CAMAC Centre d’Art :: Bridget Walker

1 September – 31 October 2008, Mamay-sur-Seine, FranceFrom September 1 to October 31 2008, with the generous support of ANAT I participated in a residency at CAMAC Centre d’Art in Mamay-sur-Seine, an historically rich village of around 250 inhabitants in Champagne-Ardenne, Frnnce about 15 minutes via TGV from Paris. CAMAC is one of thirty-two Centres D’art tn France, supported by the French Ministry of Culture (DRAC), the local and regional authorities. The stated aim of CAMAC is to provide an international, interdisciplinary and multicultural space for artists to engage with each other and in the research and development of individual and collaborative practices.

For the duration of the residency I was allocated a studio space of considerable size and living quarters. Artists-in-residence at CAMAC included new-media artists from Cameroon and Brasil, mixed-media artists from Canada and Brasil and a sound·artist from Belgium, arriving and departing at staggered intervals. The artists had free access to the many buildings, parts of these date back to the 17th century – and the immediate surroundings of the village on the bank  of the Seine and an old transport canal. An anomalous addition to the vicinity was the Centrale Nucléaire de Nogent-sur-Seine, the closest nuclear power station to Paris that has proven fruitful grounds for many past residency projects.

The dally routine at CAMAC consisted of independent studio work and fusing in the evening for a dinner provided by CAMAC. After working independently all day this allowed for a time for exchange – somewhat amplified by the various native languages – to relax and discliss the day’s activities, The age demographic was broad and the creative practices and artistic backgrounds diverse, as well as the objectives for individual projects. Thls created grounds for some interesting discussions and cultural exchanges.

Very soon after being settled at CAMAC I commenced what was to become a quest, drawn-out over the duration of the residency to connect with researchers working at the local CNRS laboratory. It had been my objective to develop my independent project in rapport with researchers working in Materials Science at the University of Technology in Troyes. It became clear very quickly that this may not happen at all, contrary to what I had been advised long before commencing the residency. Having a large studio during this time was very beneficial as it allowed me to extend my speculative experiments·- into responsive environments and with animation as a tool to explore motion, motion perception, velocity, acceleration and displacement; the material aspects and rhythmic characteristics of matter – into the space of immediate proximity.

During this time I connected with Jean-Noel Montagne and the Centre de Ressources Art Sensitif (CRAS) Lab. The CRAS Lab is a very unique and progressive organisation for France, located in Paris and a fantastic resource that provides training, intensive workshops and facilities to understand the role of sensors, interactivity in media art and experiment with them in real-time. Housed in the Mains d’Oeuvres complex in Saint Ouen the complex includes recording studios, studios for international artists and a large exhibition space with a curatorial program engaging contemporary and new-media practices.

On October 5, CAMAC opened its doors to the public. Despite being largely and disappointingly unattended by the local inhabitants of Marnay-sur-Seine and the general public, this was a good opportunity for the artists-in-residence to engage around the work in progress. A highlight was a performance given by sound-artists Refis Renouard Lariviere from Paris and artist-in-residence Dimitri Coppe to pay homage to Pierre Schaeffer and commemorate 60 years of ‘musique concrete’.

During the last week of the residency I finally met with two Professors of Nanotechnology and Optical Instrumentation at the University of Technology in Troyes. During this initial visit there was time for a tour of the laboratories, detailed explanations of the equipment within, to discuss new technological developments and their wider socio-cultural implications. To begin a rapport between the area of research the laboratory is engaged in and my practice.

In the first week of November I traveled to Marseille and presented a work as part of the 21st edition of Les Instants Video Festival. The festival took place at a former tobacco factory and now vast cultural development – La Friche la Belle de Mai. The festival consisted of an extensive program of screenings, discussions and performances – most notably an installation by Jean-Paul Labro in which a submerged, wetsuited man captured live video of the audience from within a steel container that was then projected back into the space. Many of the artists from Europe and the Middle East with work in the festival were present including French Director of the Nouvelle Vague, Marcel Hanoun who also appeared on a panel discussion.

Despite the lack of candor and support I received from CAMAC’s Direction as one of the challenges I encountered during the residency, the experience has been very beneficial to my artistic development. It gave me the opportunity for a concentrated period of work, to lay the ground-work for a new body of work in a stimulating environment with other international practitioners. Professionally, it gave me the opportunity to extend my network internationally, to gain a further understanding of the current climate of new-artistic practice in France, Europe, the research that is currently being undertaken in Materials Science and to make international contacts in this area. Being physically present at an international festival in which my work participated was a significant and exciting first-time opportunity and I am extremely grateful to ANAT for making this possible. This invaluable opportunity will significantly strengthen future contribution as an Australian artist, to the Australian and International community.

View a tour of the CRAS Lab

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