L’œil du Cyclone

Dear Reader, some of you might know that I don’t live too far away from Nantes and that I can be found wandering the streets of Nantes with a camera, or sitting in the pub talking with friends. So, nothing new here then.  You might not know that I sometimes publish said photos of Nantes, and even the pub, with friends of course, on Instagram.  I also sometimes go out and participate with other photographers in what is usually a solitary pastime. 

Nantes Grand Angle, a sort of collective of photographers from Nantes, often has events (with local partners) that want to get their event onto the local social networks and get some “viral” publicity.  The game is you go to the event and then talk about it on your social accounts and people might be interested thinking well, he went to see this, why don’t I go along too.  It’s the basics of social marketing. 

Why do I usually see photography as a solitary pastime? Because I get a certain amount of social anxiety.  For most extroverts, those pushy people that are in favour now, the word “mingle” gives them a buzz that they seem to thrive on.  I, as an introvert, find the words “new people”, or even the idea of “meeting new people”, “social”, or “mingle” just fill me with dread.  It’s akin to going on one of those terrifying rides at the fair. It’s scary, thankfully doesn’t last very long, leaves you feeling empty, very awkward, sheepish, and makes you want to run away as soon as possible.  sonds like my sex life on a good day.

So against my better judgement, I confronted my fear, and went on an outing with Nantes Grand Angle.  I could always just stay at the back and be subtle and try to fade into the background.  It also meant that I would visit a new place, Le Lieu Unique, which as its name might suggest, is certainly unique!  The Lieu Unique also contains the Tour Lu (sans T pour le jeu de mot de merde en français, et oui, je suis rendu à ce point là !)  It originally house the LU biscuit factory (des petits beurres de LU, which is another pun for the Happy Birthday song).  Dear Reader, I apologise for the years of therapy that you will need to get over that last paragraph.  It’ll teach you to speak French!

Right, back on track.  The Lieu Unique, which indeed is unique as the name suggests, houses not only an exhibition for introverts to take photos of for social marketing, but a bar, a reading room, a bookshop, and if I’m not mistaken, a hammam, as well as a whopping great tower.  It is a hothouse of culture where you can get fed, drunk, steamed, and get some culture, leading to the acquisition of a little intelligence! Maybe, depending on the order you do each activity.

I was there with my fellow photographers, some of which were annoyingly extrovert, to live the experience of Art from Taiwan in the “Eye of the Cyclone.”  The Lieu Unique boss, had, uniquely, gone to Taiwan in 2018, had been to an exhibition at The National Museum of Fine Arts of Taiwan, and had invited some of the artists to come to Nantes and show their work, purely an artistic venture.  Since 2018, the world has changed not only through COVID, but also because China would like to get its hands on Taiwan for economic reasons and political ones.  Taiwan came to the front in modern terms when the Kuomintang government who lost to Mao’s Communists, fled Mao and fled to the Island of Taiwan, setting up a new independent government, that China still hasn’t gotten over and is still very upset about.

In the early 1960s, Taiwan entered a period of rapid economic growth and industrialisation called the “Taiwan Miracle».  In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the ROC transitioned from a one-party military dictatorship to a multi-party democracy with a semi-presidential system. Taiwan’s export-oriented industrial economy is the 21st-largest in the world by nominal GDP and 19th-largest by PPP measures, focusing on steel, machinery, electronics and chemicals manufacturing. Taiwan is a developed country, ranking 20th in GDP per capita. It is ranked highly in terms of civil liberties, healthcare, and human development.  Again, something that China isn’t overjoyed by.  So as you can imagine, such an exhibition is as much political as artistic.

So now we have set the scene, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.  The expo itself.  I admit not knowing a huge amount about Taiwan, however, since visiting the expo, I have read up to find out more about its history and culture.  It’s Chinese but at the same time properly Taiwanese. I will include official links to the expo and the English documentation at the end of the article.  But what I really wanted to do with this article was to talk about my experience of the exposition and the way the exhibits left their mark on me.

