Imaging Paris: La poésie est un sport de l’extrême

Provocative street art by Miss Tic is stenciled on a wall on Rue Mouffetard in Paris.
[Photo by gadl]

Art is everywhere in Paris. You don’t have to stand in line or pay 10 euros to enter the museum. As the flaneur knows, the museum is the street. You pay with your attention.

This image represents a gritty, in-your-face genre of street art meant to catch the eye when you least expect it. Much of the genre has the seditious overtones of revolutionary poster art, a tradition shaped in part by Walter Benjamin’s plundering hand. It combines two of his central themes, radical collage and mechanical reproduction. If Benjamin walked the streets today, I could imagine him collecting such images for the StreetArt-PariS photo pool.

The image documented in this photo was stenciled onto a building on Rue Mouffetard. The wall’s masonry texture gives it a rough, spontaneous feel, but its creation is hardly furtive or slapdash. The stencil surely is crafted in advance of its application. I’ve seen similar stencil images reproduced on multiple walls in the neighborhood. The graffiti on the wall says:

La poésie est un sport de l’extrême
(Poetry is an extreme sport)

Miss Tic, the artist, is not exactly a kid in a hoodie with a can of spray paint. Maybe she can still run like hell when the police show up, but probably not in high heels. Well-known in international avant-garde circles, her work is exhibited now at the Venice Biennale as well as the alleys of Paris.

Miss Tic isn’t the only artist at play here. The photo documenting her work was snapped by Paris photographer Alexandre Duret-Lutz (a.k.a. gadl on Flickr). His photo is published on the web under a Creative Commons license which gives me the right to reproduce it here with attribution. I am grateful to gadl for this and much more. I found his photo because it was tagged with Rue Mouffetard. Its web of other tags and connections quickly led me to Flickr’s Paris photo pool, StreetArt-PariS, and métrogirl‘s evocative photo sets of Paris cafés.

When I long to be back on the street in Paris, I turn to these photo streams to practice another kind of flanarie. Thanks to ZoomText (my screen magnification software) and Bloglines (my RSS feed agregator), I can browse a hundred Paris photos a day. It’s led me to marvel again at the vestiges of my remaining vision after I’d long since let go of sight. Nice work if you can get it… as a blind flaneur.

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