For years, Paris has been considered the "City of Art" in Europe and elsewhere. Recently, however, signs have sprung up that this is no longer true, and even on a creative level, the most significant ideas are being developed in other cities where it is possible to dare more. I ended up in Paris somewhat by chance, I dreamed of going to Germany where, in my opinion, artistic experimentation was more intense, but due to a series of events I found myself in the capital of the Hexagon. I admit that I left with classic prejudices and was therefore annoyed to meet a city of rich snobs and classists, but my experience was completely opposite to my expectations.
The Paris I experienced is chaotic, unregulated, ghettoised and with a hunger for revenge: in terms I hold dear, I would call it hardcore underground. Despite the economic barrier many budding artists, musicians, and writers still flock to the French capital every year to live out their creative dreams. However, the problems of the artists' lifestyle in Paris are almost as famous as the legends that surround them. For example, rented houses are extremely expensive and success is hard to come by. If you do not have a well-paying job before arriving in Paris or do not have a French guarantor, you are very likely to have problems finding rental accommodation because almost all landlords want to see tenants' employment contracts and bank statements to make sure one pays on time.
Once again, expectations of walking into a beautiful, light-filled old house with high ceilings and fine stucco work have to be somewhat dismantled. I lived in a nice residential and bourgeois neighbourhood but in a so-called chambre de bonne, an attic of 14sqm, of which 10sqm walkable, but with the “luxury” of having a private bathroom. I consider myself very privileged because most of the people I met, both students and artist-workers, either found themselves forced to live in 4 in 50sqm or in houses as small as mine but in neighbourhoods that are alas badly frequented. However, there are still many good reasons to move to Paris to be an artist, and more importantly, there are ways to make it all work.
It must be said that artists in Paris are appreciated much more for their work than in many other cities. Just being able to meet new people and not be disqualified for your work and life choices is a big plus point. In Milan, a city recently made more and more European and international, there is still the belief that, being an artist is important, but that you must get a so-called "real job". In Paris, there is generally more enthusiasm and interest and consequently more respect for art and artists. It is also normalised being an artist as the main job and that jobs like waiter, pizza maker, florist, etc. are just to supplement one's income or have more economic stability.
Regarding the formal and economic aspect, the artists, and technicians in the sector, having a job defined by the French state as on-off, hence intermittent, have the right to fall under the category intermittent du spectacle, thus receiving a minimum monthly salary if they cannot work. There are also funds for music creation and aid for actors and directors at the Maison du Film Court. In short, with this aid seems like France wanted to legitimise the work of the artist, making it "safer" also economically speaking. Perhaps because of all the difficulties that artists face, such as finding space/ateliers, material costs, etc.
Many communities and collective situations have formed over the years, which, from my point of view, are precisely the strength of the city. Since there are so many of us, all in the same unpleasant situation, there is a way to merge our cultures and help each other. If you are an artist, in the broadest sense of the word, there are various groups and/or workshops to turn to. Major cultural centres such as Le 6b or Les Ateliers Daguerre unfortunately have long waiting lists to get a space, but they are still good bases where you can go and get in touch with people in the field.
I was lucky to be welcomed with open arms by the Coco93 collective thanks to which I was able to show my work for the first time to a wider audience than my close circle of acquaintances. Actually, there is no secret to getting the longed-for "contacts". People meet at concerts, at exhibitions, by chance during university lectures or at workshops. The only thing that turns one's fortunes around is speaking the language. Unfortunately, although the scene is very international, the use of French is 99% preferred, not knowing it means isolating from what one finds around. This is like a network which is, however, crocheted together, stitch by stitch.
The city's trump card, then, is not the city itself but the people who live there, which makes the stay magical. Precisely because of its surly character, it is not a place for everyone, it is not Paris that adapts to us but we who adapt to its crazy demands, but once we get into the mechanism, there is no turning back. The charm, the emotions, the sights, the smells, the sounds, the riots, and everything that characterises it will cyclically force you to return if not to stay there.
By CHIARA MENTORE
for DARE CLAN