devenir, parisien

Becoming
Parisian

Alice Isaaz, comédienne, sur le balcon de son appartement.
devenir,parisien
Adrian Joffe & Rose Carrarini, place Vendôme. Adrian est président de Comme des Garçons, sa soeur Rose à fondé à paris les restaurants Rose Bakery.
devenir,parisien

Carolyn Carlson, dancer and choreographer, photographed in her home.

devenir,parisien

Ryoko Sekiguchi, writer and translator, in the restaurant Botanique, at 71, rue de la Folie-Méricourt.

devenir,parisien

Éric de Chassey in the library of the INHA, the institute he has been director of since 2016.

devenir,parisien

India Mahdavi, architect and designer, in her studio on rue Las Cases.

devenir,parisien

Fashion designer Rabih Kayrouz and “food activist” Kamal Mouzawak, in the Maison Rabih Kayrouz studio, boulevard Raspail.

devenir,parisien

Bryce Dessner, guitarist of the group The National and contemporary music composer, at the Centquatre.

devenir,parisien

Farida Khelfa, former model, actress and director, at her home.

devenir, parisien
Bibliothèque de l’Institut national d’histoire de l’art.

Brigitte Lacombe’s images form a mosaic portrait of Paris, in which the exotic is tinged with the familiar. The encounter, dreamed or real, between a city and its inhabitants, put into words by American Holly Brubach.

America is my country,” Gertrude Stein said, “and Paris is my hometown.” Mine, too. Like Stein, I was born in Pittsburgh and made my way to Paris as an adult. Unlike Stein, I was eventually obliged to leave the life I had made for myself there, answering the call of a job and family obligations. I have passed the years since in a kind of exile, a forced absence from the city in which my soul had found a home.

From my earliest childhood, Pittsburgh struck me not as inferior or lacking but in my case simply wrong: through some grave mistake on destiny’s part, I had been brought into the world in a city in Pennsylvania rather than in Paris, where I belonged. The information on which I based this idea was sketchy, garnered from pictures in magazines and a vision of the Belle Époque by way of Hollywood in Gigi, the first film I saw. For me it was enough. To the extent that the landscape in which we livethe topography, the architecture, the trees and flowers, the cast of the light, the local voicesreverberates within us, my surroundings struck me as somehow alien, whereas Paris was merely foreign. I was confident that, with time, the foreign would come to seem familiar.

After numerous visits as a tourist, which I regarded as reconnaissance missions, I finally arrived with three suitcases in 1986 and settled into my first apartment, a seven-floor walkup in a stately building whose Portuguese concierge buffed and polished the wooden stairs to the sheen of an heirloom table. That first Christmas, she gave me a small gold plastic model of the Eiffel Towerthe kind for sale in the souvenir shops in the rue de Rivoli. It keeps me company here on my desk, and I’m looking at it as I write this. My windows gave onto the rue Guénégaud, and on summer evenings when the Monnaie de Paris was hosting concerts, strains of Mozart wafting upward through its open windows mingled with the clamor of traffic exiting the quai.

Early on, I met an elderly gentleman, a native of the city, who cautioned me: “You can spend the rest of your life here, but you will never become French.” Well, of course not, I thought. “But you may become Parisian,” he added, as if to offer some small consolation. Becoming Parisian struck me as a worthy ambition. The transformation, still incomplete at the time of my departure, came about in small part through my own clumsy efforts but mostly by osmosis.

When people ask me how I came to know David Seidner, a close friend and gifted American photographer who died in 1998, I tell them, “We were young together in Paris.” French people talk about their formation professionnelle to describe the education and training that qualified them for their careers. Paris was for David and me a formation not only professionnelle but personnelle, as well. It shaped us. A native of Los Angeles, David had made the move a few years before I did, and by the time I arrived, in 1988, he was already settled, with a skylit studio in the 14th arrondissement, a network of friends and acquaintances, and a Volkswagen convertible that looked like a golf cart, in which we took late-night joyrides, crossing the Seine at the Pont du Carrousel and making a giant loop of the Right Bank boulevards. Eventually, we would arrive at the Arc de Triomphe, circling it more than once before sailing down the Champs-Élysées into the Place de la Concorde, with its street lamps like candelabras. Then right, along the Cours de la Reine, and home across our favorite bridge, the Pont des Invalides. In all the years we lived there, the city never lost its capacity to dazzle us.

