Even Magazine

Issue 3: Spring 2016

ABOUT PARIS, the city where he lived from 1948 to 1954, our hero Ellsworth Kelly was not ambiguous: it was the city that made him an artist. His was the last generation of Americans who saw Paris as capital of the arts. New York, not without a struggle, usurped that title while he was away. Yet in the last year Paris found itself once again in the role of world capital, for much grimmer reasons. The heinous murders of the staff of Charlie Hebdo, and the deficient, monolingual debates on freedom of expression that followed, were only the start; come November, with an unfathomable assault on concertgoers and café patrons, Paris had become ground zero (a word we New Yorkers use advisedly) of a European and indeed global showdown around citizenship, freedom, and coexistence.

Even’s third issue, over 176 pages, revisits the birthplace of modern art to see how Paris and its artists work in an anxious age. In the days after the attacks, during a UN climate conference we can fairly call historic, Thomas Chatterton Williams watched the city push forward, uneasy but unrelenting. Two young artists, Neïl Beloufa and Mathieu K. Abonnenc, take very different approaches to video and sculpture, yet both are obsessed with how France’s colonial history troubles its tripartite motto. And Daniel Fairfax, in an extensive monograph, places the artist Anri Sala in a media-spanning continuum in which first film, then music offer a method for art’s renewal. Sala left Albania for France in 1996; the art students come from elsewhere now, but they’re still coming, and the city has a grand curriculum. Head to the Palais de Tokyo, look through the tall window he translated in 1950 into the most important work of his career, and you can still catch a glimpse of the Paris Ellsworth made.


In Secteur IX B, a livewire of a new film by MATHIEU K. ABONNENC, we meet an anthropologist struggling to finish a book project, but gripped by something worse than writer’s block. She is studying the famous Mission Dakar-Djibouti, a two-year journey across Africa by a team that included the surrealist writer Michel Leiris — and studying insects too, their collection, their contagion. But the art at Dakar's Musée de l'IFAN has turned lifeless, and so she starts swallowing mysterious black pills, psychoactive antimalarials of the kind Leiris took in the 1930s. In Paris things are no better, and in the shell of the Trocadéro, where Picasso first saw west African sculpture, she tells her colleague, “When I wake up, I don’t even remember my own name.” The museum is beautiful but catching; you need to take your medicine.