HarSMedia

We visited La Générale Nord-Est with the 2018 class in Performing Arts Management Practices, part of the MACAM (MBA in Arts and Cultural Management) currirulum of the IESA, Paris, late afternoon of Friday March 30th, at a time that this ideosyncratic Parisian cultural center and coopérative artistique, politique et sociale hosted a third edition of its l’Eveil de Printemps festival. One of the two spokespersons of the collective, Emmanuel Ferrand aka Rébus, was our host during this (pretty much) complete tour of the premises. Emmanuel also provided a detailed exposure of the history of the place, of the collective that has been renting this 'vintage' industrial building in the centre of town from the city of Paris and the artistic programs that they have been developing there since 2008. The following is a complete, unabridged and very litteral transcription of the sound recording that I made of the tour, for use by the students as reference and lecture notes.


SoundBlog PAMP entries:

(may 05, 2018) - La Gaîté Lyrique (PAMP18-4)
(april 30, 2018) - IRCAM (PAMP18-3)
(april 20, 2018) - Sonic Protest Festival (PAMP18-2)
(april 10, 2018) - La Générale Nord_Est (PAMP18-1)



SoundBlog entries around and about La Générale Nord-Est:

(august 14, 2006) - placard : la générale (Belleville)
(july 20, 2009) - General Acoustics
(january 13, 2010) - Art fleas (puces de l'art)
(june 13, 2010) - Yi Sang à Paris [i]
(june 25, 2010) - Read me a poem, Yi Sang! (Yi Sang à Paris [ii])
(june 29, 2010) - Ceremonies (Yi Sang à Paris [iii])
(august 14, 2010) - "And what about Yi Sang?" (... à Paris [iv])
(december 29, 2010) - Obsolescence
(december 13, 2013) - Candles, Cassettes & Champagne - unPublic #4
(april 08, 2014) - La physicalité du son. Tome 1.
(july 15, 2015) - Bridges, troubles, water - unPublic #19
(august 04, 2016) - Nicolas Collins - 2 April 2016, La Générale
(august 19, 2017) - T'obsolete or not t'obsolete ... [i] ... Vieux Media Fests à La Générale
(april 10, 2018) - La Générale Nord-Est (PAMP18-1)
(july 21, 2018) - T'obsolete or not t'obsolete ... [ii] ... Vieux Media Fests à La Générale


La Générale Nord_Est (PAMP18-1)

april 10, 2018.

« So... then let us have a look and
please be respectful with the art works »

La Générale Nord Est, 14avenue Parmantier, Paris XXI. Main entrance

__Artist entrance__

[ef] « Sustainable is often translated in French as 'durable'. It's a misunderstanding. I prefer the English word. Sustainable is something that you can 'sustain'. I really disagree with the French translation; 'Durable' means it will last forever, and that is actually the opposite of the idea of this place, which is flexible and can move and change... And so this very fuzzy organisation, with no real eh clear... Be welcome here! So we are first going to vist the whole place. Unfortunately in the basement as far as I understand there is a rehearsal, some people are working. I checked, they are very focused on their work and it's not a good idea to disturb them. There are also people working in the main space, but it's okay to visit if we stay quiet and if we don't perturb. So we'll just have a look. If you want to speak to me or to speak between each other then please do it in a very quiet way and please respect the work of the people who are preparing the show of tonight. So, let's go! »

__Main space / Kitchen__

La Générale Nord Est, 'The little space up there...'

[ef] « The little space up there is the only stable place, used as an office for the organisation, for people like me. All the remaining spaces are flexible, they can change their shape and organisation, depending on the projects that we invite. This is a residency place, basically. In the first place we invite people to work, and they open the doors for the audience when they want to show their work. This is not a diffusion place. It is a working place and a residency place. And their is no ticketing, so there is no real money involved in funding the shows here. The people that are working here must find a business model elsewhere, they must get some grants from some organisation, they must manage this very important issue of paying the artist. Of course we can use a donation box to make this thing a little bit more easy, but basically, when it's open here, it is almost all the time free.
...
So they are preparing for tonight. Tonight there are four shows. They are preparing in the basement, and they will finish the night with a concert, with musicians. You are welcome to attend.
...
And here there is a kitchen. It's a small kitchen, and they are also working in there for tonight, so let's not disturb. It's an ordinary kitchen, just like in your house, not a professional kitchen. Which is an issue, because if you really want to sell food, at least in this country, you need to have a very complex and safe working space, very expensive, and you need different spaces, one for cooking, and one for washing the dishes ... so what we have here is completely illegal. But the cooks for tonight, for example, are professional cooks, even though they will sell the food at a low benefit, a low price, it's a professional team of cooks. But sometimes it's just me that's cooking, and that's not so professional. »