We came to appreciate the fact that Paris streets were theaterthat simply by venturing out in public, we set foot on the stage. On the sidewalk, in a shop, in a restaurant, everyone was simultaneously a spectator and a performer, conferring on us, as on all Parisians, the responsibility to dress well, out of respect for our audience. David and I used to laugh about the fact that you could walk down the street in New York wrapped in a cloak of invisibility, and people instinctively paid you no attentiona phenomenon so reliable that we would occasionally make a midnight run to the corner deli for ice cream, wearing a trench coat over our pajamas. That was something we would never have dreamed of doing in Paris, where not even the buildings, the bridges, the monuments seemed oblivious. They had witnessed Marie-Antoinette’s flight from the Louvre, Charles de Gaulle’s triumphal return, Charles Baudelaire’s perambulations, as they now witnessed our comings and goings.

Among our friends were other transplants from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, England and Argentina, and despite our diverse backgrounds, we had Paris in commonnot just the fact of living there but some shared idea of the city. We had all been drawn to what was for centuries the capital of good taste, where connoisseurship was both a profession and a pastime.

To say that we were esthetes implies a degree of learning and judgment that we lacked but thought it would be noble to acquire. Passing idle afternoons in the shop of an antiquaire in the rue Jacob, I was initiated into the taxonomy of French furniture, with its nely sliced classi cations. There was a word for everything: the shape of a chair leg, the nial on a lamp. It was there that I came to tell the difference between two adjacent periods, Charles X and Louis-Philippe.

David and I were in love with elegance at a time when elegance was out of style. Paris seemed to us its last stronghold. Elsewhere, excess and vulgarity had given extravagance a bad name. But in Paris, extravagance had been calibrated with rigor. The science of graceful exactitude was evident everywhere you looked: in the ligreed pastries on display in shop windows; the gardens, with their sculptural trees and sandy paths; the architecture, with its surprising ourishes above street level, as a gesture to the occupants of the buildings opposite and a reward for any passerby who happened to look up.

When it comes to my estrangement from Paris, some would argue that “exile” is too strong a word, misappropriating the anguish of defectors and refugees. If this longing were simply for a time in my life that is over, it might be dismissed as mere nostalgia, which is treatable: an occasional drink and the laughter of friends can keep it under control. Whereas the ache brought on by exile is chronic and intractable.

The smallest everyday details of my life in Paris come back to mind, unexpectedly and for no apparent reason, with a force that catches me off balance, like a sudden strong wind. The sound of slightly off-key oompah music echoing in the narrow street as the Fanfare des Beaux-Arts made its Friday night rounds of the neighborhood, the pungent cloud surrounding the cheese shop in the rue de Grenelle, the espaliered fruit trees lining the quiet path I used to walk in the Luxembourg Garden, the glow of June nights when the sun has set but the light lingersI attribute the perennial force of these flashbacks to the fact that Paris offers a wealth of sensory impressions no less indelible than if they had inscribed themselves on the blank slate of a child’s mind.

I return when I can, though never often enough and never for long enough. On those occasions, I retrace my footsteps, the routes I took running errands in my old neighborhood. The stationer is still there. The bookstore has moved. The dry cleaner is gone. Reminded of how my part of Paris used to be, I come face to face with the young woman I was at the time.

Any dictionary will tell you that “to belong” in English is appartenir in French, but, as is so often the case, the two verbs are not equivalent. This book belongs to Charles. Ce livre appartient à Charles. But: He didn’t belong here. Il n’a pas trouvé sa place ici. On wordreference.com, where native speakers of each language trade advice, the French are understandably confused about this use of “belong” and the preposition that follows. Does one belong in a place or to a place? Answer: things belong to people, when there is ownership involved, but people belong in places. And yet, to every rule there is an exception. I belong to Paris. J’appartiens à Paris.

My surroundings struck me as somehow alien, whereas Paris was merely foreign. I was confident that, with time, the foreign would come to seem familiar.

 

A place to write

As a young writer, I was always looking for role models, and I found one in Edith Wharton, the American novelist who had moved to Paris some eighty years before me. With her eloquent understanding of fashion, decor, social customs, and other subjects routinely dismissed as women’s interests and consequently “minor,” she gave me the courage to take myself seriously. One afternoon I set out to identify the park bench where Newland Archer sits in the heartbreaking final scene of The Age of Innocence. I never found it, and reluctantly concluded that the buildings, maybe even the streets, had changed in the years since. But that didn’t stop me from regarding Wharton as a neighbor, and I liked to think of her there, still in residence in the rue de Varenne, willing to receive an acolyte who rang the bell.

