For A Cup Of Water
Tonight (10/14) is our last night in Paris (for this phase of the project). AM is off to take some more photos of her last wall (pics coming in a few hours) and I’m at the flat going through footage and uploading photos like mad.
This morning we woke up early — only to discover the water was cut for the entire building (construction #fail). So here I sit, fiddling with Lightroom, waiting for the water to come back so I can wash about a million dishes, pack, and do my share of tidying up. Exciting, right?
I hope that I can make it in time for JAYONE’s show tonight at La Place Forte. If I can’t, AM will be there and I’ll post the photos she takes after we return to NYC.
I’m kind of a prisoner to this water situation so I’ll be adding new posts while I wait for our friend Salome to come by.
DCAP’s Birthday = Crazy Bones + Short Post 4 U
Today AM and I ran around the catacombs, where I shot some shenanigans. Did you know there’s a ton of graffiti down there amidst all those bones?
Daniela chills with skulls in AM’s night vision mode
AM plays it cool near the bones
It’s my birthday today so besides our underground shoot we mostly just explored Paris and relaxed. Back to work tomorrow! AM is finishing her first rooftop wall:
It’s inspired by Cleopatra. I had to face my fear of death by falling off a roof to shoot this, so I can’t wait to share a timelapse-steez video of this production.
AM recently posted an update on her personal blog, where you can see photos she took of her own first 3 prints.
On our way home tonight, this dude threw up all over the metro. It was sick. Ridiculous quarts of upchuck. I wish my battery still had life in it otherwise I would have put him as the image for this post.
What’s in the pipeline for future updates:
* first wheatpaste mission recap video with photos
* first rooftop mission recap video with photos
* response video answering graffiti/law questions
RStyle: Adventures In The 19th Arrondissement
On Thursday (9/23), AM and I met our new friend Jay “0ne” Ramier at the Jaures stop in the 19th arrondissement. A few nights before at a dinner party, I asked Jay if he knew of any spaces where AM could work with the local youth. He offered to introduce us to some potential connects who might be able to provide a space for her.
AM and Jay in front of RStyle
RStyle is an event space and production company. They produce a film festival and archive films about “urban arts” such as graffiti and breakin’.
Alice inside the RStyle offices
Anyone can drop by and watch these films.
They also provide classes in Break dancing, Graffiti art, DJing, Film making, and more.
Francois and Daniela at RStyle (photo by AM)
Photo of actor Jamel Debbouze at an RStyle fundraiser event
Photo of rapper Diam’s (earrings) at an RStyle fundraiser event
After that, Jay took us to a nearby park that had some amazing walls. Alice was inspired!
Upon returning to RStyle, we met Francois’ employee Idriss, who took Alice into the studio downstairs and did a photoshoot with her (those pics are coming soon!).
Daniela and Idriss view his rough edit
Idriss told me he’s been shooting for about a year. He’s a young, talented dude.
Sidy came by after that and was our companion for most of the day, showing us the neighborhood he grew up in after moving to Paris from Senegal with his family.
Sidy’s mother and Sidy
He took us to five community centers in the 19th arrondissement, where he helped AM ask questions about potentially leading a printmaking workshop for the local youth.
I was impressed with Sidy’s work ethic and ease with English. He runs three of his own businesses and told us that he taught himself to speak English by watching American movies and listening to music. He’s a sharp guy with a lot of charisma and seemed to know everyone we passed on the street.
Sidy also shared that this year is the 150th anniversary of the 19th arrondissement, which used to be mostly an industrial area and is now a diverse working class district. However, there were signs of gentrification. Similar to Bushwick in Brooklyn, some blocks were primarily occupied by immigrants of color, while others were a mix of white (seemingly) students and young professionals. The area is definitely changing, with new buildings springing up everywhere. Sidy seemed to take it all in stride.
I doubt we would have had such a positive experience in the 19th arrondissement without Sidy. He truly made our day informative and inspiring.
One thing I noticed was how amazing these many youth centers were. Most were large, had spacious, modern interiors and offered all kinds of free services.
Art room in one of the community centers
Dance studio in one of the youth centers
On some blocks it was clear that there were very poor families as well as a drug problem in the community (Alice saw someone openly hitting a crack pipe), but these centers were like beacons of support in the midst of it all. They had soccer fields, gyms, music rooms filled with instruments, and supervised activities throughout the day.
