mercredi 13 janvier 2021

USkTalks S2E1: USk Paris - Together Through Lockdowns and Beyond / PART 2

 [ par Urban Sketchers Paris ]


During the exhibition of drawings by children from Secours Populaire at the Panthéon, a curator from the Conciergerie in charge of the event "Nos prisons imaginaires" for the Centre des monuments nationaux suggested that we participate in this event which takes place during the drawing art fair « Drawing Now ». The idea was to install surfaces to be painted the size of a prisoner's cell, i.e. nine square meters, and that three artists representing the average number of prisoners per cell create a work on the theme "Our imaginary prisons". First of all, as Urban sketchers, we decided to build a work based on our observation on location to reflect a reality. To do this, we had to be able to go into a prison and organize drawing workshops with prisoners. With Marion we met the director of the one and only prison in the heart of Paris called, La Santé. Bruno Clément Pétremann, who was very much in favour of the project, gave us permission to organize sketching workshops in the morning with inmates from an open part of the prison. And in the afternoon to go and draw the different areas of the prison: the walking yards, the cells, the corridors...
Considering that the opportunity was extraordinary, we formed an expanded team of talented, solid and motivated Parisian Urban Sketchers: Claire Archenault, Mat Let, Marielle Durand, Tula Moraes, Marion and myself. We also invited a photographer Carole Charbonnier and a video artist David Rivolier who accompanied us to keep track of the unique context in which the drawings were made.


Before starting our workshops, we all received special training to adjust our behavior to our intervention in detention. There are codes and conventions to be respected. We asked Canson and Faber Castell France to give us drawing supplies. Each instructor had to prepare a specific workshop for each session: perspective, moving characters, self-portrait, portrait... 
Then we installed all these drawings, those of the inmates and ours, on a reconstructed plan of the prison and the streets surrounding it during a performance that took place over 5 days at the Conciergerie in Paris, taking turns to fix the drawings and paint around them building ans skyes. This work was exhibited to the public for 15 days at the Conciergerie where the Museum of the French Revolution is located. 

First of all, discovering a prison reality is a shock. An inmate spends an average of 22 hours out of 24 locked up with two fellow inmates in a 9 square meter cell. If the outside world does not come to them, they are in a dark and desperate world in which it is difficult not to go mad. The coming of our team with this drawing and exhibition project was very warmly welcomed by the prisoners. A little shy at the beginning with their notebooks and pencils, where they had the impression to fall into childhood, very quickly they realized the interest of the sketch to tell their world in drawing, their reality. Drawing gave them strength and, above all, fixed their daily life on paper and left them a testimony, as they were deprived of a camera and a telephone. 

In the perspective of the exhibition, the moment when they chose their artists' names and to sign their drawings was a high point. 


In a prestigious historical site, La Conciergerie, the oldest house of the kings of France, and prison where Queen Marie Antoinette was incarcerated, we were able to present to the public the drawings that depict the reality of prison confinement. It is a way to reweave the link between the forgotten of a dark world and society. A first step towards probation and reintegration. For our democracies, it is a question of not simply monitoring and punishing convicts, but also of awakening their conscience, revealing them to the best of their ability to reintegrate as well as possible. Artistic practice is a benefit in this sense. To better endure the sentence, but also to reveal oneself to oneself. 

The prospect of being exposed as artists in their own right made them feel a great sense of pride. When we showed them the work they had done, they were all happy to have done a work with us that was worthy of being shown in a museum. This gave them a form of self-esteem. A consideration. 
For the sketchers it was an extraordinary human and artistic adventure. That of entering a closed, secret and forbidden world. And that of forging links with people rejected by society and yet who have no choice. 
During the realization of the work on the ground, it is very physical to paint on 9 square meters. Without the meticulous preparation of Marion Rivolier who is a scenographer, our interventions on the ground would have been more chaotic and especially more acrobatic. Thanks to her and the whole team of sketchers involved psychologically and physically in the project from the start to the end. 
Our workshops have been so successful with both inmates and guards that the management asked us to think about new interventions after this summer. This great humanity adventure continues. And we are very proud. 
The huge art piece, "Voyage autour de ma cellule" (Journey around my cell), is now exhibited inside the prison so that inmates can see it in real life and not only a paper reproduction. Given its size, this is a holy project!


The most important for us is the sharing of practice beyond meetings with different audiences who do not have access to this practice, such as the most deprived, migrants, prisoners, the disabled ..... To draw could help them to go beyond their conditions and offer them a new perspective. For us, the exchanges are deeply rich from an artistic and human point of view. We give but we receive a lot!
Whatever the projects and proposals, we are always ready to learn from the solidarity experiences that are offered to us. As Urban Sketchers, our practice becomes a social commitment.

This only exists because we are a fantastic team, full of energy, supportive, reliable and responsive.

Thank you very Urban Sketchers, Rob & the Usk Talks team for this wonderful interview!


Watch the Usk Talk on You Tube (-;

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#uskparis

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