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Candlemas

February 3, 2015

Candlemas or “candle celebration” is a renowned, religious and traditional celebration with pagan origins which is linked to light. It also corresponds to a Christian religious celebration called “The Presentation of Christ to the Temple”. It is actually celebrated on 2nd February that is 39 days after Christmas.

Originally, at Roman time, it was a celebration of the divinity Pan. All night, believers roamed the streets of Rome and agitated torches. In 472, Pope Gélase I decided to christianise this celebration which would become “The presentation of Christ to the Temple”.

candlemas

Then, candle processions were organized according to a precise technique on that day and it also became known as Candlemas. Every believer must get a candle at the church and bring it home making sure to keep it alight. This blessed candle is supposed to have many powers, and it will protect people who keep it at home.

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Meanwhile, another tradition appeared, that one of crepes. This tradition comes from an old myth which said that if you don’t make crepes the day of Candlemas, the wheat will be rotten all year.

Moreover, when we make crepes, we must respect a custom : indeed the farmers flip the first crepes with the right hand and with the left hand they must hold a gold coin. Then the gold coin is rolled-up in the crepe and put on the top of a wardrobe until the following year. The one who flips his crepe with skill will be blessed until the next Candlemas.

Today, candle processions and other rites don’t exist anymore but we still have the crepes tradition.

crepes

There are also other beliefs linked to the weather. In many countries, we believe that Candlemas day, a bear goes out of his den. If the temperature is mild and if he sees the sun, he quickly returns to hibernating again.

In other countries, it is the marmot which goes out. If she sees her shadow, it means that there is sun; as it scares her she quickly returns to continue to hibernate because it knows that the winter is still going to last.

groundhog day

For the food lovers : the crepe’s recipe.                                                                                   

Ingredients for four persons : – 250 g of flour, 4 eggs, 1/2 l of milk, 1 pinch of salt, 2 dessert spoons of sugar, 50 g of melted butter.

Pour the flour in a bowl; dig a hole in the middle and add the eggs. Beat well. Pour the milk little by little. Add the salt, the sugar and the melted better; mix quickly so that it doesn’t cook the eggs.

Heat up the frying pan and put a knob of butter. Put a ladle of crepe batter and put it in the frying pan. Wait for the crepe to cook on one side and flip it over. Serve it hot accompanied with sugar, jams, nutella, fruit…

Elmae

 

 

Niki de Saint-Phalle, woman and artist

January 21, 2015

1930: Born Catherine Marie-Agnes Fal de Saint Phalle at Neuilly-sur-Seine, from a wealthy family.

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1932: Her father is bankrupted after the stock market crash in 1929. Niki is sent with her elder brother to live with their grandparents in the Nievre.

1933: The family is then reunited in Greenwich, Connecticut. The family lives in the United States but often comes back to the South of France in the maternal grandfather’s castle designed by Le Notre. She started to be influenced by two different ways of living.

1937: The family moves to New York City, where Catherine Marie-Agnes, called Niki goes to the Convent of the Sacred Heart. She falls into comic book reading and pays weekly visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

She hated conformity and authority and had to go to several different schools because she never adapted to any of them.

It is only when she finally settled down in Brearly School, that she found interest in reading other literary genres such as Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare and Dostoevsky whom she admired. She then started to write her own stories, poems and plays. She had so much passion and inspiration that it got her expelled from Brearly after she painted on the Dean statuary. She graduated in 1947, from a private girl boarding school in Maryland called Old Field.

1948: She went back to New York and worked as a fashion model for the biggest fashion magazines names such as Vogue, Life, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle. She both worked in the United States and in France.

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1949: At the age of eighteen she runs away several times with Harry Mathews and finally settles in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She starts painting, exploring her inspiration, experimenting styles while her husband studies music at Harvard. She has a first child named Laura in 1951.

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1952: The couple moves back to Paris where she studies acting and where he continues his music studies. They cherish their daughter a lot and want to give her a real opening onto the world by travelling a lot through Europe mostly in Italy, Spain … always visiting artistic places such as museums and cathedrals. She is very much impressed by the elegance and the delicacy of the art and the power of faith found in cathedrals. They are a big inspiration for her future art.

1953: She is diagnosed with a nervous breakdown and is hospitalized in Nice where she paints the crisis in her mind. It is after she hits rock bottom that she realizes the importance art has on her life and starts to paint all the time, seeing it as the only way to communicate and understand the world.