“I was not born in Paris.” Different perspectives on a city fashioned by elsewhere.

Alice Isaaz, née à Bordeaux

Paris used to frighten me. I come from a village of 3,000 people, and would rather have studied in a smaller town, but I wanted to be an actress. Against all the odds, I managed to pull it off; I felt a lot better about the place than I thought I would. I love the energy of Paris, its diversity; it has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for peace and quiet or vibrant neighborhoods that never stop. I walk a lot, I love to get lost. I love looking at lit-up apartments at night, imagining the lives of people at home. I wander along the pedestrian quays, I meet up with friends on café terraces, I discover new movie theaters, new restaurants. My friends tell me I should start a blog, because I’m always finding the latest little bar that’s just opened. I am forever a tourist in Paris.

AGENDA

Elle joue dans Espèces menacées de Gilles Bourdos (en salles le 13 .09).

Adrian Joffe, né à Johannesburg

I was English, 20 years old, and I immediately fell in love with Paris. I thought that after London, my dream would be to live here. I settled here two years later, working for Comme des Garçons. That was 30 years ago. At the time, it was romantic, I knew French writers, and for me Paris was the mecca of creativity. I loved its beauty, its architecture. Today, I’m a businessman, working in Place Vendôme. I have less time, I travel a lot, but I always come back to my home in the Marais. A city is a state of mind, and I can be happy and sad anywhere. But what makes Paris so special to me is that you can find beauty everywhere and without consciousness. All you have to do is open your eyes and raise your head.

Rose Carrarini, née à Johannesburg

I came with a girlfriend the first time, when I was 18. We went to all the bars, visited everything and I fell in love with Paris. I kept up my studies in London, but I met Jean-Charles, my future husband, who’s French. It was fate. We started a small knitwear business, had children and traveled a lot. But we were more interested in restaurants and markets than in fashion, so we decided it would be better to switch jobs. We launched our first restaurant in England, then in Paris. At the time, you couldn’t find the simple, healthy food we liked. We opened a shop on rue des Martyrs, in a former garage. People were dubious because we were Englishnot a good signbut it took off right away. We were among the first to offer organic food; we opted for quality. Our approach made sense. My family is in London, I feel like I’m in two places at once. But for everyone in France, I’m still totally English.

Carolyn Carlson, née à Oakland

The first time I came to Paris was in 1968, with the Alwin Nikolais company. My greatest memory from that period: my first onion soup, strawberries with crème fraîche. After every performance, we went to the Pied de Cochon.

Rolf Liebermann asked me to do a solo for the Paris Opera and I chose Density 21,5, by Edgard Varèse for the music. I don’t know what happened, but I became this phenomenon. We had a group called the Groupe de Recherches Théâtrales de l’Opéra de Paris. Initially, half the public booed me, the other half clapped. And then something happened, people started to say: “Wow! This is something new.” Because I worked with poetry, the French people were enthusiastic. I don’t like the label of “being Parisian.” I can live everywhere, I’m an artist wherever I go, but Paris is my home.

Agenda

Sa pièce Writings on water donne son nom à une exposition des dessins et croquis qu’elle a réalisés tout au long de sa vie. Jusqu’au 24.09. La Piscine, Roubaix.

Ryoko Sekiguchi, née à Tokyo

I was 19 when I discovered Paris, I was traveling abroad for the first time. I was overwhelmed by this immense freedom; in other words, this huge anything and every-thing. Everyone was doing what they wanted, and this gave me a sense of absolute freedom. I made numerous trips before moving here for good, 20 years ago. But it was frustrating to be in France without being able to show what I was doing. I started by translating my own work, and then decided to write directly in French. I live as two people.

I focus a lot on tastes. Parisians’ interest in flavors has offered me tremendous possibilities. Now I write about gastronomy, I meet chefs. The diversity of culinary cultures also means that you meet all kinds of different people, and I always feel completely free in what I say and what I wear.

Agenda

Son guide culinaire de Kyoto, publié chez Menu Fretin, est sorti fin juin.