__First floor__

[ef] « We must be very careful here, for we have actually no serious insurance for you. And, eh, it's really interesting, because we are using this space and we must be very careful about the security, because if there is an accident, that will be very bad for us. So we are very careful and that is why we count how many people are there. And usually I am very picky that we have no more than nineteen people. But I know that we are more then nineteen, because there are already six up there. But I am here, so I can tolerate this. But please be very careful and also, it is interesting to see what you can do in France outside the law, if you are not too far from... the limit is not very clear, but if you respect the rules, you actually cannot do anything... The limit of nineteen people is due to the width of the stairs. It is only eighty centimeters, and you need ninety. Ninety is the official width, if you want to have an audience. But it is too expensive to repair, and we don't have the money. So we actually don't organise much public events on the upper floors. It is only a working place and it's also a place which is used for shooting a lot of videoclips and movies. So we try to keep it like it was in 1963, the space has not been used since that time. It is intentionally dirty and all the things that you see now, all the paintings and graffiti projects, they are related with the festival. That is just for a few days, and then they will remove everything and the space will be completely empty again. So let us have a look, and please be respectful with the art works. »

unPublic performance organised by MACAM student Manli Zhang
unPublic performance on La Générale's Second Floor organised by MACAM student Manli Zhang, on Sunday June 19th 2016.

__Second floor__

(Atelier les mains dans le dos)
[ef] « The event that we are hosting this week is a theatre festival. But there is no real limit between various forms of art, and the people in charge of organising this festival, in turn they invited a collective of students and graphic designers, so what you see here is kind of a project inside the project. And as far as I understand they are related with the graphic design school. We will ask them in a few minutes.
...
Can you explain a little bit what is this? »
[artist] « Yes. We are four, eh five illustrators and graphic designers. We are friends and we also are activists, for many things, and here we propose workshops with people, and we make posters. »
[ef] « I understand it is related to the social movements which happened in France, you can think it's kind of similar to Occupied Wallstreet, so this kind of... people... and I understand that the audience of the theatre festival are invited by you to make by themselves... it is not you who is really doing the... you are enabling people to make their... affiches. »
[artist] « So, we, in this situation we have a big, all the rooms, so we decided to make an exhibition and other things that you can see. »
[ef] « So maybe you can have a quick look and just walk around for a few minutes.
Recently the demonstrations in France have become very violent. The state... it is not in our tradition. We have a long tradition of demonstrations but recently the state went into a kind of military... it's becoming very, very... »
[hs] « More oppressive than it used to be. »
[ef] « Yes, more oppressive, and many people they feel they don't have the right, the full right to make a demonstration anymore, and it's kind of independent of... independently of what they want to fight for. First of all they fight for the right to have a demonstration and to express themselves. So that's why there is a lot of references to recent events that happened the last two years. And also, it was made popular in the media, but in a mainstream way, and the young students that were really in the movement, what they saw was very different from what was reported from the official media. And they want to express this. »

Visiting La Générale's rooftop garden

__Rooftop garden__

[ef] « I already mentioned that this is a residency place, and here on the roof we have space for residencies for gardeners.
...
It is not really urban farming, because it's kind of illusory to believe that you really can produce enough food to do something actual. It is a very important question to me whether this idea of urban farming really makes sense or not. In the context of Paris, where you have a very limited access to soil, it is very questionable. And you have a lot of co-called 'greenwashing' in new buildings that put a lot of green things, but what they are actually producing for food is really unclear. And so we are really aware of this here. We produce a fairly big amount of Jerusalem artichoke, for example, but it is very difficult to eat [laughs] as nobody knows how to cook that. You must think of this garden more like a pedagogical place where one can discuss and have information about nature, agriculture and also food related issues. So it is not artistic in this sense. But it is... it belongs to culture, in my opinion. Scientific culture, historical, about history of plants. Because, we have one project which consist in a collection of trees and plants in pots. So they are like big bonsai. Those trees are not meant to become very big, and they are used in some pedagogical circumstances, with school children, and they must be moved from time to time. It is kind of a repository of trees, and they are all different. They are... some of them are from the same species, but there is a huge diversity of trees and wine grapes. And also, people are growing... actually the only actual noticeable outcome of this garden is plants for making tea ... tisane [herbal tea]. They grow in small pots and there is also an activity of sharing plants for making strange tea, healthy and health related plants. As quite a number of other places in Paris we have beehives. And they produce about thirty... »

It is at that same moment that Hugo, La Générale's beekeeper, steps onto the roof.

[ef] « Hugo, tu as franchi cette porte au moment où je prononçais le mot 'beehive'! »

[hugo] « OK. So there is three beehives just upon there. You can't see it, but they are there. »

[ef] « I was about to say that we produce thirty kilograms of... I said: 'we', but actually it's more like 'you' and, actually, it's they! »

[hugo] « They...! They, they, they, they, they... ! Thousands of bees producing some honey! »

[ef] « These are people involved in the management of art spaces. And their teacher is Harold. Maybe you know him as an artist, but he is also a teacher. And eh... so we try to consider this space as a kind of strange example for the management of eh...
...
So please follow me. We are going to have a discussion in a room which is kind of hidden, so follow me and... »

