closer and closer. The night was calm, and even though I was walking in Paris, I felt a sense of intimacy. I reached this little seating area above the Seine, and just completely broke down crying. More of a sobbing... I stood there for a long time making sure nobody would either hear me or see me. I just let it out, right there above the Seine. I experienced every single emotion riveting through my body at the time. Good, bad, strange, whatever it was I experienced it. I felt it in my environment too. It was so calm, the breeze provided a subtle disturbance to the calm, the drizzle helped soothe the disturbance... I was being reflected into my environment or my environment was being reflected into me. When I realized this I started to smile and laugh. I just broke down in Paris, at night, alone, with the Eiffel Tower behind me, the Seine in front of me...this has to either be the saddest moment ever or the moment I realized I felt truly connected to my surroundings.
At Sacre Coeur I had an experience I have yet to verbalize appropriately. In short, I sat in the prayer area, looked around at the beauty of the basilica and (again) started to cry. It was 2pm, the place was full, but I simply didn't care. I was obviously experiencing my environment in a way I cannot comprehend at this time. I wasn't going to hold back for anyone. In the end, I sat there and cried for about 20 minutes. I got up and slowly walked around before I left. I headed over to the Latin Quarter, shopped, ate, and went on a walk. I felt different. Again I do not know how to describe this feeling of “different”...but I will always feel a connection to Sacre Coeur, it opened me up enough to myself that I am now curious to peak inside.
Paris is where I learned to connect to my environment in many different ways. Whether that be observing others observing art, or crying along the seine, or crying at a basilica. There are so many moments in Paris where I felt truly connected to my environment. Where all I did was feel what was happening around me at such an incredible interval.
As always please feel free to contact me here with any questions, or comments.
Below are some photos from my trip to Paris. Please note some photos are take with an iPhone 5s.