This voiceover (duration 34 minutes) and corresponding script, are part of ‘Pauline and the Matches’, 12-27 August 2017, Custom Lane, Edinburgh. ‘Pauline and the Matches’ is based on the tale by Heinrich Hoffman (1809-1894) called ‘The Dreadful Story of Pauline and the Matches’ from the children’s book ‘Der Struwwelpeter’ (1845). The allegory this cautionary tale presents- that small actions have catastrophic consequences- has exploded within contemporary culture. We hear how microscopic actions, when they become collective, have a global impact.
‘Pauline and the Matches’ is an interactive performance space and installation, made by a collective of multi-media performance and sound artists. Part of Edinburgh Art Festival, supported by Creative Scotland.
Script and narration: Jenny Brownrigg; Sound Production: Mark Vernon; Booklet Design: Christine Jones; Project devised by B Gilbert Scott.
In 2017, I had the privilege to curate an exhibition of Franki Raffles’ (1955-94) work. This project is in partnership with Dr Alistair Scott (Franki Raffles Archive Project, Edinburgh Napier University) and is supported by St Andrews Special Collections.
Franki Raffles was a feminist social documentary photographer. A new publication accompanies the exhibition ‘Observing Women at Work’ in the Reid Gallery, The Glasgow School of Art (4 March – 27 April 2017). The exhibition presents a selection of black and white photographs and material by Franki Raffles namely ‘Women Workers in the USSR’ (1989)’, ‘To Let You Understand…’ (1988) and material from the first ‘Zero Tolerance’ campaign (1992), entitled ‘Prevalence’. Zero Tolerance was developed as a ground-breaking campaign to raise awareness of the issue of men’s violence against women and children. See documentation of the exhibition here.
My essay is on P33-40 of the new publication ‘OBSERVING WOMEN AT WORK: Franki Raffles’. The book is published by The Glasgow School of Art with support from Franki Raffles Archive Project, Edinburgh Napier University and contains an introduction by Sarah Munro (Director, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art) essays by Jenny Brownrigg (GSA Exhibitions Director, curator of this exhibition) and Dr Alistair Scott (Edinburgh Napier University, The Franki Raffles Archive). The photographs are held by University of St Andrews Library Special Collections Division.
[ESSAY EXTRACT: ‘A local authority canteen worker is quoted in Raffles’ 1988 publication, To Let You Understand…, as follows: “Well privatisation won’t affect me. I’m due to retire soon, but it’s the younger ones I feel sorry for.”
Looking back over the quotations gathered for this City of Edinburgh District Council Women’s Committee commission, they concentrate on high unemployment statistics for school leavers; impending privatisation (at the time the publication was written, this related to British Steel, water and electricity following the sell-off of utilities such as British Telecom and British Gas); low pay; childcare issues, particularly free nursery places; income support; inadequate NHS funding; equal opportunities; and employee protection rights. Fast-forward 29 years to 2017, following Thatcher, New Labour and into the economic uncertainty of BREXIT, Raffles’ work continues to be relevant to present-day working conditions and debates. The destination of many school leavers and graduates continues to be the Job Centre; sections of the NHS are being quietly privatised; the high cost of childcare still impacts greatly on income; and zero hour contracts create often precarious working conditions. Viewing Raffles’ work in black-and-white from our current decade is not in any way a nostalgic activity.
On entering the gallery to see Observing Women at Work, visitors encounter a similar view as the narrators do in Charlotte Gilman’s novel Herland (1915) – a society entirely comprising women. Through the repetition of gender, each of Raffles’ photographs reinforces her feminist agenda. The women are centre-stage. It is only on closer inspection that one can see men in the further recesses of the photographs – having a cigarette out of a lorry window or lingering at the end of a corridor with a co-worker. Even in a sole photograph of doctor and patient (Inside Back Cover, Women Workers, Russia), where the male has equal presence to the female, it is the woman who is wearing the white coat of the doctor, and the man who is the patient. Intriguingly, Raffles resists the device of the close-up, preferring the mid- or long-shot. She predominantly uses the establishing shot, which clearly shows the environment within which the worker operates, whether it is the regulated space of the open plan office, the natural dirt of the state farm or the systematic space of manufacture… EXTRACT ENDS]
Read full essay here.
The book can be purchased from GSA Shop for £7.
