Arts et Métiers with Andy


, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Sunday afternoon Andy and I headed back from Belleville around 6 pm to get ready for an apéro at Rick and Cheryl’s place. Two of Rick’s nieces were staying with them so we thought it would be fun to get them together with Andy. Rick and Cheryl also invited their friend Carl and his nephew Alex, so we ended up with four aunts and uncles and four nieces and nephews. (I thought I was so original but it seems that quite few uncles invite their nieces and nephews to visit them in Paris!)

Neices, nephews, uncles and an aunt at Rick & Cheryl’s apéro

It turned out that one of the girls was best friends with one of Andy’s former roommates, who gave him a good review. After snacks and several bottles of champagne the young-uns went out on the town while Rick and Cheryl and I had a nightcap at Blanco.

There was talk of another 20-something outing for Monday night, after Andy’s and my second day in Belleville, but thunderstorms were predicted so everyone stayed in.

On Tuesday Andy and I walked over to the Musée des Arts et Métiers. He loved it as much as I expected. I’ve taken so many pictures in prior years that I only added a few to my extensive [Musée des Arts et Métiers Photo Set]. The museum is hard to describe but here’s a try: It’s an historical museum of engineering, design and science; basically the attic where every French gadget that’s too cool to throw away ends up.

Loved this diving suit! It never worked but has nevertheless become something of a steampunk icon.

Diving suit by Alphonse and Théodore Carmagnolle, 1882

Hood ornament, Coupé de maître, Hispano-Suiza, 1935

We had lunch at the nearby l’Absinthe Café so we could easily return to finish the museum. It used to be a classic neighborhood restaurant, recommended by my friend Elliot, who formerly lived in the area. I have seen it change over the years, adding burgers a few years ago and this year doubling or tripling the price of a carafe of wine. It’s still ok but I miss the old days!

Lunch at l’Absinthe Café

For dinner we walked over to Bouillon Chartier, an old favorite that has retained its classic character, despite being a tourist attraction.

Bouillon Chartier. The cubbyholes at the right were for the napkins of the workmen who frequented the restaurant back in the day.

At Bouillon Chartier you are seated with other patrons. This couple met when they were both 20; the American guy was a serviceman stationed in France, the woman was a local girl, and the rest is history. We had a lovely conversation with them.

With new friends at Bouillon Chartier.

When I mentioned that Andy had never eaten a snail the woman offered him one of hers. To my surprise, he accepted!

Andy preparing to eat his first snail!

The moment of truth!


We were still thirsty after dinner so we stopped off at Hoppy for what turned into a couple of beers.

Beer at Hoppy on rue des Petits Carreaux

That only made us thirstier so we finished the evening at another old favorite, Experimental Cocktail Club.

A couple of after-beer cocktails at Experimental Cocktail Club

Mot du jour: Scaphandre rigide: Diving suit. You can never be sure when this may come in handy!

Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Sunday and again on Monday Andy and I spent most of the day wandering around Belleville, visiting art studios and galleries during the four-day Belleville Open Studios, which takes place each year around the end of May. I had enjoyed this event in 2011 and 2015, though I had never engaged with it as deeply as we did this year.

On Sunday after brunch we walked over to Belleville, getting a map at the first studio we noticed (by its balloons), then wending our way up to the Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville (AAB) gallery at 1 rue Picabia (M° Couronnes). At the main gallery we looked at samples by each artist and circled the studios we wanted to visit. We had to do this to organize our walk since over one hundred locations are listed, several showing work by half a dozen artists! But we also looked in on all the studios along our route, whether circled or not; we realized that we enjoyed the ones we hadn’t circled about as much as the ones we had, but it was still worth using the selected studios to organize our path.

It’s hard to pick favorites among so many interesting artists, but here are a few that one or both of us really liked:

I liked several witty and/or trenchant sculptures by João Ferreira, in a group show in the Crypte de l’Eglise Notre Dame de la Croix, which was also outstanding in 2015.

One of several sculptures by João Ferreira

I really liked the realistic Paris paintings of Jean-Christophe Adenis. So much that I would have purchased his painting from the main gallery for 45 euros if it hadn’t already sold. But when we caught up with him in person he asked 200 euros for other works of the same size. Not unreasonable, but I wasn’t quite prepared to spend that much (even though I did the next day for a cute three-dimensional work from another artist).

Small paintings by Jean-Christophe Adenis

Andy and I both liked the studio of Sophie Herszkowicz. I may actually go back and buy one of her smaller paintings.

