Just before love : poetry, politics, resistance and feminism

Poetry is resistance. Poetry is action, a weapon with no wounds, « a lightening that digs in the reality » (Alexis Nouss). In the obscure times that deny humanity and in the current times of neo-puritanism and censorship, poetry offers a shelter. For women, poetry opens doors and windows and paves a powerful and safe way to fight patriarcat. Safe really? Not always. Mandelstam himself once wrote : « There is always war in poetry ». Erotic poetry, which I conceive and use as a way to invade the territory of eros and sex and to share it with others, with lovers, may still, or again, be considered as pornographic — which it may be, in its noblest sense — and discarded as « bad ».

Recently, in Geneva, Patricia Terrapon, an artist, chose to include one of my poems to her installation in a group exhibition entitled « Preliminaries ». I had written this poem upon her request, and the poem was also chosen as a highlight by New River Press and included in their 2018-2019 prestigious Yearbook. The night of the opening, on March 7, a man (named Michel, I don’t know more about him) and some others complained so loudly about the pornography of the poem in a space where children could be walking by that the scandalous poem had to be removed from the exhibition. It was later reinstalled and read in public on the night of the finissage, on March 31st. Michel and his friends did not show up.

Please enjoy the beauty of Just Before Love below.

And let’s argue : all kids even the most protected do at a certain age watch pornography on internet. Psychologists often say that they should be warned, explained, told that this is not what eros is all about, that sex is also about love, esthetics and transcendence. Now, what is better than a poem to open the windows of imagination and to switch from pornography to eros ?

Furthermore, I claim that for women to occupy as subjects and not merely as objects the territory of eroticism is a way to break stereotypes and to gain more freedom. As it says on the back cover of my poetry collection IVORY HONEY (New River Press, 2018), I also set out to encourage men to recognise that their sexual organ is to give pleasure and make life, though not necessarily together. Pleasure and life – wouldn’t that be a change from the idea that men have about themselves – the eternal predators? The expression of sexual desire by women — in particular, but not only, in poetry — is one path towards the abolition of this deleterious predator-victim relationship between men and women, one path towards more equality, harmony, love; towards sharing and caring and JOY.

 

Just Before Love

Just before love
He likes to smoke a joint
Then he looks at me
And wants me to play
With my eyes and my smile
As if I were to go
Far away with another
As if I were to dance

Just before love
He likes to watch girls
While touching his balls
And then he looks at me
At my mouth at my lips
Ajar and wet and pink
Playing with my tongue
And my fingers in my mouth

Just before love
He likes me to sniff
From neck to ass
Along his vertebrae
His axilla and to kiss
And to sniff him all over
As if I were an addict
And needs to feel the need

Just before love
His nipples erect
His hair on his thighs
He likes me to ignore
Just for a while then adore
That he is all erect
Erection everywhere
Now show me your tits

© Patricia Terrapon, Sur les traces de Messaline

Just before love
He touches himself
And likes me to Watch
And let me know
I can do it myself
You know look at me
You from below
From everlasting snow

Just before love
Lick it all up
You know, there
Deep in the rainforest
And your tongue everywhere
Let me let me let me
Grasp and strangle
And drown in your night

Just before love
Close your eyes close the world
Comes the night comes the sky
Come, come baby come
Then leave me alone
Alone with myself
Unwillingly and slow
Waiting for death

And after love
Let me let me let me

… and dance again

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2019 est en marche ! WALKING !

Marcher : une attitude, une position, un message et une valeur – une definition de Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio, éditeur de interArtive, coéditeur avec Yannis Ziogas et Stella Sylaiou, du projet special walking Art / walking aesthetics.

Nous sommes alors allés marcher à Perama, ancien bidon-ville où j’ai vécu dans les années 1960, désormais banlieue d’Athènes, Christos Panagos et moi. Marcher et nous souvenir. Perama est mon passé lointain, mon présent et mon futur proche ; les souvenirs de Christos Panagos, eux, sont liés, entre autres, au groupe de musique LowBap Active Member et à son ami Kostas Makrinos. La mémoire du corps est activée par la marche : venez avec nous, à Perama… 2019, année de la marche, année grecque, année du cochon de terre, des énergies joyeuses, let’s go walking! And here we are, in the creative and mindful space between one step and another » : SHARING PERAMA, WALKING MEMORY. Merci Christos.


