Public Doors and Windows
Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France
To a Lifetime of Meaningful Encounters (La vie est faite de belles rencontres) was a project I did with Molly Sherman and Nolan Calisch as part of our collaboration Public Doors & Windows, which highlighted the people and land of Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France—the birthplace of Henri Matisse.
Throughout 2014, we engaged the local community through a series of participatory projects. We created a video documenting stories of the births of townspeople who, like Matisse, were born in Le Cateau-Cambresis, titled He came into the world in Le Cateau. Like me. The video was projected outdoors for the duration of the exhibition, Inside the museum we installed twenty “personal museums”—each dedicated to one of the film’s participants, composed of a personalised museum signage system and a curated set of objects that were significant to each participant.
Other participatory projects focused on the farm land surrounding Le Cateau: a local choral group filmed in the fields surrounding the town, and a bilingual book for children illustrating a poem written by a local farmer, A Children’s Book of Farming in Le Cateau-Cambrésis (Onestar Press, Paris).
Artists Anne Daems and Kenneth Andrew Mroczek from Brussels contributed to the encounters with a project titled When the Linden Blooms, which took as its point of departure the 48 linden trees aligned symmetrically in the museum’s garden, the Parc Fénelon, designed on principles introduced by André Le Nôtre (1613–1700). Daems and Mroczek created a cyclical-environmental artwork, to serve as a metaphor for activating and interacting with one’s own landscape, by collaborating with local industry and artisans. They invited a local beekeeper to place beehives on the museum’s balcony in proximity to the trees to produce honey for the duration of the exhibit, and worked with the local artisanal brewery, the Brasserie Historique de l’Abbaye, to produce a special edition “Bière fleurit au tilleul” that combined linden and hop flowers to create a beer to be consumed on linden wood furniture produced by a local manufacturer.