DEFEND / DÉFENDRE
Defend/Défendre was initiated by Christine Gist, in her capacity as independent curator, in partnership with Benoît Warzée, Directeur of Espace 36, Saint-Omer. It provided an opportunity to develop new cultural links between the twin towns of Deal and Saint-Omer as well as giving the artists a platform to create place specific works. The juxtaposition of artists’ temporary interventions within heritage sites offered audiences in Dover District and the Saint-Omer region a new reading of visual art and location.
Defend/Défendre was sited in the basement and ramparts of Deal Castle. The artists’ interventions responded to the Castle’s architecture, its defensive function and its historical significance. This border fortification situated on the edge of land and sea offered a unique context for the project. The installation in the ramparts of Saint-Omer, a town rich in art and history, was an opportunity for the artists to produce reinterpretations and new works in response to the site and the region.
With the formation of Dover Arts Development (DAD) in January 2006, Defend/Défendre was adopted as DAD’s first cross-border collaboration. This established the structure for the partnership’s second project – Transmettre/Transmit.
Defend/Défendre was realised with the support of the European Union through the Interreg IIIA programme, Arts Council England, South East, Dover District Council, Deal Town Council and SeaFrance Dover-Calais Ferries.
The artists involved in Defend/Défendre were:
- Erik Chevalier
- Jacqueline Gueux
- Paul Hazleton
- Josie Mahoney
- Hervé Van de Meulebroeke
- Allen R Page
- Clare Smith
Deal Castle, Kent 4-24 July 2005 and The Ramparts, Salle de la Poterne, Saint-Omer, Pas de Calais 29 April – 4 June 2006.
Erik Chevalier’s video and sound installation reflected on the issue of contemporary surveillance in a space charged with history. The viewer both watches and is watched by these individual portraits which appear and disappear in a rhythmic cycle.
Jacqueline Gueux’s intervention presented bilingual stickers, metal plaques and white dots to help the sighted get their bearings. These works create a complex, alchemical spell and ask the viewer to consider the power of memory.
Paul Hazelton created an intricate sandcastle; a model of Deal Castle, pointing to the folly of war and the fragility of the structures which defend us.
Josie Mahoney’s fragile vessels made of wax and filled with water from the locations had a sense of vulnerability. They also had a spiritual connection linked to the sites and their defensive functions. Mahoney’s performance This is for the Sea commemorated the sea and its associations.
Hervé Van de Meulebroeke created illusory images suggesting planets and human figures. In the half light of the ’rounds’ of Deal Castle, the viewer’s experience was one of expectation or fear while his explosions on the ground of the ramparts and army of plastic toy soldiers evoked a game of war.
Allen R Page used material pertaining to locale, informing a place specific practice in which research, collection and arrangement play their part in response to a situation. A ruined model of a wooden ship stranded in Deal beach material and a pile of shoe leather washed up by the sea offer fragments of history, a glimpse of the people who have ‘gone before’.
Clare Smith’s drawings called attention to edges and boundaries; maritime or terrestrial, forming a line that is constantly redefined. The lines that divide past from present, them from us, are unstable. Image Credits: © Clare Smith 2005.