Small Urban Agonies

A transdisciplinary meeting at the Cité internationale des arts in Paris


By Daniel Vuataz, author and member of the AJAR collective

Paris, museum-city? Not for those who know how to decipher its rich architectural palimpsest. The backyards of the capital hide gems of dilapidation, splendors of stone gardens, in short, everything the photographer Michel Denancé called, in a book from 2005, “small urban agonies”. The question of the link between architecture and theatre forms the basis of Emilie Blaser's work. When the canton of Neuchâtel offers her a residency at the Cité des Arts, the actress decides to continue her excavations of collective space there. Her proposal: create two artistic forms within the walls of two emblematic "Swiss" buildings in Paris.

First step: invest the interior plot of 17 rue des Suisses, a building designed by the Basel residents Herzog & de Meuron in 2001. A utopian place, almost a village to question, between undulating facades, lush vegetation and sections of old walls. Author Marion Aubert and the musician Mad Hatter will join in.

The second step: what was at 32-38 rue des Franc-Bourgeois thirty years ago? A private mansion sinking into the Marais. The Centre Culturel Suisse (Swiss Cultural Centre) is now the same age as Emilie Blaser; the time of a performance in which Pierre Lepori (Swiss writer) and Aurélien Vernhes-Lermusiaux (French director) will collaborate and the ghosts of the Poussepin Hotel will reappear between the stones of the SCC.


At 17 rue des Suisses there is a very special social housing. It is a building with a black facade, dreadful or elegant, it depends, and when one manages to sneak in, the experience is then truly mind-blowing. We are living in the heart of Paris, in the middle of a little paradise - some might recognize Switzerland, like an ocean liner lying there, stranded; the inhabitants do not quite live the same life. It is to this other life that we ask a few questions -how does architecture affect our lives? Do we resemble the architecture we live in? Can we change the way we look at our homes? Can we put ourselves in the resident’s shoes, the architects, the guardians, the buildings themselves? To these questions we want to invite the viewer. The time for a tour vaguely guided by a mad hatter, a Swiss guard, a writer, we too will go among the guests, the inhabitants, to the heart of this floating and fragile island, between two buildings, a forest of balconies, a cloud of sparrows, a concert of bells, a bicycle garage, and two small concrete houses, we too will go, together, perhaps, to a piece of paradise (or to Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron's Switzerland, as always, it depends). Marion Aubert, Emilie Blaser, Louis Warynski.


Installed in the walls of the Swiss Cultural Centre in the heart of the Marais, we question the memory of the place from its architectural space. Our research questions its intimate history and attempts to reconnect the presence with the past. How to reactivate what has been and how to show what is no more? The question of vision is at the heart of this experiment at the crossroads of different artistic forms. When the night falls, memories emerge from the walls, slide towards the public and haunt reality. We look differently, whilst listening between doors to the voices and traces of those who walked these places and who haunt them today. But as for ourselves, the moment we think we are alive, are we not - as Derrida says - becoming this specter that we seek in the past? All these questions open up to a sensitive approach of historical space, to an "architectural anthology " which invites us to live and dream of space. Emilie Blaser, Pierre Lepori, Aurélien Vernhes-Lermusiaux

27th October 2016, Building 17, rue des Suisses (14th)
7 to 8th December 2016 Centre Culturel Suisse

    Opus № 1

  • Stage set and acting

    Marion Aubert, Emilie Blaser, Louis Warynski (Chapelier Fou)

  • Text

    Marion Aubert

  • Music

    Louis Warynski (Chapelier Fou)

  • Opus № 2

  • Stage set and acting

    Emilie Blaser, Pierre Lepori, Aurélien Vernhes-Lermusiaux

  • Text

    Pierre Lepori

  • Images and video

    Aurélien Vernhes-Lermusiaux

  • Photography

    Jean-Louis Fernandez

  • Support

    République et Canton de Neuchâtel, Ville de Neuchâtel, Centre Culturel Suisse, Foundation Nestlé pour l’Art, Fondation Andrée Jéquier


“Emilie Blaser was selected by the Canton of Neuchâtel to reside for 6 months at the Cité Internationale des Arts de Paris”
Antonella Fracasso — L’EXPRESS — 29.11.16