Art on Campuses

Avignon University welcomes art in its heart through several works to discover on the Hannah Arendt and Jean-Henri Fabre campuses.

Nancy Holt, Avignon Locators 1972-2012

Avignon Locators, inaugurated on June 14, 2012, is a work by Nancy Holt, an internationally renowned American artist and pioneer of Land Art, a movement born in the United States in the 1960s. The sculpture is a reactivation of Missoula Ranch Locators - Vision Encompasseda major work that Nancy Holt created in 1972 in the state of Montana (USA), adapted to the Avignon site of the University Gardens. At that time, Nancy Holt was in residence at the University of Missoula and was offered a private piece of land by an art teacher to create a work in situ.

Together with students and collaborators, Nancy Holt set up her Locators in a context far removed from the New York art market: this work was conceived as an artistic experience, not as a commission, with no real market value because it was intimately linked to the site it could not leave. In the years that followed, the property changed hands several times and in the early 2000s, the work was dismantled by the new occupants, who knew nothing of its history. The dismantling of Missoula Ranch Locators is felt as a major loss by the art community.

In 2006, a friend of Nancy Holt's living in the area suggested that the work be reactivated in a similar, university-like context. He then turned to Avignon University. The project should remain as close as possible to the spirit of the first work: a spirit of research and participation. The creation of the work, supported by volunteers, has thus gathered around the same project students, teachers and professionals.

Avignon Locators is presented in the form of 8 T-shaped sights organized in a circle of a dozen meters in diameter. These stainless steel sights, 5 feet high (about 1.5 m), are evenly distributed around the circumference of the circle and oriented according to a compass rose set to the astronomical north. For Nancy Holt, a perceptual artist, this is a naked-eye observatory of the landscape and the environment. The Locators direct the viewer's gaze towards particular details of the site, and beyond, towards Polaris, the North Star. But each viewer also points to the one diametrically opposite. The user is thus invited to stand either inside the circle to look outward through the viewfinders, or outside the circle to look through the viewfinder at its opposite.

Such framings invite the observer to develop a particular sensory experience of the site, making him or her the heart of the device as well as the geographical "center of the world" through this astronomical alignment.

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In an interview given to university students, Nancy Holt explains the phenomenon of perception at play in the Locators:

"When we look at something, we tend to go through a number of images in our mind, and certain words spontaneously present themselves to our consciousness. For example, when we see a bird, the first thing we usually do is to name it, instead of simply being fully aware of the bird's presence. We name things, and so we make conceptualization our priority. But when we observe things without linking them to concepts, then they begin to belong to another reality". The viewers are thus tools that allow the observer to simply become aware of his senses, to return to the essential in order to rethink the world around him.

At the same time, the permanent dialogue that takes place between the work and the place builds the identity of the work, and reconstructs that of the place. By hosting such an installation, the university invites the viewer to look at the work of art, but also at the architecture of the campus, its history and that of the institution it houses, each of which is enriched by contact with the other. This is the first permanent work by Nancy Holt in France, the second in Europe, the other being in Finland.

The permanent installation is a gift from the artist.

An artistic and participatory orchard as an expression of the scientific and cultural life of the campus

"One must deal with the poetic potential of what is already there, a project also takes its source in the history and geography of its location and its landscape environment."

Pierre Sansot
A work for a new campus
Since the start of the 2015 academic year, two campuses structure Avignon University:

During the construction of the new building of the UFR-ip STS (Sciences, Technologies, Health), in the heart of Agroparc, agri-food intelligence pole Avignon University, as a public contracting authority, encouraged a public order, within the framework of the implementation of the artistic 1%, concerning the realization of an artistic and participative orchard. The project had to be sustainable, accessible and scalable, while taking into consideration the environment in which it would be located, adjacent to the future UFR-ip STS building.

The theme of gardens was naturally chosen. First of all, from a historical point of view, Avignon University has hosted a plant garden since the 18th century, when the botanical chair was established. Since 2008, the theme of the garden is at the center of several actions: study projects around collective gardens, scientific and cultural program "Let's cultivate our garden" in July 2010, research work, especially in history, on gardens.

The University displays Agro&Sciences as one of its identity axes and must be able to assert this specificity in its cultural proposals. The creation of university gardens inspired by the models of existing collective gardens will support this. Indeed, this is a contribution to the university community in terms of quality of life as well as cultural and social skills. Collective gardens are first and foremost places of conviviality that allow people to meet and exchange. But the upkeep of a garden requires an understanding of rhythm, continuity and perseverance, which are cultural and social skills necessary for everyone, especially for successful study.

The gardens are also a way of considering the environment in its ecological and civic dimensions.

Finally, the location of this garden allows us to think about the support of training and research in Agrosciences and to foresee possible exchanges in terms of transfer of knowledge and know-how.

The selected project
Of the 11 applications received, 3 projects were selected. The project of the artist Betty Bui was selected: the Orchard of Thought.

The Orchard of Thought takes the form of a grove in the shape of a brain and its meanders, reproduced on a large scale. This allegory refers to the notion of research and more specifically to those of Avignon University. Beyond a sign, it is a question for the artist of encouraging practices: thus one will be able to sit down, to circulate, to wander, to inform oneself, to exchange ideas, messages, to register one's research, to protect oneself from the wind, to give conferences, to plant fruits, to cultivate a garden.... This orchard will evolve. The planting will begin in the fall of 2015 and will continue throughout the year.

It will be built around a central wall, which will allow everyone to write down their ephemeral thoughts in an evolving way and thus actively participate in the life of this orchard.

The 1% artistic

The obligation to decorate public buildings, more commonly referred to as the "1% artistic", is a specific procedure for commissioning works of art from artists. It requires public works owners to set aside one percent of the cost of their buildings for the commission or acquisition of one or more works of art specially designed for the building in question.
Initially limited to the buildings of the Ministry of National Education when it was created in 1951, the system has been extended and is now imposed on most public buildings of the State and local authorities, within the limits of the powers transferred to them by the decentralisation laws.

At the same time as the scope of application has been broadened, the "1%" has been opened up to all forms of expression in the field of visual arts, from the most traditional disciplines, such as painting and sculpture, to the new media, video, design, graphic design, sound creation, landscape creation, etc.

For more than fifty years, it has been an instrument of political will to support creation and to make our fellow citizens aware of the art of our time. It offers an original framework for action to encourage encounters between an artist, an architect and the public, outside institutions dedicated to contemporary art. Each "1%" operation is monitored by an artistic committee, which advises the project owner. This committee is responsible for defining the programme of the artistic commission and for issuing an opinion on the proposals presented by the artists.

Date of update June 21, 2021