Atelier des lumières: a mythical & modern mirage

Programs for this blog post

French Language & Culture

Authored By:

Joseph McFadden
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Situated in an old smelting factory from 1835, the space of Atelier des Lumières is vast and lends itself well to the dozens of projections ensconcing its walls and ample pillars. This alone helps in transporting the viewer into another realm of evocative sights and smells, a feast for the senses. 

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Open to the public since 2018, these immersive forays in classical, modern and contemporary artists teem with a public transported elsewhere all within the walls of a deceptively quaint 11th arrondissement building. 

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The students are met with immense projections of a pharaoh’s sarcophagus, mounting pyramids, undulating snakes, svelte sphinxes and the like. However there are also images of works by the modern French painters whom they inspired such as Ingres, Delacroix and Gérôme. Many of these our students recognized from their previous visit to the Louvre last week! It’s not unlike a multi sensory mirage for our students who were transfixed whether immobile on benches, cross-legged on the ground or reclined on comfortable cushions taking it in. 

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The music both modern and classical, evokes both the Egyptian desert millennia ago as well as ethereal states of being beyond everyday student worries. Jerry Smith’s « Imhotep » and Trevor Jone’s « Tomb of Kings » melted into Massive Attack’s « Angel » and Julianna Barwick’s « Inspirit ». 

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One could easily lose one’s bearings in many ways as various time periods cross-pollinate on flat & curved surfaces and amorphous time melts away. For others who were more curious and energetic, there’s a mirror room endlessly reflecting changing images, a rippling rectangular water basin and an upstairs overhang with majestic views. Lastly for the select few perhaps both weary after schoolwork and at ease in the space, they drifted off into small naps vivid with the suggested imagery.

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Perhaps the most intriguing was a photobooth (*photomaton) tucked away in a nondescript corner. Inside our students faces were transposed onto bodies of pharaohs, Egyptian queens or tourists at the foot of colossal pyramids. After paradoxically the longest AND shortest hour, our students talked about how more engaging the immersive experience was compared to a normal exhibition of photos, sculptures and paintings. 

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