SHARING PERAMA is an ongoing project in Greece that aims to convey art to the people of Perama, in the public space, with the background consideration that if the arts’ goals and potential are not to change the world, art does have the potential to open and change our gaze, to modulate our feelings about the world and render it more viable for all of us. The artist we have chosen to concretize this project is the Scottish, London-based post-situationist visual poet Robert Montgomery, who proposes light poems in the public space, throughout Perama and more.

Perama is a former slum in the outskirts of Athens, settled around the development of the shipyards between World War 1 and World War 2. Perama was an extremely poor neighborhood until the 90’s when more sustainable construction started, but was hit again by the economical crisis of the turn of the Century, with major subsequent unemployment and social problems. In order to implement the light sculptures by Robert Montgomery in Perama, we follow multiple approaches, among which “walking Perama”. Both authors of this paper have specific, strong memories about Perama, which are inherent to the process of SHARING PERAMA. Polla lived in Perama in 1966-1967, before and during the coup by the Colonel Junta on April 21st, 1967. Panagos has been working in Perama along with the movement of the musical activist group “Active Member” around the turn of 2010’s.

In this paper, we consider how “walking Perama” may deepen our understanding of the space and conceptualize the reception of Robert Montgomery’s art in Perama. Walking for hours and days through the city, evoking memories that are essentially bodily, recalling memories meant to serve as a basis to construct a future becomes a live experiment that enhances our ability to transmit and share images, sounds, perceptions, feelings, and ideas.

SHARING PERAMA

This project is in memory of the early years of the construction of Perama, in the sixties, when Polla spent a winter in the growing “favela” – indeed it was a slum at that time – and in tribute of Georgios Dimitriadis, a Greek orthodox father who took care of Perama’s inhabitants, in particular of the poorest of them, and of the children for whom he had created a shelter where they were served meals, care and love. Georgios Dimitriadis was a humanist of the everyday life, a man with a social vision for both present and future, never tired to give, to help, to find solutions, to distribute hope. Polla was seventeen years old at that time, spending a year in Greece with her family, in a journey organized by her father, who was a convinced philhellene. She studied Greek History, Greek as a language, helped in the shelter, discovered the shipyards. It was a most serene wintertime, but the following spring was obscured by the coup of the Colonel’s military Junta, on April 21st, 1967. Georgios Dimitriadis was immediately imprisoned and the perception Polla had of Perama deeply changed, as did the Greek reality. Fifty years later, Polla comes back to the slum of her teenage, that in the meantime has become a city. Together with image-maker Christos Panagos, Polla goes “Walking Perama”, so as to root the current assay and the whole SHARING PERAMA project in their shared walking experience.

Perama circa 1960’s. Post card

Mental Memory and Body Memory

Memory, a crucial aspect of our lives, is generally viewed as a mental phenomenon, a faculty of the mind whose function is to record, conserve and recall information, essential for learning and for civilizations to evolve. But memories also reside in the body. This is particularly the case for memories of spaces. Furthermore, sensorial memories such as olfactory or taste memories are probably the strongest of all.

Greek writer Tilemachos Doufexis-Antonopoulos defines memory as a pending action: “Memory (…) dives into the unconscious and recovers what is repressed; what is hidden; what was defeated and had to sink into oblivion, … revealing something unknown yet familiar… the demand for some future, for a geometry of the intangible.” Doufexis-Antonopoulos further states that “The method and object of art is the pending process of a not-yet-finished-world, a not-yet-finished-form, the memory of the experience of the future, memory as a pending action.” Walking is also a processing experiment of a not-yet-finished-world, in a not-yet-finished-form, the memory of an experience of the future, memory as a pending action, as a possible “walk-through”.

The city of Perama is constructed in a very particular way, between mountain and sea, with no throughway. Once you enter the city, coming from Athens, Piraeus, Drapetsona, Keratsini, you have to take the same road to go back out of the city. There is no “emergency exit” – except the sea. The memories one holds from that space are thus very contained. Polla has memories of the streets of Perama in her feet, the dirt roads, the clay sidewalks, the bumps, the sand; Panagos has memories in his ears, from studio recordings to open-air concerts; both remember the smells of Perama, flowers in the spring, seawater in the wind from the shore, mixed with the industrial smells.