Some great boys we met while visiting a center (photo by AM)
I wish that there was even just one center like the one I saw in Paris in my area of the South Bronx. There are some community resources (mostly operated by churches), but these city funded centers in Paris were amazing.
Hopefully AM will receive confirmation from one of the centers next week so that she can teach her class before we leave Paris. I can’t wait to shoot that!
Back at RStyle, we chilled with Jay while he experimented on the turntables…
and I flipped through an amazing book called La Chute.
The photographer shot all these young people breakin’ and they look like they are floating in different positions. These images are striking and beautiful.
Another dope discovery on Thursday: AM is interested in doing another residency in Paris! She is speaking with folks at the 104 Museum and is going to apply.
Garcialya at 104 (photo by AM)
Awesome sign at 104 (photo by AM)
Yup, Thursday was an epic day.
Last night (Friday 9/24), AM and I went to an art opening, where I was able to ask a few people questions about graffiti and local laws. I’ll have some clips up soon.
Today (Saturday 9/25) Alice is going to a graff shop to get supplies and another art opening. I am going to stay at the flat and get some work done. Later tonight we’re both going to a club where Reach is spinning. Last night he took us to a house party and a laser filled club so who knows what we’ll see after midnight…
Artist Residency & Print 1: Maat
What is an artist residency? I may be part of AM’s, but that doesn’t mean I completely knew how an Artist-in-residence program worked before I arrived.
From what I understand (and Alice can fill us in later), an artist residency/Artist-in-residence program is when an institution or artist organization invites an artist to stay at their location and provides housing and other support. The point is to provide a space where the artist can create art in a different environment, influenced by those surroundings. It is the gift of focus, a time to experiment and challenge yourself.
Alice’s situation is different, in that she created her own residency. We wrote a proposal together and her patrons funded her trip. However, she was in charge of finding housing and is managing her whole experience out here, from getting food to making connections.
It’s interesting to see how a DIY residency works. It feels good to know that we didn’t need permission from anyone to do this, we just created it. Today (9/21) Alice worked on her first of 7 prints, and I shot this as well as the amazing breakfast she made.
While I dealt with drive issues, AM went grocery shopping and brought back provisions. This fruit is so tasty, because it’s locally grown and not pumped with chemicals.
AM likes to cook, lucky for me. I take pictures and do the dishes.
After our meal, AM got to work. She’s been making sure we eat, despite all the distractions.
AM’s first of 7 prints is of Maat, sitting on a cloud (it started out with her sitting on luggage). She drew it first on paper, then on this slab of rubbery material and then carved out a print from it with metal and wood tools.
AM’s Maat Sketch on paper
AM’s Maat drawing on rubber, ready for first pass at carving for a print
She regulated the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. I wish we had that kind of power when we were going through all our apartment drama. :D
A lot of Alice’s methodology is new to me. I don’t create art the way that she does. I am super curious about her process.
One of AM’s inspirational materials in her studio
Today she worked outside in the garden, even though it was such a big deal for us to find a space with a studio. She felt better working outside, so she did. It was a beautiful day, to be sure.
In my own way, I am also doing an artist residency. I also had to find ways to fund this trip, my housing, and create my own connections (with the help of friends).
… My residency is to document Alice’s experience, share our story online and in the upcoming doc. It’s an experiment in storytelling for me, managing my own time and pushing myself to shoot and create in a new environment.
I shot a time lapse of Alice drawing her print and then creating her proof in the studio later in the evening. I also shot us doing yoga today, which is probably going to look embarrassing to me when I watch it, since I sucked at all the poses. I’ll get better though…
It’s definitely a luxury to be out here. I think about my friends who are struggling to find work, to pay their bills — let alone work out a way to travel for a month.
Earlier this year, I sponsored two artists in their travel related projects. I did this without being rich, without any guarantees on completed works or credit. Why don’t other people who claim to love art not support the arts in tangible ways?
Why aren’t there more patrons and how can people not already plugged into a lot of privilege gain access to that support?
I don’t have useful answers for that (yet) but I do take each moment here as a gift and am pushing myself to do everything I can while I am out here.
