Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Arms In The Air Like You Don't Care'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Arms In The Air Like You Don't Care ~

"Praise the Lord" I believe she be sayin', this big-bosomed brown wooden woman of exactly the sort you wouldn't expect to see in a Parisian parish church in the middle of Ménilmontant, but there you go, you see: all the more reason for pushing open doors and seeing what lies beyond.

There's practically a whole forest of these statues, with most of them being less voluptuous and more.. tree-like than this one, but they all have 'arms' up and discernable heads or faces or bodies of some sort. It's rather up-lifting when all's said and done, and good for the church for displaying them.

The work of a local artist, apparently, who literally lives up the road, and whose name I'd dearly love to remember, and accompanied by what I think is a poem, which I'm afraid I don't understand, so all in all I'm not doing very well really!

The poem is called 'Champ de Christ-Vénus', and the first verse is:

'Ils sont tous là les Corps du Christ-
Vénus ; l'Ame arrimée au sol.
Le bois se fait Verbe en s'ouvrant.'

Which very vaguely means something like: 'They are all there, the Bodies of the Venus-Christ; The soul stowed on the ground. The wood becomes the Word on opening.' Anyway.

I think, pretty obviously really, that these are faith-based works, nothing too ground-shaking in themselves, but nice to see something raw and real in the peaceful but ultimately hollow atmosphere of a large empty church.

The roughness of the pieces brings you closer to the artist and their feelings, ultimately.

And boy, is this place large! I mean... large! l'Eglise Notre-Dame de la Croix (Our Lady of the Cross) was started exactly 150 years ago and I always find the relative recentness of these places surprising.

It was in revolutionary times, of course, and this one was home to a 'club' of revolutionaries during the Paris Commune, which executed the Archbishop of Paris, amongst others, at the Roquette Prison in May 1871.

The more I look into the history of Paris, the clearer it is that you can't begin to guess what might happen in a few centuries or even decades or years from now. 19th Century uprisings seem far away, but two world wars are between then and now, as are the '68 student protests and the car-burning riots of 2005. The world is far from settled and I honestly feel lucky to be able to walk into this place and admire some sculptures in relative safety. Even if, ethnically, I'm without doubt a minority and perhaps an anomaly in the streets of today's Ménilmontant.

A picture of a 10-15 strong church choir, all teeth and smiles, has been pinned to the church noticeboard. The priest in the middle of the singers is white. Times are still interesting.

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

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