Unstrung Letters street art walking tour & lecture (inc. audio recordings)

by The Alternative Parisian on September 23, 2012

Street art and intellectual lectures aren’t the best of friends, generally. Last Wednesday, however, the former was invited to Unstrung Letters at the Au Chat Noir in Oberkampf in Paris’ 11th arrondissement, held in the dingy basement of this dingy bar, to present its argument, ‘A graffiti tag is, too, art’.

On hand to preach the good word of the streets was demi-monde rive-gauche flaneur lookalike, Alternative Paris’ founder and Editor, Demian Smith (pictured right), and artist, and Le M.U.R. co-founder and secretary, Thomas Schmitt (pictured middle).

Demian Smith, founder & Editor of Alternative Paris, on far right. Thomas Scmitt, Le M.U.R. co-founder and secretary in middle. Unstrung Letters lecture on Paris street art - gathering of demi-monde rive-gauche flaneurs at Au Chat Noir, Oberkampf - Guy Debord, the Situationists, the 1968 revolution - Alternative Paris. Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 (13)

Demian Smith, founder & Editor of Alternative Paris (far right), Thomas Schmitt, Le M.U.R. co-founder, secretary and artist (middle), and Georgina Emerson, chairing the Unstrung Letters lecture (far left). Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012

Unstrung Letters lecture on Paris street art - gathering of demi-monde rive-gauche flaneurs at Au Chat Noir, Oberkampf - Guy Debord, the Situationists, the 1968 revolution - Alternative Paris. Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 (9)

Mini-street art walking tour around Oberkampf. Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 

Starting with a mini street art walking tour along rue St Maur and rue Oberkampf, the brains, back in the basement, listened to a chronology of Parisian urban art, hearing about such key markers as the introduction of public advertising billboards, their use by alien governments in WW1 and WW2 and the resulting graffiti as acts of resistance, Guy Debord and the Situationists and the revolution of 1968, the Atelier Populaire at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts, and the New York ‘Hip Hop’ graffiti movement.

Unstrung Letters lecture on Paris street art - gathering of demi-monde rive-gauche flaneurs at Au Chat Noir, Oberkampf - Guy Debord, the Situationists, the 1968 revolution - Alternative Paris. Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 (6)

The Obey Giant campaign by US artist, political campaigner and businessman, Shepard Fairey. Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012

Unstrung Letters lecture on Paris street art - gathering of demi-monde rive-gauche flaneurs at Au Chat Noir, Oberkampf - Guy Debord, the Situationists, the 1968 revolution - Alternative Paris. Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 (4)

Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012

Unstrung Letters lecture on Paris street art - gathering of demi-monde rive-gauche flaneurs at Au Chat Noir, Oberkampf - Guy Debord, the Situationists, the 1968 revolution - Alternative Paris. Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 (3)

Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012

Unstrung Letters lecture on Paris street art - gathering of demi-monde rive-gauche flaneurs at Au Chat Noir, Oberkampf - Guy Debord, the Situationists, the 1968 revolution - Alternative Paris. Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 (1)

Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012

Not quite managing to resuscitate the Situationist movement in an evening, Demian, with much help from Thomas Schmitt (pictured above), certainly managed to pry open Paris’ street art legacy for review and create some debate around the capacity and significance of unsanctioned urban art to expose the capitalist degradation of human life.

Listen to recordings of the street art walking tour and lecture and debate, as follows:

  • Demian talks on Shepard Fairey’s OBEY: Download (15:27)
  • Demian & Thomas Scmitt talk on L’association Le M.U.R.: Download (15:35)
  • Debating street art in the dingy Au Chat Noir basement: Download (34:10)
Thanks to Jason Francis McGimsey for preparing these recordings.

Unstrung Letters lecture on Paris street art - gathering of demi-monde rive-gauche flaneurs at Au Chat Noir, Oberkampf - Guy Debord, the Situationists, the 1968 revolution - Alternative Paris. Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 (5)

Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012

Unstrung Letters lecture on Paris street art - gathering of demi-monde rive-gauche flaneurs at Au Chat Noir, Oberkampf - Guy Debord, the Situationists, the 1968 revolution - Alternative Paris. Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 (10)

Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 

Unstrung Letters lecture on Paris street art - gathering of demi-monde rive-gauche flaneurs at Au Chat Noir, Oberkampf - Guy Debord, the Situationists, the 1968 revolution - Alternative Paris. Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 (8)

Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 

Unstrung Letters lecture on Paris street art - gathering of demi-monde rive-gauche flaneurs at Au Chat Noir, Oberkampf - Guy Debord, the Situationists, the 1968 revolution - Alternative Paris. Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012 (12)

Photo: Richard Beban and Paris Play copyright 2012

The next Unstrung Letters lecture is on the Kabbalah and takes place on Wednesday, October 17th. You can also get updates on Unstrung’s activity via the Paris Lit Up Facebook group page.

 

About the Author

The Alternative Parisian - part street artist, part photojournalist, part chickpea.

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