AM made her wheatpaste tonight. I can’t wait to see her use it tomorrow, I’ve never actually seen someone wheatpaste anything to a wall before, let alone in the middle of the day in Paris.
Eiffel Tower Of My Dreams
Since I was a little girl, in my mind the Eiffel Tower has meant glamorous movie scenes, travel, and freedom. 3 years ago I visited Paris for the first time and when I finally made it to the historic landmark, it was closed for repairs.
Daniela looking sad in 2007
I vowed I would be back again, and last night (9/20) I finally returned.
Today our mission is to find a new place to live. For the past three days, Paris has been a whirlwind of beauty, new friends, but also DRAMA. We’ve had problems with the apartment, down to the most basic necessities like electricity (spotty) and hot water (none).
Our first apartment building
We spent our first night in Paris trying to find an internet cafe (our phones weren’t working) to call the owners and to figure out a new plan of action.
We left the cybercafe after 1 AM after hours of frustrating negotiating, and realized the metro no longer runs at that hour. Not being able to speak French means a scrambling for words with strangers, but most have been helpful. We were exhausted and trying to find our way “home” and unsure of how to get back, so I approached a man in a cafe and he ended up giving us 5 euros for a cab. Bless ‘em. Even though he was a perv who tried to make out with me in the street, Bless ‘em. I kept the euros.
So since 9/16, ys, it’s been drama. We used Roomarama to find this place, and thought we had received a great deal. The site is cool but this situation is most definitely NOT. The apartment is TINY (even by New York standards) and for an entire day we had no electricity. We still don’t have hot water.
Alice has been mostly dealing with the owners by phone, I tried to one time and the man was completely rude, so I told him that we weren’t going to solve anything this way, and through his yelling I said I was going to go now and hung up on him. It was liking talking to a wall made of assholes. I hung up because it was better than me cursing him out.
Since they call constantly but don’t really help resolve anything, Alice has been unable to work on her series.
Last night (9/17), the owners went as far as to accuse us that problems were caused by us and said we were “a danger to the apartment,” it all came to a head and we all decided the best thing was for us to leave… TODAY.
Last night AM and I packed all our things again, frustrated that this back and forth had left us somewhat behind in our mutual projects, but confident that we would not let this keep us down for long.
We are going to see a new place today in the 20th arrondissement, which is much closer to the people and things we want to experience anyway. We were misled to think that we would be in the 5th arrondissement (Latin Quarter), when we are really in the 13th. Our new friends we met the other night told us that the “good” places to live (for artist networking, parties, etc.) were the 2, 10, 11, and 20th arrondissements.
The worst part? I (Daniela) am on my period. Gross, gross. I know. But I’m going to write everything here. Not having access to hot water during your cycle sucks ass. I’ve been taking “bird baths” and it helps but I still feel disgusting. I’ve been heating up hot water in the kitchen and today Alice finally caved and used my method. The water here feels especially cold, like it shot out of some mountain in crystal shards. I’m sure the jetlag and exhaustion just makes it feel that extreme.
I’ve managed to shoot & log footage from 9/15 and 9/16 despite these obstacles, but I’m still a day behind on logging and will feel a lot better after I know where we are going to live for the rest of the month.
Yesterday AM and I did some grocery shopping, so I was able to practice using these words:
Oeufs - eggs
Poulet - chicken
Patisserie - pastery
Boulangerie - bread
We bought this amazing bread for 1 euro and two croissants for under a dollar each. They were fresh and helped me to forget that my ass probably stinks and we still don’t know if this new place is going to be available for us.
Even though it sucks to not feel settled, I feel blessed to even be here. But… (because I’m dramatic) last night I dreamed that my front tooth fell out and blood was dripping into my mouth. I looked down at my hands and they were skeletons with the meat falling off, and then I woke up and saw a giant yellow robot speaking metallic french, and I called out to him and then I really woke up. I forgot that I was in Paris and looked around for Boo, disoriented.
Then I realized where I was and the buzzing around my ears started to go away.
I’ll post photos as soon as I can get to my card reader.
The Beginning: AM & DCAP Go To Paris
Testing, testing. 1 2 3. I’ve had way too much Parisian coffee and now it’s coursing through my body like rocket fuel. It’s 5:34 AM and I am sitting at a tiny desk in a stranger’s kitchen in the 13th arrondissement, writing this first post. I’ve been logging footage from our first day in Paris, geeked over my new Canon 7D plugin for Final Cut Pro.
