French Artist Builds Illegal Secret Installations Beneath Paris

Radouan Zeghidour is an urban explorer leaving his mark on underground Paris.
May 12, 2016, 1:25pm
Désenchantement, 2015. Wood, acrylic, wool, wax. Installed without authorization below La Maison Rouge. All photos courtesy of the artist

Radouan Zeghidour is an art student by day, and a secret detective by night. “I explore underground when I feel blue. It soothes me,” states the Paris-based artist, describing his regular practice of illicit urban exploration. With time, research, and perseverance, Zeghidour has found ways to gain access to some of the vast spatial networks that exist below street level: the city beneath the city.

DESENCHANTEMENT from Radouan Zeghidour on Vimeo.

The artist has elected these remote spaces to install an ongoing series of works, which he leaves behind, like sacred relics to be discovered only by the French capital’s underground workers—if anyone at all. Each work requires up to a month of careful preparation. “It’s a kind of investigation,” he explains. “I place cigarette butts inside door locks, wedge things underneath the door, and place objects along hallways and passageways. Then I come back later to see if they’ve moved, and when. I also research the locations extensively, and try to see if any construction work is planned along the subway lines. I try and find out workers’ hours, and those of security as well. I also plan an emergency exit, in case something goes wrong.”

Radeau échoué, 2014. Wood, wool, candles, survival jackets. Installed in the Paris subway without authorization.

After devising what feels like a solid game plan, Zeghidour heads to the chosen site at dawn. “I do everything in one go, alone, for about ten hours,” he tells The Creators Project. Most of his installations are created with materials that are found on location. Radeau échoué (Sunken Raft), from 2014, was placed along a Paris subway line, and Désenchantement (Disenchantment), a wooden structure covered in wax, was produced in 2015 below La Maison Rouge, a contemporary art space near the Bastille. Locations of other works from 2013 are not disclosed.

Zeghidour releases documentary evidence of the installations after the fact, including photos of the works and videos of the process. His secret adventures often yield other, above-ground works. Paintings made with found debris, for example, are completed in his studio and presented to the public.

Mea Culpa, a map of installation locations, on view at Hypogea exhibition

A short exhibition curated by Marie Salomé Peyronnel, Hypogea, on view May 11–15 at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery in New York, commemorates the installation of Désenchantement with a series of offshoots. These include debris paintings memorialized in wax, an aluminum “tombstone” marking the end of the process, and a hand drawn map disclosing the points of access to the original site, for those brave enough to make the pilgrimage.

Box of relics, on view at Hypogea exhibition

Detail of Désenchantement, 2015

Citadelle, 2013

Hypogea is on view at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery until May 15. To see more of Radouan Zeghidour’s work, visit his website.


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