Loved and hated, hated and loved. Certainly the citizens of no other European nation have quite as ambivalent a relationship to their capital as the French. Everything comes from Paris; all roads lead there. The city is the indisputable centre of gravity for the country – omnipotent and omnipresent. It is the locus of all power – political, economic, cultural. Very few people can escape its braggart charm.
But Paris is also a place where the last metro runs shortly after midnight. Those who live on the outskirts of the city, the outskirts of society, like so many immigrants from former colonies, need to find a place to stay. Some patriots don’t see immigration as cultural enrichment, but rather as a burden. Yet at the same time, a multi-cultural society has developed that stands in sharp contrast to the old, established bourgeoisie of the 16th arrondissement. The attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices on January 7, 2015, was a shock and a wake-up call.
The design scene is also split. There are designers of and for culture. And there are advertisers. Never both! What unites the two camps is the expert way they deal with the open wounds and contradictions of a rapidly-changing society – wit and humour as tools of subversion.
In 1925, during the great international exposition of decorative arts, the French answer to the very German Bauhaus movement was art deco. The superfluous became a necessity “Le superflu, chose très nécessaire”. And today? What is the position of artists, designers, photographers, illustrators …?