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Tea and Videos in Paris
Louise Crawford

Around tea time (16.00 hrs) on the first and last Sunday of each month, Corine Miret and Stephane Olry organise a screening of video works in their apartment in the Le Marais district in Paris. Tea and biscuits are served in the living room while the bedroom is set up for viewing.
The organisers wanted to combat that "terminal" Sunday feeling, the terrible boredom of the day in the week they both dreaded. Corine - a fan of different kinds of teas - combined their enjoyment for tea and cake with a good excuse for cleaning and rearranging their apartment to focus into the organisation of Thes Videos.
Set up in 1993, their public grew gradually through word of mouth and from Stephane and Corine's contacts within the world of art, theatre, dance, cabaret and multi-media events, Corine Miret is a dancer, Stephane Olry is a theatre director and writer and together they operate a production company called "La Revue Eclair" which organises large multi-media events.
With Thes Videos, invitation cards are sent out every few months to already established contacts and some are left in gallery spaces. The invitation cards are mainly to announce when screenings will recommence after the summer, winter or autumn breaks or when Corine and Stephane have returned from travelling and working outside Paris.
Entrance is free but a donation box is situated in the lobby for contributions, a list of video works is provided when viewers enter. All videos are selected from their personal archive, to date, the archive comprises of sixty to seventy videos mainly by French makers with a few other Belgian, Dutch and German works. The organisers collect and screen video work that they like, their choice is purely subjective. This becomes evident when they introduce individual works and give a brief background to them, they take a great delight in what they show.
Their preference is for direct, live to camera works in 'real time,' often with an element of humour. They do not favour flash technical skills and paint-box usage. In this sense their archive represents a current trend in art for highly subjective personal works in 'real time.'
On the occasion I was there, one video played showing its maker (head and shoulders shot to camera) singing a well-known French pop song without the aid of music or an accompanying record. All the pauses, timing and intonations were perfectly studied and memorised and the video maker's complete sincerity in his rendition caused great hilarity amongst viewers.
Three to four new titles appear each month. The archive grows organically through word of mouth and it is the video makers themselves who approach Thes Videos with their works.
Care is taken to inform each video maker about the reception of their video, to describe and explain the context within which the work will be shown if the maker is not already familiar with Thes Videos. This is important as throughout a screening viewers may come and go, out for a cigarette, a cup of tea or a chat. The television/monitor itself is more than simply a 'black box,' being camouflaged in a 50s sci-fi style and set up as a unique, almost sacred object. Mattresses and cushions are littered across the floor accommodating ten persons comfortably and fifteen at a push. The apartment is spacious enough, but for organisational ease numbers do not exceed twenty/twenty-five. In 'le salon' where tea is served, viewers get together to decide what they would like to watch. A list of video works is provided on entering, these being generally of short duration, between three and five minutes, with the occasional thirty to fifty minute video included for those who enjoy an element of perseverance. Some people turn up uniquely to view videos, others come simply to discuss, without watching a single work.
Corine and Stephane are themselves video makers, producing video postcards whenever they travel, and naturally they are included in the archive for viewing.
Thes Videos started up again in September and any video maker passing through Paris with a copy of their video under their arm, and in need of a cup of tea can contact Corine Miret and Stephane Olry: 11 Rue Des Arquebusiers, 75003 Paris. Telephone 42 77 16 62