La Générale

__First floor__

[ef] « Maybe I will start to speak about what is the economy of this space. And maybe say again what I mentioned before: 'We are renting the space'. But who is 'we'? Nobody knows actually. There is an official 'association' which... eh... exists. It is registered and actually I used to be the president of the association, long time ago. But because we believe in the idea of collective, we even canceled this position of 'president'. There is just eh... the spokesperson. I am one of the two spokespersons of the collective and all the decisions are taken all together. So we are about fifteen people, and many of them, their name is not even mentioned in the official status of this association. For many reasons. Mostly because they have this French status of intermittent du spectacle. And the price to pay when you are intermittent is that you should not belong to any decisory... you should not be in the managing team of any organisation. You have to be clearly on the side of being an employee and not a boss. Because if there is a strange movement of money, if you decided to pay yourself, it is very bad and against the law. So that is actually the main reason why those people, they participate, but they want to keep it secret. So in this sense, it is kind of a secret organisation. There is a kind of emergent part of the iceberg, and the real thing is kind of hidden. So the building used to be an electricity transforming place one hundred years ago. But very quickly the technology used here was... became obsolete and the machines were removed. And eh the electricity distribution was modernised, in the 1930s, and eh, this place was used as a kind of parking lot for machines for repair people for electricity companies. So eh especially they were specialised in the repairing of transformers. Huge transformers, that you see in the streets, and eh, you might know that the old technology for transformers is based on some kind of liquid needed to cool the system, which is highly toxic. And there is a question to which we have no answer, whether there are remainings of this kind of products in the basement. Actually here we made some measurements, in the spaces that you have been visiting. But there are two levels of basement and in the deepest ehm, in the second basement there is really a question whether... And I feel that eh... political people here, they don't really want to look into it, because they are afraid of discovering that it is polluted, and that's a... But we paid with our own money some measurements of pollution in this room and in the room up there, and it is safe. So this building was not really used in an efficient way for many, many, many years and eh... but for some strange reasons the state electricity company became the main user when electricity was nationalised after the second world war, and eh... then nobody really knew who was the real owner of this building. Actually, the city of Paris is the owner, but they discovered it only maybe ten years ago. So then they... at that time, and due to the rules of the European Union we were obliged in France to make the electricity company private again and so it was necessary to make clear what belongs to the private domain and what belongs to the state and so they discovered that this place belongs to them. And they also understood that the electricity company was not really using it in a useful way. Just before we arrived it was just used for one truck. One truck was here. Just a huge parking lot for one truck. It doesn't make sense. In the centre of Paris. A huge waste of space. And so because before we were... We have begun this project actually in another place, a much bigger place, near Belleville Station. And now this place is a psychiatric hospital. Just before it was turned into a hospital. It was left empty for many years, and we began our activities in this other space. And the activity there was so good that it was possible to negotiate an official rent for another space in the city of Paris. They wanted to have us eh... to have our activity continued somewhere, and so we found this nice agreement and we are the official... we have an official rent for this place. I mean, for the ground floor. And eh at the very beginning the city of Paris was afraid that we would use the other spaces but slowly we showed that we were really serious about that and we eh... so they know that we are doing this and they just check from time to time that it is not really dangerous. But they pretend it is forbidden. They know, but it is written nowhere and when there is a problem they claim that they just discovered that there is an artistic activity in some forbidden place. And so it gives them so power, because at every moment they can just come here and say 'Oh what you are doing is illegal, so you should stop.' And it will be a very good reason to finish eh... So. How do we pay the rent? Actually, the rent is very low. Maybe ten times lower than in the official parts. We play only one tenth of what we should pay for such a place in Paris. So it is estimated by the city that the normal price would be about €80,000/year. That is what they believe it is worth. I think that is kind of cheap. And we pay eight thousand, something like that. It 's even less, I think. Actually the rent is a very little part in our budget. We need a lot of money to run this place, but the rent is not actually the main issue. For example, paying the electricity is much more complicated. In winter we have an electricity bill of eh about a thousand or fifteen hundred euros every month. It's twice as much as what I pay for one year in my home. Because it's not meant to be heated this place. It's eh, it's really a big waste of energy. And so, we also need to ehh have some eh equipment and eh pay the paint and eh... so when we had this space it was a... Harold was one of the first artists invited here, and he remembers how it was, it was completely empty...
...
[points at the walls] For instance, if we want to use a material like this it must be fireproof. And so that's additional cost. So it's like... of course it's recycled, but... but nevertheless we need money, so the question is where does the money comes from? And so the answer is the following. The rent here forbids us to have any commercial activity, which is understandable. We have a low price. It would be unfair to use the space to make a lot of money. It would be unfair with respect to the neighbours. In the contract it is written for example: 'no concerts'. It is forbidden to organise any concert, like we are doing today. It is really: 'No, you should not do that!' But what is meant is that you should not make a concert with ticketing. This means that there is no official way for artists to make money from their art through this process. So, eh, it is not a big problem for us, because eh diffusion of art is not the first eh priority. The priority, the project we consider is eh, first of all a working residency for theatre, and cinema and eh visual art. For people who need space to build some project. And then it's been to organise some real show for musicians... and it's understandable that after the time of work those people want to show their work. And so in this sense we organise a public eh event. But it is always free and... but of course we are tempted to ask for donations, because we still need to pay for additional costs for the artists. So the festival of today, of this week, is donation-based and is... the artists eh showed in this festival they are very often artists that have been working here before. And so it is not really a residency and the end of the residency show, but it's kind of eh, it's not like you come with a show which is ready, it's eh, it's also very much work in progress. It is an interesting concept that here we don't ask artists to achieve something. They are here to work, and if they fail - it happens very often that the outcome is a failure - it's okay. It's very valuable eh... I think that it is very difficult to find in a city centre of an expensive city like Paris a space where you can experiment in a real way. It means that you don't need to achieve something, you don't know where you are going, you just try something. And so that's why... many of the artists who are coming here they are young and not very well known, maybe two third, but one third they are kind of the opposite, they are, we have a lot of famous people coming here in search of a space to try something different from what they are doing usually. It is very interesting to understand that... and we have more and more demand for this kind of project. It means that the economy of eh French eh theatres and eh places where you can work when you are an experimented artist eh it means that the situation is growing more and more tense and eh and even famous people they really need a space where they can breath and try something new and they have a... Because eh we are informal and fuzzy, there is no official time for, you can work all night if you want, there is kind of freedom that you never find anywhere in an official... For example, I mention Gaîté Lyrique, it's a nice comparison because we opened more or less at the same moment as Gaîté Lyrique and the amount of public money invested in Gaîté Lyrique is incredibly huge, one hundred million of euros just to repair the building, and then eh... so they invested all the money in the building and so they have very little money to run the space and eh so it creates a lot of constraints and they are in search of money making projects and if you are there in a kind of a more experimental side and can not provide them a lot of money then your working space is really constrained. At nine o'clock they come to you and say: 'Oh we need to turn off the light. Goodbye, please come back tomorrow at two.' But of course they have a professional concept basis and a lot of equipment, but we provide something completely different. We have a recycled and old equipment eh but we have eh freedom and flexibility. So it's a good complement. I don't say we are better than official places but I think it's extremely useful and eh it's useful to help young and emerging artists and also useful to help eh confirmed artists in need of eh experimentation. For example, the musicians playing tonight, they are actually confirmed artists, really... It's called 'Magnetic Ensemble', you can check them, they tour in the very big theatres in France, and they perform tonight in, they try new things here, it's a new... concept of them. I can hear that it will be very noisy and the neighbours will complain. [laughs] So, I think I mentioned all the nice eh aspects of this space, so now I need maybe ,to speak about the difficulties. So eh... so there are eh only four people with a salary here and they are not members of the collective. They are paid for specific tasks and all of them they are parttime workers and there is nobody here makes more than six hundred euros/month. That's very low. So for twenty hours of work, something like this, it's a kind of a... So it means that most of the activity here is eh made possible by volunteer work. For example, I have position in the university and I spend a lot of time here but eh it's volunteer and free work, that I make for free, to make things possible. »

