Old Paris is no more ( for cities change
– alas ! – more quickly than a mortal’s heart);
Charles Baudelaire, from the poem Le Cygne
The city’s change that Baudelaire alludes to in this poem, published in Les Fleurs du Mal in 1857, is this profound transformation that Paris underwent under Napoleon III and Haussmann. The medieval Paris, often compared to an insalubrious labyrinth was replaced by a modern Paris – aerated, unified and embellished. But some other considerations, related to the many revolutions France saw unfolding between 1789 and 1848, were concurrent to the hygienist discourse. Haussmann may only have very little discussed these issues in his Mémoires, yet the social control concerns of the Second Empire were very real. This is a peculiar point of contact between the sanitary and political spheres that Lena Marie Emrich captures and develops in this exhibition.
From this sanitary space, that often unlike a gallery space is free of classes, Lena Marie Emrich has extracted these hand dryers – Airblade Blues. A tempestuous blade of air through which we plunge our hands, wrinkling under its invisible effect. The tie is indeed meteorological. A storm contained within these over-esthetic sculptures, that are incidentally named after the high and low pressure areas currently hovering over France, the weather is this context that calls the shots in our live and that still escapes the ever increasing predictability that the rise of statistic and big data has been promising. Meteorology provides a narrative and metaphorical framework to political thought, embracing a differentiated, complex and pluralist approach to contemporary political issues, be it only climate change. In the continuity of Alfred Stieglitz’ Equivalents, his studies on clouds that “[are] there for everyone – no tax as yet on them – free”, Lena Marie Emrich invites us to perceive these celestial spaces of democracy – such as these pigment clouds bearing slogans that citizens painted on walls in the gallery’s neighborhood in 1968.