Presse(s) Materia prima

———-)|(———-

Village at war over shrine to ‘chaos’

Village at war over shrine to ‘chaos’

JOHN TAGLIABUE

THIERRY Ehrmann recounts that a Japanese guest, after visiting his sturdy stone village home in the gentle hills north of Lyon, remarked: « I have seen the church of the 21st century. »

Village mayor Pierre Dumont is not so sure. « It’s humanly intolerable, ugly, dramatic, with its images of destruction, » he said. « Whatever you think, for me it’s not art, it’s a provocation. »

Ehrmann, 44, a businessman-turned-artist has, over the last seven years, poured his soul, his religious and worldly convictions, and roughly £3m into the transformation of a 17th-century stone house in St Romain into a complex work of art he calls The Abode of Chaos.

He became rich after founding an online service for determining the cost of art objects, and through other ventures.

Together with artists from several countries, Ehrmann has painted the two-storey house and the wall around it black and arrayed them with giant black-and-white portraits of noted personalities, including eight popes, as well as President Bush and Osama bin Laden.

The garden is strewn with sculptures, mainly by Ehrmann, including a crashed helicopter and a wrecked oil truck. A reproduction of an oil platform is on the roof, which is draped with camouflage netting.

But with thousands of visitors now swamping the tiny village every week to view the new artistic attraction, the local mayor is not amused.

He has taken Ehrmann to court to force him to restore the house to its original form. So popular has the Abode of Chaos become, however, the local MP has asked the French Culture Ministry to step in to protect it.

Ehrmann, who is married with two children, began the project in 1999 as a kind of monument to his eclectic religious beliefs, which range from Roman Catholicism to alchemy. Hence the popes, but also numerous salamanders, an animal sacred to the alchemists, cut in steel and fixed to the walls of the building.

Ehrmann said he had chosen the site because it contained the remnants of a Protestant church and graveyard with the remains of 800 people.

But September 11, 2001, he said, was a turning point, prompting him to focus his attention on aspects of life like war, destruction, hatred and terrorism. Hence portraits of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq who was killed earlier this year by an American airstrike.

« Terrorism in the world has 1,000 faces, » he said, standing under portraits of Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat. « Always see the face of the other. »

All this has failed to impress Dumont, a 70-year-old retired electrical engineer, who had been mayor of St Romain for 17 years when Ehrmann began his project on the peaceful Rue de la République.

« It’s something that brings nothing to humanity; it’s completely harebrained, » he said in his cramped office, under a copy of the Declaration of the Rights of Man. « I paint myself — I have a certain sensibility. But I cannot understand what someone means by an airplane crash, an oil platform. »

So Dumont has taken Ehrmann to court, arguing he has violated laws concerning building within the town limits. In June, the court ruled against Ehrmann, fining him and ordering him to restore the house to its original state. A final verdict by an appeals court is not expected until September.

Other village residents are bemused by the stand-off. Although Marc Allardon, a neighbour, can see the crashed helicopter and the oil platform from his home, he says they do not disturb him. He considers Mayor Dumont and Ehrmann equally stubborn.

Allardon has begun parodying Ehrmann, decorating his own home and declaring it a monument to a mock religion. Atop a stone column in his front yard stands a statue of the Virgin Mary arrayed in a rainbow-coloured garment. A serpent made of pipe curls around her; in its mouth a sign says, « Let’s Be Tempted ».

And what does he think of The Abode of Chaos? « At the start it was shocking, » he said. « Now I like it. »

Dumont says it is not only his own sensibility but also that of other townspeople that have been hurt. « For older people that house was magnificent, with a farm, » he said. « People bear that badly. »

Nicole Floris, who lives just behind Ehrmann, said it was a « shame that he ruined a beautiful house, in stone, in the local style ». Marie Dumont, her neighbour said

the most disturbing aspect was the visitors now arriving every weekend, sometimes in their thousands.

She acknowledged Ehrmann « gave a chance to many artists to express themselves and did some wonderful things » – but the law had to be respected.

The row has now reached the French parliament, with Christian Philip, a local MP, asking France’s culture minister to place the house under protection.

In the meantime, Ehrmann says he has received 54,000 postcards supporting his work and that 27,000 people have signed a petition, including 3,600 Americans.

He speaks dismissively of his opponents. « I told them: ‘Don’t commit the irreparable’, » he said. « In your resistance, I tell them, you are contributing to this work. This work is encapsulating you, absorbing you. »

His friend Allardon is confident. « It’s like the Eiffel Tower, » he said. « At first, people were against it. Here it will be like that. Some day the Japanese tour buses will come. »

This article: http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/entertainment.cfm?id=1068582006
©2006 Scotland on Sunday

Abode of Chaos

Publicités

juillet 24, 2006 Posted by | La Revue de Presse | Laisser un commentaire

It’s His House. But, Village Traditionalists Ask, Is It Art?

St.-Romain-au-Mont-d’Or Journal

It’s His House. But, Village Traditionalists Ask, Is It Art?

Thierry Ehrmann has turned his house into a complex work of art. It took him seven years of work and about $5 million, but some people are not appreciative.

By JOHN TAGLIABUE
Published: July 19, 2006

ST.-ROMAIN-AU-MONT-D’OR, France — Thierry Ehrmann recounts that a Japanese guest, after visiting his home in this sturdy stone village in the gentle hills north of Lyon, remarked, “I have seen the church of the 21st century.”