The first exhibit, Exhibit A, or Battle City – Scene, by Chang, Li-Ren, model, just blew me away with the complexity of the modelling and the realism recreated in model form.  The artist came over for the oeuvre installation and I can imagine a rather rotund Asian chap on all fours adding details to his masterwork.  Not based on reality, but the artist just wants to give an impression of what Taiwanese urbanism looks like.   There are cars, housing, and motorbikes, but the whole place is devoid of people.  It’s very eerie, yet totally fascinating and a photographer’s dream.  The whole thing is massive (7600mm x 8100mm x 2600mm), and the attention to detail is fascinating.

Exhibit B, Future Shock, by SU Hui-Yu, video, talks about a dystopian future, unfortunately, a not-too-distant future according to the artist influenced heavily by the American author Alvin Toffler, where people are drowning in information, and unethical technologies.  Maybe it’s happening already?  Definitely though provoking and frightening in equal measure.

Exhibit C, Braindead travelogue, YUAN Goang-Ming.  At first, you have the impression of traditional Chinese brush art, but with non-traditional means, like using markers, but also gold and jade.  From the centre of the painting, shoot out 10 disks of images showing the artist marking his territory in the landscape.

Exhibit D?  I’m going to keep the rest of the exhibition secret, because the idea is that you go and have a look yourselves, especially if you live in Nantes!  Did you really think that I would or could reveal all?  No!  Leave them wanting more!!!  Oh ok, you can have a few more pictures, but that’s your lot.  Go down there and have a look.  It’s free to visit; and you won’t be left unmoved…  You really get a feel of what life is like in the “Eye of the Cyclone.”

Links and all that:
Le Lieu Unique
Nantes Grande Angle
The documentation in English (pdf file 0,99Mo)

I would like to thank Nantes Grande Angle and our guide, Tanguy, not only for his welcome to the uniquely Lieu Unique but also for his great expertise. The poor man even had a look at this blog to see where I would publish my write-up. Brave too, and probably already in therapy. I hope I have done him justice!

Lockdown 2.0

The government has decided that we have all been very naughty and have to go back into Lockdown. That was the end of October.  And we’re waiting until the 1st of December to see how everything will pan out.   The numbers are going up, as is the amount of testing.  I remember once hearing the quote, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics!” I have just been accused to talking utter codswallop and the colleague was saying that if we catch it then it is our fault.  She heard somebody really important speaking on the news last night etc.  And me, as an obese person, would be up a certain brown creek without a paddle etc.  I replied, “Well at least like that would be one problem solved.”  She really got on my nerves.  I hate dealing with these self-righteous people who think they are always right.  I am fully convinced that the treatments of this pandemic is as much medical as political.  I think that governments are fully disarmed and have no real idea about what they are doing, but have to be seen to be doing something so as to quieten the hoipoloi and keep control over them.  I am not an anti-masker even though I hate these bloody masks with a vengeance.  I follow what “they” ask me to do.    I wear them at work.  I wash my hands, and the alcoholic hand gel really shoots me up when I smell it on my hands.  I wear my mask if I’m out.  But I’m buggered if I will wear it at home and wear one in the car.  I have my state authorisation to go to work and help the economy. 

I don’t understand how this government is functioning.  I’m not waiting for somebody to inform me either.  Certain policies seem completely incoherent.  I am allowed to to go to my supermarket to buy food, but not allowed to buy a book while I’m in there.  Before this latest installement, I was allowed to go to the pub.  I gave my name when entering and leave my phone number in of contact with somebody who had COVID .  I would order my drinks at the bar (mask on) and would be able to go to a table, take my mask off and then drink my pint, then put my mask back on, and buy another one.  There was hand gel when you entered the bar.  And people used it, and would obey the rules.  The bar staff had had to position tables to abide by social distancing regulations, and people had to be sat down, and this was enforced with great tact and gentleness.

Man is a social creature.  He needs the contact of others, or at least the social interaction that come with being around others.  Do “they” realise the damage that will be done on society?  Do “they” realise the damage that is being done to our children?  Do “they” they realise how nefarious this climate of fear is on humanity?  Do “they” think they will be re-elected when they seem to be heading for cancelling Christmas? I am not Q Anon.  I am not a conspiracy theorist.  But I do have a problem with the incoherence of all these policies, be it here in France, or in my own country!