ISBN: 9780956764669 Dimensions: 21 x 14.8 cm Materials: paperback Designed by Maeve Redmond, 52 pages, edition 300.
POP-UP is a short story, illustrated by Paul J. Ryding and Neil McGuire, self published in Dec 2016. Download full text here
“The Pop-Up”. Xavier placed his hands on the table and leaned forward. This was the body language of leaders. As the youngest guy in the room, he skirted the right kind of informality with his ‘meet the clients’ outfit. He was wearing a narrow black tie with the top button on his white shirt undone. His sleeves were rolled up a little to hint that he wasn’t afraid of hard work, when actually his line manager would have said he was. ‘Right guys, we are designing this space in the building for pop-ups. You are going to have a key flow of people through here and you want to grab their attention. This is a flexible, dynamic space which can powerfully encourage repeat visits’.
Bill Staton didn’t like being called ‘guys’ by a junior, not one little bit, but he dimly recognised the phrase ‘pop-up’. Had he seen a pop-up on the recent visit to Gateshead where a mixed delegation had been sent to research different kinds of loose seating for auditoriums? He knew that as the Local Authority’s Head of Culture, Sport and Engineering he needed to express some words right now to show he was boss. He rocked forward gently in his seat to signal he was ready to engage…..”
Thanks to a weeklong residency at Sweeney’s Bothy, I was able to visit the Isle of Eigg for the first time. My main aim was to seek out the places that MEM Donaldson photographed on her visits to Eigg, between 1918-1936. Her photographs illustrated her travel guide ‘Wanderings in the Western Highlands and Islands‘ (1921). The week also became a time to look at a second Scottish photographer, Violet Banks  and her photographs of Eigg from her tour of the Western Hebrides c. 1920s & 30s’.
Intriguingly, Donaldson and Banks’ paths may have crossed at Donaldson’s distinctive home in Arnamurchan. In a set of black photograph albums held at Royal Commission of Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Banks dedicates one section to Ardnamurchan, with a page of four photographs captioned ‘Views of Ardnamurchan, House at Sanna built by M.E.M. Donaldson‘. Banks frames the low buildings of MEM Donaldson’s home in the middle distance, nestled with a small hill behind and close to the edge of a low dune. The photograph with caption provides the first physical evidence that one photographer is aware of another, amongst the women who I have been researching that documented Scottish Highlands & Islands life in the inter-war years.
Banks also visited and photographed a number of locations that Margaret Fay Shaw captured too, including the Telegraph office at Eriskay, and also a Highland Games featuring Compton Mackenzie in a line of judges at Northbay, Isle of Barra. The photographs have a similar framing, yet the seating arrangement and Mackenzie’s flamboyant dress as a chieftain is different in each photograph, so may not be taken at the same Games.
On the Saturday ferry over from Mallaig to Eigg, I showed digital images of MEM Donaldson’s series on the island to Lucy Conway (the host of Sweeney’s Bothy with her husband Eddie Scott) and another islander, Eric Weldon. They immediately helped identify locations. A further resource has been the impressive, ten years in the writing, ‘Eigg: The Story of an Island‘,  by local resident Camille Dressler. This book is part of an excellent compact collection called the ‘Walking Library’  at Sweeney’s Bothy. Dressler recounts that Donaldson stayed at Laig Farm, on her visits to Eigg, which in that period as well as a working farm was a Temperance Hotel.  Two of Donaldson’s photographs show the farm. The first shows the start of the path down to the farm, with the gateway at the side of a cliff-face. The second denotes Laig Farm’s grouping of low buildings, in a small valley with a sandstone headland rising behind . Laig beach, close to the farm, is the site of third photograph, which shows a woman, likely Donaldson’s companion, the illustrator Isobel Bonus, walking along the gray sands. The distinctive silhouette of the island of Rum lies on the near horizon. Donaldson takes another photograph at this location; a detail of the strange fossilised stones found at the south end of Laig beach.
