Paris’ Place de la République has become a site of collective mourning, again, for French citizens following an attack on their capital. Like they did after the Charlie Hebdo murders in January, they have gathered here to place flowers and candles, join hands, and remember those lost after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks.
A public art installation was planned for this place on Nov. 29 – a structure of enormous ice blocks harvested from Greenland – as a part of the upcoming Paris Climate Conference. By artist Olafur Eliasson, the piece would be arranged in a clock formation and melt away during the days of the conference. At this point, it’s unclear whether the installation will go forward. If it does, it would obviously enter dialogue with the ongoing memorial at Place de la République, and as the Guardian wrote, could act as a “strange and unexpected homage to Paris itself.”
“The public space actually holds your emotional need,” Eliasson says in that article, adding, “France being a republic, the public really means something els… It is the city of the people.”
Like any sane person who has lived in Paris, as I did briefly a couple of years ago, I will carry my time in the City with me like a buoy for the rest of my life. Though I wasn’t giving it dedicated thought at the time, my experience of Paris as a public space was especially significant. On the most basic and literal level: the city bases its structure around public spaces – “places” and “squares” (as opposed to a grid, for example.) But public space is also crucial to the City’s cultural consciousness. In Paris, I saw world class art waiting for the métro, I tanned on a free pop-up beach, I watched projections transform monuments during a free midnight art festival, I memorized the different types of chairs and benches Paris builds for its park-goers, I studied centuries of history and architecture just by walking along the river. In Paris, I felt that art, culture, and history were a civil right. It doesn’t surprise me that a city with those values is seen as a threat to extremists. But hearing about its attack – its public spaces exploded and its private spaces invaded – has left me wordless for almost a week.
As we turn cautiously forward, here are some suggestions: donate to funds supporting the victims of the Paris attacks and the Beirut attacks; keep your eye on whether Ice Watch Paris ultimately happens; take note of which elected officials are responding with racism and fear mongering; see citizens responding instead with “noise and light.”
Now to the roundup:
Massachusetts legislators have only a few days to override their Governor’s veto of percent for art.
Art Basel reveals the artists participating in the public sector portion of the art fair.
Lulu Lolo is on a street-level campaign for more monuments of women in New York City.
Boston’s public transit agency has nixed eight public art projects.
SUNY Buffalo grapples with “art that offends.”
Check out the “world’s first virtual data sculpture.”
Featured Image: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images