THE HANDSTAND

OCTOBER 2005



Paris Notes by Frank Rynne

Diaspora
In January '88 I left Dublin almost vowing never to return. As a message to those who might have given The Baby Snakes work the band issued a back handed farewell to the city by issuing a live cassette called This City Sucks. I went alone to London where many of my siblings had settled. Brixton in the late eighties was a relatively free zone, recovering from but under constant threat of serious urban rioting. My younger sister helped me squat four flats in as many days. Soon a new epoch dawned for an Irish band and their entourage. Free rent and freedom in the demi monde of south London's squat culture. Some got broken hearts, some got broken dreams, some got to live off of what was left over.

Thirteen years later I returned to Dublin to live. I studied history in Trinity and stayed out of the public gaze as best I could.
Burroughs/Gysin
I can't be sure if I first came to Paris in 1991 or 1992. In 1992 I was involved in curating The Here to Go Show a multi-media and multi-cultural event featuring the paintings of William Burroughs,
Brion Gysin, and Mohamed Hamri. The show encompassed a vision of the Beat generation's North African repose by way of Paris, New York and London. Terry Wilson was the catalyst around which this explosion erupted. All the participants in the show were drawn into the aftershocks. It was Terry who first brought me to Paris to meet people involved with Brion Gysin. I stayed with him and Phillipe Beaumont on rue de Maubeuge in the tenth. Late in 1993 after an exhausting
experience of curating the anti-art China White Show I spent some months in Paris staying in flea pit hotels and trying to negotiate my way around the snobbish Parisian elite. Mission failed.

I spent my days in fruitless negotiations with princesses and agents of the Agnès B empire. The positive breaks were in the company of the late Marie-Odile Briot, curator at the Musée d'art moderne de le Ville de Paris at the Palais de Tokyo. Later when the politics got too much for her socialist soul she landed as director of the quieter Musée de Montmarte. I will always remember her for her non-partisan approach to promoting Gysin's painting, and for buying some splendid lunches when food was scarce. God bless her. In 1993 after seeing hoards of Parisian cops harass everyone who wasn't white or conformist on the streets over several weeks I thought about them murdering Algerians in the hundreds one night in the early sixties and wrote some words which I later put into an Islamic Diggers lyric:

Cops travel round armed to the teeth Europa Click Click Boom
Hit the streets with your eyes open wide
It's the time for dumping warm bodies on the sidewalk.


Morocco/Europe.
What might be termed my obsession with the Maghreb came from Hamri the Painter of Morocco. In the lead up to the Here to Go Show Terry had suggested that Hamri was a unique part of Gysin's world that others in the west both feared and reviled. I got his number and called him. Over several months it was arranged that he and some musicians from his mothers village of Joujouka would come to Dublin. In October 1994 I went alone to Morocco with a Sony Pro-Walkman and a stereo microphone purchased with an advance of £500 from Sub Rosa Records in Belgium. Following in the footsteps of Brian Jones the errant Rolling Stone, Ornette Coleman the cultic jazz musician and Bill Laswell, producer to the stars and the starry-eyed, I was to record a CD of The
Master Musicians of Joujouka. Hamri threw me in at the deep end refusing to translate save for the most essential things; he said, "If you want to work with these musicians you must be correct". After
weeks recording in Joujouka I took off to record Gnoua in Marrakech. Hamri, unhappy to see me leave on a day when he had assembled sixty musicians to play for the governor of the province of Larache, said "Go to Djamma El Fna use your ears if it sounds good to you then it is good Gnoua". After the festival I caught the Marrakech Express, having witnessed Bachir Attar who claimed to be Joujouka muster about eight musicians for the massed musical display marching pitifully behind
Hamri's army of Sufi masters.

So what has all this to do with Paris? As I stated above in 2000 I returned to Dublin for five years. Last week I moved to Paris. My girlfriend having spent four years commuting to or staying in Dublin
it is now my turn to settle in her home town. The apartment is in the ninth, ten minutes from where I used to stay in the nineties. Outside the window is the Moulin Rouge where stupid tourists spend 150 euros for a meal and a cancan.
Art
On my second day here Yvonne and myself went down to the Centre Culturel Irlandais for the opening of Abigail O'Brien's Garden Heaven- Holy Orders. O'Brien was a mature student in the N.C.A.D in the nineties. Since then she has had shows in Munich, Mexico, Holland and in M.O.M.A. in Dublin. The show was based around large photographs, hedges in parks darkly printed. The centre of the space was occupied by a series of sculptures, bronze dipped in silver. The sculptures caught my attention, they had the random quality like molten metal dropped suddenly in ice water yet had an angelic aspect in that randomness. Angel wings. The Centre is in the old Irish college for training priests outside of Ireland when the Protestant ascendancy forbade such activities at home. The lavish buffet and wine reception was held outside in the courtyard and those approaching the bar were given verbal encouragement to dig in by an eccentric French painter type. Above our heads the names of the Catholic dioceses of Ireland reminded us of the freedoms Paris had allowed previous generations of Irish men. Now it was a woman's turn.
Europe/Morocco
The voices that drift up from the street here in rue Blanche are generally Moroccan. It reminds me of Tangier. Last year I was staying to the north of the city in Aubervilliers, the Saturday market might as well have been the Tangier souk, save for one holdout on whose stall hung whole piglets. A christian island in the middle of the halal meat stalls.