Paintings by Sophie Herszkowicz of her studio

Our favorite, however, was the show of kinetic artwork by Laurent Debraux at Galerie Eko Sato. This still picture gives only an idea of the variety:

Kinetic sculptures by Laurent Debraux at Galerie Eko Sato

This video gives you a somewhat better idea of this highly recommended exhibition:

Here’s the link to my full photo set, starting with some vivid Belleville street art we saw along the way, and including additional works by most of the artists mentioned:

We ended up getting to nearly all of the circled galleries before running out of time and energy.  The project was a very satisfying way to start Andy’s visit. Not only did we see a lot of fascinating art (diluted but not obscured by the inevitable mediocre stuff), but we explored a lively and non-touristy quartier populaire, got to see the insides of many artist studios and apartments, and met some nice and interesting people. It may in fact be the most-non-touristy beginning to any of my guest visits!

Update: Here’s a photo set that includes more Belleville Art: Art of Belleville, Paris

Mot du jour: quartier populaire. Lisa explained earlier in my stay that this means a neighborhood of down to earth folks, i.e. workers, artists, unemployed people and other not-rich citizens. Like Belleville!

Andy and Uncle Bob in Paris


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ten years ago, in 2008, I took my nephew Andy, then 15 years old, on an eleven-day trip to Paris (and Chartres). He had been studying French for several years, so when I offered to take him pretty much anywhere he chose France. I had been here many times as a tourist, but this was my longest visit, and the experience — even though we stayed in hotels — started me thinking about the idea of an even longer petit séjour. It was thus a particular treat to host him for almost a week this year.

Andy and Uncle Bob (2008)

Andy and Uncle Bob (2018)

Andy arrived on Saturday evening after a 3-1/2 hour drive to LA, and two flights, so we just had a quick Breton meal at a favorite neighborhood place, Les Délices de la Lune.

The next two days we had a great time visiting art studios and galleries in the Belleville neighborhood, which had its annual open studios event that weekend. I’ll post separately about that, but on Sunday we first met up with Zhizhong for brunch along the Canal Saint-Martin. We had a delicious meal at Les Enfants Perdus, which Alexis had introduced me to several years back.

Andy and Bob at brunch with Zhizhong at Les Enfants Perdus

Brunch with Zhizhong at Les Enfants Perdus

There was a funny moment when the waitress whisked our menus away after we chose drinks and breads from the top section. We were still trying to decide among the several tempting main courses and desserts, but it turned out that you get all of them!

The main courses of our brunch at Les Enfants Perdus

Monday evening, after all our walking, Andy and I had a simple Italian dinner at Il Tre, on rue Montorgueil.

Andy’s first Italian beer

A simple well-prepared Italian dinner at Il Tre on rue Montorgueil

Flashing Invaders


, , , , , , , ,

In 2016 Omar introduced me to the street art of Invader, and to the FlashInvaders app that lets you track (and confirm) your finds. Last year I found four of the 138 Space Invaders in Tokyo, and this year I have continued to spot more of the 1,285 in Paris.

While I’m now up to 42 Paris Space Invaders I still have a long way to go!


The iconic form is the original pixellated space invader icon

Mario has a nice resonance with the colors of the Pompidou Center.

Most are small and relatively easy to miss.

I was proud to notice this tiny guy…

… until he turned out to be a copycat, Mr Djoul.

Update: While I remain loyal to Invader I have to admit that Mr Djoul’s street art can be rather appealing, and sometimes makes a witty commentary on an adjacent Space Invader. He often uses the alien shown above, frequently puts his squares on the diagonal (unlike Invader), and always signs his work. He’s a copycat, but a classy one.

After I mentioned my Invader hunt to Brian and Sheila they proved to be alert Invader spotters. In their last few days in Paris they send me snaps of half a dozen sitings, most of which I’ve since been able to confirm.

Space Invaders is just a game for me, but Invader has become a serious player in the art world.

Those are Invader prints behind this Vetements model

Update: Here’s a photo set that includes a few relevant images: Paris Street Art: Invaders, Etc.

Pâtes Vivantes and Le Petit Palais


, , , , , , ,

Last week I finished my Strasbourg posts on Tuesday, then on Wednesday, after doing some wandering, I had dinner with Jason, who I had met at the Ivy League event the previous week. We ate at Les Pâtes Vivantes on rue de Turbigo. I had walked past the restaurant many times but never thought of going in, perhaps because the idea of “living noodles” weirded me out a bit. Actually, the name reflects the fact that they make their noodles by hand. The food was quite good even though the service left a bit to be desired.

