Un Anglais à Marseille #11
Prof d’anglais et coursier à vélo à Marseille, Rory Launder livre son regard sur la ville tout en vous donnant une occasion de réviser votre anglais. Dans ce nouvel épisode, il nous emmène à la découverte de l’Atelier Co/Eff, qui réunit les artistes Wendy Vachal, Liam Witter, Stefan Eichhorn et Doriane Souilhol. Ce week-end, ils participent aux Ouvertures d’Ateliers d’Artistes initiées par le Château de Servières.
Climbing slowly out of rue Barbaroux we turn left onto Saint-Savournin. I see the older gentleman – wearing his habitual jumpsuit – rummaging through the dustbins. He’s digging around, the bins open, cars passing slowly behind him. I’ve tried to say hello in the past at Réformés, but he has never replied.
We tack right just before the Vival into rue Gérando. There are four young artists sitting on the pavement waiting for me.
Previously called 3/8, the atelier has existed for a dozen years or so. Of the new breed Wendy Vachal was the first to take a spot. “There weren’t any toilets, we had to piss in a bucket.” Liam Witter arrived soon after “I built a sound studio over two meters square, which has facilitated impromptu karaoke sessions.” The disco ball remains. He has recorded an album in this tiny studio, which he will perform on Friday evening.
This atelier provided Stefan Eichhorn (the third to arrive) and I with a refuge during lockdown to meet, to drink a few beers. To take a break from calling friends on Zoom, to see and speak with someone face-to-face.
Doriane Souilhol completed the quartet a year ago, “I visited for the ‘karaoke sauvage’, and was invited to join”.
The seventy meters square are spread over two floors: wood-framed mezzanines, creaking stairs. Blue double-doors – tagged like all the others in the quartier – open into the common-room where Liam moves between his sound-proof cabin and his stockroom cum collection of objets d’art. Liam produces a woodblock with two crayons drilled into it. “This is a prop for a performance. Also there are props for future performances, I have a Welsh chessboard.” I criticise its lack of squares. “Yes but this is a Welsh chessboard, it’s a different game. And this is a chalk-and-cheese board.”
We have an expression in English: to be like chalk and cheese, meaning to be completely different. However, Liam interprets this slightly differently. “There are cheeses that can be described as chalky.” I don’t agree.
As we follow round through the atelier, Wendy has already installed several works. Three expansive drawings hang on the walls, a collection of 256 bricks of varying shades of grey occupies the floor, and a ruddy pink Perspex tower draws your attention as it is the only piece using colour.
“A computer screen has the possibility to translate an image into 256 nuances. This piece is called ‘Matière Virtuelle’ it’s a sort of oxymoron between material and digital. It’s the third time I have exhibited this piece, each time in a different format, and this time people can take a brick home with them – on the condition that we exchange contacts so that the piece could one day be rebuilt in its entirety.
Doriane’s space reminds of a theatre, two little wooden steps give access to the stage. “I present a piece I made in 2019 with Amandine Rué. We shared music and focused on the gender of this music, on my side Feminist Punk, and for Amandine Hair Metal. The lyrics, the poses, the gestures, the clothes. For example, The Slits – the first all-female punk group – revindicating the use of this word.”
A series of posters hang on the left wall, and on the right, something reminds me of a record shop. “We called upon our friends to suggest earworms – catchy songs you might not necessarily like, but which become stuck in your head. There is an idea that these songs reveal something of your unconscious.”
Across the way, a stained spacesuit dominates the top of the stairs. The bubbled plastic visor catches the light. The floor is awash with offcuts. A silver, currently decapitated spacesuit lies prone on the floor. Coloured cuttings, foam, and paper templates leave no space to tread.
“I will exhibit two spacesuits and a few paintings.” Stefan explains. “I found photographs of NASA offices, their banality: the chairs, desks, and whiteboards lacked something. I painted sci-fi tropes over the top, pimping them to make then look more space-age.”
“The spacesuit project is a zero-budget project. All materials have been found in the bins of Marseille. The sewing machine is borrowed, I bought the thread.” Three spacesuits in four years demonstrates the work involved, I remember sending photos of foam deposits to Stefan with their locations while working as a courier. “The majority of the fabric comes from abandoned broken restaurant parasols.” Buoys hang from the back of the spacesuit, mimicking oxygen tanks.
“I want to draw attention to the enormous cost, and near total irrelevance of space exploration. What’s the connection with me, with you, or with the guy searching through the bins at the end of our road?”
The Atelier Co/Eff invites you to visit throughout the weekend, with a live performance and barbecue on Friday from 19.00.
Pages 34/35/36 in your OAA guide.