| Just Out
A million enjoy all-night arts party in Paris
October 6, 2003
PARIS — An estimated one million people thronged the streets of Paris
Saturday night for a dusk-to-dawn celebration of arts and culture
organised by the capital's mayor that, now in its second year, has
been emulated by other European cities.
The "Nuit Blanche" – literally "White Night", meaning a night
without sleep – was greeted enthusiastically by residents and
Long lines formed at many of 120 attractions scattered across
the city as the curious filed in to see imaginative works that
ranged from the folkloric to the resolutely modern, with detours
through the truly bizarre.
Some 2,600 police were on patrol for crowd and traffic control
– and to prevent a repeat of last year's inaugural event, which
was blemished when a deranged man, who said he hated politicians
and homosexuals, knifed Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who is openly
Delanoe took six weeks to recover from the stomach wounds he
received, but on Saturday night he toured the city taking in the
sights with a small team of bodyguards in tow, even using the
underground metro and waiting in line like ordinary citizens.
"What happened last year doesn't haunt me, even if I think about
it from time to time," the mayor told well-wishers on his route who
came forward to say that they hoped he would remain safe this time.
The "Nuit Blanche" idea dreamed up by Delanoe and his aides is
part of a wider plan to liven Paris up with entertaining festivals
and playful initiatives.
It joins "Paris Plage", which transforms a section of the Seine
riverbank into a sort of manmade beach for summer, complete with
deckchairs and palm trees, and a continuing project to squeeze cars
off inner-city roads by enlarging bus and bicycle lanes.
Saturday's edition of the "Nuit Blanche" started out more
successfully than last year's, which attracted some 600,000
revellers and inspired Rome and Brussels to stage their own
But at 2:00 am (midnight GMT), a chilly October rain started to
fall, thinning out the lines of people and prompting many to head
for the shelter of cafes or home.
Those who had already trekked along some of the itineraries
thought up by a group of six French cultural mavens, including
museum and festival directors, found parts of the city turned into
a surreal setting for experimental videos, crazy lighting, booming
soundtracks and performance art.
Thus some caught a traditional Persian concert and
fable-readings in a theatre in a central shopping centre, while
others, amazed, watched an elaborate projection set-up that made it
look like a giant was inhabiting the inside of one of the city's
The City Hall formed the nucleus for the activities, lighting up
its facade to resemble a Disneyesque haunted mansion, with glowing
red windows and a flourescently blue clock face, while visitors
filed through an interior courtyard under a cloud of bubbles.
One of the more intense experiences elsewhere involved 100
people crowding into a cellar to watch an almost naked woman take a
shower next to a miniature bathtub holding a video projection of
another woman masturbating.
"I've had eight showers so far, and the water's now freezing, as
I guess you could tell," the dancer hired to bathe for the
spectators said after the show.
She explained that her instructions from artist Shu Lea Cheang
were to make an erotically ambiguous performance in which viewers
didn't know what would happen next.
The whole event was bewildering for some foreigners.
A group of US university students who had just arrived in Paris
to continue their French studies said they had no idea where to go
and were discouraged by the crowds everywhere.
"It would also be helpful if the programme was printed in other
languages (than French)," said one, who gave her name as Alicia. –Sapa-AFP