Art on campus

The University of Avignon welcomes art in its midst through several works to be discovered on the Hannah Arendt and Jean-Henri Fabre campuses.

Nancy Holt, Avignon Locators 1972-2012

Avignon LocatorsThe sculpture, inaugurated on 14 June 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 EncompassedThis is a 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 plot of land by an art teacher to install a work of art on. in situ.

Together with students and collaborators, Nancy Holt is setting up her Locators in a context far removed from the New York art market: this work was conceived as an artistic experiment, 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 artistic community.

In 2006, a friend of Nancy Holt's living in the region suggested that the work should be reactivated in a similar university context. He then turned to the University of Avignon. 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, brought together students, teachers and professionals around the same project.

Avignon Locators is in the form of 8 T-shaped sights arranged in a circle about 12 metres 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 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 to particular details of the site, and beyond that, to 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 outwards through the sights, or outside the circle to look through the sights at its opposite.

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

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Nancy Holt, Avignon Locators - Panoramic

In an interview with students at the university, Nancy Holt explains the perception phenomenon involved in 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 just being fully aware of the bird's presence. We name things, and so we make conceptualisation our priority. But when we observe things without linking them to concepts, then they start to belong to another reality. Sights are thus tools that allow the observer to simply become aware of his or her senses, to go back to basics and rethink the world around them.

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 being 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

"You have to 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 the University of Avignon:

During the construction of the new building of the UFR-ip Sciences, Technologies, Health, in the heart of Agroparc, agri-food intelligence pole, the University of Avignon, as public project manager, has 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 evolving, 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, the University of Avignon has hosted a plant garden since the 18th century, when the botanical chair was created. Since 2008, the theme of the garden has been at the centre of several actions: study projects on collective gardens, scientific and cultural programme "Cultivating our garden" in July 2010, research work, particularly 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 community 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 of all places of conviviality which allow people to meet and exchange. But the maintenance 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 looking at the environment in its ecological but also civic dimension.

Finally, the site of this garden allows us to think of a link with 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 the research of the University of Avignon. Beyond a sign, it is a question for the artist of encouraging practices: thus, one will be able to sit, circulate, stroll, get information, exchange ideas, messages, register one's research, protect oneself from the wind, give conferences, plant fruits, cultivate a garden.... This orchard will evolve. The planting will start in autumn 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 to participate actively in the life of this orchard.

The artistic 1%

The obligation to decorate public buildings, more commonly referred to as "artistic", is a specific procedure for commissioning works of art from artists. It obliges the owners of public works to reserve one per cent of the cost of their constructions 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 Education when it was created in 1951, the system was extended and is now imposed on most public buildings of the State and those of the local authorities, within the limits of the competences transferred to them by the decentralisation laws.

In parallel with this broadening of the field of application, the "1%" has opened up to all forms of expression in the field of visual arts, from the most traditional disciplines, such as painting or sculpture, to new media, video, design, graphic design, sound creation, landscape creation, etc.

As an instrument of a political will to support creation and to make our fellow citizens aware of the art of our time, it has offered for more than fifty years an original framework for action to encourage the meeting between an artist, an architect and the public, outside the institutions dedicated to contemporary art. Each "1%" operation is monitored by an artistic committee, an advisory body to 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.

The Orchard of Thought