Photo: Olga Mayskaya / Paris
Matthew Rose is an American artist.
1. What initially inspired you to move here or visit?
I planned to move to Amsterdam from New York in order to live in a small top floor garret and look out my window at the canals below, learn Dutch and write a book about ‘The End of the World’. But Paris was easier and I had a cheap deal to rent space from the French artist Orlan in the French suburb, Ivry-sur-Seine. I first came to Paris in between semesters at Brown and had many dreams about the trains. I suppose it meant I would come here and get laid. In the end, it was always the architecture (and the elevated Metro lines?) as a metaphor for my deep sense of displacement.
2. Earliest Paris memory?
Walking lost (as it turned out) on the rue de Lappe, New Year’s Eve at 3 am, looking for my friend’s apartment. Found it at 5 am. It was only 10 minutes away. Felt like I was in a David Lynch film.
3. Best neighbourhood you’ve ever lived in?
Where I live now, off the rue Daguerre, 75014.
4. What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in Paris?
A simple entrecôte at Chez Paul, in the Bastille.
5. Sexiest moment you’ve had in Paris?
Hard to say, there have been so many that have taken place in elevators, public parks, beneath café tables, in the Monoprix. A non-sexual, sexy moment occurred when I interviewed designer Phoebe Philo, who was then head designer for Chloé. She was absolutely glowing and her French assistant, who tried to spin everything, was very hot and very angry at me for asking questions I promised not to ask. There was something very sexy there, caught between these strong women, each who wanted my head. The other moment was when a girlfriend of mine wore her slinkiest sweater to a bar to tell me she’d gone to bed with my friend. It was very French. She was showing me her breasts (and grabbing my thumbs) and basically telling me the party was over. Mixing memory and desire.
6. What do you hate most about living in Paris?
French businesses have no idea how to talk to their customers. They don’t enjoy the interaction. I hate their hatred of their clientele.
7. Who’s your favourite Parisian — be they living or dead, real or fictional?
8. Favourite cinema?
It’s long closed. It was a tiny hole in the wall near St. Michel that once showed scratchy copies of Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun. Those days are over.
9. Right bank or left bank? And why?
Left. Probably habit. I have the sneaky suspicion people on the left bank speak differently. I do like parts of the 18th (Lamarck Caulaincourt and rue d’Abbesses) because they seem more like Paris than Paris.
10. Favourite Caviste?
I have a bunch: Cave des Papilles and Mi-fugue Mi-raisin, both in the 14th; Caves de Pantheon in the 6th and the Caves d’Isolite in the 11th. All natural wines, small producers, nice people running them.
11. Where do you go to escape the city?
New York City.
12. Where are the best looking girls or boys in Paris and why?
They seem to be in cafés. Because they can drink and smoke while sitting down.
13. Where do you get your news?
On the wifi.
14. Favourite museum?
The Parisian street.
15. Favourite shop?
16. Who’s the most stylish Paris personality?
17. What is your favourite film set in Paris?
À Bout de Souffle (Breathless) with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg by Jean-Luc Godard.
18. What about Paris most inspires you?
The way the bakeries pump out the warm smell of bread baking. That’s genius.
19. What makes someone a Parisian?
I think your first drunken walk home at 4 am will probably baptise you as a Parisian. That or an all out verbal assault on your taxi driver (also at 4 am).
20. What’s your favourite French word? (Swear words allowed!)
All French words are good. Phrases are worthwhile, though. “Ce n’est pas la mer à boire.” That means it’s not difficult. I like the exaggeration. But also “te faire chier” (piss you off, fuck you up) is used all the time, such as on television. Chier is “to shit.” There’s a wonderful and elegant sense of disgust about the French language that I admire.