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Prochain rendez-vous de Pensons le matin (

samedi 11 Octobre 2014 Exceptionnellement à 10h30 au Gyptis  (Le Gyptis/Shellac&Shellac sud, 136 rue Loubon, 13003 Marseille) 

Invité : Alain BADIOU, philosophe

La culture à l’épreuve de l’urbain et les Images du temps présent*

À ses commencements, Pensons le Matin (dont les rencontres mensuelles ont habituellement lieu à la Friche Belle de Mai qui l’accueille depuis 3 ans et +) explorait les questions de gentrification sous deux approches : Y a-t-il une fatalité à ce que les équipements culturels accompagnent, voire inaugurent, des processus de gentrification ? et : Comment une Capitale européenne de la culture peut-elle ou non encourager les processus de gentrification ?

Avec le temps, les problématiques se sont élargies aux interrogations urbaines, aux observations sur l’évolution de Marseille, aux questions relatives aux « villes créatives », aux « villes libérales ».

En 2013, la direction actuelle de la Friche a proposé à Pensons le Matin d’organiser une rencontre publique exceptionnelle sur plusieurs jours. Cela a donné « La ville à l’épreuve de la démocratie », les 25, 26 et 27 octobre 2013, avec pour objectif d’analyser les articulations entre démocratie culturelle, droit à la ville pour tous et processus de gentrification.

En 2014, Pensons le Matin prolonge cette initiative et continue de creuser, avec son programme de rencontres mensuelles, le sillon de la réflexion et du débat citoyen sur les liens entre culture, gentrification et les multiples formes de ségrégation urbaine.

Le rendez-vous Pensons le Matin du 11 octobre avec Alain Badiou fait partie des rencontres marseillaises organisées avec l’auteur sur 5 jours et intitulées Evénement Badiou au coeur de Marseille (cf. programme et partenariat ci-joint ) Il permettra d’approfondir encore la réflexion, en écoutant ce philosophe qui connaît Marseille, ses habitants et ses tensions, et qui sait interroger les Images du temps présent. Le thème de l’urbanisme et des multiples fractures qu’il engendre et dont il se compose s’est imposé pour Marseille, analysée comme à la fois ville centre et ville-banlieue qui veut certes se donner un nouveau visage mais qui, au fond, est saisie par un désenchantement dont les causes doivent être révélées.

Alain Badiou dialoguera ensuite avec des artistes et des praticiens de l’urbanisme, avant d’ouvrir un échange plus large avec la salle.

*Images du temps présent est un volume du Séminaire d’Alain Badiou qui vient de paraître chez Fayard, dans la collection « Ouvertures ».

For archived articles and further extracts go here

Spring in Marseille – the first fruits of Capital Culture take root?

Spring in Marseille and by all accounts the sky overhead should be a deep cerulean blue. But the rain and the stubborn clouds keep flowing in, first from the West, now from the East, leaving the dust of the city sodden and muddy. Everything is unexpectedly green, and not just the trees flowering and unfurling their virgin foliage but also the straggly grasses, wild flowers and happy bands of weeds with their invasive growth. The colour of the city now is more misty grey – concrete mixed with a flickering pale green – then the azure blue depicted on the advertising posters.

Perhaps it really is unseasonally wet. The much hyped Off (Capital of Culture) YesWeCamp site has gone and postponed its opening. Blaming the rain and this weekend more rain is forecast for the Spring Open of Contemporary Art in Marseille: ‘OffBeat’, 3 days, 3 journeys, 3 quarters, beatnik creative quarters. Will the weather deter the viewing public? Impossible to tell, as privatized space moves northwards everything appears either OFF or ‘REVE”. This reve (dream) of Euromediterreanee personified by the dark grey protuberance of the CMA-CGM Tower. Zaha Hadid’s ambivalent gift to Marseille’s ‘new skyline’, a silent blunt knife of a building, depending on where one views it, either squats like an ugly funerary slab, or brutally slices through the concrete Metropolis. But any modernist nod to Lang, appears to be more Doctor Cagliari, as this sinister skyscraper – a topsy turvy revelation – becomes an upturned smoked glass cruise ship metamorphosing into a gigantic coffin. Thirtythree floors high, soaring to 147 metres, the cost of the building is unpublished but in todays Marseillais it is reported that the European Commission is demanding 250 million euros returned from another Marseille dockland project.


‘Privatised Space is creeping Northwards’

This is the final  week for J1 building, undoubtedly a success, it is planned to reopen late Autumn for an exhibition on Le Corbusier and brutalism. This renovated exhibition hall was a much more modest project than the tower, housed in a large airy dockside warehouse. The refurbished structure allowed Marseille based cultural groups to interact, with a certain sensitive regard, to local sensibilities and audiences. Sadly the building is closing just as the visitors start pouring into the city through late May, June and July.  J1 was one place with free entry that welcomed a broad public to experience culture and activity. It was a great space to share in. Now it is being turned over for the sole use of the privatized port authority.

