La Ville in Jeux, Crac 19, Montbeliard, France

« Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceit- ful, and everything conceals something else.. »

During the summer months, 19, Crac offers to transform itself partially into a playground for the artists and the public by means of «sandbox» works to be activated. The term evokes both the container of sand for children and a type of video game. Sandbox games are essentially characterised by the absence of imposed objectives. They are designed in a non-linear way to stimulate the curiosity and crea- tivity of the players in a given universe. In the same way, the “sand- box” exhibitions are open to appropriation within the art centre. They are built from invitations to visual artists, but also to architects and town planners.

Sandbox#1 was commissioned to The Outsiders, a collective of architects, cooks, artists, and educators. They call themselves a “union” whose mission is to implement several services to people, to the environment and to the society in general. By creating alternative meeting situations in the public space, The Outsiders meet the residents, often through the prism of play. Their aim is to include them in a process of co-thinking that generates forms of public art or architecture, whether perennial or ephemeral.

As much attached to the process as to the final product, the collective is keen to share its method of «unlearning» which is essential for connecting people to their territory and remembering that «A neighbourhood is not only an association of buildings but also a network of social relationships, an environment where the feelings and the sympathy can flourish». Mapping workshops, walks, mee- tings, and debates are all tools that the collective deploys to create common creative situations.

It also defends an artistic approach that is part of a long-term pro- cess and that relies on sustainable and local means of production, anticipating the subsequent uses and reuses of the creations. The Outsiders have created playgrounds, bus shelters, community gardens, squares and even rehabilitated a farm. During their experiments, they have also gathered an intangible heritage which is then disseminated in the form of educational workshops or a travelling museum.

The Outsiders belong to a certain family of creators who «want to take care of rather than reshape the city [...] and consider that the habitability of their neighbourhoods is linked to a local ecology, a sensory urbanism, the welcoming of nature, a respect for the chronotopia, and to the experiments of a participatory democracy.... Here, identities are not fixed, each contributor is a necessary piece in the composition of the final puzzle. Its form does not aim for the spectacular but is a testimony of the singularity of its assembly of subjectivities, usually invisible5.

The invitation by 19, Crac to The Outsiders is a twofold proposal. Firstly, the exhibition is an opportunity to present a retrospective of their artistic projects. For the first time, it brings together plastic works related to productions in the public space in Utrecht, Maas- tricht, and Rio de Janeiro. Photographs, videos, drawings, sketches, publications, and objects reflect their emancipatory practices. Par- ticipatory projects such as Erfgoed - Center for Ecological (UN)lear- ning; de Rijzende Glij- baan; de Halte; The Travelling Farm Museum of Forgotten Skills; Vinexmarkt; Sistema Lento; Burenmarkt; Muziekp- lein or Sjellik and Mooswief are in consequence documented.Furthermore, in Montbéliard, The Outsiders has chosen to put the “city into play” [translation of the title of the exhibition La Ville en jeux] and to bring it into the art centre. Based on the commonali- ties between the distant geographies they have explored - such as post-industrial and post-colonial issues or areas of friction between rural and urban life - the collective walked through the city last March. The residents-ambassadors and participants of this urban walk, formed a spontaneous assembly that revealed some of the invisible cities that make up Montbéliard, through personal anec- dotes or references to the more distant history of the «enclave ».

Based on these exchanges, The Outsiders have chosen to draw on the history of human settlement in the area and one of its most monumental traces, the ancient theatre of Mandeure. The result is a new production, conceived as a public space within the art centre and by derivation questioning its place in the city and its own dimension as a public place. In the form of mobile bleachers, the architecture-furniture reminds us that “in its primitive phases, social life is largely spent in play. It is a temporary truce from the usual human activities, taking place in entertainment, according to freely agreed rules and in a fixed and determined form».The agora thus created arouses the desire to meet as a group, to exchange and to generate a common situation. Its combined modules form «a variable architecture – a ‘demo architecture’ [...] an architecture in which to try out different spaces, or to produce a variety of Ecclesia9». The mobile and modular dimension of the work allows for different uses: multiplying the points of view, sitting, standing, pushing, pulling, climbing, listening, watching... investing other places beyond the walls of the institution. It offers the possibility of co-designing as many assemblages, arrangements, and games as there are actors and non-actors within the art centre. As a demonstration space, the work also hosts artefacts, documents, and images, thus constituting the moving space of monstration of the shared experience in Montbéliard and reaffirming 19, Crac as a space of agency.

The Outsiders’ exhibition La ville en jeux thus brings together the dynamics at work today in the practices of a New Genre Public Art which carry within them “an ambition to transform reality, which, however modest, insists on the need to move from the symbolic to forms of action ».