La Générale, March 30th 2018

[hs] « And if you stay for the evening, you will see me doing the bar. For free. »

[ef] « Also, the bar is illegal. It's absolutely illegal to sell alcohol, of course. »

[student] « But then if the police comes because when you are noisy the neighbours complain... »

[ef] « So we will not be noisy because I will make sure that ehh at some point it's eh okay with the neighbours. We love our neighbours and it's, it's really helpful because they... I will mention later the difficulties, the relationship with the owner. And it would be dramatic for us to have the neighbours against us because that's eh... they support, it's very important for us to keep this relation. But so before I come into complex difficulties, there is a basic and eh intrinsic difficulty of a collective people, if you have a collective organisation, if you don't have a boss and hierarchy strongly defined, then it means that you pay the price for this flexibility and fuzzy logic. The price is lengthy discussions and ehhh weekly meetings, every Thursday we meet for many hours and we discuss and we discuss and we discuss... until we find an agreement and eh so it's really eh we try to be organised in a different way but we... it's not easy at all and eh it's... I can understand easily eh why in many situations you want a strong and clear, clearly defined eh hierarchy. So... and eh so for example we need to keep the space clean or, more or less clean. It's really an issue, because it's used by many people, by artists, they are exhausted, they played, and it's difficult to ask them to clean completely. So it's always an issue who is going to clean the toilets for example. Or wash the dishes and so on and so on. It's eh it's interesting eh also to understand that the French culture in being eh is not, it's not traditional, this collective and eh eh self-organisation in the French tradition, it's not really eh, the French like this strongly eh hierar... hierarchies, organisations, committees and a president, it's a centralised state. And eh so eh I feel that eh in the Dutch culture there is more space for collective organisation, people are more... »