Whatever the legacy of investment in J1 it presented quite a contrast from the Pavilion M, or the other cultural behemoths teleported onto the old Quai in front of Fort St Jean. Here the only building still fully open to the general public is another renovated structure, the old sanitary station designed by Fernard Pouillon in 1948. Whatever the weather you can sit in the café terrace of this new Musee Regard de Provence and soak up the contaminated psychogeography oozing from the newly constructed facades below. How the brand new buildings on the dock front obscure the view with their busy glass reflections. These are not buildings that can stand comparison with Mies van der Rohe or with le Corbusier’s Cite Radieuse.

In the artificial moat, a diver in wet suit is trawling back and forth as if he is searching for a leak in the Villa foundations. Perhaps he’s there permanently, looking for a reason, any suggestion why this building appears to be sinking into the sea. It was only last week that the artist Ron Henocq dismissed the other building, perched alongside this ostentatious Mediterranean Villa, the new MUCEM, as “a camouflaged multi-storey carpark”. Even that seems a generous verdict considering the cost, siting and significance of such an architectural statement both for Marseille and for wider European culture. You feel, even without having to look carefully that a sensitive renovation of old buildings – structures that have grown into their site through time – would have far outweighed the pompous steel glazing of these contemporary architectural experiments. These grandiloquent emptied halls of Commerce and Culture sit waiting for what? Sitting in the Musee Regard café you can easily reimagine in the void of polish, stone and concrete, the numberless buildings demolished to make way for these hollow pavilions? How many families, old people, small businesses and lives were destroyed so the city and its corrupted confreres could build their vacuous 21st century fantasy. Consuming what for what? If only the buildings really were retractable and could sink into the sea just as the diver, leaving behind just a trace of frothing water. These giant prisons of culture disappearing, dissolving into the salty spume to once again reveal the true vestiges of this seafaring city, spreading out toward the horizon, this boiling vast enclosed sea scape.

May 16 2013


The 7 Riches of Marseille :

‘Ces sept merveilles de Marseille (Les gens, la mer, la culture, le patrimonie, le savoir-faire, le sport, l’economie)’

Every morning I arrive in Marseille, I walk briskly across the city and just before arriving at the studio pass a bust of the infamous Marseillais actor Fernandel. Every morning his grinning face is turned upwards, toward the Mediterranean sun, his eyes wide open even popping, as if he still can’t believe what he sees. And everything in Marseille seems unbelievable. It happens just as it does this day, when you enter into a newsagent and the magazines laid out on the shelf announce to day – ‘Proud to be Marseillais’ – (L’Express). Just as you’re digesting the ramifications of this bold statement, you inadvertently stumble over a man huddled against the side of the pavement. His miserable existence, barely acknowledged, you pass nonchalently now, an old man and woman together rummaging through the bins.

Quickly crossing the street to rejoin the wintery sun, you leave behind these wretches and enter a square opened out, bathed by the golden façade of a Gothic church. A glorious moment. Quickly dispelled though, as you notice three young men, hooded, staring intently at you. Alone, it’s ok, you reassure yourself. They’re only curious, harmlessly smoking in the sun. But as you are thinking this, three police personnel riding bikes appear, swooping down from an adjacent street, heading directly toward the youths. The police start shaking them down and as they take off their hoods you  see that they are almost certainly North African. Hanging around and smoking is not allowed. But you quickly tire of the spectacle, with no desire to intervene and picking up speed walk away, down a sunlit street.

Breathing in the clear blue air you catch a moment again of contentment. A blissful warmth passing over you, you look upwards just as Fernandel does, toward the sky, when a banging violent screaming sends shards of shattered ceramic flying across the road. The raining splinters narrowly miss your face. And you turn, briefly to look up, curious to see where the projectile came. A heated argument pours from a half-shuttered apartment. You quickly look away from the dilapidated shutters, fearing another vehement missile.

This unexpected violence has made you hungry and you feel the need for something to eat. So you enter the nearest bakery to buy pain semoule and an anchovy fougasse. Specialities of Marseille? As you hand over the change to the girl, she asks you: ‘you are not from Marseille, are you, where are you from?’ And as she speaks her eyes say – lucky you, never to fully know the 7 true wonders of Marseille. She has no idea that in less than 30 minutes, strolling the City’s streets that you have witnessed the sport, economy, the people, the culture, the environment, the sea and finally the know-how of Marseille.