Dinner with Jason at Les Pâtes Vivantes.

On Wednesday I visited the Petit Palace, approaching via the most beautiful bridge in Paris (quite possibly the world), the Pont Alexandre III.

Pont Alexandre III and le Petit Palais

Pont Alexandre III (detail)

Love locks rashly entrusted to the hand of a callow youth on Pont Alexandre III

The Petit Palais is little only in comparison to the Grand Palais, which is even grander.

The grounds of le Petit Palais

The entrance hall of the Petit Palais.

The art works in the Petit Palais are in general less fabulous than those in the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay, or various other Paris art galleries. Most are 19th and early 20th century realist paintings, which were left in the dust by impressionism, not to mention the even more radical artistic movements of the 20th century. I nevertheless found the collection interesting, and it was certainly value for money, since there’s no admission charge.

This painting of a homeless family is unfortunately as timely now as it was 135 years ago.

Ferdinand Pelez, sans asile, 1883

I’m always fond of Bonnard, and this little painting is no exception.

Pierre Bonnard, Jeunes filles à la mouette (seagull), 1917

I’m also fond of cuddling, which is nicely evoked by this Rodin sculpture.

Auguste Rodin, Amour et Psyché, 1885 (detail)

My crossword puzzle friends will be as thrilled as I was to see a real-life etui!

The Petit Palais also has a lovely garden with a café

Dining in Strasbourg with Zhizhong


, , , , , , , , , ,

Yes, it’s time for food porn from Strasbourg!

On Saturday our lunch was at L’Ami Schutz, a “restaurant-bierstub” along a canal near the Barrage Vauban. It served traditional Alsatian food, but I was able to get a meal of fish, noodles and veggies that was tasty and not too heavy.

Zhizhong and Bob at our first lunch, at L’Ami Schutz

My fish and noodles, at L’Ami Schutz

Our shared frozen Kougelhopf, at L’Ami Schutz

That evening, our foray off Grande-Île into the university neighborhood of Krutenau eventually led us to an excellent gastronomic restaurant, Les Canailles. I assumed that the name was a reference to canals, but it turned out to mean something unrelated.

Menu at Les Canailles in Krutenau

Tender octopus appetizer at Les Canailles

Delicious fish dish at Les Canailles

On Sunday we headed back to Krutenau, intending to have lunch at a Syrian-Lebanese restaurant that had caught our eye. That place was closed, however, as were many others, so we settled for a modest local restaurant/bar, that nevertheless served up some quite reasonable meals.

Pleasant enough lunch on the terrasse of a local Krutenau place

Sunday evening Zhizhong fond a place on Google maps near our hotel that looked good: La Hache. It was open, and had great energy, but was booked solid. By that time it was getting late so we ended up at a fish place near the city center, L’Alsace à Table. It had a slightly odd vibe but the meal was just fine.

Oyster appetizer at L’Alsace a Table fish restaurant

On Monday we happened to be in the neighborhood so we stopped in at La Hache again and made a lunch reservation. It turned out to be a simply delightful place. Everything was perfect: welcome, menu, service, food, wine, decor, vibe and value for money (rapport qualité prix)

Zhizhong and Bob at our favorite bistro in Strasbourg, La Hache

Appetizer at La Hache: Cod sushi, avocado and mango

Supreme de volaille at La Hache

Pork over red choucroute at La Hache

Strawberries, merengue sticks with ice cream, topped with whipped cream, at La Hache

Last look at the dining room of La Hache

We would also return to Les Canailles for a somewhat more gastronomic meal, but for a classy but casual dining experience it’s hard to beat La Hache anywhere. All in all we were quite happy with our Strasbourg meals.

Update: Here’s a photo set with full-size versions of all the photos from my 2018 trip to Strasbourg:  Strasbourg 2018 with Zhizhong

Mot du jour: canaille, a dishonest or immoral person. I didn’t recognize the word, but apparently in English it means rabble, rifraff or proletarian. My guess is that it’s being used here in the last sense, even though I don’t see that definition in Larousse.

Strasbourg with Zhizhong


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

One of the delights of my second petit séjour, in 2011, was a long weekend trip to Strasbourg and Colmar with Jacques. Last Monday was a jour férié (a national holiday), so Zhizhong proposed a trip to take advantage of the three-day weekend. We had made a four-day road trip to Normandy and Brittany in 2014, so we’re seasoned traveling companions. We kicked around several options, but Zhizhong had never been to Strasbourg, and I remembered it fondly, so we decided to go there by train.