1954: She slowly goes back to a social life in Paris where she meets Hugh Weiss, who becomes her mentor amazed by her self-taught style. She moves to Spain where she has a son Philip in 1955. Spain opens her to various new styles especially after she meets with Antonio Gaudi. She starts using different materials and adds sculpture and architecture to the strings of her bow.

1956: She goes back to France and lives in the Alps. She first exhibits in Switzerland and along her journey meets with various contemporary artists such as Kenneth Koch.

1959: She splits up with her husband and her children live with her ex-husband. She sets up her own studio in the impasse Rosin in Paris and drowns in her art. She collaborates with Jean Tangibly, her long-time friend and inspiration. She becomes, through her bicultural background, the link between American and French art and the ambassador of avant-gardism.

1961: She starts her series of paintings including shootings. The target of her “tirs” (shoots) are the painting, and she makes art from the shot of a rifle, cannon or pistol creating explosions of colors. She then exhibits all around the world mostly in the United States to which she is still very attached. She is introduced to Salvador Dali through her entrance in the Nouveau-Realisme mouvement and is invited to attend  one of the celebrations of Dali’s art.

Niki 4 good

1963: She creates “King Kong” one of her most famous piece and is inspired by horror movies; starts creating monsters and dragons.

Niki 5 good

1965: She starts thinking about the position of women in society after the pregnancy of her dearest friend Clarisse. She creates the “everywoman” named “Nanas”. One of her versions of a “Nana” is called “Hon” and is a giant, being the entrance of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. The visitors enter the exhibition between her legs. She and her art start to be very discussed and related in worldwide paper.

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1967: She is exposed to toxic fumes produced by polyester she manipulates for a new exhibition “Le Paradis Fantastique”. This really spot her lungs but it is all the materials that she has been using all along which really disintegrates her vital parts.

1969: She first establishes her permanent architectural project in her south of France mansion. It is in her garden that she exposes her art from previous exhibitions and where she keeps in and out various objects in three buildings.

1971: She marries Jean Tinguely on July 13th. She writes and produces the movie Daddy in which she plays the lead role. It is a psychological and surreal exploration of father-daughter relationships as the daughter is a child, then a teen and finally an adult.

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1974: She builds three large scale “Nanas” in Hannover, Germany. They are named Sophie, Charlotte and Caroline representing three feminist figures of Hannover. She is hospitalized with serious lung issues and goes to live in the Swiss mountains for her health.

Niki 9

1978: Lives for a while in Malibu, California and has her first solo show in Japan at Gallery Watari, Tokyo.

1980: First show is organized in an experimental space, called SPACE NIKI, in Tokyo. It is a huge collection of her work in medias, films and artistic pieces.

1982: She creates a fragrance entitled “Niki” first sold in the American market. She uses the money she makes from the fragrance to finance her garden in France where she gathers the biggest pieces of her collection.

Niki 10

1989: She collaborates with her son Philip Mathews on an animated film based on her AIDS book. This film, drawings for the film, and a revised edition of the AIDS book, are published by The Agence Francaise de lutte contre le sida.

1991: Her husband Jean Tinguely dies.

1994: She settles down in California where she works and lives.

1996: She decides to open the Garden to the public.

Niki 7

2002: She dies in San Diego, because of her chronic breathing deficiency.

I chose to write this article about Niki, because after I went to her exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris, I felt so inspired and free. The colors and the forms she uses to create her art are big, shiny and colorful and make you want to be happy. Despite the problems she had, both family and medical ones, she managed to create something special of her art, an art that conveys the values she believed in like feminism. Even though her French exhibition is over for now, I would love to go back or even to visit her garden in the South of France. Maybe one day…

Léa S.

59 Rivoli

January 20, 2015

Three weeks ago, I discovered the very colorful artists’ squat at the 59 rue de Rivoli. At the heart of Paris, this Haussmannian building houses a group of modern artists.

At the beginning, in 1999, the “KGB” (the trio Kalex, Gaspard Delanöe and Bruno) discovered this abandoned place (left by the national bank) and decided to settle there. A few days later, a lot of other artists came in the building. The city hall of Paris accepted not to expell them, nevertheless, they had to keep their workshops open for the public between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Today, this balance between the government and those artists still exists. Moreover, this is very impressive. Indeed, the outside of the building is always decorated with different creations made by the artists, changed each month.

59 rivoli

But the inside is just as impressive. The stairwell is entirely covered by paint, collage, knickknacks, recycled objects, sequins…

59 rivoli3

You climb up the stairs and you arrive in front of a very colorful door with a lot of inscriptions on it : it is the ground floor.

