Monday, March 1, 2010

The Gouzou Guru . . .

Shortly after we arrived on la Réunion island, we very quickly figured out that one of the important cultural elements of any trip there is to learn to keep one's eyes peeled for Gouzous, which can appear almost anywhere, and can be easily missed if one is not vigilant. What is a Gouzou, you may well ask ?
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A Gouzou, as far as I can fathom, is a faceless, enigmatic, pudgy little yellow creature, who often finds itself in curiously mysterious situations which leave one wondering for long moments of head-scratching afterwards as to what exactly was going on. Gouzous are the main characters in a long-running series of street art productions done by an artist from la Reunion who signs his work as Jace, the Gouzou guru. Apparently they have multiplied since their beginnings on la Reunion, and can be found in other cities around the world, including, Paris, although I'd never seen nor heard of them before going to their birthplace.
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The first one I photographed went by so fast I almost missed it, and while shooting from a car window failed to use a shutter speed fast enough to prevent the image from being blurred. Despite the flawed photo, am tossing it in here for your perusal, for the sentimental value . . . my first Gouzou captured in pixels . . .
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These next two images were spotted along the road from the airport going into Saint Denis the first day we got there, before I'd ever heard of a Gouzou, but I didn't get back to photograph them until near the end of the trip. A Gouzou brain popping out the end of a trumpet-like instrument ? ? ? Talk about clearing one's head out . . .
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The Gouzou mythology is often marvellously puzzling. A Gouzou brain is being examined here, but for what purpose ? ? ? Anyone's guess. I'd love to get into the brain of the Gouzou guru, Mr. Jace, and try to find out what is going on in there . . .
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A Gouzou handshake . . .
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This is the other end of the mechanical arm, with a sweating Gouzou. The work is signed "Jace 2005" with a little note in French "Désolé pour le repassage", or "Sorry for the ironing". . .
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When we got back home to mainland France I wanted to see what was on the internet about Gouzous and their creator Jace; a quick search turned up the Gouzou website . . . I was quite amused to find that the image used on the Gouzou website menu page, with an animated video of trussed up Gouzous and a murdered cow rolling off a conveyor belt into a vat of red liquid (blood ???) is the facade of a building on the south coast of la Réunion, in an abandoned industrial site, which I found and photographed while there, in this last photo. I guess in some small way Mr. Jace and I must be working on the same wavelength. I can't imagine alot of tourists would take the trouble to go off the main road and up the side alley where this fabulous industrial cadaver is located. More on that site coming soon, with just a little nod at present to Tom Bejgrowicz, an aficianado of abandoned buildings and a fine blogger about them . . .
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20 comments:

the watercats said...

yay!! me first!.. you've suddenly put loads of posts up that I kept missing.. I'd pop in and a new one would be up... they're all feckin great as usual anyway! I love the little yella fellas, I love the idea that there are fantastic artists out there ingognito, amusing us for free and for their own amusment! On eof my favourites is Banksy, he's got to be king! My brother has become semi obsessed with him and has spray painted his own version of a hoody on his garage banksy style... anyway, am just off to visit the yella man site.. :-D

louciao said...

I'm not too sure about Gouzous. But I do like that building with the exterior gizmos in the last photo. It is just nuts! And I love the contrast of the bricks against that brilliant blue sky.

jeff said...

Gouzous, Gouzou...
Cette histoire me fait penser que, en fait, si je comprends bien, nous sommes tous des gouzous ! T'as qu'àvoir sur Blogger ou ailleurs les têtes que nous avons ! Tous des gouzous ! ! !
Nos visages figés, avatars douteux ou autres photos affichant sourire splendide... des gouzous !
Mais tu n'as pas vu que ça quand même dans ce si beau pays ?...

Ciao Gouzou Suprême !
Ton truc me fait froid dans le dos quand même... à bien y réfléchir !... Brrrr ! Gouzou va !
A bientôt amigo...:)

James said...

Very cool! I'll definitely be on the lookout for them. :)

Steve said...

They remind of the Chaz's that were popular in the UK during the forties - "Wot no...[fill in word here]?" etc, a little man sticking his nose over a cartoon wall.

Owen said...

Hi Vicky H2OCats, that's the spirit ! I think the world is richer for subversive little yellow creatures who poke fun at us in harmless ways from all sorts of surfaces, poking fun at the mad society we've created, poking fun at all and sundry. Between me and my daughters, we had a joyous time discovering Gouzous, amidst everything else going on during an intense vacation...

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Ah Lynne, doubts about the artistic validity or the social value of Gouzous ? I guess they may not be for everyone, but for me, their ambiguous insouciance and often pointed mockery of society's foibles delighted me no end...

