Home » On The Road » French Summer 2013 » The Isle of Nantes—Art or Not Art?

The Isle of Nantes—Art or Not Art?

The ele­phant is still here and it has become a major tourist attrac­tion. The Isle of Nantes is now one of the “hot spots” in the city and there is a lot to see and to do: the mechan­i­cal ele­phant, two carousels fea­tur­ing crea­tures from Jules Verne’s books, many cafés and bars, nice relax­ing “beaches” by the Loire River, etc. All the attrac­tions are part of a large art project blend­ing Jules Verne’s invented worlds, Da Vinci’s mechan­i­cal genius and the indus­trial his­tory of the city.

Mark went on a ride on his first carousel—he didn’t really ask for it but I couldn’t resist giv­ing it a try with him! He did very well and it made him laugh (and yes, I enjoyed the ride too!). I used to love carousels when I was a kid, and each France city has at least one.

Despite enjoy­ing the Isle of Nantes as a Cana­dian tourist, I can­not help com­plain­ing about it like a cyn­i­cal French. The attrac­tions are very expen­sive (a ride on the huge Marine Worlds Carous­sel is 8 euro!) and the entire con­cept is a money-making machine (no pun intended), far from being just “art” as it was intended at first. Sure, the machines are orig­i­nal, but the ship­yard park is turn­ing into a Dis­ney­land. The pre­ten­tious dis­course on this mod­ern art con­cept both­ers me and I feel the project is now a gim­mick rather than an inno­va­tional and inven­tive process.

My dad is an artist and so is my mom—they met at the Beaux-Arts school 30 years ago. We can argue about art for hours and even though I don’t con­sider myself an artist, I do care about cre­ative projects and the mean­ing of art. Can—and should—art mix with money? Sure, why not! But it still has to be orig­i­nal and cre­ative. I think when you lose the pas­sion and start try­ing to please peo­ple rather than to fol­low a thought process, you miss your goal and the pur­pose of art, which is to make peo­ple feel some­thing. Enter­tain­ing the crowd is good… but it is no longer art. I respect those who take risks. Feed­ing the crowd what it wants is just the easy way.

You can see the com­plete set of pic­tures of France here.

The Loire River

The Loire River

The New Courthouse

The New Courthouse

Carrousel Ticket

Carousel Ticket

Mark on the Carrousel

Mark on the Carousel

Mark on the Carrousel

Mark on the Carousel

Mark on the Carrousel

Mark on the Carousel

Watch for the Elephant!

Watch for the Elephant!

The Titan Crane

The Titan Crane

The Machines de l'ïle

The Machines de l’ïle

The Huge Marine Worlds Caroussel

The Huge Marine Worlds Caroussel

Under the Titan Crane

Under the Titan Crane

Nantes' Industrial Past

Nantes’ Indus­trial Past

Nantes' Industrial Past

Nantes’ Indus­trial Past

Buren Rings

Buren Rings

Partying by the Loire River

Par­ty­ing by the Loire River

6 comments

  1. Salut Zhu,
    Art is a highly per­sonal expres­sion and I leave it up to each of us.
    As the French say “des goûts & des couleurs né se dis­cu­tent pas”/ “You don’t dis­cuss col­ors & tastes”.

    You are a pho­to­graphic artist, like each of us who is “photo crazy”. :)

  2. Oh I remem­ber that ele­phant, I saw it in your blog a cou­ple of years ago! If I get to visit Nantes, hope­fully it’s still there!

    Your thoughts on art reminded me of a con­ver­sa­tion between a friend and I after watch­ing a per­for­mance of mod­ern music. I con­cluded that for me, music should be fal­si­fi­able. In the sense that there should be a way to deter­mine whether you’re per­form­ing the piece right or wrong. In most piano music, for exam­ple, if the pianist hits the wrong note, then it is obvi­ous. There is a feel­ing of dis­so­nance. In most mod­ern music, the con­cept of dis­so­nance is explored to the point that it is actu­ally good to be dis­so­nant. How­ever, there are other ways of fal­si­fy­ing the piece. So one can still be a vir­tu­oso even though one is play­ing dis­so­nant music (for exam­ple, Ligeti’s piano com­po­si­tions), as it takes skill and prac­tice to achieve that. That is dif­fer­ent from say, some­one who just ran­domly plonks at the key­board and claim that it is art, or mod­ern music.

    Oh well, you got me started. I’ll shut up now. :-P

    • I don’t have much time to argue back… (sorry!) but I will, even­tu­ally. Because I love argu­ing about art, and reli­gion (and I know you do too!)

  3. Hi, I just wanted to let you know that the 19th edi­tion of the Byte­ful Travel Blog Car­ni­val will be on JimsGotWeb.com on July 31st. Be sure to go to BlogCarnival.com and sub­mit your travel posts by July 27th to be listed in the Carnival.

    I look for­ward to read­ing all of your inter­est­ing travel arti­cles. See you at the Carnival!

    Jim

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