- Paul McQueen
Nuit Blanche is upon us again. As it has done on the first Saturday of October since 2002, Paris’ trendsetting contemporary art event will take over the city from dusk till dawn. This year’s program, devised by Jean de Loisy, president of the Palais de Tokyo, will see millions of Parisians setting out on an epic romantic quest along the banks and across the islands of the Seine, following in the footsteps of Poliphile, the love-struck protagonist of a 15th-century Italian graphic novel.
The artistic starting pistol will be fired at 7:00pm on Saturday, October 1st; however, a number of performances and installations are already underway. At the Gare de Lyon, Alain Séchas’ iconic feline creations are patiently awaiting the arrival of Nuit Blanche’s hero, and French artist Abraham Poincheval is keeping a lookout for him from atop a 15-meter platform.
The starting line for those wishing to undertake the journey of self-transformation set out for them is the Hôtel de Ville. Here, the first of many footsteps will be taken in a mysterious forest created by Stéphane Thidet. Where there was once a paved public square, there will be an ice-cold lake with fallen timber drifting endlessly across its glassy surface, an epic piece of living sculpture to send chills up your spine and encourage you on.
Crossing over the Pont au Change onto the Île de la Cité, you will encounter the Conciergerie as you’ve never seen it before thanks to the hallucinatory work of Pierre Delavie. The historic prison will be cut open and flipped on its head (perhaps a nod to some of its former famous residents), and the river will flood its interiors. The message here seems fairly straightforward: love is a crazy thing.
Down on the Voie Georges Pompidou, you’ll have the opportunity to splash your face with some cold water and get a hold of your senses with Thomas Teurlai’s installation, Bal des Pompiers. Powerful jets of water will be transformed into streaming ribbons of sound with the help of walls of loudspeakers and a flashing light display. The three elements will combine to form a hidden message to puzzle over as you press on into the night.
Over on the Left Bank, you can use these unusual nocturnal hours to contemplate the passage of time with the aid of Alicja Kwade’s sculpture. Suspended from a crane, a massive clock will swing back and forth above the heads of passers-by in an unrelenting rhythm.
Further along the river, the Pont des Invalides will be the setting for a futuristic ball of unparalleled artistic sophistication. The bridge will be transformed into a giant light installation, created by Romain Tardy in conjunction with the Absolut Company Creation. This intelligent structure, the technology for which took two years to develop, will respond in time to the music provided by the DJ sets of We Love Art. This unmissable party starts at 11:00pm and you can dance until the sun comes up with the ones you love (or like an appropriate amount as friends).
These are just a handful of the 40 projects along the Seine and the more than 130 works going on across the city and the suburbs, indoors and out. You can check out the full program of totally free events here or download the app for Android and iPhone. Refreshments will be available along the route, and the Batobus will be operating free of charge as far down the river as Issy-les-Molineaux.