MELLE pays back it penny to its silver mines
With an incredible contemporary art biennal in the middle of the Niort countryside, Le Grand Monnayage.
About thirty kilometres from Niort in the department of Les Deux-Sèvres, a small town of 3000 residents offers a biennal of high quality contemporary art. Under the curatorship of Chloé Hipeau-Disko and Frédéric Legros, this eighth international biennal of contemporary art takes the Grand Monnayage as its theme. A wink to the history of the city. Melle is unique because it was at the centre of Europe from the 7th to the 10th centuries because of the presence of silver mines, which can still be visited, and the manufacture of the currency of the French Kings for several centuries.
This wealth and its position on the western route of the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela, has allowed this small town to build an important Romanesque heritage, including the church of St. Hilaire, listed as World Heritage. It is within this framework that Le Grand monnayage proposes a reflection on the creation of values, money, exchanges and the constituent elements mineral, stone, circulation and a more contemporary notion, time.
Organized as a walk through the heritage including three Romanesque churches, one of which was a prison, an old court, an old wash-house, the streets of the city and of course the silver mines, the Biennale presents the creations of no less than 23 artists and brings together artists of international renown such as Yoko Ono, Jannis Kounellis or Ghada Amer, and young artists such as Jean-François Krebs or Elsa Fauconnet.
The good idea is to start this walk with the mines. Where everything finally started. Besides the guided tour of the mines, the galleries shine with the shards of rock quartz from Parts of a Light House by Yoko Ono (rare in France), and under the copper fountain proposed by Christodoulos Panayiotou.
The magnificent historical wash-house equipped with an exceptional fireplace becomes the place of an almost mystical ritual under the impulse of Jean-François Krebs. Dreamlike installation that gives the pool a frozen look, an effect reinforced by a regular magic rain of silicone powder that transforms the wash-house into a maternal bath, a pseudo amniotic liquid in which Jean-François Krebs regenerates himself in a bodily performance and invites visitors to immerse themselves in the pool.
Time is money could be paraphrased in the church St Savinien. For Robert Samuel it is even monayable by replacing people in queues in New York. Here invited by David Brognon and Stéphanie Rollin, he waits on an armchair in this church, the end of life of a person who has left for Belgium in order to be euthanized. He settled there at the time the patient applied and will leave at the time of his death. In the same church that was once turned into a prison for 125 years, another work by the Brognon-Rollin duo refers to prison time. During a residence in a detention centre, a detainee confides to them: “When I enter my cell, my personal time begins”. In the form of a clock, the artists represent the psychological perception of the inmate’s time. The clock stops when one enters the heart, resumes its course when one leaves it, and catches up with the immobilized time. Two troubling and fascinating materializations of a time that we cannot imagine.
Ghana Amer more known for its embroideries which questions the place of the woman including in the history of abstract art proposes here an installation close to the land art. Excavations that draw the word LOVE in the ground are ready to welcome the dead of the wars that are still going on today, especially in the Middle East. These I. She tries to bury the war in a garden of love. A garden for a soldier inspired by Le Dormeur du Val; a powerful work that federated the inhabitants of Melle as an act of communion.
Céline Baux and Emma Loriaux present stones in suspension in baths containing silver nitrates, a game of electrolysis reacts and the nitrate is fixed on the stone which it aggregates, thus becoming a bright silver stone. In addition, another bath acts with a totally different chemical reaction and the silver is fixed on the copper-coated parts of another stone. Here silver takes on a cottony and matt appearance.
Ali Cherri a dry clay brick installation an ancient method whose strange coincidence, manufacturing persists in the Melle area. He is interested in the value of objects, a value often defined by insurers. Here he works with mud, symbol of both Adam and the Golem, both created with earth. Ali Cherri is fascinated by the transformation of things. The mud can become a dwelling, a bridge, a tool, a container… A simple mud by transformation becomes value. This research often plays on the duality of things and their potential for transformation, destruction, creation… and perhaps resurrection.
It is in any case what happened to Melle who succeeded in giving life to her history and her mines and proposes today an incredible experience within this Niortese campaign.
Biennale internationale d’art contemporain de Melle
The Grand Monnayage
From June 30 to September 23, 2018
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