City from the Dungeon

16 July 2021

‘City from the Dungeon’ is a joint project and also a journey to Paris in 2019 by three Moscow artists – Alex Partola, 0331c and Grisha. The object of their artistic interest was the dark, cold world of the quarries of Paris, whose history begins in Antiquity: limestone mines from pits lying beneath modern-day Paris were initially used for construction of religious buildings, and later for residences of the Parisian nobility. But one important factor in the centuries-old history of these tunnels located at a depth of 20 metres and covering a length of 300 km is that that here lie the remains of more than 6 million Parisians, who from the late 18th to mid-19th century were moved and reinterred in abandoned quarries after the abolition of cemeteries within the old city. Intrigued by this underground urban space and the reverse side of Paris, the artists made an illegal descent to the non-tourist part of the catacombs and spent more than twenty-four hours in the darkness of winding tunnels that lead through the underground city. 

The reality of events during the journey and the photographic record of what was observed, as well as the experience of being in different landscapes of one city, is divided into two chapters in the book – the world on the surface (The City) and the subterranean world (The Underground) – simultaneously creating different time layers that interpenetrate, one to the other.

This final action in the space of the underground city becomes a landmark moment along the way, and perhaps the very transition that each of the travellers wished to make by descending to the level between the street and the underground. A personal description of this descent into underground Paris is given by each of the participants and becomes a fascinating ‘subject of conversation’ on the pages of this publication.