Panoramic view of part of the city of Perama and of the “Free Zone”, 2018 © Christos Panagos

Walking through Perama also allowed the authors to find back the childcare shelter that was built in the first half of the 20th Century on what has become since Elefterias street. The shelter has become a Kindergarten and is still active today.

Walking as an experiment

According to Walter Benjamin, the experience and the ability to transmit it are linked; by “walking Perama” we experiment the city and become able to share it. We share micro-experiments that pave the way to new perceptions. Polla is walking, recalling memories from her feet and body; Panagos is making images. The fact that we share our respective micro-experiments of walking by walking side by side makes them more “sharable” with others. As stated by Jacques Rancière, quoted by Thierry Davila in Marcher, créer…, “The real needs to be fictionalized to be thought”. By “walking Perama”, we create a new reality, we rethink the psycho-geography of the space, its stories and history. Along with Clare Qualmann and walkwalkwalk, we live “…walking as a freedom, as a subversive practice, as a visual art practice, and as a performance … a practice that begins with a re-examination of the places that you think are familiar – a kind of anti-derive, research method for developing text, installation, film, audio and performance works.”

The walls have been canvases in the streets of the cities forever, canvases of the immense open-air museums that the “polis”, whether mega- or micro-, offer to their people. The memory of walls is a very specific one, one that many artists have used, cultivating the appearance-disappearance-reappearance flux that city walls constantly offer to our gaze. With his texts and installations, Robert Montgomery will invade the walls of Perama.


© Robert Montgomery, 2017, mockup for SHARING PERAMA – a memory of the future to come

As part of our walking experiment, we also entered for the first time spaces we never were before, as the so-called Free Zone, generating new memories and new images that defy time. It was like entering through a hidden portal for traveling to the past: here the tools, the cranes, the ships, all are from the 60’s and even the workers look from another time. We live a very strange feeling of time, of the past but a past that pretends to be in the present. We wonder how the workers knew, the workers of today, to repair these boats of the past. May be as we have “walking memories” – they have “sailing memories”.

New, old, ancient… those become blurred notions that we have to reinvent. We feel like walking in a “collage”: according to Turkish artist Nilbar Güreş, “We are Walking Collages“. 

We are walking in time.


Perama, inside a shipyard, 2018. © Christos Panagos

Walking in time with utopia as companion

As Davila states in Take the time, “The time passed walking, the duration of displacement, is the very medium, the very material of the action of the pedestrian, the ferment of the plasticity of his movement.” The time is what the walker works with.

The time for walkers in Perama seems elongated in a similar way as the city itself. The time here has also one way out only: the way back to the past. Shipyards are relics of the past; the “Terma” (literally, the end of the road), although still active, the ships, the industries, the churches, the shacks all look like relics of the past. And whenever one tries to film something in the present, in Perama, the resulting film will always refer to the past. We travel to the past when we are in Perama – a past that, unlike in other places in Greece, does not particularly refer to the glory of Ancient Greece, even if the hills still tell about the battle of Salamis, the shadow of Xerxes’ throne and the victory of the outnumbered Greeks. A victory gained, in those remote times, thanks to the narrowness of the natural harbor of Salamis, which was as narrow as the city of Perama still is today.Perama is showing its short term past rather as decay than as glory: here life plays in decay. At the end of the road, a small, dirty beach faces the military boats resting on the other side; elderly people and children bath here despite the prohibition to do so and walk on the algae-covered pebbles together with their dogs. The evidence of the decay that occurred in Perama over time, despite the new constructions, makes us strongly aware of the decay of our future. We are walking from past to future with utopia as the only way for survival. Concrete utopia may well emerge from Montgomery’s works, creating new perceptions and virtual spaces for artists to gather and create, as did, once upon a time, Active Member, when the sound of music and its rhythm took over Perama. Concrete utopia however also emerges from today’s political dreams and creations such as the newly created open-air theatre above Terma or the renewed open-air cinema near the entrance of Perama.


Perama, 2018. © Christos Panagos


Perama, open-air Mikis Theodorakis Theater, 2018, © Barbara Polla

Walking like dreaming

Walking and dreaming are very similar activities, although this does not seem so at first sight.

