Friday, March 17, 2006

Gherkins and Grand Guignol

I plainly don't have an ear for picking out lyrics of French songs, even ones as simple as Nino Ferrer's Les Cornichons (about the ingredients for a family picnic). Apparently mayonnaise, rather than marionettes is more desirable.

If you're picnicking in the Luxembourg Gardens, then you'll see plenty of signs for marionette shows. The main character in these is Guignol, the French equivalent of the English Punch for nearly 200 years. In 1897, a Parisian theatre Le Theatre du Grand Guignol opened to horrify audiences with its productions, decades before Andrew Lloyd Webber had thumbed his way through any volumes of T.S.Eliot's poetry. I was till today only familiar with the generic usage of Grand Guignol for macabre drama.

After class, I joined a guided tour led from the Ecole Militaire, which faces the Champ de Mars and the Eiffel Tower. From there we passed under the Tower, across the Seine, across the Trocadero and then on to the City Museum of Modern Art where I got to see a shopping trolley in the basement with a rotating light that was probably doing terrible things to the brain of the museum docent nearby.

The Museum also had a few large Matisses, a smattering of Picasso and Braque and some luminously blue Yves Klein figures pouring out of a wall (not the instruments above). I think that some of Auguste Herbin's cubist landscapes and Delaunay's Eiffel Tower 1926 were my favourite works on display - although such subjects are usually not my favourite genre.

Adjacent to the illuminated shopping trolley was a three-room installation, comprised of a set of shelves of children's clothing, black & white photos of children, and then a reading room with shelves of Yellow Page telephone books from around the world. One of my students remarked that the last reminded her of a Paul Auster book (Oracle Night).

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