For Liste 2021, The Community proposes a series of photographic work by French artist Melchior Tersen titled SOUS LA TERRE 2012-2015. This series of photography, which is entirely dedicated and shot in the Parisian catacombs between 2012 and 2015, is an ode and a celebration for the city he loves – bringing forward bits and glimpses of a universe rarely seen by a regular Parisian. This series is a vast collection of imagery and objects and comprises a total of 1035 photographic works on film, and it will be the first time it is shown to the public.
Paris has a deep and rich connection to its underground, much more so than any other city in the world. The city has the oldest and densest subway network and hundreds of tunnels. These tunnels, below the feet of a regular Parisian bear a dense cultural history, ranging from agricultural tentatives to the hiding Resistance fighters and rave parties. Today, the tunnels are taken over by different clandestine groups, which is a loosely-knit community without a leader, whose members might spend nights and days below the city. They also go by the name cataphiles, people who love the Parisian underground.
Melchior Tersen’s series documenting the lives of cataphiles began in 2012 when the artist started to have weekly strolls - balades as he calls them - with a group of friends, sometimes strangers to discover the secrets of the underground scenes, literally speaking. In these works, the viewer can find everything (un)imaginable ranging from never-ending parties and artifacts, refined architectural elements and graffiti. During four years, the photographer went there weekly, always without a pre-arranged plan or idea, having a tourist-like approach to the subject matter. Catacombs are an object of fascination - everybody knows them, rare are those who have visited. Melchior Tersen is the only photographer who has documented this Parisian subterranean life so extensively on film in the last decades.
There is no moralizing, no fetishes nor idealizing in these moments of the Parisian mood that Melchior Tersen captures so accurately. His photography is a pure product of inclusion and observation: providing vast documentation of contemporary culture, he manages to capture the essence of things that all too many among us fail to see. There is
no place for provocation in his body of work, but rather a laborious day-to-day observation. His work speaks of the demolition of structures, broadening of views, attitudes and behaviour: Tersen describes the actual world by working with the raw matter that composes it. Mainly working with photography, he has captured a myriad of Parisian moods and temperament his entire adulthood, and the series of catacombs is just one among the series of five about the city of Paris.