We walked through Perama. We did not stroll. A one-way street, even with meanderings, does not incite to stroll – rather, it encourages a rhythmical walk. Walking is dancing. We walked – we danced – at the rate of dreams: before we were able to capture what we saw as a complete picture, as an overview of the surroundings, it was gone, and the images had turned back into the unfathomable folds of our memories. In dreams as in city walking, only few details remain, very sharp though. Indeed, the attention to and the persistence of details is a characteristic of dreams widely used by Freud in his theories of dream interpretation. Walking art is an art of the detail.

Furthermore, walking and dreaming induce physiological variations in the body’s tone and rhythm, both physical and mental. It is well known that rocking – whether in the arms of an adult when we are babies, or by our journeys in trains or cars as adults – induce cerebral slow waves, and that these slow waves are sleep-inducers. Walking to a given, constant rhythm may be compared to a “self-rocking motion” – and although it obviously does not induce sleep it certainly favors daydreaming and promotes inspiration. The extreme of that inspirational daydreaming may well be sleepwalking. Panagos (who was a sleep-walker as a child) conceives his scenarios walking: “scripts come to my mind, they come out of nowhere…”. That “nowhere” hidden somewhere in the folds of our brain.


Perama, detail of a street. 2018. © Christos Panagos

Another strong link between walking and dreaming is the constant impression of strangeness. Images of dreams are recomposed from millions of images stored somewhere in our memories. “Walking Perama” – as would also be the case for walking through any unknown city, or city not walked for a prolonged time – leads to the recollection and re-composition of a mixture of images, old and new, that generate a similar feeling of strangeness as dreams may generate. Everything looks different. Walks, as dreams, create unseen worlds. That square was more crowded once upon a time, that dog skinnier, those stones not as sharp, that dust less volatile.


Perama, door open to light . 2018. ©Nicolas Etchenagucia

We were also walked as a bigger group through Perama by the theater-director Dimitris Bambilis. Bambilis, originally from Nikea, has a deep long-lasting knowledge of Perama; he participated in many walks (some thousand kilometers through Athens in the last ten years) and invented the concept of “pedifestation”. He has his groups walk as small columns, and in silence. After an hour silent walking in a group, with a group, the return to sharing experiences by voice sounds like an awakening from another world.

Sharing walking

Walking together creates bonds beyond reality and induces sharing of fantasy-inducing slow waves across brain borders. Walking is a drift. The authors of this assay shared a drift into their different, though convergent memories about a specific place and generated new ones: memories of a possible future. A drift into interstices that are usually unseen and unheard when you cross a place by car, public transportation or even bikes. A drift in a world of utopia, where trees grow on the hills of Perama, the seawater is crystal-clear, the kids of Perama are playing with golden sand on the beach and invent submarine science, Robert Montgomery’s pieces floodlit Perama’s tongue on land and foreign language poetry becomes the shared memory of beauty. Through walking together, looking, hearing, smelling, dreaming, these utopias became part of the authors’ shared experience of Perama’s space, a shared experience that may serve as basis for future realization: a cinematographic-like experience that could soon evolve into a film about Perama, possibly entitled “στον κήπο του παραδείσου”.

To know more, click here


Walking is not a new practice, but the act of walking is reclaiming a different and more balanced ecosystem. The choice to develop walking art practices is first and foremost an attitude, a stance, a message and a value. What would be nowadays the messages and values of a walking practice? Where does the walking practice stand in the relentless evolution of technology and mobility? How can contemporary art contribute to a re-discovery of walking practices with new strategies, visions and methods?

Message from the editors

The papers and projects presented in this issue are exploring various approaches to walking. Walking has gained a contemporary importance as a medium that incorporates the body, the landscape and a number of disciplines related to them. Walking either as a medium or a form of artistic praxis is an approach that will keep developing, assimilating and expressing a broad spectrum of the human experience.

Pour accéder à l’ensemble des communications, c’est ici.

2018. ©Nicolas Etchenagucia

Don’t Kill a Mockingbird

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

L’inclassable artiste américaine Shannon Plumb cite cette phrase prononcée par Atticus dans Don’t Kill a Mockingbird. Et elle essaie, constamment, de se mettre dans la peau de cet autre… De cet autre avec moustache. Because « I want to play both men and women and the only way to be a man is to have a moustache. It’s the costumes of a man for me. I want to understand both sexes. I don’t want to go away from this world, having not understood what men are like, so I try to play them. » (Shannon Plumb in ongoing conversation with Gianfrance Derek,. In Let’s Panic # 03.)

