If you’re looking for unusual Paris attractions, you won’t find one more eccentric than Dimanche Rouge. Held on the third Sunday of every month, this “bloody Sunday” event collects emerging artists, musicians and dancers from all over the globe for an evening of eye-opening experimental art and performance.
In hip venues like Le Divan du Monde and La Maison de l’Architecture, this Paris attraction is absolutely free and welcoming to all with an open mind. It’s an opportunity for international artists to gain a wider audience and for you to see completely unique and sometimes bizarre performances and art. These artists push the boundaries of what is accepted and normal, and even attractive, in contemporary art, though certainly, not everything is for everyone. You might see 10 minutes of a young lady wearing only a tank top scratching herself while strapped to a piece of meat. Between performances a group of naked revelers may be enthusiastically covering each other in green paint, or a man in a gas mask could be walking up to people and freaking them out. I won’t pretend to understand completely what these performances mean, but I suspect they’re comments on sexuality and/or politics, or perhaps someone just forgot to use lotion that day. Or forgot to put on clothes. Or emerged from his bunker a little too late.
But at each night of strange and unusual art, there are sure to be a few performances that deeply resonate. I was struck by an audiovisual improvisation by Lukas Truniger and Jan Steinbach, from Switzerland and Germany, respectively. Truniger created amplified audio distortions using vintage radios while Steinbach illustrated the noise on the fly with vivid, rapidly changing patterns of black and white zooming quadrangles and jagged lightning bolts pulsing in time with the sound. It felt familiar in a way—like the feeling I get after five hours of surfing the Internet in the dark.
If you’re not careful, you may even become part of the art. Orion Maxted’s piece consisted of holding up various yellow objects and declaring them bananas. (To be fair, the first four objects were bananas.) Then he walked up to me, presented me with an actual banana and asked, “Banane?” I agreed that it was, actually, a banana. Satisfied with my response, he encouraged me to stand among the objects, having evidently become a banana myself. He repeated the process until the entire crowd and most unsecured furniture in the room were mashed together in the center of the space like an awkward, impromptu mosh pit, all of us jumping around and shouting, “Banane! Banane! Banane!”
When I later sent Maxted an e-mail to ask for a comment on his art, he replied to nearly each of my questions with a repetition of the word “banana,” but he finally offered, “It challenges our most basic understandings of the bind between words and things, and in its execution it demonstrates how to control a room full of people. It is also a celebration of coming together, establishing connections, and sharing our ability to see the world differently.”
A warning: Dimanche Rouge may be among the edgiest of Paris attractions, but it’s not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. One performer crawled around on his belly, spitting fake blood around the stage. The final performance I saw was one wherein all possible taboos were confronted at once. A Jesus wearing sunglasses hoisted a cross into the air while raging, distorted guitar noise pulsed through the room, a statuesque woman wearing a brain hat shot a fake gun into the air, a man (Maxted, in fact) tied plastic bags around the heads of audience members, a man wearing a Mickey Mouse mask made of black pantyhose shouted into a megaphone and a group of ladies smeared some kind of white substance (cottage cheese? marshmallow fluff?) all over each other’s bodies before one of them thrust two flaming torches into the air, laughing maniacally. I think it was the screeching sound of the guitar that made me excuse myself to the courtyard for a 3 euro glass of rosé and some quiet time.
For a completely unusual and one-night-only Paris attraction, Dimanche Rouge is the way to go. Each event is unlike the ones before it, and it’s a fab opportunity to hobnob with artists and the newest members of the underground scene. Wear your coolest/weirdest outfit, leave your pretensions at the door and meet some new people who put the “strange” into “stranger.”
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