Can a woman be a flâneur? The debate started long time ago. From the studies of Deborah Parsons and Elizabeth Wilson to “Wanderlust” by Rebecca Solnit. Since the word “flâneuse” has been in vogue lately (and sometimes used improperly), I would like to express my point of view: a flâneuse is something more than a female tourist walking around the city.

A flâneuse is a woman who breaks a rule. There is something outrageous in her gait. In the maze of the metropolis, the flâneuse is alone, ready and willing for the imponderable. She wants to break free from the social role, the narrow space she has been confined to. She wants to escape the narrow prison of her “self”.

A flâneuse is a woman in love. She worships the exterior world, the trembling beauty of modernity. She consecrates herself to the instant, to ephemeral things. But the treasures and the emotions she searches for exist just for a brief moment, then fly away. 

A flâneuse is then an artist who seeks to catch the moment, to transform an instant into the eternal. Her art is a desparate gesture; an attempt to make the beauty last a little longer. 

Starting today, I will show you some examples of female artists I would associate to the figure of the flâneur. The first is Cecile Zhang, a Chinese cinematographer who graduated from the Beijing film academy. She is working far from the “holy land” of Paris: in the emerging metropolis of the Far East, among non-places, international hotels and shopping malls. Cecile is a painter of the “passing moment” as described by Baudelaire in “The Painter and the modern life”. The subjects of her pictures have the essential quality of being “present”: she captures fugitive phenomena that won’t happen again. The pictures showed here are taken with iPhone8 in Maynar, Beijing and Guangzhou. Instagram: cecile_zhang

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Not finding the road that you are looking for does not mean much. But to lose one’s way in the city, as one loses one’s way in a forest, requires some schooling.

(Walter Benjamin)