by Matt Jones
First, a woman’s voice and a haunting song, then a screech as she pulls the scotch tape, flattens it against the atelier’s immense windows. Methodical, the tape zigzags across the panes like lightning, or snakes. She is Maryna Semenkova, a photographer and performance artist; she explains that when Putin’s forces invaded, the Ukrainian government ordered the people to tape their windows, lest the bomb blasts turn the glass into shrapnel.
International conflicts, invasions, senseless massacres: if only we had a stronger torch than art for these dark depths. Yet Atelier 11 has been sheltering creatives for a hundred and fifty years. World famous artists, that rocked the foundations of their craft, and influenced entire generations. Artists like Amedeo Modigliani and Chaïm Soutine: mismatched brothers of la bohème, one the pinnacle of manners, the other impatiently tapping his fork on the plate when the waiter was slow.
Art is more than a torch; it’s also a shield. In the absence of state protection and sponsorship, Atelier 11 has always been defended by the very artists it harbours – when Maryna tapes the windows, she participates in a longer arc of artistic guardians who refuse to allow Atelier 11, also known as the historic Cité Falguière, to be absorbed into apartment blocks, heritage forgotten.
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Cover Image: Artists-in Residence, January 2020