Like Laig Farm, a good number of the photographs are dotted around Cleadale itself, where Sweeney’s Bothy is located. Donaldson was drawn to ‘sites with historical associations’ . She photographed two local children, Joanne MacLellan and Katie-Ann MacKay fetching water from St Columba’s Well  at Cleadale, where one can still take a drink of its cool, clear water, credited with healing powers, from a generously provided mug. (Lucy tells me later that this is the water for both drinking and showering with at Sweeney’s Bothy!) The well was said to be blessed by Colm Cille and believed to prophesize the fate of those children baptised in it, from the ‘number of rivulets running down’ . Perhaps this story prompted Donaldson to photograph the two girls at the well. Further around the coast, in another photograph, a white bearded islander, Lachlan MacAskill points with his stick to St Donnan’s ‘pillow’ stone, lying in front of the ruins at Kildonan Church.
It is important to note that we read these images differently, according to our own experience. I am a similar audience, thanks to where I live, as Donaldson’s main readership was. Hugh Cheape asserts that as her photographs were to illustrate literary work, the perceived audience would have been those who were ‘probably town-based’.  Before my visit to Eigg, this series of photographs had their only identifiers of location as the general catalogue credits from Inverness Museum & Art Gallery Archive, which was enough to bring me to Eigg. Local knowledge shared during this residency, has brought the photographs into a new focus. The image of a woman, possibly Isabel Bonus, with knapsack on her back, walking along a track was identified as being at Cleadale, ‘round the corner by the quarry‘. A traditional cottage and byre are identified as ‘Mairi’s house and shed‘. Dressler when looking at the same photograph pointed at the stone in the foreground and recounted that a previous owner, an old man, ‘always used to always sit on the rock’. For the island resident, the photographs are coded in a different way, moving naturally to the detail such as who currently owns the croft pictured. Sometimes the information that stands out in a local reading is an anomaly in the landscape. For example, it was remarked that it was ‘unusual to have a boat there’, in another photograph.
Both Donaldson and Banks photograph key landmarks on Eigg, in particular An Sgurr, the distinctive pitchstone outcrop, which the highest point of the island; also both photograph other ‘tourist sites’ at the Massacre and Cathedral Caves. Donaldson’s photographs of An Sgurr place it within the context of one of her walks, showing the approach to it from a route than can be traversed across a plateau. Banks chooses to show An Sgurr by placing a woman in scale with ‘the Nose’. Both Donaldson and Banks also separately photograph the loch to be found en route to the Sgurr, known as Loch nam Ban Mora – ‘Loch of the Big Women‘ – where the submerged causeway to the crannog in the middle could only be forged by a race of women of ‘supernatural proportions’.  The name refers to the Queen of Moidart’s warrior women, sent to murder St Donnan and his monks on Eigg. Lights from the dead bodies of the monks bewitched the women, leading them up to Loch nam Ban Mora, and luring the women one by one into the water, with all drowning. Both Donaldson and Banks also photograph the Sheela-na-gig, at Kildonnan Church. Sheela-na-gigs ‘are carvings, often found in churches, which consist of a female displaying, or drawing attention to, her genitals‘.  Alasdair Alpin MacGregor also photographed the Sheela-na-gig on his visit to Eigg.
Donaldson’s work in particular has very much been given its place in Eigg, represented in (photo)copies of her work held in the photographic collection at Eigg History Society Archive and in Dressler’s writing on Eigg. Donaldson’s photographs can be found framed in the Galmisdale Café and Bar. This archive gives the unique opportunity to view Donaldson’s work alongside other vernacular historic photography collections, amassed from photographs by islanders, held over generations, in an ‘Awards for All’ project led by Eigg History Society (Comunn Eachdraidh Eige) for the Eigg Trust, started in 1997. Taking an example, one of Donaldson’s photographs is captioned by John Telfer Dunbar in ‘Herself‘, a biography, as ‘taking the peats home’ where ‘the woman with a white kerchief tied round her head is described as ‘the embodiment of good nature, health and contentment’. This woman is named in a photocopy of this photograph held in Eigg History Society Archive as Ishbel MacQuarrie . Donaldson photographs MacQuarrie at work, but also her home, which may for Donaldson signify the changing traditional architectural vernacular of the Highlands and Islands. The caption for this photograph in the archive relates to the disappearing history that the architecture represents and an anomaly which may interest the urban readership- ‘Lossit and last black house on island with hipped roof covered in thatch. Note roof of byre next door is upturned boat’. This croft house also features in the islanders’ own photographic collections, in particular the Katie Maclean Collection, with family connections to the MacQuarries, which denotes ‘Donald MacQuarrie, wife Mary, children and Ishbel MacQuarrie lived here’. Ishbel MacQuarrie is photographed here as she is a relative who is part of a family. Therefore, the photograph was taken with different reasons- to record the actual person and her significance to the related photographer. The Eigg History Society photographic archive provides a significant collection for study of local history and how islanders documented themselves and their surroundings.