Then, you can enter inside of the artists’ home, there are beds, kitchens and bathrooms… But especially some pieces of art everywhere: On the walls, on the ground. When you enter  another room, you are confronted with another artistic universe. All the artists are different : women, men, French or foreigners, young people, old people. In their image, all the artistic creations are diverse and heterogeneous : some collages, paintings, photographs, graffitis, personal drawings, frescos made with some pieces of ceramic…

There are two things which struck me : one room within which there is a huge and impressive mess.

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But it seems to be “an artistic mess”, with a lot of heterogeneous objects from everywhere. The second thing is an exhibition of little paintings made with hair, and, thanks to a play of light, you can see very beautiful shapes. Each floor is the discovery of a new universe, sometimes sweet ,funny or provoking. The artists are novice or experienced. For example, I met an Italian artist who made the Florence’s School of Fine Arts and he had all the points as well as the congratulations of the jury. In all, the building has about four or five floors and houses about twenty artists from all over the world. At the end of the visit, you can drink a glass of mulled wine or lemonade according to the season. (Almost) all the artists are very nice and welcoming, open-minded and happy to talk with you about their passion (or anything else).

If you don’t like to spend about five hours in a museum with pieces of art that you don’t like either, if you love art and feel free when you see it, 59 Rivoli is a place for you.

Céleste.

Christmas tree controversy takes root!

January 15, 2015

Every year, the phenomenon repeats itself. Indeed, buying an artificial or a natural Christmas tree is an annual question and has been a universal tradition for more than 1000 years.

The Christmas tree, first called “giving tree” to make “everybody feel welcome“, then “holiday tree” and then “family trees”, finally remains “Christmas tree” in reference to Christian celebrations and traditions.

Nowadays, the Christmas tree has become a non-religious tradition shared by a lot of people all over the world. Reachable, the majority of households can buy its own Christmas Tree. But a touchy question remains: what to buy, artificial or natural?

sapin

The pros and cons of an artificial fir tree:

  • To begin with, an artificial tree prevents the floor from being overrun by fallen needles; and will enable you to relax and  not worry about vacuuming because your in-laws are coming.
  • Then, the unnatural tree has non negligible ecological advantages; indeed, you can use it several years in a row; its ecological print is less important than a real fir tree’s.

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  • Nonetheless, this sort of tree presents some drawbacks: as it is a plastic tree, it does not have the rich fragrance of pine characterizing the real ones.
  • Moreover, its cost is twice superior to a natural tree…

But, contrary to what is commonly thought, not only does the natural tree have some perks but it also has disadvantages:

  • The first non negligible argument in favor of the real tree is that it spreads a rich scent of pine which brings a welcoming atmosphere in the house, then even if it costs less than an artificial one, the genuine one is more pleasant than the fake one.
  • The natural tree is moreover an ephemeral product which requires a specific organization; indeed, you need to plan when you buy it, not too early in order to keep it green the whole Christmas period; and then, when the tree is withered you cannot simply throw it in the trash, but you need to find an organic garbage.

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Nevertheless, this list is not exhaustive and it might be interesting to consider a third option: What about considering a living, potted tree next Christmas?

Léa.G

A “Formidable” Concert ♫

January 14, 2015

On Saturday, November 29th I went to a concert of the  singer Stromae in Bercy, Paris, which is a famous multi-purpose room known for proposing shows such as one-man shows, concerts, …

Stromae is a Belgian singer and musician known for his eccentric songs and music videos.

My friends and I arrived 4 hours in advance in order to be the closest possible to the stage. We then had to wait, sitting on the ground, like most of the people who were already there. It was a cold afternoon and the sun must have felt like it wasn’t welcomed, because even with gloves and hats we were all freezing.

Just before the opening of the gates, half of my group ran out of the queue to buy something to eat so as not to die of hunger during the concert.

Before entering the hall we all had to show what was inside our bags, and had to throw away in the trash all the things that could be thrown and could hurt the artist, such as plastic bottle’s caps for example.

We were rewarded for our wait as we could almost touch the fence that was separating the crowd from the stage. We had to wait there standing up for another hour for the first part of the concert to begin.

When Stromae arrived on stage, music filled the room and we ended up squeezed between all the fans who wanted to see him better. He performed his most famous songs such as Formidable or Peace Or Violence ☮, but some of them were less known.

This concert was really great because the artist managed to keep the asthmosphere of his song, adding really well-done special effects. For most of his songs the audience sang with him.

Everybody was jumping, dancing and shouting, and we could feel the artist’s happiness to be on stage. We really felt like he gave us everything he had to give.

