Astelle is the title of an art event organised by Séverine Hubard on the occasion of Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night), a contemporary art festival held in Paris on the October 5, 2002.
For one whole night, from sunset to sunrise, several places were turned into exceptional art venues and opened to the public.
In the main courtyard of the 17th-century Hôtel d’Albret, Séverine Hubard installed, instead of an art piece to be viewed, a studio where it could be made. The artist displayed wooden panels of all sorts taken from discarded and unusable old furniture, and proposed to the public that they assemble them in a kind of built-up structure, something between a sculpture, a shelter, and in the end, a barricade.
Within the same courtyard, other artists, also invited by Emmy de Martelaere, were presenting videos, performances or concert in turn.
Whenever a presentation would come to an end, Séverine Hubard, joined by her partners and the public, would embark on “moments of superactivity” as she called it. In haste, panels would be picked up, cut and assembled. Little by little, the structure started mushrooming all over the place. As the programme resumed, the sound of saws and electric drills would die away, and for a while the work would come to a standstill. To make both supply and activity inexhaustible, the artist laid down the rule that any collected panel should imperatively be cut in half. One part was to go back to the stock, the other was added to the assemblage; this way, the number of planks in the stock remained the same, although they decreased in size.
And this rule had repercurssions on the form being built. The strategy prompted alternate periods of noisy superactivity followed by an expect and hush and whispers, and then by frenzied activity again.
As a result, you felt in the heat of action, engaged in a collective act of resistance with an urgent need to erect a barricade.
This theme can be found in some of Séverine Hubard’s other works-the desk thrown over the balcony, a pice which will be exhibited at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork-but for the first time perhaps, the public was invited to act directly with her. Even if the next morning, in broad daylight in the deserted courtyard, the construction was still beautiful, indeed the most important thing one can say today is “I was there too!.”
Pierre Mercier translated by Annie Latimier
in Echo Eco Echo, special edition of the Evening Echo, the 5 December 2002, Cork (IE)