The new Eurostar terminal at St Pancras has made a day trip to Lille to soak up some authentic French ambiance easier and far more enjoyable than travelling to much closer destinations in the UK. We went with a group of language students for the Fête de la Musique, which takes place all over France around the 21st June, but were greeted by the unexpected spectacle of twelve giant, glossy black babies metamorphosizing into dinosaurs or reptiles lining the main street. They are the work of the Russian collective AES+F, a group of Moscow artists comprising two conceptual architects and a graphic designer, Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich and Evgeny Svyatsky, plus fashion photographer Vladimir Fridkes.
Their subject matter is often provocative, as with their 1996 Islamic Project presenting visualisations of Western paranoia about Islam and Islamic fundamentalism.
The babies are temporarily installed along the Rue Faidherbe for the four months of the Lille 3000 contemporary arts festival. Made, surprisingly, of polystyrene covered with resin and painted in a brilliant black lacquer, each 6-metre high sculpture is supposed to have taken 200 hours to complete and to weigh a ton. Although said to represent a mutating society mid-transformation, the babies' chubby features are more endearing than sinister. AES+F describe their work as 'an apocalyptic parade that heralds the beginning of a new world of which the angels and demons are the offspring': “Nous présentons une parade apocalyptique qui ne constitue en rien la fin d’un vieux monde. C’est le commencement d’un nouveau : les Anges et démons en sont les enfants”.