Tales from

the Loir

A Weekly Column

 December 26, 2001 - Winter Solstice

As we board the 7 a.m. train for Paris, I wonder what people back home are doing for the holidays. I picture Naugha hide recliners, cans of Budweiser, and long drowsy naps in front of the television during the annual Enron North-South Bowl or the East-West Shrine Bowl Classic. Not this year. We are establishing our own new traditions. It is called installation art and I am participating in a small way. It is the 21st of December, winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. It is below freezing and a stiff wind is blowing. We head for the Louvre to commence the installation. Aprille has spent the last two months cutting lines and paragraphs from Pascal's Pensees into strips. The idea is to place the strips throughout the twenty arrondissement of Paris and record the event with video and photographs. The place where one's artistic talent is shown, aside from coming up with the idea, is in selecting the right place to photograph one of the pithy axioms. It can be a trash can, a pool of water at the Louvre or a mirror reflecting the surroundings.

We get to the Pyramid of the Louvre by 8:30 a.m. but it is still dark and still very cold. Rain would be the only thing to make the situation worse. As Aprille sets up her tripod and camera, it begins to rain. I am not sure I am cut out to be an artist. After an hour of freezing to death, I elect to abandon the project for a local cafe serving petit dejeuner. Aprille will push on for another ten hours travelling in a spiral from the Louvre in the first arrondissement to the other nineteen or until midnight. She is loaded with a backpack containing a computer, cameras, cassettes, disks, tripods and a large container with the strips of paper containing the quotes.

The idea as I understand it is that a book or a poem is a piece of art that is in a way cut into to strips as it is read. The words and lines are randomly stored in one's mind like strips of paper that the mind can never reassimulate and eventually loses like Aprille’s strips blowing off with the wind. The 17th century French philosopher-mathematician, Blaise Pascal, made a similar observation in his book, Pascal's Pensees. Aprille read this book one Sunday morning while I was playing checkers with myself. This is what happens when you live in a cave in France. Ones basic nature is revealed.

It is hard to believe that anyone could actually read the whole book but I know that she did. This is not a pamphlet. It is several hundred pages long and the plot sucks. It is actually a treatise on religion but it rambles a field sometimes. Here is a quote:

"Which is more reliable? Moses or China."

As I leave the hotel to find Aprille again, a man stops me and asks where he can find rue Surcouf. I take this as a good omen because I know the location of one street in Paris and a stranger asks me where it can be found. When I rejoin Aprille again at 6:00 o'clock in the evening it is already dark again but she has taken thousands of pictures and astonished hundreds of Parisians. During the short time that I am with her, I hear people saying, c'est fou, qu'est-ce qu'elle fait?, and c'est bizarre. I am not sure that I want to associated with the project so I hang back as we head toward the Eiffel Tower on the small back streets looking for that special place to leave a quote. When Aprille steps in a pile of dog shit, I see my chance to participate in the project. I put one of Pascal's best in the deformed pile and take a photograph. I immediately feel that special sensation that only artists feel when they have finished a masterpiece. It is sheer genius.

We finish taking pictures of a quote stuck to a yellow letterbox at the Eiffel Tower and head toward the Champs Elysees. I am beginning to tire and suggest that we go to dinner. Aprille is totally exhausted but wants to push on. I follow for a while longer but my whining is messing with her chi and she can no longer find the places to put the strips of paper. We cross the Seine and find a lighted place in front of a dress shop where the picture taking continues but is getting late and fewer people are stopping to gape. Aprille finally agrees to give up because it is dark, cold and starting to rain again. Also she wants to go see the pictures she has taken so she can plan the next project that will be on June 22 or summer solstice.

As we head back to the hotel, I think about all the cards and letters from friends and relatives talking about their children and the holidays. It brings a good feeling. It is nice to know that there are fires in the hearths and another adventure around the corner.

Happy Holidays
Bill and Aprille
Look for Aprille’s installation at www.aprille.net

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December 19, 2001 - Relais d’Antan
December 12, 2001 - Winter Foods
 December 5, 2001 - Steak and Kidney Pudding
 November 28, 2001 - Pigs III
 November 21, 2001 - Pigs II
 November 14, 2001 - Pigs
 October 31, 2001 - The Ghost of Chateau Chevre
 October 25 - Battle of Poitiers
 August 22, 2001 - Confrerie
 August 15, 2001 - Liberation
 August 8, 2001 - Le Cyclop
 August 1, 2001 - The Finger
July 25, 2001 - La Resistance
July 18, 2001 - System D
July 11, 2001 - The Accident
July 4, 2001 - Ange Pitou
June 27, 2001 - Feu de Saint Jean
June 20, 2001 - Geoffroy Martel
June 13, 2001 - Saint of the Day
June 6, 2001 - Escapade dans le Berry
May 30, 2001 - Learning French
May 23, 2001 - Pete and Manny
May 16, 2001 - Les Journees des Aubepines
May 8, 2001 - Armistice Day
May 2, 2001 - May Day
April 25, 2001 - Les Manouches
April 18, 2001 - Trôo
April 11, 2001 - Le P'tit Jules
April 4, 2001 - Men and Their Caves 
Archive of Weekly Columns Jan-Apr 2001
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2000


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