l’Efficacité des Ètablissements Français 26/11/2009Posted by brendan in Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement.
Tags: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, france, journalism, musee carnavalet, musee d'arts moderne, paris
When I met with Vingt the obvious question of what I wanted to write about came up. something I hadn’t bothered to consider. Unpacking my brain of seemingly suitable topics I dropped Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Primitive, a video installation I had read about six months prior and never expected to see. Vingt went to work securing me free entry to review the show.
Feeling the need for a bilingual photographer I tapped Robin to accompany me, confident that we could both squeeze through the door none the poorer. Door security indicated coat-check, cameras being forbidden. Robin walked up to the attendants and explained we were press, asking where we could pick up our passes. They pointed us in the direction of the information counter where we waited in line until the clerk was free to direct us to the other side of the information counter where an elderly man sat alone and unoccupied.
Having already concluded that my French was too poor to take the reins (I was pronouncing Vingt incorrectly and would have explained that I was with wind magazine) Robin did the talking. The employee asked again who we were with, then began to examine a spiral notebook laying on his desk. Who were we with? It quickly became obvious that our names were not among those scribbled on the dogeared and worn pages. He asked who had issued the passes, a question I couldn’t answer. The old guy sputtered under his breath and printed us two tickets, shrugging his shoulders and bidding us adieu.
We had barely stepped inside before Robin was told pictures were explicitly forbidden for this exhibition. In response to our claims of being reporters security invited us to get permission from the curator. Fortunate just to have made it this far Robin abandoned pretenses of photography, although the museum’s policing was lax enough to allow for some under the arm shots which never amounted to much.
It didn’t take long for my original ideas to run out. Vingt made suggestions, one of which was the French Revolution special exhibition at the Carnavalet, a historical museum on the outskirts of Le Marais. Attempting to photograph the collection seemed futile but I invited Robin along for his personal cultural enrichment and ability to translate placards. He was unable to attend.
Prior to leaving the house I had researched phrases to employ at the ticket counter: “Bonjour. Je suis Brendan, avec Vingt magazine. Il y a un billet m’attendent.”
She repeated, “Il y a” with great consternation, letting it hang between us.
I threw out, “un billet” to thread my sentence towards her comprehension.
“Pour le musée?”
“Oui, le musée.”
“Oh, le musée est gratuit.”
I had checked and double-checked the entry fees and knew someone was going to attempt to extract 5€ from me. The ushers clustered in the doorway of the exhibition really wanted to see my ticket. I explained again that I was with Vingt and that there should be a ticket waiting for me. They replied in fractured English that I had to get a ticket from the counter.
Thoroughly embarrassed it was with great dismay I found my original correspondent monopolized by a customer. The other woman at the counter had evidently missed our tortured exchange and patiently watched as all rehearsed phrases slid from my weakened grip. Pausing to catch my thoughts, I apologized, “Ma Francaise est…” and then choked off “merde” before I made matters worse. She smiled and said that her English wasn’t very good and we both laughed a little. She carefully listened as I disgraced Americans everywhere by relying on my mother tongue.
She rifled through some folders. I helpfully supplied the name of the museum’s press liaison who had promised the pass, and she tried calling him to no avail. Telling me to wait she left to confer with the people at bag check. An idle docent standing nearby turned sympathetically to me and laughed helplessly as a collection of employees stared at me from down the hall while discussing the matter.
Back behind the counter the woman tried the phone again, then the folders. You’re a journalist? I nodded my head. Do you have any credentials? Uh, no, no I don’t. She nodded, and then printed up a ticket. That’s okay, she said, then directed me down the hall back to the pack of security by the French Revolution wing.
I had been inside for less than five minutes, scribbling furiously in my notebook with both “Pairs” and the Eiffel Tower prominently displayed on the cover. The woman from the ticket counter walked in with a man, “excusez-moi, monsiuer”. The man walked up and asked what magazine I was representing. After I exhausted myself attempting French he smiled broadly and continued the conversation in English. He asked if I had spoken with the press liaison and I replied that my editor had discussed the pass with him. He asked who my editor was but had never heard the name before. I stood there waving my pen and notebook around at a loss for words. It doesn’t matter, he said. Enjoy the exhibition. He turned and left the gallery and I heard him address the crowd of employees whispering out of sight, “c’est bon”.