[hs] « Yes maybe there is more of a tradition in that sense. But then the endless meetings, meetings, meetings... that is also very typically French. I know for example that Dutch people that need to deal professionally with the French often complain about these meetings, that they meet and meet and meet but never decide. They decide afterwards. But in Holland there is also this long tradition of artists that have collective spaces, especially things that started in the 1980 in the squatters' scenes. These always were organised in the way that you are talking about. Of course there is always these difficulties but it is interesting to... »

[ef]« Maybe you mentioned Berlin and of course there is a feel of Berlin in this place and eh... But I have been in Berlin many times and also I participated to some eh... I was eh, I considered how similar spaces are organised in Germany, and they also have weekly meetings and it's not that light actually, but there's a more eh... it's easier in Germany to keep the space clean, for some reason... ehm... I don't... to keep... to make the washing, to wash the dishes and to keep the toilets clean... »

[hs] « Now that would be a very interesting subject for a thesis... somebody should do research on this, and write a thesis comparing the cleaning spirits of European countries, I think ... well, of course not necessarily somebody from this class, but... »

[ef] « Yes, there is a specific issue in France about cleaning the toilets. It's my observation. »

[student] « ... I live in a French house. It drives me crazy! »

[ef] « It's a, yeah, it's eh you asked me to discuss about the difficulties, so I just discuss the difficulties. It's really an issue, we spend a lot of time complaining about who did not wash the dishes, who left this garbage... »

[student] « And if there is no hierarchy, how do you guys decide programming? »

[ef] « Yes, that's a very interesting question. So we try to find a general agreement, and eh, it takes a lot of time and eh we tried many ways, but now it is working quite well, we, we have a kind of a, we try to organise the scheduling in, on the basis of 3 or 6 monthses, so in advance. Not more, because we want to keep some flexibility, and eh... we try to keep some room for flexibility and eh, and so I mentioned the fact, so we are not allowed to have any commercial activity so we, we don't ask any money. For the people who come here, it's residencies, are free. Of course we cannot provide any daily amount for... per diem expenses, so it is free in both ways... eh... there is an exception which is actually how we can make a little bit of money. It is allowed by our rent agreement to ask money when we have a commercial shooting for the movie industry or tv. But we try to separate the activity which is eh really eh we call this eh actually fric, money, it's eh and we try to separate this from artistic activities. So it means that people who are coming here and pay, they come here to shoot eh tv program for internet or a videoclip for a commercial artist or actually now the main income comes from shooting for the fashion industry, because they like this kind of building. It 's really the space they need for making shooting for eh... so we, we are actually taking money from the rich people. And so there is a very interesting point in our rent agreement is that we are allowed to do this, but not more than twenty days a year. So it's a really interesting constraint because it prevents us to make too much money. It's... I think it's very nice because we... The overall budget for one year of this place is about one thousand euros, ehhh, one hundred thousand, one hundred thousand euros, something like this, it's... I don't know the precise figure, but it's, c'est l'ordre de grandeur, so, with this money we pay the four salaries I mentioned and we pay some equipment and we pay also some artist fees actually to some intermittents de spectacle from time to time. It 's a bit unclear who is getting paid and who is not paid, but that is the amount of money we can gather. And half of it comes from this eh kind of commercial activity but very limited to ehh commercial shootings. And the other half actually comes from illegal selling of alcohol which is actually, so it's forbidden but, again, if we were doing this every night it would be of course kind of unfair to the other bars in the neighbourhood. But we do this on a eh very irregular basis and it's clearly related to... there is no income for anybody, it's just to pay the bills. It's kind of tolerated, I think. And we are not the only ones who are doing this. So it means that apart from these twenty days eh we are eh we have a lot of space for inviting eh people and we, as I mentioned before, we discuss... We actually receive a lot of... a lot of people wants to have a residency here and from three to five files are sent to us every day. And the majority of the projects they are related with theatre. For some reason we are well known in this field. And also music comes second. And eh but eh we try to find a balance so eh not too much theatre not too much music, not too much urban gardening and ecology and not too much eh 'cause I'm interested in technology and science and relationship between citizens and science and artists. So also we have workshops with computers, scientists who are making software for artists or typography or graphic designers or architects, so this is kind of activities that we have here also, we, we support also the people wo are editing magazines, artistic magazines. Very often they don't make any money with that so as soon as it's clearly a kind of an artistic project and not a money making project we really want to support them and we organise a lot of events related with this kind of eh field. Small scale editing, small scale printing,this kind of thing. »

[student] « Having so many applications, then how does your residency program look like? Do you offer from two weeks to half a year, or is it specialised in every case? »

[ef] « So eh it is completely irregular. there almost nothing periodic in this schedule, it's eh, we try to avoid this repetition. It's not completely true. Every Wednesday in this room there is a Shiatsu massage workshop. There is a kind of agreement with the school and those people, they need to make a lot of massages to get their degree, so you can be the... and also we ehmm... we have eh, maybe it's not regular, but very often we have a typography event, we are... maybe you are not aware that typography is a really lively science... computer graphics has not killed at all eh the process of making letters and printed documents. It's the opposite. And there is a booming of eh typography, actually enabled by eh free software and easy access to the... with a lot of computers they can focus on just making the shape of the letters, they are not limited also by the technological eh heavy industry that eh was related with that before, because it was made with lead, old school typography.»