In 1935, Violet Banks established her own commercial photography studio in Edinburgh. Lucy Conway organized for me to speak about Donaldson and Banks with the Eigg History Society. At the event Camille Dressler identified that three of Banks’ photographs of Eigg, that appear in her photograph albums held by RCAHMS, are also held as facsimiles of postcards in the archive. The copies show images of Laig Bay, the Sgurr and a view of Eigg from the Isle of Muck, all bearing the credit ‘Photo: Violet Banks‘. This provides another use of Banks’ images, for commercial purposes, and another line of enquiry to follow up, in looking for the original postcards.
 Veronica Fraser, an archivist at Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland writes about Banks’ life in ‘Vernacular Buildings‘:
‘Violet Banks (1986-1985) was born near Kinghorn, Fife and educated at Craigmont, Edinburgh, and at ECA (Edinburgh College of Art). In 1927 she was senior arts mistress at St. Oran’s, a private school at Drummond Place, Edinburgh‘.Banks’ photographs of the Hebrides, Fraser recounts, were discovered by John Dixon of Georgian Antiques, in a drawer in a sideboard that had been part of a furniture purchase and then gifted to RCAHMS to become The Violet Banks Collection. P67-78, ‘Vernacular Building 32′, Scottish Vernacular Buildings Working Group 2008-2009) ISSN:0267-3088.
 ‘Eigg The Story of an Island‘, Camille Dressler (Birlinn Ltd 2007, 3rd edition)
 ‘The Walking Library’ for Bothan Shuibhne, Isle of Eigg, is a project by Dee Heddon and Misha Myers, with this particular iteration in 2013. The ‘Walking Library’s‘ aim is to bring together books on walking and its contemplation, and is a collective gathering of book recommendations from those that accompany Heddon and Myers on a walk, in this instance from Carbeth Community Huts to the Walled Garden, with Sweeney’s Bothy in mind.
 P.104, ‘Eigg, The Story of an Island’, Dressler, C.
’The Geology of Eigg‘, John D Hudson, Angus D Miller and Ann Allwright, Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, (2014, Second Edition) is part of the ‘Waking Library’ at Sweeney’s Bothy and accounts for the rock formations of Eigg.
 P.45, ‘Herself and Green Maria: the photography of M.E.M. Donaldson’, Cheape, H, ‘Studies in Photography’ (2006)
 P.50, ‘Eigg, The Story of an Island‘, Dressler, C, (2007, Birlinn Ltd, 3rd Edition)
 P.7, ‘Eigg, The Story of an Island’, Dressler, C, (2007, Birlinn Ltd, 3rd Edition)
 P.45, ‘Herself and Green Maria: the photography of M.E.M. Donaldson’, Cheape, H, ‘Studies in Photography’ (2006)
 P.4, ‘Eigg, The Story of an Island’, Dressler, C, (2007, Birlinn Ltd, 3rd Edition)
 P.98, ‘The Small Isles, Canna, Rum, Eigg & Muck’, Rixson, D, (2011, Birlinn Ltd, 2nd edition). Copy in Sweeney’s Bothy’s Walking Library.
 Donaldson’s photograph of Ishbel MacQuarrie ‘gathering the peats’ is also the cover image of Dressler’s ‘Eigg, The Story of an Island’.
With thanks to: The Bothy Project, Lucy Conway & Eddie Scott, Eigg Historic Society, Camille Dressler.
‘The way to Inchfuckery’ is a short story I have written to accompany Alan Grieve’s new publication, of the same title, which introduces the island of Inchfuckery.
This is no island of romance or escape but one richly steeped in the landmarks of our modern time, with the hills of Lauren and Jonah, complete with lethal drizzle and the Shiski Disco. Inchfuckery is peopled by characters like Fat Curt and there is no shortage of Jägerbombs. On this island, the bards cottages are aflame, the waterfalls sound like Stone Roses lyrics and those in yoga poses are stalked by hungry bears.