Armies of police guard the Fifth Republic from the waves of Islamic youth who hit Paris on the weekend to have a good time and exert their presence on the streets. Friday night the police ran a carload of
French North Africans off the road outside the apartment. I looked down on their rough handling and detention for ten minutes. After manhandling and hassling these young men the police jumped back into their car and speed off. The boys obviously a bit shaken went into the crèperie, shook hands with the Maghrebi staff and ordered pancakes.


Saturday night it was Africa's turn to take control. The street filled with gangs of black and Maghrebi boys hanging around shouting and kicking security grills. Outnumbered, the police stayed away. I contemplate the potentially idyllic life in the mountains near Joujouka. Like the Irish in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Britain and America, many North Africans swap relative poverty in their homelands where cash is scarce for a type of second class citizenry in a cash and commodity rich society. Earlier on Saturday night I attended a party in the comfort of the bourgeois suburbs, the fiftieth birthday of a famous actor's wife. The champagne flowed. The food and wine were great. One of the guests had grown up in Morocco but did not speak Arabic. He had worked there with his father buying intestines which were turned into violin strings.


Culture
Throughout the last five years in Dublin I have felt unwilling to participate in the cultural life. It was like being pinned under a rock. Having been so active in London it was a radical change for me.In ten days here I have been to the cinema up the road twice. Last night I saw Crash, called Collision here. I have always loved Matt Dillon. The theme of Crash is close to my heart, the racial differences and pressures in modern societies. One of the most disgusting things about the modern Ireland is the simian racism of the natives. That our government including McDowell promotes this gross ignorance the minister of justice makes the general excuse that it is only certain individuals who are racist hollow indeed. I have been told that McDowell used to wear his F.C.A. uniform to U.C.D. back in the late seventies. I imagine he would invest in ovens if he had the chance.
Lydia Lunch
I arrived in Paris last week with my twenty-kilo luggage allowance. I allowed myself a few books, a pamphlet signed with a dedication by
Burroughs, the souvenir program for the Fenian, Jeremiah O'Donovan
Rossa's 1915 funeral at which Padraig Pearse made his famous graveside
panegyric which ended with the lines:
 " They think they have pacified Ireland. They think they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half; but the fools, the fools, the fools! - they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace."
I also brought an early edition of Junkie and Fuzz against Junk both published by Olympia Press in Paris. Other items close to my heart, Hamri's book Tales of Joujouka and my signed copy of Paradoxia by Lydia Lunch are indispensable.
27th September
One of my regrets on leaving Dublin last week was that I would miss Lydia Lunch's gig at Voodoo Lounge on 2nd October. While eating lunch yesterday on rue de Rochechouart I was delighted to discovered that she is playing up the road tonight. I tracked down her hotel details, also around the corner from the apartment, and spoke to her today.


She was tired but in good form. I first met Lydia in 1996 when Islamic Diggers played the Poetica festival, part of the Festimad on the same bill as her, Richard Hell, Tav Falco, Hamri and John Cale. When Paradoxia was launched in London in 1997, Joe Ambrose and myself put on a free event in Soho under the auspices of our 1001 Nights club. The event was packed and Lydia gave one of her best performances.
28th September…….Fenian Exile
The show last night at Divan du Monde was great. Lydia was accompanied by Terry Edwards, Ian White and Mark Viaplana. I love the way Lydia can pick out individuals in the audience and adlib directly at them and pinpoint their insecurities. Girls blushed, boys cringed. The wars in the Middle East and the threat of global annihilation were themes explored alongside sexuality and abuse. The French writer of rock'n'roll/sex novel Fuck Me Virginie Despentes stood enthralled at the side of the stage awed by her master. After the show we went backstage for a few minutes. I discovered that Lydia is now living in Barcelona. I comment that everyone has decided to move to Europe.
"Could you blame them" Lydia replied. This morning I went for coffee with her and we caught up on four years. Lydia recalled going with Mark to interview cops at the police Olympics in Barcelona. I produced my copy of Fuzz against Junk a pictorial novel which uses plates from nineteenth century books and captions them with a Burroughsian commentary about sex and drugaddiction. Synchronicity?  Mark is obsessed with Spanish anarchists. He and Lydia have produced
her new DVD Fuelling the Rose of Fire. The original "Rose of Fire" was the late nineteenth century action by Barcelona anarchists who simultaneously set fire to 100 churches. Meeting Lydia convinces me further that coming to Paris was the right move at the right time. For those of you still in Ireland,  I hope you can catch her show on the 2nd at Voodoo. In the meantime I have got to go and buy some nice fresh bread which will cost a quarter of what it would in La Maison des Gourmets in Castle Market and will taste four times better. That house you bought last week may have increased in value by two grand before the ink dried but when Microsoft and G.W.B. pull the plug on little old Ireland you won't even have Gerry Adams and the Provos to sell you out. I think I'll stick to fenian exile, anarchists and rock'n'roll. Au revoir for now. Tiocaigh ar là.

Text and photographs by Frank Rynne
frankrynne@gmail.com
links
www.lydia-lunch.org

www.joujouka.net