[student] « Would it be possible for students from for example a film school to use the space for shootings? »

[ef] « So that is what we do quite often actually. So there is a main space and it's kind of difficult to... so the residencies in the main space the are between one day and one month. Never more than one month, and the mean should be on one week. »

[student] « And how should a school get in touch in with you in order to be able to use the space to film? »

[ef]« So eh... so it really depends. When we... If there is a... There are many kinds of shootings and some people they really need the big space to organise a big eh scenography with huge eh... This space is appreciated because we have nine meters and a half of height and so it's also a space that you can use vertically, you can build, you can build... »

[student] «... a set...»

[ef] « Yeah. But actually eh students they often just want to use the space upstairs and eh, which is completely empty, usually, and eh it's very flexible so it's easy to have a small team and they don't need a lot of electricity, a lot of equipment and we do this very often, as much as we can, actually. It's eh, we try to optimise the use of the space and it's really... it must be very cold here where there is no activity, because as soon as it's agreeable then we always find a good eh way to use the space. And eh... also we have some smaller spaces. I have shown you the, the eh floor upstairs, but we have a few offices and one is dedicated to eh video editing. So we have eh residencies of eh for video editing and sound editing. We also we are very proud of our argentic photography eh laboratory which is able to deal with colour eh films, which is really unique, I think. But it is really for professional photographers who remember how to operate film chemistry in the colour systems. There are many people who are able to do this in black and white but eh it's a unique feature of this space that we are still able to do eh make huge eh enlargements of eh colour film eh photography. And so we have offices and also the basement. Basement is kind of open space for eh for visual artists eh who needs to do stuff, but today eh it's exceptionally used as a place where they will perform. It's really not suitable for performing, 'cause it's a basement. There are security issues and so on, but again, with a very small audience it's okay to perform in the basement. So all together this is, we have a number of spaces, there is also this room, but you can check that from an acoustic point of view it's not isolated from the main space, so it is very difficult to have two activities, here and in the main space at the same time, because, maybe if we speak too loud I think we will be a problem for them. But eh you see it's really flexible and in our schedule we have a lot of columns eh one eh each column is of these spaces, big or small, and we try to complete... so it's not only for students and schools and eh but it's, I have to say when it comes to shooting and making short films then it's a big deal of the activity.»

[student] «You said that this organisation has an apparent underground vision for artistic purposes as well as clearly logistics in terms of limitations on audience size. How does this translate into your marketing, since you do have these limitations?»

