London and Paris part 4: It was twenty years ago…

From the artist squat La Générale in Belleville

…that I went to Paris for the second time, but this time on my own with friends. Perhaps Paris isn’t as eternal as Rome, but it’s far more eternal than London. London must be the capital of fads and fashions and subcultures (last time I was reminded of this was when I saw the film This is England about skinheads in the early 1980s), while Paris is almost the opposite. It might import foreign subcultures like Anglo-American punk and hip-hop (and put its distinct mark on them), but all it can come up with by itself is bohemians, poets, artists and anarchists dating from the 19th century and a whole range of philosophical fads from the 20th. All with their distinct attire and ways of life, of course. And these historical types still somehow live on among almost all age-sets (perhaps not among the youngest, who seem mostly to be into hip-hop). So, we didn’t go to Paris to go to punk concerts and try to find squats. We went there to experience some of this eternal Paris (and of course we found it!) And if we had found the squats, that would have been strange and distinctly Parisian as well, as the most well-known squats in Paris are artist squats, and not the kind of art one finds in squats in Northern Europe, but real avant-garde plastic arts and poetry (slam, for instance) and that kind of stuff.

I think this is reflected in the Parisian slam poetry as well. The slam scene is not one kind of subculture dominated by people of a certain age who are into a certain poetic style. Instead, all kinds of different people of different styles and ages mix. But this comment on the slam phenomenon is not the reason why I write blog post. Instead, I try to go back in time and explore my relationship to my two favourite cities, Paris and London. How do I see them? And what has shaped this understanding of them? This is not only reveries and reminiscences from my part, although it is that as well. It has also a scientific goal as I try to explore why I chose particular topics and projects.

(and it isn’t forty years since Sergeant Pepper, but forty years since The Beatles split…).

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