It was one of the last concerts he would perform for a long time, because of the really tiring tour he did, but seeing him another time in live is worth the wait for a new album.

Mélanie

Happy Kwanzaa!

January 13, 2015

A few days ago, I learnt the existence of Kwanzaa, while I was watching an American TV Show (indeed, it is not celebrated in Europe). As a consequence, I wanted to learn more about this holiday.

 

kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is an African American celebration, which takes place during Christmas time. Many of its traditions stem from Christmas and Hannukah, however, Kwanzaa remains unique.

The name of this celebration comes from the sentence “matunda ya kwanza”, which means “first fruits of the harvest”  in Swahili (the most spoken African language, used here so as to maintain unity). It is a “young” holiday, as it was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana “Ron” Karenga (a Professor of Black Studies). It was founded during the Black Power Movement, and reflects a will for groundedness; indeed, not only did the African Americans want to be recognized in the United States but they were also willing to keep a link with their African roots. Here is the vocation of Kwanzaa: affirming a new culture whilst repsecting the former traditions.

One of the main ideas at the core of Kwanzaa is unity: contrary to Christmas and Hannukah, it is a social holiday. Thus, African Americans can celebrate Kwanzaa regardless of their religion.

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However, Kwanzaa’s symbols remind me of Hannukah’s: seven candles are lit (as in the Jewish holiday): they are meant to represent the seven principles which are: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective work and responsibility), Nia ( Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), Ujamaa (Collective economics), and Imani ( Faith). As the celebration lasts seven days, each day is supposed to focus on one of the principles. On the 6th evening, families gather and the presents are exchanged on the last day.

As the other winter holidays, Kwanzaa has its own symbols, including the seven candles, the presents, the crops (symbolic of African harvest celebrations),…

The people who celebrate Kwanzaa often decorate their houses: this holiday is associated with its own colors. If Christmas is red, green and golden, Kwanzaa is also colorful: mainly black, green and red.

In order to celebrate Kwanzaa there are some simple but firm rules: respecting its traditions, having a personal reflection about life,… The most important of all, according to the crew is that Kwanzaa should not be mixed with another celebration. That is to say, even if Kwanzaa is social, it cannot be celebrated as well as a religious holiday.

The most important aspect of Kwanzaa is reflection. A day of reflection is observed by everyone who celebrates it so as to consider what has been done during a year and what is still to achieve. Kwanzaa is a holiday gathering members of a community; its main aspects are unity, remembrance and reflection. This social and recent holiday is more and more celebrated in the USA as it allows people of African descent to have their own winter holiday. Kwanzaa takes place from December 26th to January 1st, but whether you celebrate it or not, happy holidays!

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Nina.

DIVERGENT

December 16, 2014

affiche divergent

Divergent is an American science-fiction movie directed by Neil Burger, it was released in April 2014. The principal actors are Shailene Woodley (the girl who played in “The fault in our stars”), Theo James and Kate Winstlet.

I think that this movie is very interesting because he gives us an original glimpse of what the world could be after another war. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in Chicago. After a war, the society has been divided in five factions : Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Candor and Amity to preserve the peace.

divergent factions

But there is also another faction : that of the outcasts who don’t have any faction and live in the city as clandestines. People are divided in these factions according to their personality trait. Until the age of sixteen, children live with their parents and are in the same faction as them. At sixteen, all the teenagers take a test which will define their principal personality trait.

divergent shainlene woodley

The main character of the movie is Beatrice alias Tris (Shailene Woodley). She lives with her parents and her brother in the Abnegation community. Beatrice who has reached 16 years old, takes the test to know her personality trait. The test reveals that she is “divergent”, in fact she possesses all the personality traits of the society. The “divergent” are tracked by the State, so she must protect her secret.  She is totally disoriented and doesn’t know which faction she could choose during the assembly. Nevertheless, Beatrice distinguishes herself because of her strength and her audacity. Moreover, she has an attraction for the Dauntless faction because she sees a kind of freedom in it. Then, Tris endures the rough universe of the Dauntless who are the warriors of the State. The training is really hard, it is based on the control of the most intimate fears.

Tris will realise after her integration among the Dauntless that the State schemes a diabolical operation with the Erudite. She is the only one who can save the society and foil it from the threat of the State because she is “divergent”.

divergent theo jamesdivergent kate winslet

Neil Burger tries to draw a world which looks like our world, much more than we would want to believe it. This movie imparts a lot of energy and action. The script is particulary interesting and well led. I advise all the people who search action, suspense, science-fiction and love story to take the time to watch it.

Elmaé

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