the soap opera of the boulevard Magenta Paris 2oo6

Invited by the ‘Département de l'art dans la ville’, 12 artists were asked to “celebrate” the transformation of this major thoroughfare into “civilized spaces”: fewer cars, bicycle tracks, and bus lanes. The exercise was a delicate one for everybody: for the city, target of criticism on account of its controversial urban development; for Malte Martin, who did not want to scale his intervention down to a celebratory form. But where was a space of interrogation to be created on this boulevard, which cuts the neighbourhood in two? His eye strayed to an anomic, lawless place, near the ‘Gare de l’Est’, serving up a popular soup in the evening. For three months there he set up the equivalent of an enormous Morris column with 12 flat sides. Each week they presented a series of poster words in Dadaist mode. Three of them were renewed, juxtaposing texts of thinkers of the city, summonses signed by Malte Martin, and texts dictated by the populace itself, in reaction to the works and to the system. So part of the poster program was pre-produced, the other part being a pledge of artistic freedom, making room for public debate (on development, on the organization of transports on boulevard Magenta, and on the social life of the neighbourhood). The students acting as go-betweens for the project were too cautious, and would soon be ousted by homeless people and people in exile living in the square, who themselves commented on and collected the reactions of passers-by. For Malte Martin, “everything became meaningful from that particular moment on… The artist can be the conveyor of the outburst of the word in the city, to provoke cracks in the dominant order which treats those dominated like beings incapable of thinking and speaking.”

théâtre olympia — nouvelle saison