An instant snapshot of that life without the sun, more than 15 years of reporting on people who make and remake the night in Paris and everywhere Keffer goes. The stars, the unknown, the opportunists, the organizers, the enthusiasts, the dancers, the creators. Some left, others are not even arrived yet, here is the incredible diversity of this world, this universe, that few knows.
The night is the subconsious of the day
As a child, I hated going to sleep. I kept saying that I was not sleepy - which was true, I’ve never felt sleepy my whole life -, my parents persisted every night on sending me to bed. What had gotten into them? Why punishing me in such a cruel manner ? Convinced that they were hiding something from me, I set my alarm clock to ring at three in the morning, leaped out of my bed and traversed the apartment, shrouded in darkness. Nothing. Silence reigned. But I just needed to get to a living room window to hear some noise and see the shining lights of Paris.
That was the secret. Outside, life went on. Another life, stranger, more mysterious than the one we led during the day and from which children were not witnesses of. I went back to sleep excited. I did not know that I would, much later, turn this into a television show, and that for eight years I would be shooting “Paris Dernière”, but I understood that the world was divided in two categories, the ones that went out at night, and the others who remained at home, and I would be a part of the first category.Today, aged fifty and counting, the night still strikes me as being strange.
Natural, humanity has always been afraid of the dark. It’s to fight against the night that we built our society, with a lot of street lights and policemen. The night has always been this parenthesis where the rules are blurred, where the familiar gives way to the unknown, where Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr Hyde. The night ignores the common law. It is the realm of monsters, lovers, rebels, criminals. It evokes both the evil and perdition, celebration and enchantment.
This is at night that we make love and it is at night that we murder. What attracts us and scares us at night is that it escapes the established order. Hence the distrust in which the authorities keep towards it. In case of problems, the first reflex of any government will always be to declare a curfew. And parents will never lack pretexts to prohibit their children from going out at night. The night is the subconscious of the day.
That’s why she speaks volumes. The Middle-Ages ? No lights. Paris was a real cut-throat. Somehow, we feel our ancestors have left us the impression of indiscriminate violence and obscurantism. The French Revolution? All these young people never slept. They ended up killing each other. The rise of Nazism? There is no historical documentary that shows the Berlin cabarets where the blue angel and the Hitler’s henchmen were engaged in a decisive battle. The night is never as trivial and unimportant as the self-righteous and the white collars would make us believe. Like when I was a child, I still thought that the night was where everything happened.
This is why we must scrutinize the night. I did that just at the turn of the century, between 1998 and 2006, with the first compact digital camera. Others have taken up the torch; Keffer, as one of them, took his first photographs when I had stopped. Here is the result: all our era is here. Later, through the pictures like these we will understand it all. All we were, and everything that will happen to us.
07:00 - State of the art study of the entrance. Impressive.
08:00 - Delivery of electrical distribution equipment, lighting and sound. Messy.
09:00 - Installation of the lights. Big fuss of flight cases slamming one another.
10:00 - Electrical supply of bars and installation of structures. There’s shouting.
11:00 - Delivery and assembly of the stages. The puzzle is taking shape.
15.00 - Installation of stage lighting and sound structures. Focus.
16:00 - Assembly of stage design elements. An army of little helpers.
21:00 - Lighting configuration and sound testing. Crucial.
22:00 - Testing and encoding of lights. Sleepless night for the technical team.
08:00 - Delivery of drinks, catering and bar equipments. People running everywhere.
09:00 - Assembly, stage broadcast and stage design. Almost there.
09:30 - Delivery of furniture. Not what we had ordered.
10:00 - Delivery of equipment for lockers and box seats. Easy.
10:30 - Establishment in bars and assembly of bars. Things are getting hot.
11:00 - Delivery of fences and plugging walkie-talkies. Ultimate cacophony.
12:30 - Settling of catering teams. Radiant break.
14:00 - Setting up lockers and artists box seats. Take it easy.
15:00 - Delivery of crash fences and sound rigging. Don’t let go.
16:00 - Visit from the controlling officer. All good.
17:00 - Sound check DJ. Ticktock, ticktock.
18.30 - Arrival of security team leader and team huddle. No jokes.
18:45 - Settling of first aid kit devices. Useful.
19:00 - Arrival and brief of ticketing and cash-less teams. Ready on the starting blocks.
19:15 - Arrival of the first artists. The unrest.
19:30 - Arrival and briefing of the photo and video team. Unbearable effervescence.
20:00 - Doors open to the public and music launches. Let’s go.
07:00 - End of the night, stopping of the music and evacuation of the public.
07:30 - Closing doors. Silence.
07:45 - Disassembly of technical, sound and light arrangements. It stings.
08:30 - Rehabilitation and cleaning of spaces. Nothing to see.
09:00 - Disassembly and resumption of stage and cables. Already.
10.00 - Recovery of furniture, cups, fences. Everything must disappear.
14:00 - State of the art study of the exit. It’s clean.
15:00 - Sending press release and photo-reports to the media. It was fire.
16:00 - Social media publishing and newsletter sending. Thanks.
17:00 - Answers to requests for lost & found objects. They have forgotten their lives.
18:00 - Sending photo and video reports to artists. Bravo.
19.00 - The End
"There was something that prevented him from sleeping. He loved hanging out in those places of light where life never goes out, when the others are asleep." Aragon sums the case up well in his novel "Aurelian". It is indeed insomnia that pushes you towards those endless nocturnal wanderings, and towards those more or less shiny little rides.
There are always a thousand valid reasons to go out: snobbery, conversation, the desire to seduce, an attraction to the shiny, a passion for music, a fear of the dark or the need to dance. But we still have a world of trouble understanding this irresistible desire to return to the same places, to listen to the same music, with - often - the same people. How many times have I taken a flight back to a “unique in the world” club that came highly recommended by a friend ? Paradise Garage, Twilo, Sound Factory, Limelight, Tunnel, Pacha, The Fridge, Fabric, or even more recently Berghain and Kit Kat are all names that stand out in any agenda. A true insomniac is a globe-trotting club-hopper, a marathoner of dance floors, a specialist in sound systems and, inevitably, a regular presence and a familiar face to most bouncers. We are never certain to be able to enter those kinds of places.
In reality, there are no explanation, no analyses that are worth our time, and especially none or few memories. A real club party is not a hunting party in Sologne or even a family dinner. A real nightclub does not look like a holiday camp or a nudist beach. It is a brutal place, violent, unbearable and grandiose at the same time. That night is ephemeral and everything evaporates very quickly. The memories remain vague or downright faulty.
If I do not want to sleep, it’s because I like the rustle, the thrill, the frenzy of bodies that move and that are offered themselves to my gaze. Blackness or darkness annihilate any form of bourgeois modesty. Night is above all an injunction of pleasures and enjoyments. The photos of Keffer are often deliciously indecent with a needed touch of relaxation, of chaos and exhibitionism. Looking closely at these shots taken on the fly, we remember Roland Barthes’s remark: "These anonymous bodies, animated by weak movements, leave me in a state of idleness, irresponsibility, and flutter."
I like that word: "floating" that perfectly sums up what we are looking for. For once the principles of pleasure prevail over injunctions, over laws and over arrogance. Social constraints are fading. The surveillance of our lives is more discreet or more distant. What a joy!
I still am not sleeping, and these pictures are really making me want to go out.