“Preservation Without Permission: the Paris Urban eXperiment”
Tuesday November 13, 02012 at the Cowell Theater, San Francisco
The Paris Urban eXperiment (known for short as UX) began in 1981 as a boast by a middle schooler and has since grown into a large secretive network of artists, craftspeople, and urban explorers. With over two millennia of streets, sewers, catacombs, and basements, their home city is an infrastructural palimpsest riddled with historical artifacts too numerous to be effectively preserved by its government. For those with the know-how, though, not preserving this heritage would be a tragedy worth skirting the law to avert. Jon Lackman writes for Wired:
Through meticulous infiltration, UX members have carried out shocking acts of cultural preservation and repair, with an ethos of “restoring those invisible parts of our patrimony that the government has abandoned or doesn’t have the means to maintain.”
Lackman’s story focuses on one particular preservation project undertaken by a subgroup of the UX, the Untergunther. They took it upon themselves to sneak into one of Paris’s iconic churches, the Pantheon, and to restore the centuries-old clock that hadn’t worked in many years. The Pantheon’s reaction to this work wasn’t as grateful as expected, but their mission wasn’t to delight the building’s current administration:
Paris, as they saw it, was the center of France and was once the center of Western civilization; the Latin Quarter was Paris’ historic intellectual center; the Pantheon stands in the Latin Quarter and is dedicated to the great men of French history, many of whose remains are housed within; and in its interior lay a clock, beating like a heart, until it suddenly was silenced. Untergunther wanted to restart the heart of the world.
Lazar Kunstmann, of the UX, and Jon Lackman discuss this and other acts of rogue preservation on November 13th at the Cowell Theater. You can reserve tickets, get directions and sign up for the podcast on the Seminar page.
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