Paris : Simon Cutts & Erica Van Horn
Rue de Turbigo
It is the contained-ness of Paris that is remarkable. You can walk across it in half a day or less. The central parts are formed by obliques meeting straights as a kind of angular grid. This I guess was Haussmann’s plan, but it make for confusion as a pedestrian, and I have often been turned around by the angularity. One great oblique not far from here is Rue de Turbigo, and looking the length of it from Arts et Metiers to the church of St Eustache at the far end, you would think it the main street of the city. I guess that was the idea . They all look like the main street, these boulevards. All this is not helped by a dream I had as a child, of the streets and layout of Paris, the tone and texture of which recurs when I am away from the city for a while. This is a city I know quite well, but there is often an overlay of my imagined city, a mesh almost stronger than the reality of what I consciously know.
Irritated by a recent book of the city mythologist Ian Sinclair, in which he describes a trip to the suburb of Balard in south west Paris only because its name reminds him of his friend J.G. Ballard, such banality starts me thinking. I must come up with a project which deals with real, physical geography, as opposed to the late-surrealist nonsense of psychogeography. I too can rejoice in the absurdity of the imagination of Debord in using a London Underground map for a walk in the Harz Mountains, but there is something creepy and pretentiously suburban in Sinclair’s caprices. However, like Sinclair, I understand the need for a writer to find something to do, to evolve a scheme, to manufacture an engagement, to be plausible enough to oneself.
I have had the idea for a project of The Porte Walks, which I will describe more fully in another note. Basically, if you envisage where we are in the city as about just outside the bulls-eye ring of the dartboard at about 3 o’clock, to confuse two analogical instruments, then the 31 Portes de Paris lie on the outer perimeter of our clock at various hours, the mythic périphérique of the city. There was some concern in my initial planning as to whether we should touch that fast moving band of a road that circulates around the city with perpetual movement, but now I don’t think it necessary.The Portes mostly seem to lie on the North, East and South sides of the city. Also, certain liberties have been taken in forming the project, like the presence of a nearby metro station to disembark from and begin the walk, the availability of roads rather than rail tracks! Its not sure that we’ll do all the walks on this visit, but we’ll make a good start! SC