What to Do in Paris: Festival d’Automne 2013


Now that everyone’s settled in nicely after the hustle and bustle of la rentrée, what to do in Paris between now and Christmas? Festival d’Automne will fill up your agenda nicely, right until January 12, 2014. 

Robert Wilson’s musical version of Peter Pan. All images courtesy of Festival d’Automne.

The annual affair is an eclectic celebration of music, dance, theatre, art and film, with more than 40 French and international acts. South Africa and Japan seem to be the focus this year, with many musical and dance groups hailing from the former, and plays and exhibitions from the latter.
Here are some highlights that you shouldn’t miss.
In what seems like a tribute to Robert Wilson, there will be a restaging of his groundbreaking opera Einstein on the Beach, created with Philip Glass and first performed in 1976. Presented as well is Wilson’s musical version of Peter Pan, which looks more Tim Burton than Disney. Wilson will also be directing Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe in The Old Woman, an adaptation of a Daniil Kharms’s novella for the stage. The Louvre will be the venue for Living Rooms, an exhibition of Wilson’s workspace and works. 

A piece by Robyn Orlin.

Festivalgoers will be spoiled for choice with musical and dance performances from South Africa. The Cape Traditional Singers’s concert, a lively, thoroughly enjoyable act that had everyone’s toes twitching, may be over, but you can still catch Musique d’Aujourd’hui, which brings together electronic and traditional instruments. The experimental vein is prolonged by the Cape Cultural Collective, with former antiapartheid activists giving a reading of their poetry in Afrikaaps, the Cape dialect, to the strains of improvised music on traditional instruments. Be sure to catch Robyn Orlin’s thought-provoking In a world full of butterflies, it takes balls to be a caterpillar . . . some thoughts on falling . . ., which explores issues of image and representation.  

Performance and photography by Mary Sibande.

One of the festival’s aims is to venture outside Paris, and Maison d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne at Vitry-sur-Seine is the place to catch Mary Sibande’s colorful performance and photography. The artist’s “clone” is presented as a maid dreaming of another life. Sharing space is fellow laureate of the Standard Bank young artist award for visual art, Mikhael Subotzky, who calls himself a “visual militant.” 

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s interpretation of The Love Suicides at Sonezaki.

Finally, do not miss Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photo and video exhibition, Accelerated Buddha, at the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent. The only artist permitted to photograph the treasures of the Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto, the renowned Japanese photographer, whose work often explores the notion of time and history, questions the origins of Buddhism. Even faced with such a weighty subject and sanctified objects, Sugimoto manages to slip in his characteristic humor and cheekiness. Sugimoto also invests the traditional puppet art of bunraku, perhaps lesser known outside Japan, with pathos and elegance in an interpretation of 18th-century playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s tale of tragic love, The Love Suicides at Sonezaki.
For a detailed program and ticketing, visit the Festival d’Automne website. 

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Festival d’Automne