Stricken by the contradictive nature of everyday life on the streets of Paris – which the artist believes to be Europe’s most ambivalent city, with the project TOWNSMEN set as a unifying fabric throughout her seven months of artist-residency there, Elena Nazarova takes on two very contrasting routes of artistic exploration, research, and representation, which deepen as she leaps into the city’s darker corners and nightlife, and eventually lead her to explore possibilities for the perfect object to protest the status quo while pleasing the viewer simultaneously. These are pop culture and homelessness, in Paris, as two opposite poles of society and modern life, both ever-present and perfectly tangible on the same streets and plazas, which the whole world has romanticized for centuries.
The issue of homelessness, which is one of the most pressing humanitarian crises globally, is inspected here through the lenses of the artist’s personal daily experience and interactions with the inhabitants of the several streets immediate to the studio she occupied for the period of the residency – precisely the area of “Chatelet Les Halles” much near Paris’s geographical center. The area is a cluster for tourists by day and a hot point for the homeless population by night, although the latter is little talked about. And this is essentially the ambivalence that provokes Elena to aim to shift definitions around, take what is there and is a striking reality and represent it on the spot, but in a way that is attractive so that people won’t look away.
For this TOWNSMEN takes on contemporary pop culture in art and lifestyle and begins to inspect the mechanisms at work behind the glamour and the attractive, searching to use it as a communication tool to highlight these contradictions in our social structure and ideologies. Meanwhile, under its surface, the work begins to tackle another discourse about public space as opposed to contemporary private domesticated life, as well as some disturbing aspects of today’s perplexed goals and ideals, consumer culture, and confused moral edifice.; That what used to be craved as luxurious has shifted into a fast culture of “HYPE”, and freedom as the highest virtue of recent past has been somehow replaced (once again) by labor, productivity, and personal achievements leaving out freedom in any romantic sense to the outcasts and derelicts of the modern world.
What could be then today, in our extensively structured and systematized society, a man of leisure, a detached observer, the “flaneur” as French poet Charles Baudelaire termed him? -Very likely only those who live entirely outside society’s systems (no address, no social security, etc.), but not hiding out in wilderness somewhere, but rather on the spot, sitting down, observing.
TOWNSMEN aims to expose the riotist nature of street people’s life and routine in a way exaggerated so as to give it certain jazz and make it seem momentarily glorious simply to draw attention to itself and a topic otherwise too easily avoided. The exhibition presents the uncovered creative process of a project continuous in time.