Interview with Pascal Yonet, Director of the Rural Art Center Vent Des Forêts
Pascal Yonet has been the head of the the Association Vent des Forêts in the département of La Meuse since 2008, a rural contemporary art space dedicated to research and artistic production in forest and agricultural territories. A philosopher by training, he served as a freelance editor and since 2001, as deputy director of the Centre national de l’édition et de l’art imprimé (Cneai – Chatou, France).
Dorothée Charles: What are the missions of the rural art center Vent des Forêts?
Pascal Yonet: Our main mission is to experiment with creative processes and with the forest. In this setting, contemporary art can dialogue with its surroundings as it brings out the spirit of the space. Vent des Forêts is an association that unites six forest villages in La Meuse and which, since 1997, has invited 200 artists to come and stay in residencies with local inhabitants. There is a genuine and robust relationship developed between the artists and the local population, as well as with the territory, which leads to a certain boldness and ambition. Vent des Forêts is neither a park nor a museum; contemporary art lives here like a unifier capable of supporting diversity and engaging all participants without condition. The project reveals the true nature of our resources and our knowledge and underscores a rural ethic.
DC: How do you work with artists, artisans and the local population and also experiment new models of exchanges, dialogues and production?
PY: The local inhabitants are the heart of the artistic creation here because they house, share, contribute and remember. They are the greatest spokespersons of the project. The synergy of all the local players, whether they be farmers, local representatives, hunters, or artisans, creates a unique and welcoming dynamic; it’s a humane collaboration that often goes unnoticed. These encounters bring the artist to a realization of his or her own necessary participation, since in Vent des Forêts, there can be no pretense. One cannot simply cloister oneself in a posture, he or she must be present and focused on their research. For my part, I do everything so that this exchange takes place; that is fundamental, even if it destabilizes the artist and the local resident.
DC: The collaboration with matali crasset is really specific. Could you tell us more about the different projects you developed?
PY: This collaboration with matali crasset began in 2009. Through an artistic public order, she conceived for Vent des Forêts the Maisons Sylvestres Le Nichoir (The Birdhouse), La Noisette (The Hazelnut), and La Chrysalide (The Chrysalis), which have been open for rental since 2013. The project found an organic continuation inside the houses through the creation of a line of objects, We trust in wood. With these tiny series made of noble materials, matali crasset wanted to offer « more » of an experience to each user of a sycamore bowl or of a sculpted rice spoon. It’s not so much about turnkey design, but about a project tailor-made alongside local artisans : a wood-turner, a basket maker, a weaver, some Carmelites… It is the aim both of Vent des Forêts and matali crasset: to reaffirm the common good.
DC: What will be the forthcoming collaboration with artists?
PY: The current projects will focus on the need to draw attention to the skills, techniques and materials present in this environment. This year, an artist will work locally in a warehouse that transforms wood from our forests into coal while another project will permit the artist to mold, bake and enamel clay which traditionally was used to make tiles. In a region that historically manufactured steel, we’re now experimenting with cast iron alumnium with Vincent Ganivet, the wood of oak, beech and acacia trees will naturally also figure in this project. Our involvement in the digital age is complete with an opening to the general public in spring of the website, L’Outil Territorial Digital, also developed following an artistic public order.
DC: What is your audience/public?
PY: The 90 works, viewable along 45 kilometers of marked pathways, engage families as well as amateur artists, groups of hikers as well as students. Every year, we edit a guide map that’s printed at 10,000 copies. These maps are given out on-site, at nearby hotels and inns and upon request. This circulation allowed us to estimate the number of visitors to our pathways at around 20,000 people per year; approximately 200 people stayed in the two Maisons Sylvestres in 2015.
Interview translated by Ava Kiai.
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