Between the 1st and the 15th of February, a few members of Collective Intelligence group visited Saint Laurent des Arbres, to spend some days at Echangeur 22 residence. The team from Helsinki included Alan Bulfin, Veera Kuusisto, Martin Dalhström Heuser, Irina Mutt, and Carita Savolainen. Echangeur22 is an art residence located in Saint Laurent des Arbres, a picturesque romanesque village located in the fringes of Occitania and French Provence. An hour drive from Montpellier and its airport.
Some days went visiting the surroundings: Avignon and La Chartreuse-Cnes Villenueve, a monastery of the XIV century conserved with touristic purposes, where an art exhibition organized by Echangeur22, took place a few months before. In Nimes, besides the mandatory visit to Maison Carré, the group stopped by some artists' studios, like Etant Donné, with the artist Pierrette Gaudiat, where they manage different projects and print artist books. The group went on a brief visit to Ecole des Beaux Arts de Nimes, sneaking in some studios and classrooms. In Tresques, a nearby village, the group visited Roseline and Anais Pelaquier, mother and daughter both artists, sharing home and studios.
The powerful fragility of visiting those artists and studios, was the perfect gesture closing the visiting tours. Some afternoons were spent using the residence equipment, the studio lights for filming and photography, and the printing workshop, where the unlikely achievement of performing a cadavre exquis in the surrealist way, was tried out. Also many moments were invested in talking about art projects, planning future exhibition for Collective Intelligence group, and sharing tips and experiences about how to survive the art world.
So far, those events, process and ways of working together, were the expected ones, the kind of milestones any artist would be able to achieve in a two weeks residence. But there were other things that despite not belonging to the category of production, were important as part of the process. Make friends, not art. This is one of the statements that resonated during the last Documenta fifteen, curated by the collective ruangrupa, where all kinds of collectives participated, invited and distributed ways of doing art. Or ways of doing things; from protesting to enabling discussions or direct actions for bringing and sharing diverse life situations and positions. Things that have to do with life urgencies and desires, but that somehow, due to the strategies and tools used, become artistic.
Some kind of similar energy was slowly emerging there, at Saint Laurent des Árbres. A possible way of living and sharing spaces and resources. Investing time in very important things, like cooking, catching spots of sun to smoke a cigarette with a ray of sunlight in the face. Or walking around the vineyards and seeing the sunset. There was time as well for making jokes about the miseries of the male gaze, the nepotism of the art world and its structural power imbalance. Sometimes for discussing nationalism or how silence is a form of violence. Or sharing food recipes, oversharing and in general, encountering each other, getting a little bit closer.
Mingling and talking with local artists, drinking wine and caipirinhas. Getting to know Juliette and Emile, the two interns at Échangeur and sharing meals, cigarettes and conversations with them. Tofu, the cat with a bad skin allergy, the random visitors and friends who visited the residence, Marie Cécile as generous host and agitator. The Mistral wind, hardcore and merciless, blowing strong during many days.
All the elements, human and non human, became part of a process that had to do with art, but mainly with the capacity of embracing the uncertainty of the ride. Could this be a way of doing that has to do with collective intelligence? Just letting things happen, without a destination, only different directions to take each time, depending on the circumstances and resources. Staying together in the confusion. Staying with, as Donna Haraway proposes. And yes, we also joked about how Donna Haraway is name-dropped and quoted all the time in art projects, even if the project has nothing to do with her theories.