Éric de Chassey, né à Pittsburgh

I came to Paris on vacation as a child. As far back as I can remember, I used to wander through museums and I ended up making it my profession. In the mornings, I ride my bike to the library. I pass in front of the Louvre, I see a building that’s remarkable, from an architectural standpoint, not at all showy. When I leave the office, I see another one, the Institut de France, that is equally remarkable. Being Parisian means having this extremely strong relationship to a past that’s present everywhere, while constantly being altered by contemporary additions. The Seine is also an exceptional element, as is the light, which is more or less gray or silvery, depending on the day. An attenuated light that gently surrounds you. Paris makes me think of lots of songs. I have a stupid one in my head: “Paris est plein, plein, plein de Parisiens, pas assez de Parisiennes et trop de Parisiens.” A song by Tristan from the 1980s.

AGENDA

Les 16 et 17.09.2017, l’INHA participe pour la 1re fois aux Journées européennes du patrimoine.

India Mahdavi, née à Téhéran

The first time, I was nine years old. I was visiting my grandmother and discovered the capital’s immense sophistication. My grandmother was so popular, she hosted so many people, that I hated it. I stayed just two days instead of a week.

Paris is the center of Europe. It’s very easy to get to, very easy to escape. I think it’s one of the prettiest cities in the world. There’s an elegance, it’s almost too beautiful. I like the chaos, the rough aspect that you find in the Eastand not so much here. But I move around, I find the hustle and bustle elsewhere. Paris is a base, it reassures me, like a husband to whom I’m very unfaithful. I am an entirely Parisian French foreigner.

What I love is how people entertain. It’s not very formal, often at the last minute, there is still a joy in getting together at people’s houses. I also like to see foreigners, be friends with people who don’t live here. You certainly have more of a soft spot for your adopted city than where you came from. People always ask where I’m from. I can say that I come from Paris, but I also feel a plurality that suits me just fine.

Thaddaeus Ropac, né à Klagenfurt

Paris is where I spend most of the time when I don’t travel. It is my home. It differs from other metropolises. It has several layers that you need to spend time discovering and uncovering. It’s an intense, surprising feeling when you arrive. That’s what gives it its savor. I opened my first gallery here 25 years ago. At the time, people told me it would be complicated for a foreigner. It was difficult, but I have always felt welcomed. It’s easy to fall in love with a place when you feel that people embrace you and what you do. I then focused on my project for a large gallery on the outskirts of Paris, in Pantin. It was a big risk. How to get people to travel past the périphérique? But it worked. I can’t imagine running the Paris gallery if this big one didn’t exist. Despite its difficult periods, Paris has an amazing ability to rebound and is a huge draw for artists. I see so many talented young people working here, ready to reinvent the city.

AGENDA

Exposition Wolfgang Laib The Beginning of something else. Du 8.09 au 14.10.2017, galerie du Marais. Exposition de groupe Déjeuner sur l’herbe. Du 9.09 au 14.10.2017, galerie de Pantin.

Kamal Mouzawak, né à Beyrouth 

I was over 20 when I moved to Paris, but I felt I almost knew the city when I got here, through the books I’d read. Paris has reconciled me to the urban world, showing me that people can be different from one another and have the right to exist. I find the idea of rights very French, very Parisian. People stopping at red lights, for example, is for me the symbol of the rights and duties of every citizen and of mutual respect, proving that people can live together even when they’re very different, in a harmonious way. There’s an elegance that only exists here, not in a sense of etiquette but rather in terms of knowing how to live well. Which means that I have an excellent butcher near me, a very good bakery on every corner and a market on every street. For me, living well is linked to food. Lots of people agree. I feel very Parisian, it’s not even an issue. I have lunch in Beirut, dinner in Paris; it’s not another country, just another neighborhood I live in.

Rabih Kayrouz, né à Jdeidet Ghazir

It was the middle of the war and I was 16. I had just arrived from my village in Lebanon. It was the first city I had ever seen: Paris, before Beirut. An amazing mix of the familiar and the unexpected. I came from a French school, my books were in French, I had seen films, I knew French history, the names of the streets, but at the same time, everything was new.

