April 29th, 2005


Paris: Donovan, Mai, Stephane

I'm waiting in the lobby of the Hotel Montalembert, just off the Rue du Bac, for Mai Ueda to show up. We've never met, and we're supposed to be doing an art show together. This rather tired-looking English tourist is checking in. He has a mane of white hair, a rather washed-out face, and wears a purple T shirt with a green sweater draped over it. I notice the guitar case then scrutinize the man to see if he's a famous musician. Wow, it's Donovan! Donovan Leitch, Donovan pere, the Donovan who was in Don't Look Back, the Donovan with the Scottish accent and the folk LPs, the one who did that song "Atlantis" in a voice that Anne Laplantine thought was mine! The Donovan Devendra Banhart has been listening to a lot recently. The Donovan I used to hate getting compared to, although secretly I knew I'd listened to Cosmic Wheels when I was a kid and something must have rubbed off. Donovan Donovan. I didn't speak to him, but I wrote down the title of the New Agey book he was reading: Uriel's History: Uncovering the Secrets of Stonehenge, Noah's Flood and the Dawn of Civilization. According to the blurb, this book presents evidence that "there was a single global language on Earth, a single female was a common ancestor to all living humans, angels bred with human women to create The Watchers, giant half-human beings, and the oral tradition of Freemasonry records real events". No doubt Donovan will sing something about all this soon.

Mai arrives. She's wearing these outrageous jeans that have bits of gold chocolate wrapper tearing off them in strips. The designer has made them out of NASA space material, she tells me, and it's supposed to self-destruct. Is it a reference to the Shuttle disasters? Space technology which falls apart? I tell her about Donovan. "Oh, I know his son, he's a hip scenester in LA!" she says. Stephane Sednaoui arrives. He looks like a young Gerard Depardieu. He used to date Kylie Minogue, apparently. He made that video of Bjork on the back of a truck, you know, "Big Time Sensuality". He shot Madonna covers. He's just back from Tibet, where he drove around shooting snow scenes. He was told of one valley which flowers only once a year, but when he got there it wasn't in flower, so he's going back when word comes in that the flowers are out. The last two projects he's worked on are an animation for Bjork and a film with Lou Reed in which Reed explains the back story to "Walk on the Wild Side".

Mai and I drape ourselves across a chair, roll on the floor, sit like kabuki actors on the bed. Then, after Stephane has shot about 100 pictures with his digital camera, he downloads them onto his Powerbook (it has a dragon tattoo engraved on the metal lid) and we go through them selecting the best ones. There's Edit 1, Edit 2 and Edit 3. Finally the Edit 3 folder contains just three images which we think are the best ones. One will be used for the flyer of our art show (probably a close-cropped portrait of Mai and me in quarter profile, looking very Gainsbourg-Birkin) and maybe a couple will run in the New York Times or something. Anyway, it was terrifically generous of Stephane to give us his time.