A Superkilometer as a New Territory
In 2018, I was appointed Director of Nuit Blanche in Paris, the most important outdoor cultural event initiated 18 years ago by the Paris City Hall. Every year, the Mayor gives a wild card to an Artistic Director to imagine, all over the French capital, a meeting between the public and contemporary creations. For my edition, I strongly believed that it was an exceptional occasion to allow the public to rediscover emblematic places of Parisian history.
Thus, I decided to draw four artistic areas in Paris, titled “Constellations,” symbolizing the connections between the artists, the venues and the public. Among many challenges, I opened the Parc zoologique de Vincennes all night long for the very first time, entrusted this fascinating location to the Stage Director Philippe Quesne. At the Parc de la Villette, I invited many artists developing emerging art forms in this transdisciplinary cultural area; at the historic Paris City Hall and on the île Saint-Louis, I highlighted the Medieval part of the city through many projects.
The most emblematic project I am still working on is the one developed by the architect Nicolas Dahan and the artist Maurice Pefura (Studio UY077): “Mon Superkilomètre”. Its principle is simple: drawing a line of one kilometer in a city and bring together all the protagonists concerned by this crossing, to create a huge artistic pop-up.
With the support of the Albers Foundation, the first experience of the Superkilometer took place from May 6 to June 22, 2018 in Dakar, Senegal, from the district of “Gueule Tapée” to “Medina”. To take possession of the premises, local artisans were invited to create big sheets of blue fabrics, hung along all the kilometer onto metallic structures. In addition, various associations, cooks, musicians, book sellers, performers, and of course artists were invited to express themselves along the route. The Superkilometer was defined: breaking social and aesthetic barriers, becoming a new territory of exchanges and meetings in order to make visible the soul of its inhabitants.
The Nuit Blanche experience
When I discovered this project, I immediately sought axes of one kilometer in Paris to achieve it for Nuit Blanche. But, instead of setting it up in a lively neighborhood, I searched for a site that did not have a lot of nightlife. The axis Invalides/Champs Elysees has emerged as the ideal terrain. With Studio UY077, we imagined this new edition as a way to wake up this museum part of Paris, offering fabulous urban specificities yet asleep at night: from the huge lawns deserted at night in front of the majestic dome of the Invalides, the immense bridge Alexandre III, the esplanade between the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais, to the bottom of the Champs-Elysées. It created an unexpected playground that only an event like Nuit Blanche could offer us. Nicolas Dahan imagined a golden ribbon, a nod to the gilding of Parisian monuments, set from one streetlamp to another all along the kilometer to materialize its presence.
On October 6, 2018, traffic was gradually cut off in the early afternoon, roads were made pedestrian, and one could feel the energy of the Superkilometer settled in less than 6 hours and ready to start at 7pm. True to the spirit of the project, I invited many actors, performers, musicians, and associations. The lawns were invaded by a project that mingled football and music through acoustic balloons imagined by the artist Julien Berthier and the association “Tatanes”. The collective “Scale” built a big electro scene for a 6 hours-concert. The entire bridge Alexandre III was occupied by Thanks for Nothing, an association that mobilizes artists and the cultural world by organizing artistic and solidarity events that have a concrete impact on society. They invited many artists such as Marie Claude Pietragalla and Laure Prouvost. To support NGOs including Librairies Without Borders, the public was invited to participate in a giant collection of cultural goods, offering books or musical instruments to benefit disadvantaged communities. On the esplanade of the Grand Palais, the public attended a Roller Derby tournament led by a feminist collective. I also offered several artists carte blanche to invest the museums crossed by the Super Kilometer, such as the Army Museum, the Petit Palais, the Palais de la Découverte. In addition, the whole axis was punctuated by food trucks, yoga classes, and traveling artists. Facebook also set up a “story planetarium” that allowed visitors to post their stories on a large circular screen. The City Council estimated that more than 800,000 people visited the Superkilometer that night. At 7am the day after, no incident was reported.
The future of the Superkilometer
The shape of the Superkilometer depends on the city that welcomes it: in a city of South America, one could imagine a “rooftops” Superkilometer, proposing terrace events that do not even go through the streets. All forms are possible, according to multiple temporalities: it is this infinite plasticity that makes this project so exciting, intended to dynamite the “generic city” described by Rem Koolhaas. At the core of the concept, the Superkilometer must mix popular and elitist culture. It has to bring together foundations and companies investing in it, while offering spaces to humanitarian and philanthropic associations. Today, the Board Members joining us reflect and guarantee this diversity. In its form, the Superkilometer seeks to make the most of the sites that it crosses, whether institutions, markets, rivers and industrial sites. It is a capacitor of the dispersed energy of a city, it is a connector, a horizontal vector that does not exclude anyone and for which there is no entry ticket. The programming must mix, in a spirit of equality, the local artistic scenes with international guests. It is in this spirit that we are developing international versions of the Suplerkilometer: from Marseille and its urban mix to the cultural richness of a megacity like Tokyo. Mobile and free, the Superkilometer is a huge beating heart, without borders.
Featured photo: Superkilomètre, overview from north to south. Nuit Blanche 2018, Mairie de Paris. Photo ©G.Haninen. (C) Studio UYO77