Alan gets up every morning before his family awakes, to pick up felt tip pen and draw more of the island. Crafted in the small hours, gives Alan’s mind and hand the freedom to create fresh associations and mash-ups between contemporary language, fashion, spirituality, history, myth, and nature. Here on Inchfuckery, the geology is ‘as old as fuck’.
About Alan Grieve:
Alan Grieve graduated with an MFA degree from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Dundee, Scotland, in 2009. In 2011, he set up Workspace in a small shop unit in his home town of Dunfermline. He was originally trained as a hairdresser before attending art school, and Workspace operates as both a hair salon and a gallery/event space. Drawing and social engagement are the cornerstones of his practice and recent commissions vary from small-scale intimate illustrations for individuals to ambitious theatre projects with organisations such as the National Theatre of Scotland.
The Marseille Printemps de l’Art Contemporain, British Council Scotland and Scottish Contemporary Art Network, May 2016
In the exhibition Cartology of the Algerian Map, at MuCEM, Marseilles, one map was entitled Travels or observations relating to several parts of Barbary and the Levant (Thomas Shaw, 1738). Let this report be called Travels or observations relating to several parts of Marseille and the contemporary art scene.
Our delegation of thirteen , had been invited by the organising committee of Marseille Expo to attend Printemps de l’Art Contemporain (PAC) and meet a network of arts organisations who are members of Marseille Expo. In its eighth edition, PAC is a May festival which brings together a wide range of galleries, museums, production facilities and studios. This visit for the Scottish delegation has been a scoping one, providing the opportunity to meet with galleries, artists and arts organisations with the view to developing ideas for future projects, exchanges, exhibitions or residencies with Marseille. Future links or opportunities are by no means limited to the group on this curatorial trip. This link between Scotland and Marseille builds on established links such as the Triangle France exchange, which has been running since 2012 between Glasgow Sculpture Studios and Triangle France with previous Marseille and Glasgow-based artists including, from Marseille – Amandine Guruceaga who we met at Tank Art Space a gallery space which is part of her home, and Thomas Teurlai, whose installation Bullroarer we saw at Musée Catini through Les Ateliers d’Artistes de la Ville de Marseille programme. Marseille’s Sextant Et Plus is another organisation, ( Director Veronique Collard-Bovy), which has strong links with Scotland and in particular Glasgow, most recently in 2014 working with Graham Fagen and Graham Eatough on their project ‘In Camera‘. Wasps’ project The Poundshop, selling the work of Scottish-based and Marseille-based designers, ran at Southblock, Glasgow, during Merchant City Festival 2016.
In May it was timely to visit Marseille, as announcements were just coming through that France’s second largest city will host Manifesta in 2020. For further reading, Caroline Hancock, an independent curator living in Paris, and past curator of PAC (and a key person our group met on the trip), has written the excellent piece Why Manifesta makes sense in Marseille (5.6.16, Apollo Magazine). Marseille was European City of Culture in 2013. Overlooked by the Church of the Bonne Mere, this city is surrounded by mountains and is also on the Mediterranean coast, with an ancient port and beach. The island fortress in the bay inspired Alexandre Dumas’ Man in the Iron Mask Le Corbusier’s Cite Radieuse, which in July 2016 has itself been declared a UN Heritage site, is also in Marseille. PAC, as with any good festival, allowed for the exploration of diverse parts of the city, due to the location of the galleries and museums taking part.
PAC 2016 has no over-arching theme this year. However, one strand was an emphasis on cultural exchange, this year with South Korean artists. Exhibitions included The thing that you know, I do not want to know with Rohwajeong and Jihye Park, curated by Paul-Emmanuel Odin at La Compagnie, a beautiful large gallery with massive timber beams; Cody Choi at Musee d’Art Contemporain; Jin Angdoo & Mathieu Julien with Amateurs at Straat Galerie; and Sam (meaning three in Korean) with artists Myung-Ok Han, Oan Kim and Peter Kim at art-cade, a gallery renovated from a former Turkish bath. Art-cade is architecturally formed in a triangular layout, with a glass corridor which surrounds a garden at its heart. A staircase in the garden leads to a roof top area. Works are exhibited in the corridor and several small rooms leading from it.
Seulgi Lee playfully created the ongoing action of Soupe at Galerie Ho, offering visitors a choice of two coloured soups, cooking in the gallery, that were the exact colours she had painted the gallery walls. Galerie Ho is open to exhibition proposals from artists, and is an unique gallery that is entered through a bookshop, with a cafe area and artist residency space in the garden.
