'Spring' Is Official But Short

photo: cafe terrace, friday

Café terraces were valued locations last week.

Getting Zen In Montparnasse

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 14. May 2001:- One week to the day after May Day the skies over Paris cleared to reveal that the sky is blue when it isn't obscured by endless fog or clouds fully charged with moisture. Little kids, let out on the street for the first time in months, looked up in wonder.

Many adults headed to the city's parks and other open spaces and placed themselves in the free chairs, leaned back and let the full force of the sun dry their skin. In some parks, deckchairs were for rent too.

This rare effect was interrupted by a Wednesday and Thursday of dry but less than perfect weather - which was more than made up for by a Friday even brighter than the Tuesday had been. Saturday and Sunday were less brilliant, but remained dry - possibly setting a short-term record for the week as a whole.

This morning, the frozen peas were falling in my courtyard again, plopping off the plastic garbage can lids like they were last Monday. Out on the slick sidewalks, Parisians hadn't stowed away their umbrellas and they are using them.

Temperatures which had climbed to around 25 degrees, have now settled back to less than 20. Getting back to above 20 and some sunrays may begin on Wednesday, with the situation improving thereafter. One can hope.

Café Life

The Wednesday Invitation

Going to the Espace d'Art Comtemporain in the Rue Montparnasse is like a voyage to an 'uncertain region.' I have made this voyage before.

The gallery is usually like a closed iron-grill and somberly deserted shop located on the ground floor of a building that functions as publicphoto: la rotonde, montparnasse housing for 'retired artists.'

I have been in the gallery on a couple of rare occasions when it was both open and featuring an exhibition at the same time. The other seven times, one or the other was not the case.

Terraces in Montparnasse were mobbed on Tuesday.

But last Wednesday I had a press release and an invitation along with a desire to walk to Montparnasse. The first problem was my forgetting the short-cut through the cemetery doesn't work after about 17:40. I solved this by walking around it.

I guess it is my problem that I'm not in tune with 'contemporary art.' The press release reads like an ad for a toothpaste guaranteed to make the user's teeth 'whiter than white.' We are used to these and know them for what they are.

But contemporary art is not toothpaste. The text for it is not long, but it is overly descriptive about the show's contents, which are minimal. However, every word is true. It is my perception of 'minimal' which is inflated.

For this reason I stayed longer than necessary to figure it out. I overstayed my visit. I didn't know who is who and when I was about to leave, I met the artist, Rachel Mahler, out on the sidewalk.

Of all the - few - people I had seen in the gallery, including some moms with babies in strollers, Ms. Mahler was nearly the last person I would have picked out of a lineup as the artist.

She is from Basel in Switzerland, in Paris by invitation and with the aid of some sponsorship from banks. I have seen photos of work she has done for at least one bank - placed right beside a vault. Closer to the money you cannot get.

I think I have done the right thing. Not all exhibitions have lots of space in which to move around freely to look at nearly nothing from all angles. I have looked a long time too, which has made me think. I feel like I have had a 'zen' experience without knowing what 'zen' is.

I know I should have written my initial thoughts, but on thinking it over the notes I made may have been hasty - superficial even. I now know that contemporary art hardly needs press releases, or elaborate explanations.

You are supposed to come to it with your own blank script and sufficient time for contemplation. Therephoto: pont des arts is no need for answers to questions like 'why' or 'what,' there is no need to see any meaning. But if you do need some, you can make it up.

The Pont des Arts was the city's biggest sundeck.

In sum, it is quite a different experience - so different from the usual supermarket clutter of arty objects, all competing for attention. If you feel that you are suffering from sensory overload, I suggest you take a spare 42 minutes with you and go and see Rachel Mahler's 'Voyages,' which is also listed on this week's 'Scene' page - with photos.

At the Espace d'Art, 55. Rue du Montparnasse, Paris 14. Remember - it's 'Rue' not 'Boulevard.' Métro: Montparnasse or Edgar Quinet.

Metropole Offers Its Photos

The offer of Metropole's large-format photos continues with a new photo / image page, included in this issue. Due to last week's atmospheric improvement, two new photos are presented.

Each week one or two 'best' photos - or a cartoon - will be offered. Many of Metropole's weekly crop of other photos will match the 'best' one for interest and quality. If you see another one you like, ask for it instead.

More details are on this week's 'Photo' page. Check it out. Any suggestions, advice and comments, will be welcome.

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

Last Thursday's club meeting featured Leipzig as the 'City of the Week.' A new member, now living in steamy Houston, was born there and this was good enough fo it to be chosen - because the only other alternative was Austin - which has 'nice hills' but has been the 'City of the Week' once already..

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