Sham Paris

© Juan Fabuel

year: 2012

sizes: 132 x 165 cm / 98 x 125 cm / 64 x 80 cm

archival pigment print on dibond

Lately, the perception of the urban space as a privileged synthesis of social and individual relationships, political and economical interactions and the different cultural productions depending on the historical moment, has become the main definition of City. The city can be mainly, but also simultaneously, market, industry, the center of the political power, the place were economical decisions are taken, a greenhouse for philosophical and scientific ideas or a laboratory with artistic purposes. In the city, ideas and movements, tensions and tendencies possibilities and fairytales, ideologies and utopias, grow and bloom constantly (Ianni 1999).

In the middle of the 1st World War the French government decided to build a fake Paris close to the real metropolis. It would be made out of plastic, glass and other cheap materials in order to fool the pilots from the sky. This project might have a theatrical point of view indeed, but it is important to underline the representational side that every political decision has deep inside. It was supposed to be exactly the same as the capital itself because they wanted to protect the citizens and the buildings from the German aerial bombers and to prevent a total mass destruction.

The idea was conceived in three stages but fortunately the war came to an end before they could finish the project. Sham Paris was located in Maisons Laffite, in the outskirts of Paris.

This project aims to achieve the representation of the fictional and layered reality happening in Paris nowadays, acting as a visual metaphor of the historical fact occurred in 1917, when the French government planned the construction of a fake Paris in order to protect the real one from the German airmen at night.

Paris in a way has turned itself into a reflection of the original, a subtle construction of ephemeral realities that, conceive the urban space as a place for parallel truths. We no longer belong to the city. The city belongs to us in a very refined way designed by the others, and here is where my interest arouses. It is no secret that some of the most powerful urban strategies were created to satisfy specific layers of the society, meaning that the space creates the function and the function the space. Under these premises, the city can become the perfect emotional maze for its inhabitants, where the ability to avoid or follow certain rhythms constrained to an extent by the invisible tension of, the city relies on the citizens. My project Sham Paris deals exactly with the tension of the representation in the city. The original plan that happened in 1917 pulled the trigger and led me to observe certain micro-narratives of the city that were hidden at first glance. At our core, humans are all basically the same. It doesn't matter where we were born or the color of our skin. It doesn't matter if we are rich or poor, young or old. Across all demographics, humans hold a set of inherent behaviors, born-in impulses that have served to ensure our survival throughout the ages. These behaviors are instinctual, occurring in us without contemplation, and not based on any previous experience. They are not learned, but are woven into the very fabric of our being.

Needless to say that these basic instincts are linked to a certain extent on a dynamic transformation of the context and currently, the urban framework plays a major role. The city conforms a sort of second skin for most of us, urban animals of the XXI Century, and through that skin we are able to create new images of ourselves in order to fulfill the expectations of the metropolis and protect what we really care of.

Protection - Representation - Endurance

The whole idea of this project has been developed based on these keywords. As the fake Paris in 1917 was created to protect the real city, it has been proven that we humans create fictional representations of ourselves depending on the context in order to shield some parts that we do not want to be overexposed. It is instinctual. The city as a container of all the historical facts, contradictions and new perspectives affecting the population, also uses different representations and reflections to endure, and it is exactly here where Sham Paris starts.