One of the stand out exhibitions of PAC in terms of ambition was by South Korean Marseille-based artist Ahram Lee, with her exhibition D’incolores idees vertes dormant furieusement at Vidéochroniques. This gallery is a former cigarette factory and tobacco warehouse. Lee brought strange measures and rules to the space with her careful assemblages built from piles of contemporary products, including IKEA boxes, bottle tops and hundreds of matchboxes, forming strange, perfectionist structures in the gallery space. Next year, following on from South Korea, PAC will make links with Colombia.
On the arrival night we visited the preview of Ink at Studio Fotokino, an independent gallery dedicated to artists books, independent publications, print, design, photography and illustration. Ink was a concise and elegant gathering of international alternative and independent artist book and magazine editions, including Automatic Books (Italy), Corners (Seoul), FP & CF (France) and Hato Press (UK).
The next day, following an impromptu drive-by of Cite Radieuse, our first visit was to the art school, L’Ecole Supérieure d’Art et de Design Marseille-Méditerranée which is located in a spectacular setting in the hills behind Marseille. The art school has approximately 400 students, with an impressive ratio of one tutor to ten students. The architecture is intriguing, with studio units and facilities built in a stepped formation up the hill. There were very good facilities, in particular for printmaking, and a new film studio called Le Plateau recently opened, with state of the art equipment for filming and sound. The art school was, through their research wing, in the process of setting up a programme of residencies for national artists to work with research staff and students.
The art school does not have any gallery provision on site, preferring to work in partnership with organisations in the city. This included a printmaking workshop and exhibition Bois Graves XXL at La Friche Belle de Mai, where outsize prints using a steamroller were being made from large-scale woodcuts. Another of their linked projects was Biennale de Marseille Longchamp No1, curated by tutor Arnaud Deschin which, complete with map, was a tour from his live/work gallery space La GAD Marseille through different shops where students had made installations in the surrounding area. A frankly at all times confusing and often highly enjoyable tour, due to the persona of the tour leader and the fact that the art was often difficult to distinguish from its surroundings, began at La GAD with the curator wearing sunglasses at all times, keeping our group outside a closed door whilst he waited interminably for his security guards to turn up to the gallery. There was plenty of time to examine the front window, which had on it an advert for a travel agency rendering the galley frontage more like that of a quasi tanning shop. The tour took us to fridges in the local grocers, to an off-licence, Italian pasta shop and hairdressers where everyone was handed a small unique leaflet edition Aujourd’hui on va parler de ma vulve. The experience was finely balanced on the cusp of a highly ironic piss-take or is this for real, ensuring all tour participants remained polite and engaged, even when being pressed and orchestrated by Deschin at the conclusion for a group photograph amongst one of the penultimate works.
Marseille’s public institutions include MuCEM, FRAC and Musee d’art Contemporain de Marseille [MAC]. MAC was hosting two exhibitions, one by South Korean artist Cody Choi called Culture Cuts, and the second, an impressive selection from their collection, including works by Dennis Oppenheim, Denis Brun, Niki de Saint Phalle, Gordon Matta Clark, Annette Messager, Dieter Roth, Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci. The gallery space itself is rather wonderful with vaulted ceilings. Nearby, installed long before David Shrigley’s Fourth Plinth, is the artist Cesar’s big bronze thumb, in the centre of a roundabout. FRAC Provence-Alpes Côte d’Azur held two exhibitions of London-based Koo Jeong-A and Brussels-based artist Livien De Boeck’s work. MuCEM is an impressive network of refurbished old historical garrison buildings perched on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean and is completed with signature contemporary architecture by Rudy Ricciotti, which houses their Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisation section. Exhibitions on Jean Genet L’Echappée Belle, and on the folk influences on Picasso’s work were at MuCEM.
The visit contrasted an incredibly diverse range of museums, galleries and artist-run projects bringing together an intensity of scale ranging from the enormous La Friche Belle de Mai which one of its directors referred to as a flat Le Corbusier with its living spaces, play areas and galleries, to the tiny not-for-profit spaces of Galerie Territoires Partagés or OÙ Paradis. La Friche Belle de Mai has an interesting programming structure, alternating its gallery spaces between the organisations that are based there. Sextant Et Plus at the time of PAC had curated the epic Les Possédés, over two floors, with significant works borrowed from private art collections from south of France including pieces by Jimmie Durham, Saâdane Afif, Neïl Beloufa, Roman Ondák and Anri Sala.
