Friche (Urban wasteland) in progress

Friche (Urban wasteland) in progress
Kaos, un autre regard sur le Salento©Sisygambis



In Marseilles, the Friche (urban wasteland) remains a cultural place in progress. In the la Belle de Mai area, it is a city in the city, far from being isolated. It is an odd place for senseful encounters. A big jubilant laboratory against all odds…

At the Friche , life follows the rhythm of skates-boards and passing trains. It is made up of a vast, very vast setting in which one can get lost with pleasure: there are more than 40 000m2 dedicated to art, its fabrication, its production and diffusion. The project was born in 1992 in the old tobacco manufacture closed up in 1990. The project will go through ups and downs, more or less openly supported by the government depending on alliances and misalliances. Residents participate to its development, particularly through a collective interest company directed by the architect Patrick Bouchain. The utopia seems to remain intact. Christine Coulange is an “inhabitant” of the urban wasteland since the beginning. She a “frichiste” like 400 other performance arts and culture professionals. She is a video artist and musician and works in her image and sound laboratory. “We should remember the extraordinary energy that we had back then and try not to lose it…” With Nchan Manoyan, Christine forms the duo called Sisygambis. Together, they created “Les 7 portes” (The 7 doors) at the Friche, the structure that will carry all their projects.

Travel is their raw material and encounter is their leading thread. They leave for a long time, collect stories, combine music and words. Their work is unique and gives birth to musical and visual performances on the places they visit, at Beaubourg …They explore the resonances, the echoes, the bridges between cultures that have nothing in common à priori. In 1995, they create their first performance “live video” at the Friche. Fifteen years later, after the recent loss of Ncha Manoyan, Christine continues the long path that had begun with tireless curiosity. “From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean” should be presented in its full extent in 2012. One of the stopovers in Salento, Italy resulted in an exhibition entitled “Kaos, looking at Salento in another way”, that took place until the 13th November.

At the Friche, the plural Sisygambis experience is certainly not an isolated case. Several projects and even artists (such as the groupe IAM ) have grown up here. Philippe Foulquié is one of the first actors of the Friche adventure. He’s also tireless and inexhaustible. As the director of the Système Friche Théâtre that leads the cultural project, he speaks of the luck and the necessity to have such a place in Marseilles. “The first stroke of luck is to arrive in Marseilles at a time when the city redefines his project to create the Massalia theatre, a puppet theatre at that time. The second stroke of luck is a local political representative who is fascinated by the big European cultural wastelands.” The Friche aims to keep the right distance when it comes to politicians. “The challenge was, and still is, looking for the most authentic possible relation between art and the public.” Upon arrival, the artists settle in an abandoned neighbourhood. “This industrial zone was relatively abandoned, dilapidated. Community work was less developed than in other big districts. The area was shattered.” Links were created over time.



Friche (Urban wasteland) in progress
De la Méditerranée à l'Océan Indien©Sisygambis

Grenouille Radio and Zinc are a driving force at the heart of the Friche . The first one reflects the vitality and diversity of the cultural scene in Marseilles. The second one keeps its doors open to the public. ZINC-ECM - Espace Culture Multimedia (culture and multimedia centre) – has increased its collective and interactive adventures with the public since it was set up. “At the Friche , this place has been one of the essential points for mediation” explains Claudine Dussolier in charge of international cooperation at Zinc. Trained in city planning, she is a “frichiste” that used to pilot the Rencontres Urbaines de la Villette (La Villette Urban Encounters) in Paris. “Today”, she says, “Our approaches criss-cross the local, the regional and the international. We deal both with renewed creative cultural action that leads us to work here and elsewhere with schools, libraries and associations and to involve artists in our projects. The other component that has evolved with the context since the past 12 years, is to assist artists and projects. “Between Marseilles, Beirut and Istanbul, the increasing encounters between cultural actors and the public give rise to various experiences, going from festivals to web project, passing by network animation, performance, chats… At the moment, the Egyptian artist Mohamed Youssef is in residence, developing a project entitled “Particles” with the Mediterranean Institute for Advances Research, a project combining art and science.

The Friche speaks a little of all languages. In October-November, a series of events, even in Italian, revolving around the Puglia region is programmed. The diffusion of theatre in Arabic continues in November in the framework of a European project. The Cabaret Aléatoire (Ramdom Cabaret), the Centre for Contemporary Music and Marseilles Objectif Danse should also be mentioned…

The fact that half of the “frichistes” develop international projects is an asset for the future European Capital of Culture. Nevertheless, from where comes the feeling that the Friche is not really in the city, that it’s there as an isolated island, difficult to access ? Philippe Foulquié is aware of this: “One must pass through three tunnels to arrive here. We are at the end of the end…Perhaps this is what protects us from demagoguery.”





Emmanuel Vigier
Translated to English by Elizabeth Grech


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