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Salut Jeff ! Bien sûr ! Tu as tout compris, nous sommes tous des Gouzous, surtout sur blogger où nous avons finalement que peu de choix, où nous ne pouvons que nous exprimer comme nous pouvons, comme nos têtes de Gouzous nous permettent...
:-)

Quand même, j'adore le coté rebelle de ces petits êtres, ils nous revellent plein d'humour, pleine de folie, plein de moquerie envers une société bien détraquée, et oui, partout où je les trouvais, je les ai adoré tous. Tellement mieux que les tags banaux et ennuyeux des noms de gangstas repetés ad nauseum, non, les Gouzous ont quelque chose de vitale et joyeuse qui m'a séduit... j'afficherai d'autres exemples bientôt, il y en avait plein là bas. Et non, bien sûr que non, on n'a pas vu que des Gouzous là bas... j'arriverai aussi bientôt à cracher d'autres beautés de cette île ensoleilée...
Ciao Gouzou pal...

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James, well, keep an eye out, who knows, at the rate these little critters are multiplying, there may be some in Philadelphia soon, the city of Gouzou love !
:-)

Owen said...

Hey Steve, am not familiar with Chaz, and a Google search only turned up a much more recent graffiti guy... hmmm, if you know of any sources to see some Chaz, let me know...

The Sagittarian said...

Kind of like "Kilroy was here" but in colour and with so many similar visuals! Great post, you sure had a garnd time away. Good to see you weren't lying about being all idle and touristy!

louciao said...

Well, I do kinda like the one with the toque...I guess they could grow on me, rather like warts. Nice that they brought such pleasure to you and your girls. I imagine it must have been lots of fun to spot them. Simple pleasures are the best, after all.

Nevine said...

Interesting "art". In a way, the little fellows remind me of the South Park boys... my favorite little kiddos. I have to say, you photograph the most unique stuff, Owen. I mean, who would ever think???

Nevine

TechnoBabe said...

Is this something we would be seeing here too? Should I be watching for them? Do I speak to them?

AmyR said...

The Gouzous are interesting, I can't believe that it caught on across the island. They are cute, but...

Anyway, I do love the brick sides of that abandoned building, can't wait to hear more about it. :)

Babzy said...

Never heard of the Gouzou before , love this little character !

French Fancy said...

'sorry for the ironing' is probably the weirdest graffiti I have ever seen anywhere

☼ FRANCE ☼ said...

BONSOIR
Et bien très sympa ce genre de photo et de la couleur pour nos coeurs Merci pour ce superbe partage
BONNE soirée **

Loulou said...

Bonsoir cher Owen. Those creatures made me think about Keith Haring, don't you think?
There was a very nice exhibition a couple of years ago at the Contemp museum in Lyon, that was so nice... large formats only, bright colours, even the last part, which was clearly reflecting depression was amazing...
Well, that's all folks
Take care!!!!!!!
Loulou
ps - One link re KH: http://www.haring.com/home.php

Steve said...

Owen, my mistake - they are Chads. No wonder Google proved fruitless. Try here: http://wotnochads.com/.

Owen said...

Steve, thanks so much for the link, of course... it's Kilroy ! Odd story there, will have to look a little more to see what else is out there on the web. Yeah, looks like Gouzous are a not too distant cousin to Chads and Kilroy...

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Loulou, thanks so much for the info on Keith Haring, I'd heard of him when I was still living in the states back in the 80', but had totally forgotten, and hadn't seen anything about him since then, so thanks very much for the reminder ! Seems he did a mural on the Necker Hospital in Paris, will have to go take a look...
Best to you et la petite famille, en esperant que tout se passe bien...
A bientôt !

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Bonjour France ! Merci bcp, suis bien content si ces couleurs t'ont apporté un peu de bonheur... !

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Hi FF, yeah, pretty strange, I'm not sure what he was trying to say... not sure if he was sort of apologizing with a wink to those who might be called on to paint over his work, although I hope no one would want to do that...

Oh, and PS, don't know if you recall mentioning the book "The Donkeys" to me there a while back, but I finally got around to reading it, and found it rather fascinating, and tragic... such a waste...

Owen said...

Bonjour Babzy, ah, ils sont amusants, ces Gouzous, le plus que j'ai vu, le plus que j'ai aimé...

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Hi Amy, yeah, their creator really gets around fast, don't know if new ones are still popping up or not. Will be back to visit the abandoned sugar factory shortly... stay tuned...
;-)

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TechnoB, don't know if they are going to escap and multiply around the world like the human race has, or like Kilroy did, taken up by other artists... and if you should see one, I would certainly recommend a friendly greeting, then after that you can see where the conversation goes...
:-)

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Hi Nevine, haven't seen too much of the South Park Boys over here, but from the little I've come across, I gather they're rather naughty and iconoclastic... I like them !

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Lynne, rather than warts (ugh) maybe you could get a few tatoo-ed on you ??? Yep, there could be a burgeoning market for Gouzou tatoos out there, just waiting to happen...

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Sister Saj, perish the though, idle and touristy... I think my kids might wish I was a little more prone to idle and touristy, but in a strange new place like that, I can't stop thinking that there is some new marvel waiting to be discovered just over the next crest, around the next bend... while everyone was napping after the overnight flight to get there, I was already out exploring the neighborhood we were staying in, and spotted some stuff that was worth spotting... And yes, very Kilroy-ish, see Steve's comment about Chads, which are linked to Kilroy...
:-)

@eloh said...

I had to read everything here...wondering what in the heck is this...a sugar factory... still wonder why those machine pieces are hanging outside the building... VERY interesting.