Focus sur la culture neuchâteloise après une année blanche
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the world of culture has been in turmoil. Openings, closures, cancelled shows and exhibitions, postponed programmes : this is the situation that cultural professionals on all continents have been experiencing for the past year. The vast majority of them claim to have suffered a drop in income in 2020 in all areas : orders, sales, royalties, salaries, etc. The cancellation of events, whether they be exhibitions, fairs or shows, explains this loss. It is clear that the fiction of the artist who devotes all his time to his art, free of material contingencies, does not hold. Financial difficulties are frequent in the milieu and the precariousness of the sector is only reinforced.
As the Covid-19 pandemic hit the planet and left everyone at home, the MBAL, like many cultural structures, had to review its programming. To celebrate its reopening and to reconnect with the public, the museum decided to offer its spaces to artists of all disciplines over a two-week period and to organise various moments of exchange. After launching a call for professional artists from Neuchâtel of all generations, with the idea of collecting unpublished works or works created during the pandemic, the MBAL received more than 80 applications, 50 of which were finally retained by a selection committee. An event born of the pandemic, Le Printemps des Artistes is thus committed to celebrating the richness of the Neuchâtel art scene, to allowing the public to reunite with the artists, and to bringing together the visual and living arts.
After an almost blank year and while the Covid-19 pandemic has not been extinguished, cultural venues are still afraid of having to cancel the events planned for the coming months. Given the health situation, MBAL developed the project in an unexpected way. As it could not be sure that the event would take place, the museum decided not to organise a programme of events within its walls, but to go and meet the artists and film them in their workplaces and/or living spaces. Indeed, the obstacles prompted a reinvention of the means used: the works do not move to the museum, the museum moves to the artists’ homes. If the project takes a new form, it is to respond to an unprecedented situation, which is that of the impediment, of the frustration of not being able to have access to the works in person, to use an adjective that has entered the vocabulary of this period of pandemic. But it is also a desire to convene all the domains equally: it is impossible today to plan a show, a concert or a meeting with an artist in April. Groups of more than 5 people are still not allowed inside.
“Le printemps des artistes” becomes “Le temps des artistes” and comes to life in the museum and on the Internet: on the digital medium, it is broadcast on social networks and the MBAL YouTube channel where new interviews will be unveiled every day of the event; on the walls of the MBAL, all the filmed interviews are presented in the exhibition rooms, which are left voluntarily empty. Only the artists’ voices will fill the space. The experience will be singular for the artists, the museum and the public. The white walls and bare spaces will challenge and act as a space for reflection. Indeed, the emptiness of the space is also a symbol of a year of impeded creation, and highlights the impossibility into which the cultural sector has been plunged. This new form of exhibition will not suffer from the sanitary rules in force, since the project that is being shown online and presented jointly with MBAL is a 100% Covid-compatible project! At the heart of the project are the voices of the artists who speak about their practice, their research, the difficulties they have encountered over the past year, how the cessation of cultural activities has impacted on their daily lives, and who respond to the silence to which artists have been reduced since the beginning of the pandemic.
By opening up the floor to artists in this way, MBAL wishes to bring to the public arena what is usually a private matter, and through these testimonies to affirm a form of solidarity with creators of all disciplines. The health crisis has put many of them in a critical situation. With events cancelled or postponed and cultural venues forced to close, artists have been deprived of sharing their world with the public. The closure of venues and exhibitions has made a cultural world that was already fragile outside of the pandemic period more precarious. By going to meet the artists, MBAL wishes to share with the public the backstage of creation and create a new archive dedicated to the local scene. Let’s listen to the artists talk about their projects and tell us how they juggle their artistic practice, their personal life and the so-called food activities. We know that the balance has always been delicate, but what about at the beginning of 2021 when the pandemic has not yet been eradicated? We are convinced that the best way to help the arts sector is to reopen all cultural venues and allow artists to live fully in civil society. This is the message of “Le temps des artistes”.
Compagnie Instincts Grégaires
Compagnie Poésie en arrosoir
Compagnie Rue Serendip
Collectif Princesse Léopold
Orélie Fuchs Chen
Jeanne & Compagnie
Antoine Humberset, The Mechanical Birds Factory
Stéphane Mercier, « Size »
The exhibition Le temps des artistes have received the generous support of the Canton of Neuchâtel.