Train travel in France is a mixed blessing. The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse or Very Fast Train, pronounced tay ghay vay) is quite fast (if not perhaps up to Chinese standards), and quite comfortable. The problem is that trains are subject to strikes, which are happening with a vengeance this year. To the credit of the unions, they announce in advance which days will be affected, and at this stage are striking only two days out of five. Saturday, when we wanted to go to Strasbourg, was a strike day, but Monday, when we planned to return, was not. The strikes only affect certain trains, so I was pleased to be able to reserve the train we wanted for Saturday morning. Then I got an email saying that it was cancelled! Then I got another email saying that it had been restored! It left on schedule and all was well. Ironically, the real issue we had was with the return train, which actually was cancelled (supprimé), for unstated reasons. Fortunately the next TGV was just an hour later and we were bumped up to first class (albeit barely distinguishable from second class). The trips took only 1 hour 50 minutes, half an hour less than in 2011. The bottom line was just fine, apart from a bit of anxiety and a bit of delay.

Strasbourg Station

It was a short walk from the station to our hotel, and another short walk over to the magnificent cathedral. The crowds discouraged us from visiting it, but there are lots of pictures in my 2011 Strasbourg photo set. The cathedral and our hotel were both in the old city, called Grande-Île because it’s encircled by water (the river Ill one one side and a canal on the other).

Strasbourg Cathedral is majestic

The cathedral dominates much of Grande-Île

Our first evening, we wanted to get away from the tourist center to find a more local restaurant. Fortunately, Zhizhong did some research and found the Krutenau neighborhood near the university, south-east of Grande-Île. We enjoyed walking around it and found some interesting areas on our way to an excellent meal.

We stumbled across this ephemeral bar in the Krutenau neighborhood

The ephemeral bar included a contemporary art exhibit. This was by Hervé Bohnert.

On Sunday we visited the fine arts museum, which shares the Hôtel de Rohan, across from the cathedral, with several other museums. Strasbourg has a respectable regional collection, with a particular strength in Dutch realism. It does seem, however, as if someone skimmed the cream and took it off to Paris. The best pieces — except for a single good Corot — are either anonymous or from the studio of a well known painter.

My favorite piece from the Strasbourg Fine Arts Museum. Atelier de Gérard David, La Vierge à la Soupe au Lait.

Detail from La Vierge à la Soupe au Lait shows how detailed it is.

Zhizhong’s favorite piece. Giovanni Battista, Saint Sébastien.

A clever contemporary installation of packaged foods juxtaposed with farm-fresh still lives

As always, we enjoyed exploring the various neighborhoods of the city.

This was as hard to interpret in person as in the photo

A bucolic view from the botanical gardens

Place Broglie with classical rows of pollarded trees

I didn’t realize that Alsace was famous for nougat, or that it came in such enormous wheels.

Some of the most iconic views of Strasbourg are along its canals. The densest concentration of them is called La Petite-France.

La Petite-France viewed from the Barrage Vauban

A stroll along the banks of Grande-Île at evening

An iconic view of one of Strasbourg’s canals

But wait, didn’t we have any meals in Strasbourg? Yes we did!  Up next

Update: Here’s a photo set with full-size versions of all the photos from my 2018 trip to Strasbourg: Strasbourg 2018 with Zhizhong

Mot du jour: grève, strike.



, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The midpoint of my stay is a good time to look at how the trip has been, and what my goals are for my remaining time here.

The dominant theme of the trip has been — and with the arrival of my nephew next weekend will continue to be — family. While this is very different from prior years, I’ve come to realize, as I explored in my previous post, that time with family and friends, while it dilutes my engagement with the place, can itself be every bit as rewarding as being a solitary flâneur.

The difference shouldn’t be overemphasized, since spending time with friends has always been a facet of my petits séjours. For example, I’ve caught up with Bob Seeman, almost every year.

2018 Lunch at le Rusti with Bob Seeman and fellow doctor Faouzi Madi

Bob and I have known each other for around twenty years, while I’ve known my cousin Jackie since we were children. That makes a difference, but in both cases we’ve had a chance to become intimate friends over a substantial portion of a lifetime. The main difference is that Jackie and I shared an apartment for ten days (and have gotten together several times since), while I normally just catch up with Bob for a meal. That pattern isn’t fundamentally different from prior years, though, since I’ve always had friends staying with me for around a week. It just happens this year that my housemates will mostly be family.

