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.
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.”
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.
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.