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Unusual Art Installations in Toulouse Refugee Camp: “Creve Hivernale II”

Posted on February 27, 2018

“Over the period of two months all the artists intervened on the site illegally and wanted to live in the same conditions as the refugee families,” says artist and journalist Sandra Butterfly as she explains these newly released and exclusive images of artworks and installations created in a refugee camp in Toulouse, France.

Dangerous barbed wire becomes less harmful through the use of cotton by Annlor Codina. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

A hybrid of autonomous political arts interventions and a neighbor-organized outreach arts program, the initiative opened discussion among those held in the camps as well and attempts to draw attention to conditions in and around restricted areas meant to provide temporary shelter but appear to expose the residents to great insecurities as well. As European nations continue to grapple with an influx of refugees from the war in Syria and other places undergoing tumult, official preparations come under scrutiny, some earning praise, others great criticism.

These art installations and surrounding scenes reflect the raw conditions and limited resources available – uniquely appropriated by artists to give voice to the plight of persons whose lives have been ripped from their home countries by war and economics, now retained in no-mans-land spaces throughout the world.

A pentagon of wooden crates and illustrations on glass panels referred to treatment of the security and surveillance state towards less fortunate people and refugees, according to Butterfly. A4 Putevie. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Creve Hivernale II, the name of the project, is a play on the French words ‘Treve Hivernale’ which refer to a winter break during which landlords cannot evict tenants because to do so would be cruel or inhumane. In this instance, the first word is replaced by the word “Creve”, which means to die. Living in these rough conditions near illegal trash dumping grounds with limited access to running water, food, electricity, plumbing, and in a politically hostile environment fraught with the threat of preying thieves or abusive opportunists, Creve Hivernale II takes a much darker turn; literally translated as “Winter Death”. The 2nd in a series, this intervention follows the first session of Creve Hivernale that took place in a warehouse called ‘Le Frigo’, or ‘the Fridge.’ (read more here)

Initiated by a secretive artist named “<++”, according to Butterfly, Creve Hivernale II gathered like-minded activist artists (artivists) to intervene, possibly intercede. A mix of well known and emerging artists, many of whom work with institutions and galleries, to create site-specific works that could be documented and shared. “The challenge was to go beyond their own fears, face the harsh weather, and create artworks outside from the found trash and objects on the site,” says Butterfly.

A found boat in the trash has been painted in black, floating in a red pond, unable to reach the European coasts. Upgrayydd Recidive . Butterly. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterly)

Because of the sensitive nature of the location and the tenuous circumstances that residents were in, this project was performed over a year ago in December 2016 and time was allowed to pass before revealing it in this way. An unusual location and topic for art interventions, one wonders about the effectiveness, maybe even the appropriateness of an art installation in a somewhat remote location where people are living in such harsh conditions and under dire need. On the other hand, if these artists had not brought the subject in such a manner to our attention, we wouldn’t be writing this article to share with you and conditions of refugees may take on a greater public interest.

We asked Butterfly more about this unusual project to better understand the works in photos here:

BSA: Can you talk about the location? Is it a refugee settlement camp?
Butterfly: The location is in the center of Toulouse, France on a private land, forbidden to the public. It looks like a no man’s land located next to a Dechetterie, an official trash dump.

Mathieu Tremblin wrote poems on the found items on dumpsite. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

What you need to know is that in France you have to pay taxes to dump items at the Dechetterie that are above a certain weight and size and fall into a category of being toxic or damaging to the environment, for example. Next to the Dechetterie is a lot of trash that local residents left illegally because it was either too expensive or because the Dechetterie would not accept it according to regulations.

There are many people and families leaving there in extremely difficult conditions: no electricity or water, just surviving from mendacity on the nearby streets and the trash found on the site. The population is diverse, from homeless or less fortunate people, migrants abandoned from the retention center, ‘roms’ – paperless families from Eastern Europe. The majority of them are paperless and could be evicted from France if arrested.

This territory is very hostile, like a jungle where everybody is in survival mode, in constant fear, not trusting anyone, and thievery occurs all the time. The only protection is their barking dogs.

Artists provided materials and encouragement for some of the younger people to express creativity on a wall. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

BSA: Did those families know that the artists were making art about the topic?
Butterfly: Yes, but it took some time for them to understand that this was art. At first they were hiding, or looking at the art and artists from far away, avoiding any contact. Then bonds and communication were established through the children, who were curious, and who were the first to approach us and interact and play with the artists.

BSA: Could anyone in the general public see these installations, or was it behind fences?
Butterfly: After a period of exploration of the wasteland, artists started to create their installations and then we shared the location in a secretive way.

Only the GPS location was communicated on social media and on the artist websites with the European Flag replaced by barbed wire. The public was invited to bring flashlights and warm clothing, and the exhibition was open day and night to the public. At the same time visitors also had to trespass a forbidden territory to see the exhibition, and part of the land is behind barbed wires near the train tracks.

Artists invited visitors to trespass through a zone of PEUR (meaning FEAR in French), where visitors had to face their fear to move forward in an unknown area. Signage indicated zones of fear and less fear (Peur and –Peur by Upgrayydd Recidive). Upgrayydd Recidive. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

The buff squad. “Following complaints, the city sent some road cleaners to erase the painted sign on the road,” says Butterfly,”Ironically they were erasing the Fear (Peur) from the area.” Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Butterfly. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Installations made out of found trash illustrated the Mediterranean Sea with a swimming pool (Sophie Bacquie and Lucie Laflorentie).  Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Mardi Noir. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Natalie Svit-Kona Eifyran. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

“During the two months self imposed residency, despite the language barrier, artists developed strong bonds with the families and children there and involved them in artistic activities,” says Butterfly. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Sid Poliekoff. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Madmoiselle Kat . Mardi Noir. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Mardi Noir. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

A4 Putevie. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

A4 Putevie. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Imposing fortresses made from foil survival blankets and sculpted wood represent the non welcoming Europe with all its barriers by Upgrayydd Recidive. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Upgrayydd Recidive. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Upgrayydd Recidive. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Molo Molo. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Manuel Pomar. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Luke Warm. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Upgrayydd Recidive. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

Young residence pause before a sign that says “evadage”, or “escape”. Upgrayydd Recidive. Creve Hivernale II – Toulouse, France. (photo © Butterfly)

 


Participating artists included:
NADIA VON FOUTRE – JEAN DENANT – MANUEL POMAR – A4 PUTEVIE – MADEMOISELLE KAT – SID POLIEKOFF – MATHIEU TREMBLIN – MARDI NOIR – UPGRAYYDD RECIDIVE – MOLO MOLO – CLAIRE SAUVAGET – DON QUICKSHOT – LURK WARM – BUTTERFLY – SOPHIE BACQUIE – LUCIE LAFLORENTIE – ANNLOR CODINA – NATALIE SVIT-KONA EIFYRAN

Related stories about this refugee camp:

‘WE NEED TO ACT’ Fears of new Jungle in Toulouse as town camp EXPLODES with 400 migrants

Supporting refugees in Toulouse

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