Leisure & Culture #01

From Six Feet Under to Hundred Four 1

104 Centquatre

Written by RMM

Musee le 104, Paris
image © 104 CENTQUATRE

No one can assure whether a cultural district renovated from an old mortuary would be welcome or not in Hong Kong. Asians tend to think death is a taboo subject and will bring bad luck. Therefore most of them prefer avoiding venues of this kind. However, this is completely fine for the French. Located in arrondissement 19 of Paris, 104 Centquatre (literally mean 104 cultural district in English) is a place that was turned from a funeral parlor to a public area for culture and art in 2008. Not only does the area display different forms of art, it is also a place where art is created and born. There are around 40 resident cultural groups working on the aspects of culture and art every year. Since the new director has taken up Centquatre in 2010, more and more diversified activities have been held and their financial status is getting better. People swarm to 104 in order to participate in various cultural activities and relax themselves. When they get tired during the visit, taking a break with a glass of delicious smoothie in a cosy restaurant nearby is a very nice choice. There are also Bio markets during holiday where organic and regional products can be found. You can never imagine this is indeed a former municipal funeral in Paris (SMPF) 2. Centquatre is located in 104 Aubervilliers which explains the reason why the French names it as "104 Centquatre" or simply the number "104".

Keith Haring 'Do the Dancing Dog'
image © 104 CENTQUATRE

Keith Haring Exhibition
image © 104 CENTQUATRE

World Tattoo Convention is held annually in 104. Two tattoo contests were happening in 104 - the contests competing for the Best Colour Tattoo and Black & Gray Tattoo. The event of the day ended with the concert by a band, Burning Heads.
image © 104 CENTQUATRE

leandro erlich: bâtiment at le centquatre
image © henriette desjonquères & paul fargues, l. erlich all images courtesy le centquatre

The mortuary was built in 1873 mainly for making coffins and keeping the remains temporarily. Every morning in the late 19th century, the staffs delivered coffins by carriages from the mortuary to different funerals in Paris. After reconstruction, the central part of the building was kept by the architect. With a large hole dug in the middle of the building, the sense of spaciousness is further enlarged. Instead of gruesome and horrible atmosphere of death in the past, the area is now filled with energy and laughter. Many youths rehearse and prepare for their shows or artworks in 104 from dawn to dusk. The crowds in book stores and the giggles in nurseries make 104 a place of vividness and vitality. From Keith Haring’s exhibition and Michelangelo Pistoletto’s huge installation "Maze"; to the recent digital contemporary art festival NÉMO, 104 shows us its distinctness from other French art museums. 104 Centquatre is a break through in French cultural facilities since it is the first of this sort of cultural district in France. Traditional art museums are mostly unapproachable and distant from the masses, but 104 is opened to everyone regardless of social status, occupation, educational background, etc. In this sense, 104 really infuses new idea and inspiration into traditional way of cultural activities.

Related website:
From 104 to 'Infinity' - Lee HeeWon

1 The title is borrowed from American television series “Six Feet Under”.

2 It is originally known as “service municipal des pompes funèbres, SMPF” in French.

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