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Works for the everyday urban environment

The association in situ has been inviting artists to create site-specific works for Enghien-les-Bains since 1994.

This small town a few kilometres north of Paris is known for its casino and lake, the latter forming a luminous opening within the urban space that always provides a kind of visual refreshment for the city dweller.

The summer of 1998 is the moment of the second biennial. Eight artists have been invited to intervene at various points in the town: Catherine BEAUGRAND, Bogomir ECKER, Jan KOPP, Susanna NIEDERER, Erik SAMAKH, Beat STREULI, , Akio SUZUKI, Franz-Erhard WALTHER. In addition, the works created on a previous occasion by Dominique BAILLY and Jean-Marie KRAUTH are still in place (see map p. 2 & 3).

Since 1994, the event has had two distinct but concurrent tempos.

On the one hand, works are installed or performances are given at varying intervals: this is the tempo of the long-term, of everyday life, in which, occasionally, one moment stands out from the others, for reasons that one cannot always define.

On the other, there is the Biennial, a moment which is set on the calendar and simultaneously brings together a number of works and large numbers of people. Some of the works are removed after the Biennial, others are left for varying lengths of time. The idea of an accord between these two tempos is part of the founding principle of the event.

The works in the town are there in as the result of an encounter - with the world and with other individuals, and for such an encounter to occur nowadays, I believe, the artwork must be allowed simply to exist without worrying about its destination, or attempting to link it to an art world context; for such a context, if it were to surround the work, might prevent it from connecting with the urban context as such. The encounter is better able to develop on an individual basis, in an unprogrammed act of discovery.

Furthermore, there comes a moment when you have to make the event public, to share the encounter with the works with as many people as possible - in other words, to make known, to give a name to a presence that had perhaps been perceived but not recognised or distinguished from its environment..

The works are available at all moments in the urban space, by day and, for some of them, by night, and they must not be exclusive. They speak to the public in a manner that is not private. The duration of the Biennial, a summer, is a time for talk and exchange so that, during the other moments of the year, a more or less involuntary memory may reactivate the places and the works
That is why the events planned by in situ for the Biennial overflow the context of this event, and why the works created appear in an open mode, like invitations.

With the second Eaux de L biennial, in situ continues to develop the initial conception placed under the sign of attentiveness to the site. Since 1997, it has developed this idea by including the act of listening. The works designed for Enghien-les-Bains bring into play the mechanisms of perception and may

relativise the usual ways of seeing. These are two ways of involving each individual in a sensible and playful apprehension of ordinary space and in a questioning of their own situation. To put it another way, the person who is surprised, who is amused or who wonders what it is all about, this person who experiences the artwork, there where it is, is more or less consciously rethinking their relation with a site or setting. Our hope is that the works will attract passers-by, mobilising them to varying degrees by being more or less visible, audible, noticeable and analysable, sometimes by playing on a difficult immediate distinction in relation to the milieu, or in contrast by calling for participation, if only a minimal one. Similarly, if a few of the works are to likely be stumbled upon almost by chance in the everyday environment of the town, others are located in the public gardens around the lake and still others can only be seen or heard if one takes a pedal boat.

Moreover, as the experience of these works attests, their discretion does not mean that they dissolve into their environment. Simply, rather than compete and exhibit themselves, they coexist with their surroundings.

This dual emphasis on discretion and play gives the works an active presence which becomes a part of the inhabitants' mobility and memory - especially since they set up an invisible network within the town and, sometimes, intersect: for example, standing by the work of Franz-Erhard Walther one can hear the piece by Erik Samakh. To this end, the works do not assert a self-oriented language; on the contrary, the idea of this event is not to exhibit artworks or to mark out a territory, nor to write a story or to place people and things under whatsoever form of authority, but, as I said earlier, to bring about a encounter free of preliminaries or instructions..

Catherine Grout