Carole Benzaken - Châteaux d’eau

La Carserne, Paris, France
As the first place to accelerate ecological and societal transition, La Caserne offers an ideal setting for ideas to travel and for meaningful projects to be developed. This year, it has invited Carole Benzaken to take over this particularly significant place for the artist, a stone's throw from her studio, where her personal biography mingles with the history of the neighbourhood, as well as with a pictorial and spatial reflection in constant movement. In the continuity of her works working in architectural space, such as Mi'ma'amakim (Musée Silésien, 2016) and Degrés (at the invitation of the Centre des Monuments Nationaux at the Abbaye de Cluny, 2020), the artist will install a monumental work pouring down from the top of two superb stairwells, referring to Parisian urbanism, its transformations, demolitions and reconstructions.
Curator: Sabine Marais-Veyrat
Director: Maeva Bessis

Working on the monumental space, the suspension of irregularly cut strips invests and accompanies the verticality of the Caserne's stairwells, evoking a cascading waterfall, a downpour of images in memory of the place of origin. Parisian building facades and green landscapes are overturned and intermingle in a chaotic and abstract game that refers to history, Parisian urbanism and its transformations, demolitions and reconstructions over the centuries.

The fire station on rue Philippe de Girard particularly marked my arrival in the district in 1995. It was then a completely deserted area between the railway tracks of the Gare de l'Est and its beautiful viaduct of the rue de l'Acqueduc, a street opened under the Second Empire which runs alongside the fire station and takes us to the other side of the railway tracks delimiting the border line of the Hindu quarter next to the Gare du Nord. I moved into my studio in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, where I still live and work today. This fire station was active and we regularly went to the firemen's ball on 14 July in the early years of my installation. This working-class neighbourhood has both changed enormously and at the same time miraculously kept the good smell of the Parisian suburbs, preserving a social and cultural mix, allowing many of its inhabitants to still live and work there.

Combining industrial buildings from the beginning of the 19th century (near the Gare de l'Est and Gare du Nord stations), contemporary buildings and the countryside with the proximity of the Canal Saint-Martin and its gardens, those of the Parc Villemin and the former stables of the Château Landon, this district is in complete transformation today. The barracks of yesterday have been transformed into a place built around an ethical reflection on the ecological and societal transition in the world of fashion. Like the garment workshops of the early 20th century, which were rehabilitated into artists' studios with the help of the Ministry of Culture in 1995: the place where I work and live today.
This mutation of the buildings' vocation is at the heart of my proposal for La Caserne: an architectural evocation, a lacerated landscape, both urban and natural, tilted and reversed into an abstract verticality, mutating into a vertiginous fall of images pouring into the heart of the two stairwells of La Caserne.

In the confrontation with this changing place, "Châteaux d'eau" also speaks of the migration of images, of the backdrops of film shoots abandoned to their fate and thrown away after use. This material is recycled, here transformed into a monumental ephemeral work that questions the notion of place.

These technical migrations, of a pictoriality displaced from the painting to the volume, from the surface of the canvas to its invasion out of the frame in the architectural space are recurrent in my artist's career. The personal and imaginary places nourished by films such as "Les enfants du paradis" and "Hôtel du Nord" brought me to this neighbourhood long before I moved there: and this is really about the power of art, to anticipate our biographical paths through fiction.

They are intimately linked to this neighbourhood, confronted with its sadly real plural histories, imbued with its traumas and the permanent shiver I feel when I walk along these railway tracks in their trajectory towards Drancy and the terrible East... they come to nourish a reflection, in a fall, in a rush, in the bursts of facades intermingled with green nature, without landscape however, but rather in a fall, a cascade of strips of canvas, of memories lacerated both cinematographic and pictorial.

Carole Benzaken