STOP PRESS

The vaccines are being tested and will be here in time for Christmas.  It sounds like a sales pitch for turkeys!  Get yours today!  You’ll feel so much better afterwards.  You’ll only feel a little bit of a prick.  Nothing new there then!  It is of course some very good news and gives us a glimpse of hope in these dark times.  We have been told how the Pfeizer vaccine has to be kept really jolly cold, and I’m not talking about a winter chill in the North East of England, or even a Canadian Winter.  It has to be kept so chilled, that it sounds like a hippy in California after having smoked some really good weed back in the day…  And how their share prices have risen faster than a man’s penis after having taken Viagra! 

What else is new in the world?  Apparently there has been an election on the other side of the pond.  Biden and Harris have won, but Trump hasn’t lost yet!  Go figure!  The country has been divided by this humungous buffoon.  And to quote Oliver Hardy, “That’s another fine mess you got us into!”  Some votes have to be counted but others have to left well alone.  I almost feel sorry for Trump.  Hang on, before the accusations fly, I did say “almost!”  Here is a man with his model wife, who seems to be wanting to get out of her marriage of convenience.  Women and proximity to power.  She’s a gold digger, but should have divorced the Donald before he became the President.  For once in his mediocre life, he has realised that despite the 70 million voters who liked him, an awful lot more thought slightly less of him than he did of himself.  That must have been gutting for him.  And now he has his eviction notice from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  For once, he’s the one being evicted from a property.  He has failed.  Which in Trumpism is the worst thing that can happen.  Now he’s behaving like a little hateful boy who doesn’t want to leave the park, throwing a wobbler, but is being manhandled by the nanny to get the little merde out and away. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Biden and Harris are great people either.  One is a lawyer and the other a career politician who has finally landed the dream job before having to retire.  There is so much hope pinned on this guy, and I fear that although he will be able to repair some of the damage done by Trump, he will not be able to do as much as his voters thought he would do.  The man, like me, is a moderate.  That has become almost a dirty word in modern politics, where everything has to be polarized.  One is not allowed to say that despite Black lives mattering, in fact all lives matter.  Even blue ones.  There is no place for nuance.  There is no place for subtlety. I see the infamous AOC, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the poster girl for the more extreme left wing in Democrat circles, saying that now Biden is President Elect, the gloves are back off, and that he’d better support her politics.  I find this whole situation very disheartening.  Yes, I believe that universal health care is a right, and that in the US, it’s a shambles (understatement of the year material I think), and the new Green Deal is a pretty good idea and will help reduce the consequences of Trumps mismanagement of the environment, and that the US has a unique position in the world despite Russian and China. But that doesn’t give you a free pass.  Extremism is never good, be it left or right.

Wow, that got slightly political all of a sudden!  How did that happen?  Back to photography.  I had started to go out on Fridays and take photos in some of the Chateaux of the Loire, and other places like Fontevraud, but with lockdown that ain’t happening no more.  It’s deader than flared trousers and hang glider collars, deader than the hope of me getting laid, deader than the hope of a family Christmas with friends and mas etc. (thank you, you little President).  Which is a shame, because I thought it was a really good idea.  I would have been able to visit castles, take photos, maybe even taste some of the local wine production etc.  I could have waxed lyrical about history, take a few digs at the French.  Easy to do and so satisfying, so very much like the French then!  As I have said before, it’s not a good day if you can’t take a dig at the French, or make a small child cry.  Insert evil laugh here.  I’m just going to mention a guy that I have mentioned before.  Paul Taylor.  The guy who left Apple to go on the road as a comedian, and has as great YouTube channel.  That takes balls.  Not only that, but a comedian in France, which takes even more balls.  This man’s balls are obviously huge, and he can obviously outman even the most manly of manly men who have just been doing some very manly things, like being mean about the French and making small children cry.

Life will get back to normal one day.  One day.  Until then, keep your pecker up.  Chin up, chest out, and thumbs in line with the seams of your trousers.