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A Play on Grass

Page history last edited by melancholic1 14 years, 9 months ago

A Play on Grass was the culmination of an art residency in Paris during which the Leeds 13 constructed a temporary public park in the thirteenth arrondissement.

 

The project was set up and funded by the Parisian collective Signe et Eaux. They were responsible for the programming of an arts venue called Batofar – a distinctive red boat moored on the Seine. Batofar hosted quarterly festivals celebrating the contemporary music of various selected cities. Visual artists were then invited on a two-month residency to produce new work that would be exhibited during these events. Somewhat inconsistently, the Leeds 13 were chosen to represent London.

 

Batofar was located in the thirteenth arrondissement – an area to the south east of Paris that had been chosen for a massive urban renewal scheme called Paris Rive Gauche. The development was controversial because a lot of immigrant and low-income housing had been razed to make way for the project. The focal point of the development was the new Bibliothèque nationale de France – a distinctive building with four towers, each one designed to mimic an open book standing on its spine. A mature pine forest had been imported from 200km away and relocated in a large rectangular outdoor space in the centre of the construction.

 

This building in particular was very unpopular with local residents. Despite its bombastic stature, it functioned poorly as a practical library and did not foster adequate links with its immediate community. Batofar were keen to adopt a critical position in relation to this development, and so encouraged the Leeds 13 to grapple with the politics of public space and urban renewal. In the past this area had been 'a tent city' that had homed many of the areas African immigrants and refugees, they were evicted so the Bibliotheque could be built.

 

The Leeds 13 focused their attention on the forest in the middle of the library. It was an inaccessible green space that the public could see but not enter. This seemed to echo a lot of the formal green spaces in Paris that were ornamental as opposed to recreational. These public parks were highly determined and prohibiting spaces that demanded a specific behaviour from the public.

 

In response to this the Leeds 13 resolved to create a fully accessible green space in Paris that would attempt to foster a sense of ‘play’ within the community. The group negotiated the use of some wasteland that was part of an artists’ squat in the local area. They then constructed a small park that parodied the architectural form of the library’s four towers and forbidden forest. The public space nominally looked like the library, but functioned in a much more communitarian and playful manner. Each tower became some sort of sporting apparatus or social space, and the forest became a five-a-side football pitch. The group created a real grass surface by laying strips of turf onto a bed of sand that had been procured from a factory nearby.

 

Whilst constructing the temporary park they also carried out a series of 'interventions' that were designed to draw attention to – and in some cases confound – the way public space determines public behaviour. Perhaps their boldest act was to mark out a football pitch on the vertical grass walls of the Stade de Bercy in the dead of night. On another occasion they released a bag of footballs underneath the Eiffel Tower and did not entirely escape the melee that ensued. They also attached a hoop to a local metro sign and instigated a game of basketball.

 

The Leeds 13 started using orange peel segments as a kind of enigmatic visual calling card. This was a loose reference to 'half time oranges' - a tradition of amature sporting events. The fruit segments became surreal props within the playful public interventions that the group staged around the city. They balanced oranges on the sculptures outside the Louvre, and also released them into the fountains nearby. They played bowls with oranges on the pedestrian area of the library and were promptly escorted off the premises. They also stole a piece of turf from a local park and placed it, with an orange on top, in front of a sign at the library that read ‘no games allowed’.

 

The culmination of the project was a public event at the newly constructed park. The Leeds 13 put on a BBQ and provided music throughout the day. The weather was poor in the morning, but as the afternoon progressed more people came along to use the space. The park was built in a rush, and did not perhaps look sufficiently like the library in order for the intended parody to be immediately apparent. The organisers of the squat asked for the turf to be removed, so the park was taken down within a few days of its completion.

 

 

Images from 'A Play On Grass'

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