Food has been an important and satisfactory part of the trip, as always. I’ve posted “food porn” from some of my fancier meals — and there’s more to come from Strasbourg — but I’ve also enjoyed more modest meals, either at home with my cousins in the 15ème, or at familiar local restaurants in the 2ème. The dishes shown below are from places just a few doors down on my street, and there are a dozen comparable options within a couple of blocks.

Perfect tuna galette from Delices de la Lune, 38 rue Poissionière

Shrimp noodle dish from Woking, 32 rue Poissionière

The closest thing to an art museum I’ve been to in Paris was the astounding au dela de les limites exhibition, but I’ve visited several galleries and appreciated lots of street art. One resolution is to take in even more art in the latter part of my stay.

Street art in Paris

The gallerist at Galerie Jacques Lévy (very probably the eponymous owner) refused permission for me to post pics, but I invite you to take a look at the works of Olivier Marty currently on view there.

The weather was terrible the day I arrived, then got steadily better over the ten days I spent in the 15ème. About the time I moved to my own place it got wet and cold again and stayed that way for the first week. Last weekend was quite nice in Strasbourg but all afternoon today there have been thunderstorms (with hail!). Update: I enjoyed the dramatic hailstorm from the comfort and safety of my apartment, but I had no idea that elsewhere in the city there was flooding and dense accumulations of hailstones on the streets!

My French is pretty much stalled, but I nevertheless enjoy deciphering cultural references and picking up on jeux de mots.

« Aïe ou hante English » (Hint: say it out loud.)

« Mais oui tu es beau ! » More or less…

This poster in the métro is a veritable mine of up-to-the-minute cultural information. I can more or less parse out most of the links, but I’m sure I’m missing many funny references.

A chart demonstrating that basically everything points to a sport, and all sports point to L’Equipe magazine.

The handwriting that looks like graffiti is actually part of the joke. For example: “mamie Ginette is sweet. She makes us cookies. But one doesn’t much like it when she kisses us on the cheeks because she scratches.”

I didn’t walk quite as much as usual during the first part of the month, in part because you simply can’t move that fast when you’re traveling with a four-year-old (even when she’s on a scooter). But Zhizhong and I walked all over Strasbourg, so when that’s factored in I’m now right at my usual Paris average of seven miles a day.

Alcohol has always been a substantial part of my Paris stays, but this year my consumption has been a lot less than usual. Jackie, Zhizhong and “Theseus” don’t drink at all, and as a mother of a young child Lisa now drinks even more moderately than before. I’ve usually managed a glass of wine or beer with dinner, and sometimes found an excuse for an extra drink, but have only once or twice exceeded the approved level of two drinks a day (which was occasionally exceeded many times over in prior years). It’s still possible that I may fall under the influence of hard-drinking family or friends, but so far I’ve been surprisingly sober.

I’ve often met guys on “social media” apps during my stays here. Two years ago, the last time I was here, Omar made an outstanding contribution to my visit. This year I’ve only met one guy, who I’ll call Theseus. He’s a 22-year-old student, of Chinese ethnicity, very fit and cute. He’s been my dining companion on several occasions where the blog has mentioned a “we” without a name. He’s forbidden me to post his photo or further information, and this is only one of several mismatches between our values and goals. He’s been an attractive and mostly agreeable companion on several occasions, despite our really irreconcilable differences.

Overall I’ve had a good time this year. Both apartments have been wonderful, despite the minor issues with my current place. The shift from adventure to coziness has continued, but there have been a few peak experiences and many rich and intimate conversations.

June 11, when I leave, will be my earliest departure since the first year, 2010, when I stayed for April and May. So many cool things are scheduled for the remainder of June that I looked into extending my stay another two weeks. Changing my Delta/Air France ticket would be punishingly expensive but abandoning that reservation and coming home on a one-way Norwegian ticket would be reasonable. My current host would let me extend at the discounted monthly rate until June 20, but she has other guests then so I would have to get another place for the last week. Ultimately, however, responsibilities and opportunities back home caused me to stick with the original schedule. Another year, however, I will stay at least until afterla fête de la musiqueon June 21, and perhaps through Paris gay pride, this year on June 30.

Mot du jour: beue. Not in Larousse, but Google shows it as patois picard for boue, i.e. mud.

Bonus Mot du jour: grêle, hail.

Where is the Journey?