The city of Marseille owns La Friche Belle de Mai, with a co-operative company of organisations having it as a long term loan of 45 years. In contrast, the compact Galerie Territoires Partagés disperses its programme and ethos, focused in particular on political and social issues, through a small van that its director drives through the region, to deliver a socially engaged education programme. OÙ Paradis hosting Daphné Le Sergent’s installation Overflow in a domestic space on the top floor of flats, which the Marseille-born artist Richard Baquié (1952-1996) used as his studio. Overflow referenced Richard Baquie’s common objects series – Baquié drew a cup of coffee repeatedly throughout his life. In the same domestic apartment building, there was also access to Baquié’s apartment on a lower floor, where his partner had continued to live after his death. The apartment formed a kind of living monument to him, communicating clearly his implicit belief in the permeability of the boundaries between life and work – his sculptural work was often made out of recycled objects.
OÙ is an intriguing format as it comprises three separate spaces, including the domestic spaces mentioned and the final space of a contemporary gallery, with changing programme and connected artist residency, which was hosting a two person show of Paris-based Dae Jin Choi with Daphné Le Sergent. Another exhibition forming a retrospective was of Charles Dreyfus, an artist and historian of Fluxus, at Galerie Meyer. Galerie Porte Avion‘s show of Alain Andrade’s and Pedro Lino’s work included an exhaustive list of all the walls built to enforce borders and control movement in the world now.
Commercial galleries make up a smaller part of the art scene in Marseille. Commercial galleries we visited during PAC included Béa-ba which is co-run by Beatrice Le Tirilly and Barbara Sartre and which staged a solo exhibition by Bernard Pages, En Regard, of drawings and sculptures from 1969-2015. Galerie Polysémie had an interesting take on the type of artist on the roster, with the director François Vertadier only selecting ‘outsider’ artists. The current exhibition was by art teacher Georges Bru, of dreamlike figurative work on paper. A number of the galleries were run by businesses which were different takes on the gallery model. TOGU was an architectural practice with a gallery, which had a roster of artists to propose to their architectural clients. Mécènes du Sud was working with Hotel Deux Pierres Deux Corps, hosting the last intake of a group of five young artists, through a residency in their hotel for a programme called Vacances Blues. The exhibition at the gallery included the work of Clémence Marin, with her videowork of a worker attempting the thankless task of sweeping a dance floor full of balloons to the side.
Marseille has a strong studio ethos, often linked with residency programmes, through Marseille City Studios, which is supported by the city. This initiative has been running for 20 years with a network of studios for French and visiting artists at Château de Servières, Astérides and Triangle France (director Céline Kopp), Astérides and Triangle France are both based at La Friche Belle de Mai. Château de Servières has had an exchange programme with other European cities including Dublin, Turin and Milan. Here we met artists in residence including Elvia Teotski who had been working on the studio floor of Château de Servières in an archaeological manner to show the traces of previous artists; Charlotte Benedittini and Robin Touchard who had been working on an installation with Tony Ceppi. All artists were being supported by the city with a one year residency. Astérides were staging an exhibition at La Friche Belle de Mai of four artist-in-residence productions by Victoire Barbot, Pierre Boggio, Julie Michel and Luca Resta.
Other studio visits our group went on included to artist Rémi Bragard, who was looking to build a planetarium projector, and took us through all his prototypes and ephemera of brochures compiled by DIY planetarium builders from all over the world, including Kovac Planetarium in the north woods of North Wisconsin. Bragard had been visiting each maker or museum, and is working on producing a book of his photographs. A second artist we met was Nicolas Pincemin, where we were introduced to his paintings on hidden and collapsing architecture including abandoned military bunkers. A key resource and website flagged up during the trip to use to research French artists is the French Network of Documents d’Artistes website.
