Let’s talk about the octopus in the room, slithering over the wall of the mailroom of a soon-to-be-renovated dorm building at La Maison des Arts et Métiers in Paris. Don’t worry, it’s not the apocalypse — it’s an installation, a part of street art festival Rebel 2, and an innovation of displaying street art while holding onto its ephemeral roots.
It’s the brainchild of Lyon-based collective Bitume, brought into motion by a hundred street artists who painted every level of the building from floor to ceiling. According to Bitume member Hugo di Carlo, the artists, who range in age from 17 to 70, had “an effervescence among them,” and they all enjoyed discussing techniques and discovering new way of creating art.
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The opportunity to bask in each other’s presence over an extended period of time — about three weeks — proved a luxury to artists who are regularly put under severe constraints of time and legality. As di Carlo himself tells Creators, the exposition was unique because “artists had free rein in the building. They painted floors, ceilings, walls, stairs, everything… For them, it is a way to show what they can achieve when they have time and means. And the result is amazing.”
Still, the installation clings to one important aspect of street art: its brevity. Because the dormitory will be renovated soon after the month-long installation, it provides the unique opportunity to have a gallery-like exposition of graffiti in a context which preserves this defining facet of the art form. As street art finds its way into more and more swanky art galleries, its essence fades. An art form which intends to be brief, painted over, is now transferred to the near-permanence of canvas, bought and sold by collectors. It’s a natural evolution, yet it likewise strips it of some of the historical and cultural significance of graffiti. Bitume’s takeover of the soon-to-be-renovated residence hall upholds the rapidly disintegrating pillars of traditional street art, while simultaneously elevating it with a uniquely immersive experience.
After heavy renovations, the dorms will reopen in September, probably returning to the classic and significantly less interesting dorm colors of eggshell and beige.
Bitume’s installation took place as part of the Rebel 2 festival from June 16th to July 16th in Paris’ 14th arrondissement. Check out more photos on Jonk Photography’s page here.