Mayor Pierre Dumont is not so sure. “It’s humanly intolerable, ugly, dramatic, with its images of destruction,” he said. “Whatever you think, for me it’s not art, it’s a provocation.”

Mr. Ehrmann, 44, is a businessman-turned-artist who over the last seven years has poured his soul, his religious and worldly convictions and roughly $5 million into the transformation of a 17th-century stone house into a complex work of art that he calls “The Abode of Chaos.” He became wealthy after founding an online service for determining the cost of art objects and through other ventures.

Together with artists from several countries, Mr. Ehrmann, who occupies the house with his two Great Danes, Saatchi and Reuters, has painted the two-story house and the wall around it black and arrayed them with giant black-and-white portraits of noted personalities, including eight popes, as well as President Bush and Osama bin Laden.

The garden is strewn with sculptures, mainly by Mr. Ehrmann, including a crashed helicopter, a wrecked oil truck marked “Halliburton” and a model of the jagged steel remains of the World Trade Center. A reproduction of an oil platform perches on the roof, which is draped with camouflage netting.

Mr. Ehrmann, who is married and has two children, began the project in 1999 as a kind of monument to his eclectic religious beliefs, which range from Roman Catholicism to alchemy. Hence the popes, but also numerous salamanders, an animal sacred to the alchemists, cut in steel and affixed to the walls of the building.

He said he had chosen the site because it contained the remnants of a Protestant church and graveyard with the remains of 800 people.

But Sept. 11, he said, was a turning point, prompting him to focus his attention on aspects of life like war and destruction and hatred and terrorism. Hence portraits of men like Kofi Annan but also Mr. bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Qaeda leader in Iraq who was killed June 7 by an American airstrike.

“Terrorism in the world has 1,000 faces,” he said, standing under portraits of Ariel Sharon and Yasir Arafat. “Always see the face of the other.”

Mr. Dumont, 70, a retired electrical engineer, had been mayor of St.Romain for 17 years when Mr. Ehrmann began his project on the peaceful Rue de la République. “It’s something that brings nothing to humanity; it’s completely hare-brained,” he said in his cramped office, under a copy of the Declaration of the Rights of Man. “I paint myself — I have a certain sensibility. But I cannot understand what someone means by an airplane crash, an oil platform.”

So Mr. Dumont has taken Mr. Ehrmann to court, arguing that he has violated laws concerning building within the town limits. In June, the court ruled against Mr. Ehrmann, fining him and ordering him to restore the house to its original state. A final verdict by an appeals court is not expected until September.

When Marc Allardon, a neighbor, peers across from his yard at Mr. Ehrmann’s house, he sees the crashed helicopter and the oil platform, but they do not disturb him. He considers Mayor Dumont and Mr. Ehrmann equally stubborn. “I try to mediate between the mayor and Thierry,” Mr. Allardon said. “Both are born hardheads.”

Indeed, Mr. Allardon has begun parodying Mr. Ehrmann, decorating his own home and declaring it a monument to a mock religion. Atop a stone column in his front yard stands a statue of the Virgin Mary arrayed in a rainbow-colored garment. A serpent made of pipe wraps its curls around her; in its mouth a sign says, “Let’s Be Tempted.”

On the roof of Mr. Allardon’s house are signs with uplifting words like “Tolerance,” “Utopia,” “Joy,” “Hope.” Artificial flowers sprout from the chimney, which is wrapped in green paper.

Mr. Allardon said he would do more, but his wife, a historian, brakes him. “She tells me to slow down,” he said. And what does he think of “The Abode of Chaos”? “At the start it was shocking,” he said. “Now I like it.”

But Mayor Dumont says it is not only his own sensibility but also that of other townspeople that has been hurt. “For older people that house was magnificent, with a farm,” he said. “People bear that badly.”

Nicole Floris, who lives just behind Mr. Ehrmann, said it was a “shame that he ruined a beautiful house, in stone, in the local style.” But Marie Dumont, her neighbor (no relation to the mayor), said she was not troubled by the look of the house.

“The most disturbing thing are the visitors,” she said, who arrive every weekend, sometimes in the thousands. “This is a private road.” She acknowledged that Mr. Ehrmann “gave a chance to many artists to express themselves.”

“Some did wonderful things,” she said. “But the laws have to be respected.”

A local member of Parliament, Christian Philip, has applied to France’s culture minister to place the house under protection. But the ministry has not yet responded.

In the meantime, Mr. Ehrmann says that he has received 54,000 postcards supporting his work and that 27,000 people have signed a petition, including 3,600 Americans.

He speaks dismissively of his opponents. “I told them, ‘Don’t commit the irreparable,’ ” he said. “ ‘In your resistance,’ I tell them, ‘you are contributing to this work. This work is encapsulating you, absorbing you.’ ” His friend Mr. Allardon is confident. “It’s like the Eiffel Tower,” he said. “At first, people were against it. Here it will be like that. Some day the Japanese tour buses will come.”

By JOHN TAGLIABUE
Published: July 19, 2006

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/19/world/europe/19france.html
copyright ©2006 The News York Times
Photography:Tomas van Houtryve for The New York Times

The Abode of Chaos

juillet 24, 2006 Posted by | La Revue de Presse | Laisser un commentaire