Last June, the river Seine rose to the point of almost bursting its banks. Even though two meters short of the great flood of 1910, the entire city was in shambles. Something in the air smacked of catastrophe... And yet, on the eve of summer, a great many people from Paris and its surroundings kept gathering around the river to see what was going on, to have a look at the sudden surge and take incongruous snapshots. Suddenly, the Seine had become a spectacle.
Although public space has recently become a source of great wariness and fear, it suddenly turned into a space of performance. More than a threat, the rising water turned out to be a fun distraction. This poetic truce could not deflect from the dark times we live in, but it was nonetheless a breath of fresh air.
A few weeks after we were appointed, the event coincided in our minds with the prime ambition of the festival that we wish to carry on, that is to offer the people of Paris and its surroundings, but also local and international visitors, the possibility to enjoy an unexpected artistic experience in the summer. Thanks to the artists, and together with them, we need to promote joy, to promote the unusual, to create the conditions for encounter and surprise, and include all types of publics.
By taking over monuments, streets, squares, amusement parks and high schools, we wish to go forth and meet all audiences and particularly those who are most isolated. It is also an opportunity for all of us to develop a new relationship to urban space. We want this festival to play with individual and collective perception, to bridge the gap between the iconic and the everyday Paris area.
In 2017, Paris quartier d'été becomes Festival Paris l'été; it is a way for us to carry on the work that has been done these past twenty seven years, while at the same time impulsing a new dynamic. Theater, dance, circus, street arts and music are going to take over famous locations as well as more unusual ones, both indoors and outdoors, in a festive and convivial spirit. Our wish is to welcome all types of publics, be they culturally educated or not. French and foreign artists, newcomers and veterans, are going to invite you to participate in the creation of works of art, wander through urban space, and seize opportunities for encounter and exchange.
No, culture is not indispensable, it is vital. It is vital to connect people, to safeguard our freedom, which we need more than ever. Forgetting it is the best way to reinforce social divide, a phenomenon which it is our duty to keep a watchful eye on.
Our ideal for public culture is to experience moments which bring us together across our divides, outside of commercial space.
We hope to see you this summer, beginning on July 17 2017 and will keep you informed in the meantime.
Laurence de Magalhaes and Stéphane Ricordel
Co-directors of Paris l'été