ISSN : 2266-6060

From Things to Words


(with some clear Foucauldian understatement)
I’ve been investigating for a little while now about this type of street furniture, which to my minds looks typically Parisian (in the sense that I’ve never seen it elsewhere). Strangely enough, though, Parisians – at least, the ones I have asked (…perhaps too insistently?) – do not seem to reserve a special name to it. Indeed, in the majority of cases they do not even seem aware of the existence of this specific piece of urban décor… So integrally a part of their visualscape as to become invisible? …Infraordinary?
Anyway, even an online search could not help me to solve the mystery. While there seem to be a number of precise names for other recognised Parisian pieces of outdoors furnitures and urban decorations – Guimard metro entrances, Wallace fountains, Morris columns and, more recently JC Decaux’s « abribus », Vélibs’ stations etc. – this sort of green arbour (bower, treille, pergola…? It looks like a support for plants, which however in most cases are absent) decoratively positioned on the lateral walls of buildings remains mysteriously nameless… Or, is there a whole story out there that I’m missing due to my ignorance?
What is most intriguing is perhaps the fact that the design itself of this mobilier seems to almost be on the verge of spelling its own name. Actually, because of its immediate recognisability, this green grid made of convergent and ordered paths, imitating the perspective of a garden, nearly looks like a writing, like a signature… And yet, frustratingly enough, not quite actually. Digital urbanity, they say, increasingly gives us the means to trace information of all sorts about objects and fluxes. Yet it in fact only give us such a power over objects and fluxes that have already been created as coded and codified. But, what about anonymous, scattered, mute, inapprehensible, interistitial objects? Is our age the time when the relationship between things and words is going to be finally settled, or on the contrary the one in which it is going to be radically re-opened?