The Pavilion M now open, the 7 Marvels of Marseille audio-visual feast is currently on show in a bunker like cavern. It is a strange eclectic affair that appears to borrow heavily from other cultural displays but without their wit, finesse, skill, economy or savoir-faire. Better head to J1 for some more precise enlightenment. Or wait for the appearance of Pavilion Petit ‘a’.

counterproductions (December 2012)

Marseille Ouverture… January 11,12, 13…


Saturday morning, Marseille seems to be awakening as per normal. The market in the Place Jean Jaures is filled with the customary crowd, searching for a bargain among the repro knock-offs and secondhand clothes. In the café on Boulevard Chave there are a few well-dressed suspects gripping pinkish programmes – one reads L’Art-A-L’Endroit – but that event is happening elsewhere, over in Aix-en-Provence. The rest of the customers appear entirely laid back to the prospect of Marseille’s Capital of Culture opening today. Gone are the visions of the smoky pink crowd outside the opening of the Marseille OFF programme at last night’s ‘Platonic Banquet’, when the doors bent and arched with good-humoured patience. If the verdict of the public streaming out of the venue then, was one unrelieved commentary, of “nothing”, “nulle”, at least there was a crush of excitement. Waiting outside we still wanted to get in and see for ourselves. Maybe this was some double bluff, and there really was some visionary artistic event occurring just beyond our vision, inside. We had already resigned ourselves to the platitude that anticipation is purer and more exquisite a feeling, than consummation. After all this event was billed as a Marseille rerun of a Socratic dialogue. It appeared we were being invited to be philosophical, if not downright stoical as we jostled to get past the security.

Later much of the OFF crowd, having drunk briefly of Plato’s wine hung outside the Café Palace Longchamps, where a jazz band made an unscheduled appearance. Their singer, who had been spotted earlier prowling the streets with a white face and blackened lips, swung his shoulders low, hunched and from his louche melancholic body drifted out a gravelly pitched voice, thin then growling from out of the depths, to entertain the nonchalant drinkers. The howling beauty of the songs, gave a haunted Baudelairian poignancy to their improvised performance. The whispering vibrations of the tramway wire, as it passed swiftly by our backs, mingles briefly with their thrumming double-bass, and their singing, in a strange soft English, ‘Love is a burning flame’ provided a memorable fragment of artistic beauty, snatched from the evenings disappointments.

But perhaps this opening is not the moment for grand artistic gestures. However, it did provide the opportunity to show off all the public works, and the possibilities of cooperative organisation that the city might marshal: the apparent amazement at the partial pedestrianisation of the Old Port (something extraordinary), or the renovation of buildings, the opening of new ostentatious museum’s and public space along the port frontage. Even a fortnight ago it seemed impossible that they would finish all the building works but as you stroll along the waterfront between Joliette and the Old Port, pass the invitation only reception with its security, there is a sense of how Marseille works; that it will happen when it needs to and not before, so why finish it before you need to, even if behind some of the façade there is nothing but unfinished concrete and paneless frames.

There is an untold irony in the reported visit of President Hollande to the opening of MUCEM at 3pm, just as France engages in extensive military operations in Africa. The lofty ambitions of MUCEM and the Mediterranean Villa alongside, with their ostentatious architecture, are obvious gestures of European ‘soft power’; France looking to consolidate and expand its influence back into, and beyond North Africa. Yet the empty foyers sprinkled with besuited dignatories, and with a few desultory European flags propping up the entrances, suggest something of a void in any real tangible equal exchange. It is as if Europe is returning to the same tropes, an updated version of the 1930’s. Ceaser’s face peering from behind the posters for the Capital of Culture’s Pavilion M – a harking back to some imperial fantasy and an prehistoric myth of certainty. But this is an age of uncertainty, flux and rapid change. The urgent questions now are: where are we going, where are we being led, does anyone know? It is as if everyone is hoping someone else has a crystal-ball, some answer to the crisis…

Looking south across the great Bay of Marseille as the sun sets from the windows of the J1 building you could be forgiven for thinking that the sun has set on Europe, as a ferry, lit up in pink slips by, out into the Mediterranean deep. The letter accompanying the guest invite from Jacques Pfister, President of Marseille-Provence 2013 and President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, reads: ‘This is an invitation to stroll through town, to share the kick-off to the year’s rich array of cultural events… Let the Party begin!’ Unfortunately with so many artists and residents of the city perambulating on the new waterfront there was little chance of a stroll. The crush as the light show takes hold means that it’s only possible to shuffle along through town at a snail pace. The beauty of the recent sunset now contrasts with the sugarcoated son et lumiere, the citadel glowing like giant candied stacks of money, with Notre Dame de la Garde suitably illuminated crowning the cityscape like an elegant gateau. Here at the Old Port the great arc of this graceful space glowing and glittering, with a certain distanced wonder.

