Paris combats the new climate order with art

The artist Tacita Dean shows in The Wreck of Hope, a large-format drawing, an ancient glacier in full fracturing.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
26 August 2023 Saturday 10:31
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Paris combats the new climate order with art

The artist Tacita Dean shows in The Wreck of Hope, a large-format drawing, an ancient glacier in full fracturing. Remember an X-ray. Will it be of our historical moment? The enormous room on the ground floor of the Paris Stock Exchange, managed by the pharaonic collection of billionaire François Pinault, counterpoints that seven-meter-long image with two enormous photographs of Japanese trees in bloom. The fleeting beauty, the life that is periodically reborn, in color, is compared with the irreversible thaw in black and white.

These and other works by Dean, also dated between last year and the present, are included in the set of Avant l'Orage ('Before the storm', until September 18), a cycle of collective exhibitions that since February they follow one another to occupy the entire perimeter of the monumental Parisian building. Curated by Emma Lavigne and Nicolas-Xavier Ferrand, it proposes metaphors and artistic interventions on the coming storm. Or the drought.

With an installation in the form of an aquarium and the projection of a work of video art that shows scenes of life and decomposition in an abandoned garden, Pierre Huyghe (Human Mask) insists on an idea shared by several of the selected pieces. Everything changes, everything mutates, in a disturbing way, because nothing is what it seems. Thus, the video Présage , by Hicham Berrada, shows an apparently aquatic ecosystem that does not stop moving and metamorphosing, with the appearance of a reef, although in reality they are metals that react by a chemical activator.

And the geometric sculptures in small vegetable leaves by Lucas Arruda or the symbiosis between plants, robotic insects and images generated by artificial intelligence by Anicka Yi confront us with the mirages of our gaze. We will only survive if we learn to look in other ways. If we learn from the plant kingdom, from the rest of the animal, from non-human intelligence.

Heat waves and the new climate order are the main topic of conversation this summer in Paris. Also in the sphere of art and culture, which seems to have signed a great pact against what is happening. The brochure for the exhibitions from June to September at the Palais de Tokyo, in which urban bioarchaeology and the new spirituality are protagonists, begins like this: “As if to ward off climatic doom, at the Palais de Tokyo we still believe in the seasons” . In his bookstore, as in all the ones in the city, the books of the philosophers Vinciane Despret, Bruno Latour or Emanuele Coccia are exhibited with great visibility, which allow us to understand the challenges of the Anthropocene. And they have inspired not only Avant l'Orage, but a good part of the art that is currently being created around the world.

The culture adapts here to the new and difficult environmental circumstances. And he does marketing with it. To the 140 green spaces in the city, always open, many of them with fountains or water attractions, there are now some of the 2024 Olympic facilities, which offer their cold water to combat the heat. In parallel, the cultural and tourist offer opens at night. It has been the first edition, for example, of Les Étés du Louvre, a festival aimed primarily at Parisians and the French, but from which not a few tourists have benefited, which has offered concerts at the Pyramid and theater and cinema in other emblematic spaces of the famous museum. Always in the open sky.

What is happening in Paris this summer is part of a larger plan. The socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo, in alliance with the environmental and communist parties, presented a new Local Urban Planning Plan at the beginning of June, whose objective is to prepare the City of Lights for the increase in temperatures and the rest of the climatic anomalies that increasingly they are becoming more normal. Take advantage of the existence of a strong brand –Paris is the metropolis that gives its name to the international treaty against climate change– to lead an urban transformation called to be a model for other cities in the world.

With the horizon of 2040, the French capital is going to start creating an additional 300 hectares of green areas, because trees are our best allies in the new panorama; it will replace tar coatings with earth; it will favor the production of renewable energy, and it will continue to support bicycle trips. Some parts of Paris, the city of 15 minutes, are very similar to the Barcelona of the superblocks. Walking through them, one cannot help but wonder why the Catalan city is passing up the opportunity to be an international benchmark for the city of ecological culture, which is the city of the future.