AM and I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport on September 15, 2010, 4 months after deciding over dinner at a french restaurant in the LES that YES: we were going to spend a month in Paris, and YES: we were going to create our own artist residency. On our own terms. By any means necessary. And I was going to use this opportunity to kickstart my documentary on female graffiti artists around the world and their activism.
How did it all start?
Alice (center) at the 2008 YOUNITY event
Well, I met Alice two years ago while doing random research on local art events. Shana Louallen was managing PR for YOUNITY that year and invited me to cover their event in Greenpoint for MTV News. My work passed on covering, but I went anyway and met Alice and her crew.
After that we met up at Black Betty in Williamsburg, where Alice and I had a great conversation about pursuing our goals and I gave her a book about child soldiers. Jean Grae was the DJ that night and it was good times. Alice seemed cool but I didn’t really talk to her again for two years. I don’t know why! Sometimes life just flies by and the next thing you know you’ve somehow managed to not hang out with folks for way too long. It happens.
So back in June, I had this epiphany that I should buy art to support local artists. I didn’t have a lot but I wanted to use $300 from my savings to get some inspiring pieces for my apartment. “Freedom” and “Travel” were the themes in my head. I remembered that I had seen Alice’s website before and decided to contact her. After some mutual email and phone tag, I finally went to her studio and she helped me pick out some great pieces that were within my budget.
After that, Alice and I hung out a few times and it was clear that we had a lot in common. We both love to work, are very driven and can obsess over ideas until we make them a reality. It was so refreshing to meet someone so down and on top of her game at the same time. We were at this french bistro in the LES and in the middle of drinking lots of wine and laughing with the owner, Alice swung around and announced that we should go to Paris for a month. Before I could hesitate, I replied that YES, I was down. And it was settled. We were going.
Of course, life is not so simple. Travel is expensive, buying equipment is just as expensive, scheduling can be a challenge — but somehow we made it all work out. I didn’t give myself the option to fail.
After the experience of preparing for this trip, I’ve realized that more than half the battle of any of your dreams is in your head. If you can’t believe in something, it’s probably never going to happen. I managed to work multiple gigs (including my full time job with MTV Tr3s) and saved up all I could. I wrote a note for the fridge that said “I WILL RAISE 10,000 FOR MY PARIS TRIP” and I came very close to that goal. That sounds insane, but it’s true. I raised/earned almost 10k in 4 months.
All of a sudden (or so it seemed), I was in the possession of tickets to Paris and a brand new Canon 7D, lots of related sound and lighting equipment, a gently used macbook pro, editing drives and the realization that I can do whatever I put my mind to. Simple as that.
I see this experience with Alice in Paris as my training ground. I need to learn to be more patient and let things unfold in front of the camera — less self editing, more being in the moment and not assuming I know what each shot is going to be before it happens. I’ll take what I learn here and apply it as I travel to other countries (and more US states) and shoot other cool female writers and their allies.
My future posts will probably be a mix of notes explaining my workflow out here (this is my first time shooting with the 7D and my first time shooting overseas), photoblogging, some footage that I want to share and random observations.
I need to give lots of love and more Thank Yous to people who contributed financially to my project so far: my mother and my best friend Rose. The amounts they gave helped me to buy a laptop and much needed portable drives. My friend Ignacio Guzman (a fab producer/director/editor) hooked me up with FCP 7 and helped me troubleshoot my Canon 7D plugin when it wouldn’t work properly.
Thanks to Jonathan Goldner, my former boss at MTV News, I earned more bill funds by working the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards — right before leaving for my trip. Perfect timing!
A BIG thank you to Bashira Webb, for being patient with me and reminding me to relax, not self edit and to stop worrying so much.
I spent so many years thinking I didn’t have permission to ask anyone for help and that I needed to prove I could do everything on my own. What a terrible decision that was. I now make it my goal to open up space in my head and in life for people to be able to help me if they want to. I help others as much as I can and tell the voice in my head that says I am selfish to shut the fuck up.
That voice is so annoying and if you have that voice too, and it keeps you from asking people for help or puts you down, just ignore it.
I hope that anyone who reads this Tumblr will be inspired to follow their dreams and share their experience with others.