The Flying Houses

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By Laurent Chehere

Artist Statement:

One of the major subjects of anthropological study is housing, and the environment in which societies live. Individually, homes can be seen as extensions of their inhabitants, transformed by influences exerted upon them as a result of the human condition. The “Flying Houses” are inspired by poor and cosmopolitan neighborhoods of Paris, where the uncertainty of daily life is an alarming reality for impoverished communities, particularly the Gypsies and African immigrants. Separated from their urban context, and broken free from the anonymity of the street, these buildings narrate a story about the individual lives, dreams, and hopes of their inhabitants. The large scale of the photographs allows viewers to discover details hidden within the realistic compositions. Two diverging interpretations are thus created depending on the distance from which the viewer approaches the images : from afar the houses look whimsical and carefree, while up close, the details reveal a more melancholy and complex story. The artist uses this distance to propose a different point of view and alert against preconceived ideas and prejudices.

“The great illusion”, from far it’s a nice Noah’s Ark that seems liberated of the city. Closer it’s an unsafe building with African immigrants full of hope and illusion. It’s a metaphor of their odyssey and take a particular echo with the tragedy in the Mediterranean sea.

“The Caravan” – At first sight, it evokes the journey, the bohemian life, the freedom. Closer, it’s Gypsies who are deported. In the European Union, they have the right to move around but they’re not authorized to found a job. It’s a cynical way of inviting them to leave.

“On the wall” – Every piece of wallpaper tells a life. By taking a closer look, we perceive tracks of human presences, bed, crucifix, night table that the time printed like a photographic paper. Here we are a little the archaeologist of the life of others.

“Red” – It’s the sad but true story of Zizi Bamboula. Was it a man? Was it a monkey? It’s that wondered the Parisian population in September 1908 when it discovered it arriving from Borneo Island. It was presented as “an apeman arisen from a negress and from a gorilla”. It had no hair and looked like a man. It aroused the debate in the newspapers of the whole world. The scholars were in turmoil until naturalists declared that the unfortunate Zizi Bamboula, far from asserting certain nauseating theories on the Evolution, was only a vulgar chimpanzee suffering from a skin disease.

“McDo” – When “poor housing” met “poor food”. Maybe the kid at the window doesn’t ask himself the question?

“The Linen which dries” – It’s a building left airing its linen far from the poor district of La Chapelle, north of Paris, where he was not welcome any more. We cannot see nobody but details say the opposite.

All the ingredients are there, the comedy, the drama, the poetry, the darkness, the laughter and the tears… everything becomes entangled. The author gives some keys, but these flying houses remain open to the interpretation, it’s finally the observer who will make his own way.

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