A tower with gigantic orange and black graffiti, does that ring a bell? Tower 13, in Paris’ 13th arrondissement, immediately attracts the attention of passerby. Originally a residence for railway workers, it dates to the 1960s and will be demolished in November. Medhi Ben Cheikh, creator of the Gallery Itinerrance, jumped at the occasion and converted the delapidated building into a street art exhibition retracing the theme of transience.
The exhibition represents an innovative event in the world of street art, generally practiced independently. No less than 80 artists collaborated and cohabitated in the space for a period of several months. This human experience gave way to a collective work of art. Through the project, Medhi Ben Cheikh seeks to reflect the ephemeral nature of street art while bringing a second life to an old building. The exhibition is immensely popular, with queues to enter exceeding seven hours.
Once armed with a passport to enter the tower, I rode the elevator to the 9th floor. The downward spiral was set to begin! In each of the 36 apartments signs of transience were evident, but the evening darkness made them difficult to analyze. There was no use in looking for light since there’s no longer electricity in the building! I started searching for details that define the ephemeral nature of street art – it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I eventually discovered some clues: rubble, crosses, adhesive tape, bombs … BOOM. Each work contains micro signs that preview its eventual demolition through explosion or collapse.
Three artists particularly attracted my attention. Maz from Saudi Arabia was one of the first people to practice graffiti in his country. His work looks like it could have been made from the blood of a beast that Maz himself captured and killed! You feel death coming and even the slightest sign of life (small branches) is transformed into something dead. Sambre is French, formally trained as a carpenter and a fan of deserted places. His work is based on chaos; it’s completely crazy to see how he turns the room upside down. Doors are suspended everywhere, in every direction imagineable! The artist plays with perspective and the size of the room is gradually reduced. It feels very strange! Nilko is also French. His specializes in spray-painted frescoes. The most curious part of his work is its setting: the bathroom. His working instruments have been thrown into the toilet – I guess that message is clear! His work is better understood and amplified thanks to its position in the context of the exhibition’s other artists.
Does this exhibition represent a coming trend in the future of street art? It ends on Halloween – start your Halloween party there and see for yourself!
Une exposition de street art se tient actuellement à la Tour 13, ancienne résidence de cheminots située dans le 13ème arrondissement de Paris. La Tour devrait être détruite début novembre, c’est pourquoi l’exposition joue sur le thème de l’éphémère. Les 36 appartements constituent maintenant de véritables œuvres d’art s’inspirant de tous les pays. Pour les plus curieux, venez découvrir la nature éphémère du street art jusqu’au 31 octobre.
Par Line Aubertin
Crédit photo : Line