[ef] « So eh, so in the collective of fifteen people who are running this space I mention I have a position in the university ehm we have many people who are in the graphic design industry and eh they are able to produce those kind of documents for free for us... [shows and distributes the printed and folded program leaflet of the Eveil de Printemps Festival that was hosted by La Générale from March 25 till April 7th] and eh, so we try to have a clear and eh understandable communication and eh of course our web site is in French only. Eh, it's eh due to lack of time and we don't have eh... it's a mistake, I know eh, but eh, if... and also it's not really well organised because it's eh requires some skills, also to have a beautiful web site, which, actually, it's not difficult, but again, it takes time and eh... but, nevertheless, there is a web site and on the web site you have eh fairly complete schedule and eh also a fairly clear statement of what's going on here and the values which are shared by the people and eh so there is nothing really hidden, actually. Just eh, what is hidden is the eh the name of the people who are really, the real... the real ones. But there is nothing, there is nothing truly illegal, there is no eh really hidden activity here. If you want to know, you can know. It's not a cover-up for some eh, it's not a... As I mentioned before, wee try to have a balance between emerging and young artists and also eh for confirmed artists there should be eh things related with experimentation and things that they cannot do in official eh... places. And so there is this idea of experimenting and trying something new, and eh it's eh, if people apply here with a project that is already completely eh, eh done, and they just want to show something, actually it is not the right place, they need to apply for theatre and they need to find eh a true economic model also for that, because eh, yeah it's a... we spend also a lot of time to discuss about how artists should be paid. It's always an issue eh in the economy of art it's really strange that the money, le ruisselement de monnaie, like the rain in the soil, but at the very end artists they get very little. Most of the money evaporates in intermediate structures and eh they are in a typical eh in the typical structures that I have met in my life an enormous percentage of the money is spent just to run the space and a very small amount of the money actually comes in the pocket of the artists at the end. And eh so... from... and eh the result of this situation is that eh for many artists they are ready to play here almost for free and for donation based. For them it doesn't really makes a big difference with eh... In France actually the difference would be on the social side. If they play in an official place, they will get eh social security and things that we are not able to, we cannot help them to, in this respect, unfortunately. We don't... I mention all this because we are really aware of these economical problems and we don't want to make eh kind of a libertarian eh concurrence to the official system. It's eh, we just want to be different and to give eh some eh answers to different questions. And eh it's really interesting to see that eh many projects that were imagined here, they eventually went in a real economy of eh especially in the field of theatre. Because theatre people they need time to create their piece, and eh a regular theatre they don't, they are not able to provide a long period of work. It's very rare that they have a working residencies and it's very difficult to get, so that's why we really feel that we... there is a real need for space like this one. and I understand that actually the city of Paris is aware of that and that's why even though... actually our relation, our relationship with the owner of the building are not so good, for many reasons. Mainly because the city doesn't have enough money to repair. The building is very old and needs a lot of repair. Of course we don't have the money to do that. We need €600,000 to repair the façade, which is difficult but... it's becoming dangerous, and we don't have this money and the city doesn't have the money either. That's what they say. And so they want to sell this place. There is a project of sale. And it's not very expensive, actually, because you, if you are the, if you want to buy this place from the city of Paris you will need to pretend that you will have some eh artistic activity related with the movie industry. It's mandatory. And actually some eh a project like this is eh kind of almost done and this place is almost sold to a combination of eh film distributors. That's from the artistic side, but unfortunately there is also a commercial side. Because, if you buy this building, you need a true economic model. And our model is based on volunteer work and is very specific and nobody wants to continue like this in a commercial way. It's not commercial. You can not invest and get eh, if you want to buy this place you need to get some benefit and so the way to have benefits for a place in Paris is not showing, being a movie theatre. It's not true, you make money by selling beers in bars and restaurants, expensive restaurants and bad quality beer for eight euros. And eh that's the way they make money here. And so the actual project is not really artistic, it's first of all eh making a big bar in the floor level, and a restaurant on the roof top, and five small movie theatres in between. And eh, but it's, this project implies also the destruction of the majority of this building, and as I mentioned before, the neighbours they, they want eh to keep the place. They are very conservative. And this is really a paradox that we got a lot of support from conservative people. Because they don't want to eh... they prefer to have noise from time to time eh it's preferable for them, if you compare with eh a bar which will be closed at two every day. So that's why they support. They don't really mention that they support us. Many of them they really enjoy the project, but actually the ones who are suing the city in the court, they are the wealthy people who just also want to keep the value of their estate and they're afraid that having a bar here would have a negative impact on the value of their eh flat. So, but eh, our rent is supposed to be continued I think in the, for two more years. It will be finished in 2020 and we are in the discussion for renting a new space in another part of Paris. It is not secured at all, unfortunately, but we are confident that we can move to another place once all problems of selling this building will be ... finished. Of course we are against the real estate project in this place and we find it very eh unfortunate that they will eh keep only the façade and destroy the interior and this volume, this emptiness in the eh centre of Paris is very valuable, it's very rare, and they destroying huge value.
...
So ... if you have any question? »

 Inside La Générale Nord Est

[student] « Is people, artists being concerned about social or political issues a criteria for you to select them? »

[ef] « Eh, it's very difficult because of course we will never eh we will never consider really eh, eh a political project which would be oriented towards eh the right extremist or... but, so we have some shared values about social issues and so on, but, but that's about all, that's it. Inside those values there is a space for lots and lots of discussions. You cannot imagine how it is complicated! And I, there is absolutely no political line, absolutely not. So very clearly the people who are organising this current festival, they, as you can check by the aesthetics of all, they are like, I mentioned 'Occupy Wallstreet' or this kind of people. And eh, but it's just for this festival and eh we eh it's really interesting that this place is also associated with eh gender issues and eh racial issues and in France maybe you heard that there are a huge diversity among the feminist community and also anti-racist communities and we are, we have been inviting many of them, there is, I think we have a good view of the whole spectrum of eh, so you can check in the history of eh what happened here, but there is no clear political line, that is not clear at all. But eh we also expect people to be eh interested in ecology and eh not using too much electricity and eh having kind of eh it's eh we try to avoid a consumer eh we try to be eh different from eh the usual species of consumer society. But eh, but actually it's very, very difficult to have a coherent thinking. I don't eh it's really clear for most of us that we are filled with contradictions. That's obvious. But it's an interesting situation. We... it creates a lot of discussion, arguments... »

[student] « How long are usually the residencies, for filmmakers, for example? »

[ef] « A short movie or a video clip, it can be very quick. Two or three days. Sometimes it van be longer, but a film making residency is usually short. »

[student] « What kind of studio spaces are you guys offering to film makers? »

[ef] « What kind of what? »

[hs] « There are no studio spaces. »

[ef] « It's for people who want to use the space as it is. Most of the people they want to shoot upstairs and eh they... if shooting, if shooting is eh more for like shooting a concert or shooting a conference, the main space is often used to shoot a fake concert for example, they, it looks like a concert hall, and they eh, in many movies they will need to make a concert inside a building and then they can use the space to organise, with a fake audience. We have done this several times. »

[student] « I'm interested in the interplay of the collective with the spaces you occupy. Do you feel that the spaces you eh are doing your activities in also shapes the work or the... »

