Fragments of FranceBrownfields converted into improvised museums, giant frescoes, a bustling rap scene… The 13th and 14th arrondissements of the capital are the field of expression of many artists, whose works testify to their attachment to these districts where a certain social mix still reigns.
A rodent hops across the Paris-Ivry aisle, in the 13e district of the capital, under the T3a tram line. Joko, a ponytail, 2 meters, 45 years old and looks ten younger, sighs: “It’s one of the last rats we see here but it saddens me that there are still some left. “ This place in which he has invested so much, the graffiti artist, former surveyor and intermittent in events, called it Spot 13. Sometimes, he prefers to designate it as the “strait”: a mouth overlooking the ring road, “Which is like a great sea”, the A6 and A4 motorways intertwined, and, on the other side, the flashy storefront of a Leroy-Merlin in Ivry-sur-Seine.
In less than ten years, this wasteland should become the Bruneseau district, with hundreds of homes, offices and shops right under the ring road. In the meantime, Joko (his artist name) and friends have transformed this corner of Paris into an ultra-colorful open-air gallery. On the site are successive multiple graffiti such as America’s Lament, French Andrew Wallas and Move Eclataxx, Heroes Sheroes, by the cartoony-style duo Tito and Mulk, or Violet on the turntables by Russian artist Anna Conda.
For this project launched in early 2020, Joko worked in partnership with the temporary urban planning cooperative Urban Plateau. The place long considered a “Cut-throat” had to be cleaned, fitted out and supervised. Today, all weekend long, tourists parade there like “Schools of fish”. Corto, photographer, laughs in front of the plastic table serving as a reception desk: “Now it’s the Champs-Elysées here! “
Born in the 13e district, in a Malian family whose father worked at the Renault plant on Île Seguin, in Boulogne-Billancourt, Joko does not hide his pride. “If, as an African, with an immigrant background, I can show another image than that which immigrants too often have, that can change mentalities. “ Inhabitant of the neighborhood, Michelle Nouri, 64-year-old driving school instructor, is delighted with this improvised museum. She takes advantage of the walk of Cupid, her poodle, to take a tour of the side of the strait. “What we do here is popular politics”, praises Joko. Ultimately, the artist plans to deploy an artistic route under the ring road. Enough to physically unite Paris and its suburbs.
The “pope of street art”
This southern corner of the capital is the playground for many graffiti artists, rappers and other representatives of urban culture. A few islets, including 13e and pockets of 14e (around the Pernety and Plaisance metro stations), are still relatively untouched by gentrification. These two densely populated districts – 180,000 inhabitants for the 13e and 138,000 for the 14e – reflect the successive waves of immigration: Italian first, then Algerian, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Laotian and Chinese.
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