Catherine Sicot on her research trip to France [fr]

Burbs to Banlieues

This summer I resumed research in France that I began in 2009 with the support of the Programme France-Canada, which involved Oakville Galleries (Oakville, Ontario), Le Musée d’art contemporain du Val-de-Marne (MAC/VAL) in the southern Paris suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine, and Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, in Aubervilliers, a northern Paris suburb. The goal of this early research was to build a dialogue on how artists represent suburbs and to look at the variety of forms resulting from various creative processes. We also focused on how these institutions perceive and program for their public and how they engage outside the walls of the institution, with suburban communities.

I narrowed my focus this summer and researched artists who engage directly with the public space. I continued to consult with Yvane Chapuis, the co-director of the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers until 2010, currently based in Berlin, and benefited from my new dialogue with LASA (Laboratorio artístico de san agustín), a collective of Cuban and French artists who work and invite other artists to join them in the La Lira area (San Agustin), located in the suburbs of Havana.

Choosing at times to expand my research base outside of museums and art centres, I discovered works produced during extended artist residencies, implying multiple levels of collaborations with communities and individuals, resulting in art productions that included films, animation, documentaries, performances, art walks, sculpture/installation and theatre performance.

Seeking these encounters took me on travels across France – basking in the summer heat and the many festivals – starting in Paris with a visit to sound artist Arnaud Sallé’s studio. In the Paris suburbs, in Ivry-sur-Seine, I paid a visit to Stefan Shankland and Trans305, his sculpture/monument in progress; in Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône, I discovered Jan Kopp’s multimedia exhibit at the art centre l’Abbaye de Maubuisson. Then in Avallon, in Burgundy, I saw Serge Sandor’s staging of Les Enfants des Vermiraux.

I began my stay in Marseille in Les Quartiers Nord where I first experienced the impressive work by the not-for-profit organization Hotel du Nord, merging historical and musical walks with the creation of a housing network within residents’ homes. In one of the 1970’s concrete housing projects, I admired the residents’ initiatives (community garden, weekly outdoor lunches and a café des sports in a building basement) and near by, the new and active Cité des Arts de la Rue.
At the Festival du Documentaire (FID), I met Julia Varga and saw her work produced in Aubervilliers, and I discovered the result of a recent collaboration between Nicolas Boone and Olivier Bosson, filmed in a Lyon suburb.

Finally, I initiated a dialogue with artists Olive Martin and Patrick Bernier, Fanny de Chaillé and Jepoy, all based in different parts of France.

The work of all these artists and cultural players results in innovative art forms that explore the possibilities and limits of a medium – or many – thereby contributing to the research within the field of contemporary art. My interest in their work lies not only in their artistic excellence, but in their mutual commitment to engage with a particular community. The creative processes involved all convey the importance of dialogue and collaboration in the activation, transformation and creation of living spaces. These approaches also call into question current socio-political structures and the mechanisms that do or do not allow the development of these territories.

A very big thank you to Claire Le Masne, the Cultural Advisor at the Consulate of France in Toronto for supporting Burbs to Banlieues and the trip to France, as well as for providing productive connections in Havana. Thank you also to Alain Zayan, her counterpart in Havana.

To be continued….

Catherine Sicot
Independent Curator based in Toronto
catherinesicot@gmail.com

Last modified on 07/11/2011

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