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25.03.21 Le Cèdre, Secours Catholique

Le Cèdre is staying open during the new Paris lockdown, whilst the rest of the city wonders how the new confinement rules will restrict how it can operate and which spaces can remain open. The city seems divided between busy daytime streets and parks, and emptiness at night, dramatically changing how safe the public spaces feel.

The following is a glimpse into our Art Refuge session on Thursday afternoon:

On the table, we set up a slide projector that worked through a system of mirrors. People started making assemblages of objects using frames, natural objects and plastic animals. The vibrant colours seemed to echo the Kodachrome slides.

The overhead projector fell into difficulty, overheating and smoking because the fan was not working. Luckily one of the men at the card tables fixed it for us: “I’m not an electrician but I can sort this kind of thing out”. It took him half an hour to painstakingly disassemble the plastic casing and to get the fan back working. He told us he had not had any luck finding work in Paris. He then plugged his phone in to our extension cable as a kind of exchange. This intervention provided a link between our table and the rest of the space.

A group activity later evolved around the projector. The assembly of objects took on different meanings according to the lighting and angle of view, and whether they were projected: from childlike treasure boxes to sinister or magical scenes. To take the photo often required two people collaborating: one to hold the magnifying glass and the other to find the frame for the photograph.

At the end of the session several men who had been playing cards at other tables came up, chatted or offered help in putting away. As one man helped us pack up he talked about how much he had enjoyed working with us around the table and talking. “Today is the first time I have come here, it is so nice to talk to other people. All day I am on my own not knowing what to do. I like so much to do something different, it is not boring. I do not feel like I am sleeping.”

Kate France & Naomi Press Art Refuge Paris team

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