[ef] « It's a very interesting question, because we were before in a much bigger space and we had all the space we wanted, we were not limited by space. And we had a lot of collective spaces but we also had, all of us we had private workshops and eh, so it was incredibly eh an incredible situation. When we came here we were obliged to... To be honest after we left the other spaces we split in two entities and eh the people who were really in need of a workshop, a studio, an artist studio they found a place in a suburb, at the very end of line number nine there is a suburb we call Sèvres with a museum for eh ceramics. There is a very beautiful museum and they found out there was a ceramics school which was abandoned just next to the museum and they could rent the space also for free, almost free, for many years and this eh second part of La Générale was eh finished one year ago, ehm, unfortunate, but eh the studios for visual artists there, they are not existing anymore eh but they, from 2008 to last year they could develop this activities in this other building. So in this building we tried to eh have some rules, to prevent us to have a private space. So it's a very, in my case for example it's vary difficult because eh I have a lot of electronics equipment and eh to make sound and video and a lot of cassette tapes and a lot of eh, it takes a lot of room. And I need room, I need a studio and eh but eh there is a rule here that the space must remain flexible and so, in the sense there is a huge impact of the shape of the building. »

[student] « Do you create your own projects or... »

[ef] « That's another very interesting question, so what is the relationship between the artists who are invited here and our own project? So I'm very proud of that because eh at the beginning I thought we would promote first of all our own activity and we would invite only our friends. But it's a really interesting observation that it's actually not the case. For example, in this current festival of course it's organised by people from this collective and they also want to show their work. But it's maybe one or two projects in this whole list. And their friends are maybe half of that, or remote friends, and other, a big deal of the people who are invited here now they are just people who came to us and created eh... they asked and maybe they asked again and after a while they became eh but they are unknown people and we have a lot of incredible meetings with eh... Here we discovered that in this neighbourhood there are a lot of artists living there. We, it's really interesting that this space is really not closed and focused on the work of the people from the collective.
...
Any more questions? »

[student] « What do you hope or wish for coming maybe ten, twenty years? »

[ef] « We really belief, we really hope that the real estate project here will never happen. It's our hope that the neighbours will win against the city. That's our first goal. But then eh we are really reasonable and we want to keep the project going and that's actually the true motivation is to continue to do what we do and that is why we also try to negotiate a new place, in case we have to leave this one. And this is a difficult political struggle. It's not easy. I mentioned very often the city of Paris. But there is nothing like a city of Paris, it's a huge organisation with multiple heads. It's also a kind of collective and they, they also have to... so of course there is one mayor, then there are some political collaborations and, so, their organisation is also very fuzzy. And eh, some people dislike us and they don't want to help, but some other like us a lot and so we need to have this, to make those political connections and to make things move in the right direction. Also very often it comes with a confrontation, so it's like in a couple, you have eh... so for the next years I expect that we can continue to negotiate this very eh this very advantageous situation of being able to rent such a space. I have to say that it's really not... Recently the city of Paris moved to a completely different concept, maybe you heard of Les Grands Voisins. Have you heard of this? Les Grands Voisins? You never heard of? It's very close to Luxembourg garden, it's a former hospital and eh it was eh it's almost finished now, but for two years this place was given to artists as a social project. But on a completely different basis. The city didn't want to deal with artists, the city wanted to deal with a clear organisation, a kind of company, whose goal is to deal with artists. On y est une sorte de sous-traitance, ehm... It's actually a Dutch concept eh, imported from the squat culture in the Netherlands, which was kind of extinguished by this process of organising on a kind of official level the squatting.»

[hs] «Oh ja, ja, ja, you mean the... I know... ('culturele broedplaatsen') ... There are many, many places now that keep kind of the look of a squat, but they are actually indeed those sort of 'organised' artist places set up by the city.»

[ef] «And so, in the future they, in a similar situation the city will not rent a space to artists. The city will rent the space to a company, whose goal would be to find artists, and to make everything a bit more eh moneyry...»

tags: La Générale, pamp18

# .474.





SoundBlog entries around and about La Générale Nord-Est:

(august 14, 2006) - placard : la générale (Belleville)
(july 20, 2009) - General Acoustics
(january 13, 2010) - Art fleas (puces de l'art)
(june 13, 2010) - Yi Sang à Paris [i]
(june 25, 2010) - Read me a poem, Yi Sang! (Yi Sang à Paris [ii])
(june 29, 2010) - Ceremonies (Yi Sang à Paris [iii])
(august 14, 2010) - "And what about Yi Sang?" (... à Paris [iv])
(december 29, 2010) - Obsolescence
(december 13, 2013) - Candles, Cassettes & Champagne - unPublic #4
(april 08, 2014) - La physicalité du son. Tome 1.
(july 15, 2015) - Bridges, troubles, water - unPublic #19
(august 04, 2016) - Nicolas Collins - 2 April 2016, La Générale
(august 19, 2017) - T'obsolete or not t'obsolete ... [i] ... Vieux Media Fests à La Générale
(april 10, 2018) - La Générale Nord-Est (PAMP18-1)
(july 21, 2018) - T'obsolete or not t'obsolete ... [ii] ... Vieux Media Fests à La Générale


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