But the dialectic of Commerce and Culture, shopping and entertainment on display here are surely not the answer. Of course it is easy to seduce everyone with some spectacle, lit up buildings, fireworks, exploding balloons. But what do the entrails of the fragmented red balloons at Aix really speak of, but of broken promises, the end of a progressive politics, and of a fragile friable culture. Perhaps those tattered remnants of red strewn on the pavement speak of something grander then, than all the fussy orchestrated spectacle dreamed up by committeed bureaucracy.


But without doubt the most memorable exhibit of the weekend opening must be the anteroom of sealed airlocks at Le Musee Regards de Provence, formerly the Port of Marseille’s Sanitary Station. The exhibition not yet fully operational, the four airlocked entrances to the sealed chambers are lined up just as they have been since their construction, shortly after 1945. Behind the meshed barrier these four metal doorways immediately conjure up another memory, a horror which only recently engulfed Europe. Not the plague that Artaud calls on, or the contagious epidemics that the chambers were built to combat, but a visceral vision of gas and sanitary anterooms, that recall the Holocaust. Thankfully this complex quarantine internment system was never made operational as penicillin negated its utility. Now it remains, a forceful reminder of the place Marseille holds for France, and in European history, as a gaping opening onto the sea and air, with its welcoming safety of a natural port juxtaposed with its fortress like defenses and surrounding wall of mountains. Even now this sense of hopeful entrapment pervades the city’s streets, to explode open the city again, and let it breath without some artificial self-imposed cultural apparatus.

counterproductions 13/01/2013


Its beginning this weekend…Marseille 2013 is nearly OFF but with Pavilion ‘M’ or pavilion ‘petit a’?

Marseille the heart of the Capital of Culture appears to have devolved its visual art programme to Aix-en-Provence, handing the old provincial capital the privilege of staging the opening Saturday of ‘contemporary art’: 11 artists in 13 heritage sites making a trail of public art spread across Cezanne’s old hometown. The artists selected include a number of well-known International players, such as Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Yayoi Kusama, and Rachel Feinstein mixed with one or two recently departed colleagues, such as Franz West. The trail is set to officially open at 11 am this Saturday but it should be noted that the route, sites and work are ‘subject to change’, just as the rest of the official programme has been. Alarmingly, for non-french speakers, the English version of the final programme is yet to reappear and the Marseille OFF programme is closed ‘for maintenance’. This is either taking the logic of surprise to its very limits, or an open sign of the strains in the Capital of Culture organism; made up of an ambitiously large programme that takes in hundreds of events and locations outside of Marseille itself. The art trail is optimistically marketed as ‘Art hits the spot’. Depending on your sweet spot, either all these varied events have been carefully stitched together, or just as likely, bundled unceremoniously up to create the years cultural calendar.

MarseilleOFF-offThe opening of the European Capital of Culture programme, this weekend 12/13 January, continues in more familiar festival mode when Marseille erupts in a ‘Great Clamour’ on the Saturday evening, followed on the 13th by a ‘treasure hunt’ and ‘explosion of light and sound on the Banks of the Rhone’ at Arles, courtesy of Group F. This final event of the opening weekend is named the Revelation, so something spectacularly surprising, really would fit the bill. Unfortunately, as with so many of these grand cultural programmes the festive spirit of the European Capital of Culture is already being unpicked, not least by local groups and artistic luminaries aware of all the real, ongoing cultural issues across the City; the crisis of poverty, accelerating gentrification and cultural vandalism. All these social problems are sure to resurface despite the expected invasion of critics and consumers descending on the city to feast on the temporary cultural plenty.

How can visual art and individual artists begin to make their work within this context, so contradictory, and still be expected to make a difference? It may be a thankless task but they will be some notable exceptions and cultural highlights that might even be seen in the near future as defining moments for the artistic culture of the region. But they may not come from the most recognizable sources, or in the ways that the politicians and cultural managers would most desire. For Pavilion M as the cultural vitrine of the city I would read Pavilion ‘petit a’, suggestive of other bodily orifices erupting out of the city’s belly (le Ventre de Cite desires).

Pavilion M

Gilles Rof: Clearly, the political culture is not at a level of a Cultural Capital… 

Dead proud Culture.

Even at 362 pages I search in vain for one mention of Antonin Artaud or indeed Henri Bosco, finding nothing but a Commissioner Evélyne Artaud, Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence as consolation, tucked away in an information caption on page 73. There are thirteen plus entries for Albert Camus but not one for the native born Artaud or Bosco. So much for cultural chauvinism or Provençal pride, and not surprising then, that Artaud came to be reburied, however temporarily, in someone else’s grave. How many other gaping lacuna will erupt from the programmes’ smooth surface? Which local sensibilities have already been crushed by the juggernaut of official culture even before one ribbon has been cut or one champagne bottle uncorked?  Antonin, we have need of you, arise from the dead.

NewsView is a Journal made from articles, writing and commentary on Cultural Capital, Capitals of Culture and European Culture. copy counterproductions

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