I had wanted to do fashion in Paris from the age of 12. It’s the expertise of high fashion that drew me, this “made in France” aspect. Fashion is not about sitting at home and designing, you have to be able to work with people in the trade and with all these extraordinary craftspeople. All this reassures me. When you walk, you feel embraced, it’s not a solitary place. I live in Paris, I am inspired by Paris, but I don’t know if I am Parisian. I don’t feel like a foreigner, but I wasn’t born here. This city welcomed me, but I come from my village, and I like to have a foot in both of them.

Bryce Dessner, né à Cincinnati

I married Pauline, a Frenchwoman, and we have a baby. I moved to Paris a year ago, for love. I have met incredible musicians here. I have several projects with the pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque, others with Rone, an electronic music composer, and I just composed a piece for the Ensemble Intercontemporain. When I was a student, everyone told me “Paris is dead, there’s nothing happening there.” That’s no longer true at all. There’s more and more going on, with the construction of new large venues, like Jean Nouvel’s Philharmonie, the Fondation Louis Vuitton and even the Centquatre, where I rehearse. Paris is making a comeback in all areas of music. And then, for my first Father’s Day, walking from the Marais to the Palais-Royal, then to the Musée Rodin, sitting in the grass in the midst of a small forest of sculpturesthat’s heaven.

AGENDA

No Tomorrow. Du 18 au 20.08.2017 Dansé par la Icelandic Dance Company au Southbank Centre de Londres.
The National est en concert le 12.08.2017 au Haven Festival de Copenhague ; du 25 au 28.09.2017 à l’Eventim Apollo de Londres.

Farida Khelfa, née à Lyon

The first time I discovered Paris I must have been 15. A few days of vacation in the summer and I decided that my life would be there. I kept returning, year after year. I came from Lyon, and Paris was freedom, the freedom to think, to dress. I wanted to enjoy life to the max and celebrate. I started in fashion with Thierry Mugler, Jean-Paul Gaultier. I also met Azzedine Alaïa with Jean-Paul Goude. We were discovering an entire new generation, the first children of immigrant parents. And suddenly, we saw young people who looked a little bit different, but who were 100 percent French. Fashion, people, things today have become more homogeneous, but this is changing. And that’s the new wealth of France. Also its immigration, which creates different movements. I feel completely Parisian, but still from Lyon. I experience Paris as a tourist, still amazed by its beauty at night, in daytime, at dawn, in the evening, at every moment of the day.

Agenda

Alice Isaaz

En salles le 13 .09 .2017

lle joue dans Espèces menacées de Gilles Bourdos

 

Carolyn Carlson

Jusqu’au 24.09.2017

Sa pièce Writings on water donne son nom à une exposition des dessins et croquis qu’elle a réalisés tout au long de sa vie. La Piscine, Roubaix

 

Ryoko Sekiguchi

Sortie fin juin

on guide culinaire de Kyoto, publié chez Menu Fretin

 

Éric de chassey

Les 16 et 17.09.2017

l’INHA participe pour la 1re fois aux Journées européennes du patrimoine.

 

Thaddaeus Ropac

Du 8.09 au 14.10.2017, galerie du Marais.

Exposition Wolfgang Laib The Beginning of something else. : Exposition de groupe Déjeuner sur l’herbe.

 

Thaddaeus Ropac,

Du 9.09 au 14.10.2017

Exposition Wolfgang Laib The Beginning of something else. : galerie de Pantin

 

Bryce dessner

Du 18 au 20.08.2017

Southbank Centre de Londres

 

Bryce dessner

12.08.2017

au Haven Festival de Copenhague

 

Bryce dessner

Du 25 au 28.09.2017

l’Eventim Apollo de Londres

 

Seine, italienne, art

Next

An Italian in Paris

Going There

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À LIRE

Holly Brubach est l’auteur de A dedicated follower of fashion (Phaidon) et de Drawing Fashion: A Century of Fashion Illustration (avec Colin McDowell, Prestel)

Brigitte Lacombe a récemment publié The Female Lead: Women Who Shape Our World (avec Edwina Dunn, Ebury Press), Lacombe: Cinema/theater (collectif, Schirmer/Mosel ), Stern Fotografie 73 – Brigitte Lacombe(teNeues).

Paris Gallimard, coll. Cartoville.

Paris Gallimard, coll. GEOguide.

Paris Gallimard, coll. Encyclopédies du voyage.

Paris Lonely Planet.

Paris Phaidon, coll. Wallpaper City Guide.

Tip-Top Tips to Paris Mark Gaito, Tana éditions (in english).