Making Sense 4: Building An ‘esSense’ Across Cultures

December 2012 saw the fourth international colloquium organised by Making Sense, a movement dedicated to changing the world for the better through engagement with art, both as artist and spectator. The gathering took place at Paris’s Cité Universitaire, an international student village with accommodation for students from more than 100 different countries. This made for an appropriate setting for this colloquium, which looked to explore how art can be created and appreciated in such a way as to overcome the borders of nationality, race and religion, seeking a universality in artworks from disparate sources.

The morning began in the Fondation des Etats-Unis, with an introduction from the organising committee and a keynote address from American artist David Black. Mr Black had been invited to run a series of workshops in his new field of Tunisian Collaborative Painting. He outlined the process, which involves several people painting together on a piece in such a way that the final picture appears to be the work of just one artist, and spoke of his efforts to export the method to the United States.

David Black

New York based artist Katy Martin presented her latest artistic project, Berlin/NYC: Shot Counter Shot. Martin has, since summer 2011, exchanged one image a week with Lilly Grote, an artist living in Berlin. A simple concept, rigorously respected, their photographs provide a counterpoint to the information overload prevalent in our society: Martin described the difficulty in choosing just one image when it is commonplace to upload albums of hundreds directly onto Facebook. Such an exercise brings not only the cultural exchange between cities, then, but also a return to discernment in artistic matters, as in the days when holiday snaps would be taken with one or two 24 picture disposable cameras, and looking for the perfect image was so much more important than it is today.

Katy Martin

New York based dance troupe SYREN demonstrated the shared essence of words and movement in a performance of their most recent dance creation, ‘Hyacinth’. Words were issued as commands which elicited physical responses from the dancers. These movements were then drawn together in a dance, essence transmitted and transmuted from words into actions.


SYREN dance Hyacinth 479

The afternoon session moved to the Salle Corbusier of the Pavillon Suisse, with its stunning Le Corbusier mural. American artist Frank O’Cain provided a workshop based around a theme of ‘Drawing out the Essence’. Attendees were invited to participate in a pastel drawing, but rather than aiming for a collaborative effort, as with David Black’s project, here the aim was to overwrite the work of others, to smudge previous marks into an oblivion formed by newness. This palimpsest of drawing forced an abstract pattern to emerge in which new senses could then be traced, the additions mapped to draw out recurring themes and concerns.

Frank O'Cain

Frank O'Cain explains his process while David Black adds to the picture he started

Next, Puerto Rican artist Rosa Ibarra gave a touching talk about her work with the women in a young offender’s institute. Perhaps the most practical application of the theories underlying the Making Sense movement, Ms Ibarra described how she has brought the girls a sense of themselves through engaging in art with them – a practice which stemmed from Ibarra initially offering to draw them as a way of encouraging them to sit calm and still in order to avoid confrontations.

Rosa Ibarra

The concluding artwork was the short film ‘Impressions’ by noted French digital artist Jacques Perconte. Through the process known as ‘datamoshing’, Perconte repeatedly took tableaux of countryside and urban life and deconstructed them into visual ‘emes’ of pixellation, before fading them into each other. This blurring of the scenes suggested an entirely new field, a shared existence between the otherwise opposed spaces. A lucid and profound exploration of the colloquium’s central theme of cross-cultural essence, Perconte’s hypnotic visuals left a lasting impression of the power art holds as a force for giving structure and understanding to a complex world. Perconte recently performed the datamoshing for my film of the year, Holy Motors, and it was an honour to meet the man himself over some delicious macarons provided by artist-in-residence Claudiane Oulette-Plamondon.

Jacques Perconte

There were many more presentations, with each attempting in its own way to provide artistic methods and philosophy for betterment of the fractured world we live in. The themes of the colloquium will be taken up and expanded upon in the next meeting of the group, taking place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in July 2013.

Tunisian Collaborative Painting

The organising committee for the fourth Making Sense colloquium were Lorna Collins, Nicolas Jacquette, Bandy Lee, Jêrome Linigier, Laurent Marissale and Cadine Navarro.