Shanghai: The Paris of the East
By Benoit Munoz (China Daily)
Since my first trip to Shanghai five years ago, I've thought a lot about the Expo 2010 Shanghai. From that time, I wanted to be a part of it. This event is important to me. For me, it is a large world gathering around the idea and model of universality.
The 1900 World Expo defined Paris as the "City of Lights". The 2010 World Expo will definitely give Shanghai a "City of the 21st Century" status.
I have pursued this dream, worked on utopian projects and shown my work. And one day about a year ago, Antoine Jarrier, director of cultural heritage at Louis Vuitton, saw my work and, without knowing me, offered me to design the Louis Vuitton space in the French Pavilion. The dream finally came true.
I worked on the sensual city topic, imagining a voyage through a fantasized Paris or its memory. I was inspired by the Paris of the 19th century, the time of the World Expo that witnessed the birth of the Eiffel Tower, French literature, including Jules Verne, and the cultural heritage of Louis Vuitton.
I created many different designs and works, including backlit paintings, resin sculpture, films, dynamic projection and interactive images and used dancing girls who relate a universal story. I wanted to immerse spectators in a time and space proper for the occasion. The exhibit was created from the image of an automaton of lights vibrating, changing and coming to life.
If the content of my work refers to the French culture and Paris, I have also been influenced by Chinese culture and Shanghai.
For example, I was inspired by a Chinese painting on a scroll, in the style mountain-water from a bird's eye view. I used graphic elements like the lotus, the fish and the phoenix.
The city of Shanghai influenced my use of light with its large and luminous lines on the highways and luminous landscapes I saw by taxi at night. I believe that cities have a soul, a transcendental energy given by the forms and inhabitants of the city, and by the movement generated by all this.
The Expo will attract millions of people who will be mesmerized and surprised by the Expo Garden and Shanghai. That will create millions of thoughts, feelings and emotions, which will feed that energy. To live in Shanghai is to have access to this swirl of opportunities. It is of course a poetic vision but it turns out to be true for me. Here, a dream was born, and here it comes true.
I do not know if the Expo will mark Shanghai structurally like the one of 1900 did for Paris. But one thing is sure; Shanghai is now a 21st century global city.
I remember five years ago praying that the gods of the city would benevolently welcome me. As soon as I came back to Shanghai for the Expo, I returned to thank them.
The author is an artist and designer for the Louis Vuitton space in the French Pavilion.