Uncanny Shannon Plumb

Shannon Plumb, disciple de Buster Keaton et admirative du maître

I felt some trepidation when I first witnessed the magic of a Buster Keaton film. I loved the guy so much I thought my primordial brain would copy all his gestures, gags and facial expressions, and then as if under a spell by a superstitious grandma I’d turn into a Buster Keaton look-alike hired for birthday parties or office celebrations. I intentionally learned about Buster after I made a bunch of silent comedies. And so I avoided the spell. But not really.

Buster put a spell on all of us. He charmed the teachers of clowning, acting and film. He awed the stuntmen. He informed the directors, he encouraged the comedians, he wowed (some of) the critics, he connected to the human being. My friend’s friend introduced my friend to Buster, then my friend introduced Buster to me, and now I’m introducing Buster to my sons. One of my sons always asks, “Is that really him?” when Keaton falls down the side of a building, or grabs the back of a speeding car and catches a ride, or when he balances on the handlebars of a motorcycle through town over bumps and railroad tracks. He was the ultimate performer, a comic daredevil. Buster Keaton didn’t need a green screen. He faced the cliffs, the trains, the ledges with a jiggle in his knees and a spring in his step. He just jumped, and fell, and jumped and fell. He did it for real. And he did it for a laugh.

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MOVING & UNCANNY

Exposition jusqu’au 8 Septembre 2018 au 2 rue de Hesse, Genève

Avec mounir fatmi, Shaun Gladwell, Dana Hoey, Christophe Hamery, Packard Jennings, Ali Kazma, Rachel Labastie, Eva Magyarosi, Rita Natarova, Abdul Rahman Katanani, Frank Smith, Guillaume de Sardes, Guillaume Varone

and more : Carine Bovey, Alexandre D’Huy,Marc Gonzales, Robert Montgomery, Thaïva Ouaki, Laurent Perbos, Curtis Santiago, Frank Smith, Jeanine Woollard…

MOVING ART. L’art qui dépasse les frontières, qui les efface. L’art qui émeut, qui nous transporte vers de nouveaux mondes. L’art conceptualise de nouveaux paradigmes, de nouvelles dimensions et puise autant dans le passé que dans le présent. C’est ce que nous font ressentir les artistes participants à l’exposition d’été 2018 à Analix Forever. L’exposition réunit des artistes qui souvent habitent les murs de la galerie et d’autres, tels que Christophe Hamery, Guillaume Varone, et Guillaume de Sardes, qui exposent pour la première fois en nos murs.

MOVING ART, c’est aussi une exposition qui bouge dans le courant de l’été, des œuvres qui arrivent, d’autres qui partent, sans oublier toutes les œuvres qui se cachent derrière les rideaux.

MOVING ART débute par mounir fatmi, et sa célèbre série de photomontages Casablanca Kissing, réalisée à partir de photographies extraites du film Casablanca. fatmi y glisse une infinité de cercles tangents, après Descartes, et des figures géométriques appliqués sur les images des deux personnages, augmentant par là notre désir de spectateur et projetant notre espoir de voir les deux personnages unis. Bien que l’histoire du film soit celle d’un amour impossible inscrit dans les clichés de l’espionnage et de l’exotisme, mounir fatmi veut nous faire croire que quelque chose est encore possible.

Sur le mur suivant, le visiteur peut admirer les clichés de Guillaume Varone. L’artiste suisse est parti il y a quelques semaines photographier des espaces en Slovénie inconnus à ses yeux et aux nôtres. En véritable explorateur urbain, Varone croise le chemin d’une étrange sculpture dans un squat, qui à travers l’œil du photographe, prend forme et vie. Deux autres photographies, d’une beauté plastique saisissante, nous emmènent vers des horizons inconnus qui, bien qu’esthétiquement différents, semblent se croiser et façonner la réception qui peut s’opérer de façon spontanée dans la jouissance des attentes d’un autre futur à explorer.

