Tree of strife

A few weeks ago we were at the opening night of Bertrand Bonello’s career retrospective at the Pompidou, and if it was difficult to keep up with everything in French, it was nonetheless an entertaining evening. The part I was there for – Richie Hawtin being interviewed about the soundtrack he’d scored for the 1928 Dimitri Kirsanoff silent short Brumes d’automne – was thankfully in English, making my life easier.The conclusion though was beyond mystifying. German film actress Ingrid Caven appeared on stage with a newspaper and began arbitrarily reading from it in an affected voice over some coruscating beats from Bonello’s laptop, all the while gesticulating and ambulating around the stage in Chaplinesque fashion. At first it was enjoyable and there was plenty of whooping and general encouragement from the audience, but after about 20 minutes of this, one wondered if it was ever going to stop. Awkward, non? Well you’d think so wouldn’t you? But not a bit of it; the audience were open minded and receptive enough to draw something from this most jarring of performances and they lapped it up. And I thought to myself, “I fucking love you Paris for being so cool about shit”.

Which is why I was particularly put out when I heard grand-père terrible Paul McCarthy’s Tree had been vandalised. Not cool! Not attacking art even if it doesn’t agree with you is the sort of thing that separates us from Nazis, and I thought of them today burning all their historic artworks as the Third Reich fell just so nobody else could have them.

Paul McCarthy's Tree: What it should look like erect

What it should look like erect

The work they’re calling ‘le butt-plug’ has provoked such adverse reaction that the artist was attacked when they were erecting it on Thursday, and then last night some utter wankers cut the strings. Check my sad face below, that’s me arriving as they were rolling it up and taking it away. In all honesty, the Place Vendôme – which is one of the richest areas of Paris and home to The Ritz no less – could do with a giant British racing green ass plug subverting the opulent mise-en-scene and distracting us from all the sickeningly wealthy people cluttering up the pavements. I hope it returns soon with armed police.


I’ve been on a couple of excursions lately, one to Rouen and one to Orleans, and both made me realise that there’s nothing to do on a Sunday in French towns, and very little to do the rest of the time either. Oh yeah, and that everywhere seems to still be obsessed with Joan of Arc (although to be fair, she did live and die in these places). The good thing about French towns is that unlike English ones, you never feel like someone is going to stab you, but you might go mad from boredom and stab yourself, which is only marginally better. In Orleans we entered the terrifying hinterland of provincial arts and crafts, and in hindsight I probably should have smashed the fuck out of everyone’s paintings and pissed in their faces for not being edgy enough. You live and you learn.

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