During my travels I have often asked myself a question: “Where is the Journey?” This arose from two ideas: The fact that it’s possible to go to a foreign country yet remain cocooned in hotels or tours that replicate your home country, and, on the other hand, Thoreau’s famous comment that he had “travelled much in Concord.” Moving from place to place isn’t itself particularly important; you can see sights on TV. The important thing about travel is that it creates the opportunity to have new experiences and challenge yourself, to explore the rich possibilities of your own life through novel perceptions and interactions. Moving from place to place doesn’t guarantee that this will happen. I ask the question to remind myself to go on a journey rather than just taking a trip.

My petits séjours in Paris have almost always qualified as journeys, even though my increasing familiarity with life here has greatly reduced the elements of surprise and challenge that were important features of my early stays. The unique aspect of this year’s stay, however, revealed an important facet of the concept that I have been groping towards but hadn’t previously articulated. My Paris visits have usually started alone, then included friends after a week or so, but this year my first ten days were en famille, with three generations of cousins. I knew this would be very different, but I’m extremely fond of my adult cousins and was fascinated (and, tbh, a bit terrified) by the prospect of living with a four-year-old. While my engagement with Paris itself was muted and buffered to some extent, the profound interactions with my cousins more than compensated.

With Family, Life is Beautiful!

I had previously been aware of the tremendous difference between time alone in Paris and time with friends. When you’re with someone much or most of your attention is on them, conversing, coordinating, and seeing the surroundings through their eyes. The place itself can recede into context, or even background, to the interpersonal aspect. For a lone flâneur, however, there’s nothing except one’s own perceptions and thoughts. In the best of times, when you’re “in the flow,” your thoughts themselves recede and you become a pure observer.

What I hadn’t realized is this: a person is very like a foreign country: vast, incompletely explored, unpredictable, potentially rewarding … and sometimes frustrating. Time spent engaging with other people can be every bit as much of a “journey” as time spent in a foreign land. The first ten days this year were distinctly in Paris, but interacting with my cousins and their friends was at least as important as experiencing the city.

The way you relate to your travel companion(s) is also key. If you don’t give them your attention, or if they don’t open up to you, there can be no interpersonal “journey” at all. You can end up with little compensation for the overhead of coordinating and compromising. But if there is trust and mutual interest there can be a journey of adventure and discovery in the personal sphere that rivals that in space and time.

Thoreau reminds us of yet another facet of this concept: the ultimate journey is the discovery of one’s own self. A traveler who doesn’t learn more about who he is and what he wants might as well stay home.

Perhaps we should ask some version of “Where is the Journey?” whether we’re traveling or not. Are our interactions with people, places and our own selves rich and creative, or are we staying in safe and familiar patterns? Are we awake and aware, or are we sleep walking through our own lives?

Beyond the Limits


, , , , ,

Wednesday was a relatively quiet day, catching up on my blog and eating at modest familiar places in the rue Montorgueil neighborhood. Thursday I was called on to help friends and family with technical and literary issues, while also attending an interesting Ivy League LGBT reception that evening.  The highlight, however, was my visit to an extraordinary exhibition in the Great Hall of La Villette, a former abattoir in the north-east corner of Paris. The show, called au-delà des limites (Beyond the Limits) was created by teamLab, a Japan-based collaborative of artists, programmers, engineers, 3D animators, mathematicians and architects. It’s hard to describe this astounding exhibit so I’ll show you some photos and videos first, then try to characterize the experience. (I see subsequently that the new Tokyo museum by the same group is called “Borderless” so possibly that’s their preferred translation.)

Room A – teamLab : au-delà des limites

Room A – teamLab : au-delà des limites

Room G – teamLab : au-delà des limites

Room G – teamLab : au-delà des limites

These astounding spaces are created by a massive array of computer-controlled digital projectors. You don’t just look at these images, you are immersed in them. My videos are dim, but in the exhibit the colors are brilliant. Moreover, as you can see in a few clips, most of the images are interactive: they change as you walk or if you touch the wall on which they are projected. One way to think about the experience is a form of shared virtual reality. Instead of each person having their own personal goggles all the visitors share the same visual and aural hallucination. Beyond the technical brilliance the images and sounds are simply gorgeous, and ever changing. When you enter this space you have stepped into the minds of an extremely creative and generous team of artists.

The exhibition is on through September 9, 2018. I can’t recommend it too highly.

Update: I took my nephew Andy to the exhibition on his last day in Paris, and he also enjoyed it.

Andy’s white tee was perfect for Room B

Kids basking on the colorful floor of Room A

Bob staying dry under the waterfall in Room G

Andy taking a pic in Room F

Andy enjoying Room C

Bob relaxing in Room A