L’exploration d’un autre futur que l’on retrouve chez le photographe et écrivain Guillaume de Sardes. L’histoire présentée s‘inscrit dans des lieux, dans une géographie à la fois singulière et subjective, de Beyrouth à un café que l’on imagine parisien… Figeant une suite d’instants, la photographie de Sardes, instrument du discontinu, agit sur le mode même de la mémoire qui ne garde plus, après la rupture, qu’une poignée d’images, de moments, de temps, forts ou non, qui nous restent inexplicablement présents à l’esprit parce que s’est joué alors quelque chose dont nous ne pouvions être véritablement conscients. Autant que la forme d’un corps, la passion amoureuse retient celle des lieux auxquels il était associé et dans lesquels il s’est imprimé, laissant une trace définitive dans la cire de la mémoire.

Christophe Hamery est graphiste, et l’écrit tient un rôle central dans son travail, son sens et sa forme. L’artiste explore une zone d’échange, voire d’indistinction, entre écrit et image. Photographier, dessiner, c’est encore écrire ; écrire, c’est déjà produire une image. Le portrait triple qu’il nous propose écrit une histoire: la femme qu’il photographie est sous chimiothérapie et la souffrance, ici, le dispute à la crânerie. Le noir-blanc, discret, nous maintient à la distance exacte du sujet nécessaire au plaisir de regarder. Dans MOVING ART, la photographie s’inscrit aussi dans une autre écriture, celle de Frank Smith, qui parcourt toute la galerie, souvenir vibrant des « Films du Monde ».

Étrange, troublant, voire inquiétant au premier regard, la photographies de Dana Hoey rassure aussi, à y voir de plus près. Parce que la sortie du cadre institué de l’art féminin-féministe ouvre de larges perspectives et génère une énergie créative nouvelle : une Uncanny Energy. Une énergie qui intègre l’ambiguïté́, l’échange, une esthétique ni prescrite ni prescriptrice qui inclut les contradictions internes aux genres, incarnées par le corps et la posture de cette jeune boxeuse. Une Uncanny Energy que l’on retrouve dans la peinture de Rita Natarova. Ses peintures ultra-réalistes sont le miroir d’une atmosphère inquiétante, de situations brutes, animales et étranges. Comme si un passé et un futur se rencontraient en un point infiniment étiré sur la surface de ses toiles.

À l’étage de la galerie, Packard Jennings créé une modélisation de la destruction, peut-être celle opérée dans la révolution ? Une révolution pour sortir des logiques de profit du marché de l’art, pour en finir avec les conventions et les normes de la création contemporaine. En bref, « fuck you all », et pour ça rien de tel que de réduire en cendre l’ancienne galerie Analix Forever.

L’œil d’Ali Kazma, dans ses photographies rares, révélant un romantisme inattendu de par le lien à la nature qu’elles dévoilent, maintient un lien fragile avec le monde du vivant, une lumière lointaine, un avion dans le ciel. Tout se passe comme si une lunette grossissante, préalablement fixée sur un objet tout proche, la main, le matériau, l’outil, se trouvait soudain retournée, et ouvrait au regard l’abîme du lointain. On sait que ces renversements d’échelle sont de la plus grande importance, ils sont les nécessaires réajustements dont l’esprit a besoin pour assurer sa perception et l’enrichir, et partant se situer au plus juste dans l’échelle des choses du monde.

Le fil barbelé n’est pas un matériau anodin. Que ce soit à Beyrouth, dont est originaire Abdul Rahman Katananiou sur les terres meusiennes, il renvoie à des imaginaires puissants même si différents. Pour avoir grandi dans le camp de Sabra au Liban, Abdul Rahman utilise l’objet pour marquer ses œuvres d’un engagement viscéral. Le travail d’orfèvre qu’opère Katanani avec le fil barbelé lui permet de l’utiliser comme une matière de sculpture. D’abord, il le tresse, le file, comme on pourrait le faire avec de la laine. Ensuite,  il le modèle, le travaille et lui donne la forme d’une vague, d’un relief. Grâce, entre autres, à cette technicité qu’il applique également sur de nombreux autres matériaux de récupération, il s’est vu invité à présenter ses œuvres du Moyen Orient à l’Europe.

And more.…

texte Nicolas Etchenagucia, été 2018.

Analix Forever
rue de Hesse 2
1204 Genève
022 329 17 09
https://analixforever.com/