Sunday morning visit to the BnF to see how the site has evolved since 2003, the last time I was there, and to view the Piaf exhibition recently opened.
The site is just stunning. The BnF is surrounded by recent, beautiful buildings, laid out so as to leave plenty of green spaces. Trees have grown to make the environment much more human and welcoming than when I was last there. The most awesome thing is the courtyard. The trees have grown so much that there is now a wild forest, mostly of “pinus pinaster” I suppose from les Landes, counterbalancing a very geometrical, symmetric world.
Also encouraging to see that the cleaning personnel of the BnF, most likely low-paid, were on strike. In London, we live amongst low-paid workers, but nobody seems ever to raise their voice.
The Piaf exhibition has an underlying chronological structure, from Piaf’s origins to her premature death, overlayed by themes like Voice, Legend, Love and Popular. the experience is truly multimodal, exposing dresses, posters, records, interviews with friends, historians, musicians, journalists, historical videos, artefacts, photographs, infographics, letters, application forms, while listening to recordings of 50 of her songs.
Among the highlights, the process Piaf had to go through to be certified as an author, but not a composer, and to be able to sign her compositions, more than 80. The outcome is a couple of hours of full immersion into the 1930-60 period embracing the German occupation, the “Liberation”, the roaring 50s and 60s, through the life of one of the main icons of the time.
We had to leave, but we could have easily spent another couple of hours listening to her songs and learning about her life and her time.