“If any of man’s inventions ever deserved sincere regard, the umbrella is, we maintain, that invention”


Strangely, poet Francis Ponge never wrote about this object, made of ribs that flatten or spread out onto a mast depending on the weather… Perhaps it was too easy, or perhaps it is that, for a while, bourgeois standardisation totally occulted its poetic nature. However, as a parasol, it had accompanied Assyrian and Egyptian princes all the way to their commemorative bas-reliefs… And later, as a richly decorated sunshade, pliable and unfolding at will, it had escorted Chinese ladies. But, a victim of modern times, it was paid an unhesitatingly degrading tribute by the highly utilitarian William Sangster, who wrote, at the beginning of the treatise he dedicated to the object in 1871: “plain, useful, and unpretending, if any of man’s inventions ever deserved sincere regard, the Umbrella is, we maintain, that invention”. Plain, useful and unpretending? In the hands of our clowns, umbrellas will become magical, martial, political and farcical; they will take us on a journey from Europe to Asia, from the Mahabharata to French and American musicals, via Magritte and Hegel, Wong Fei-hung, Yangge dancing and Lautréamont. And we will explore what an umbrella becomes when its function isn’t to protect against the elements. Explore how much, when the forces of imagination subvert it, this accessory grows to be, in all the meanings of the word, spectacular. Explore how, under its aegis, French and Singaporean artists will be able to collectively create a revue dedicated to umbrellas, with always, in mind, their shamanic nature, which Stevenson enunciated so clearly over a century ago: “there is no fact in meteorology better established – indeed, it is almost the only one on which meteorologists are agreed – than the carriage of an umbrella produces desiccation of the air; while if it be left at home, aqueous vapour is largely produced, and is soon deposited in the form of rain”. 


 Marc Goldberg