Marseille has a number of production facilities, including one for glass, which were presenting exhibitions or projects as part of PAC. One building housed Atelier Ni, a sculpture workshop on the ground floor, and Tchikebe, a printmaking facility on the second floor. Atelier Ni hosted Selma Lepart, winner of their open call and Julien Fargetton. Atelier Ni was set up in 2010 by two artists, Arnold Degiovanni and Maxile Gianni, and is seen as a technical resource to assist artists and designers in the technical design and production of their projects. One of Lepart’s sculptures was technically highly ambitious – a breathing asteroid, where the small metal plates of its surface appeared to inhale and exhale. Atelier Ni had worked with Fargetton to help him in the construction of a Belgian waffle maker, fully operational and made from two Belgian manhole covers – real street food as the artist himself coined it. Upstairs from Atelier Ni, was Atelier Tchikebe, an exciting printmaking studio with gallery. Tchikebe had been producing a series of new screenprints onto different surfaces including aluminium, mirror and acrylic glass, with Tania Mouraud, a multi-disciplinary artist working across performance, video and public art work. Often working in text, Mouraud declared on our visit that.. ‘one sentence will be in 7 cities’, on simultaneous billboards across Europe.
To conclude this observation of the contemporary art scene in Marseille, one of the most significant factors assimilated on this curatorial trip was the emphasis each type of organisation at any size had placed on the artist residency, in particular as a means to support the production of work for exhibition. Many included as part of their architectural framework a place for an artist to live and work. This included most picturesquely, the privately owned The American Gallery, which comprises of a gallery with artist residency at the bottom of the garden of Marseille resident, psychoanalyst and gallery owner Pamela King. The American Gallery was hosting the Home Guard Manual of Camouflage by Cari Gonzalez-Casanova on the history of camouflage. Another example was Voyons Voir: art contemporain & territoire located in Aix-en-Provence.
Also, the resourcefulness of artists and curators was apparent, in their ability to make projects within unusual site specific contexts, such as Paradise/A space for screen addiction which was a mirrored cube and cinema space installed within a working auction house Leclere Maisonnette de Ventres, curated by Charlotte Cosson & Emmanuelle Luciani. The film programme included films by Ilja Karilampi, GCC, Akina Cox and General Idea. This project was linked to CODE South Way, a publication edited by Cosson & Luciani.
The dedication of those who worked with artists within Marseille’s contemporary art framework was also clear, in particular Rond-Point Projects with Director Camille Videcoq, who works on singular year-long residencies, for in depth dialogue and support with those she works with. Videcoq referred to the gallery as a tool for the residency, which again places the significance of the residency in the Marseille contemporary art scene.
With thanks to the trip organisers, to all our hosts and to Marseille Expo team. Jenny Brownrigg (2016) This article can also be accessed on Scottish Contemporary Art Network’s website.
 The group were Cheryl Connell (Stills, Edinburgh); Judith Liddle (Edinburgh Printmakers); Max Slaven (David Dale Gallery, Glasgow); Audrey Carling & Michelle Emery-Barker (WASPS); Sorcha Carey (Edinburgh Art Festival); Juliet Dean (British Council Scotland); Seonaid Daly (SCAN); Julie-Ann Delaney (National Galleries Scotland); Kirsteen Macdonald (GSA); Jenny Brownrigg (GSA); Dan Brown (Edinburgh Sculpture Studios); Kate Gray (Collective, Edinburgh).
The trip was supported by British Council Scotland and Marseille Expo.
About Marseille Expo/ Printemps de l’Art Contemporain: Founded in 2007, the Marseille expos network was created to promote contemporary art in Marseille. Today it unites 36 visual art organisations, ranging from large institutions, to private galleries and numerous non-profit organisations. Since 1999, the network has organised the Printemps de l’Art Contemporain, among other activities. Each year in May, PAC presents a wide range of exhibitions (about 50) and events in the city of Marseille, mixing French and international venues, benefiting from the great diversity of spaces and curatorial practices of its members.
The network also supports the international development of its members (for example the partnership with the Ministry of Foreign aAfairs for 9 exhibitions in the context of the Year of France-Korea in 2016). In this dynamic, the network has developed some links with the Scottish visual art scene (with the help of the British Council), hoping that several collaborations will emerge between its members and art centers and artists from Scotland, in term of co-production or exchange of artists, curator and exhibitions. The expo team are keen to explore the possibilities for collaboration with Scottish counterparts for Printemps de l’Art Contemporain 2018.
Please feel free to contact Olivier Le Falher for any further information.