30th December 2015, I am walking across Plaça de Roviras i Trias, the warming bright sunlight beaming between brown-leaved tree branches, the beginning of my journey to Paris. But suddenly, I am gripped with the feeling that I do not want to progress any further towards my destination, & yearn to halt, turn, take a seat at a table outside the nearest bar, & slowly sup a beer, anonymous & cupped in the cozy atmosphere of my dear Gràcia. It was not to be. I suppressed the incisive emotion with one churn of the gut & pressed on towards my goal: Paris & the dance of strangers.
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Yes, I know it's crazy travelling by bus for over a thousand kilometres to work for 6 hours, for free, for people one barely or doesn't even know. But when we feel passion, often we find craziness is the only medium of behaviour suited to coping with the rigours of such an inspired adventure. The passion in this case was simply to engage in my art; in this instance, photographing people in movement, (whilst simultaneously engaged in the adventure of the journey, not forgetting that the living is the art too).
Having made my way thoughtfully across Barcelona to Estació del Nord, the bus terminal, I took a seat on a concrete bench by bay 27, the departure point of Megabus, international human transportation giants of the 21st century. There were already many people awaiting to board at 30 minutes before departure time, which came & went uneventfully. And upon arrival of our bus, we loosely jiggled for the front of the queue to stow our baggage & board in efforts to secure favourite seating positions. I settled for a central window seat near to the toilet, & fortunately several rows away from the man who would barely stop talkng for the next 15 hours. Ah, the benefits of not understanding a single word coming out of someones mouth...
I will state now that this blog post is so far singular amongst mine in that the story has nothing directly to do with the images accompanying it. I took no pictures between Barcelona & Paris, & none outside the studio performance event whilst in Paris. So please enjoy the images as an abstract commentary to the unravelling persiflage I pour forth leisurely into the post.
A while ago I had the pleasure of photographing (at the behest of Orland Verdú) the butoh dancer Gyohei Zaitsu perform in Barcelona, & shortly afterwards also the participants of a butoh workshop he held during the same visit. We kept in contact by email after Gyohei's return to Paris, his then current residence, & it was by his invite that I made my way to Studio Albatros near Vincennes, Paris for a new years eve event; 6 hours of staged improvised & experiemental dance & movement, accompanied by similar musicianship.
The journey by bus from Barcelona to Paris (& ultimately to London) stops at Toulouse, Brive & Limoges before its arrival at Quai de Bercy. The bus carries two drivers who are required to stop for breaks along the journey, & share driving duties. The driver of our bus was Andy from the midlands of England (who, curiously, would also drive the bus for my journey back from Toulouse to Barcelona 9 days later), who spoke through the intercom system as though everyone would understand his every detail of British vernacular; most amusing for me, as I translated the phrase "sit tight" for the Colombian chap in the seat next to me.
The journey from station to station took approximately 15 hours, & we arrived in a dreary, wet Paris at about 07'10, where irritated cars buzzed hastily about in the cold darkness. It had recently been raining, I could tell, as I set out into the cool black morning with the memory of a map in my head, guiding me to the apartment that would be my shelter for the next 28 hours. I arrived at the flat following the instructions instilled in me by the organiser & was let in & greeted by Antoine, a painter & dancer who was about to exchange places with me, leaving for his hometown, somewhere west & north of Paris. We talked for a couple of hours about art, over a light breakfast, which rejuvinated my mind somewhat, though my body was fatigued. By 11am Antoine had left & I decided to take to the couch for a deep snooze under the warming rays of sunlight that had pushed through the cloud bank & magnified through the window into the room, just for me.
I awoke mid afternoon, with enough time to eat & pack my equipment for the nights shoot. I still felt rather haggard after my journey, but was determined to remain focussed on the task ahead. I washed & left, carrying the memory of another map in my head for the walk to Vincennes & Albatros Studio, the weather grey & cold. Ahhh, Barcelona.....
The walk awakened my senses somewhat, as I took in a rather drab suburb of Paris, with people adhereing to their new years eve arrangements, arriving here & leaving there. I got lost a couple of times, but found the destination for my nights work in good time. The venue was a converted warehouse studio space, typical urban low rent artist work space, the walls graffitied, the place relaxed. I entered, mingled with some of the early guests, swept the floor like the true escombriaire I am, & proceeded to photographically record the nights performances, some of which you are viewing in this post. All but one were & yet remain strangers...
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