Living in FranDisco: building stories
An ever-expanding city made of cardboard, embroideries, and tape is at the centre of another mind-boggling and touching collaboration between Frémok and La "S" Grand Atelier, now on show at Peinture Fraîche.
A chicory factory, a tunnel church, or a Stargate leading to the Fondation Vasarely, inhabited by such folk as Lord Building, a Cone of Chips, three versions of Saint Nicolas, a Motorised Bath Doll City Parade Girl, a Madonna, and MacGyver… The city of FranDisco, the surreal urban landscape that Frémok is venturing into in its new publication, is not bound by any limitations. But the collaborative project by Marcel Schmitz and Thierry Van Hasselt does have both a solid foundation in reality and some very real effects.
Rooted in the activities of the art centre La "S" Grand Atelier in Vielsalm, FranDisco is the product of the imagination of "urbatect" and "urbanist" Marcel Schmitz, an almost fifty-year-old with Down syndrome. "Marcel was one of the people who took part in the workshops at La 'S'," says Thierry Van Hasselt, comic book artist extraordinaire and co-founder of the equally incomparable Brussels publishing platform Frémok. "First via engravings and paintings. Very flat, very naïve. When he realised that you can also present these constructions in 3D, he applied his indomitable energy and stubbornness to creating the city with cardboard, embroideries, and tape. At a certain point, I suggested to artistic director Anne-Françoise Rouche that we should document his work to save the memory of the city and all the reasons why he builds from being forgotten."
The freshly printed result, Living in FranDisco, is an impressive, at times particularly touching "road documentary", that takes Marcel back and forth between the Grand Atelier and his self-constructed city. It is a fine metaphor for all the things that the project brought about. "The city has fundamentally changed his being. It has brought him recognition as an artist, and interrupted the routine of his daily life. FranDisco has taken us to places like Paris, Aix-en-Provence, and Geneva for residences and exhibitions. All these experiences have nourished the city. It has expanded, moved, become dirty, and crumbled. It is alive, like a real city. And that is a good thing. It is not about the object in itself, but about the process that allows us to travel. It is about the shared experience and cross-pollination."
"To me, this city is a gift. It has brought some lightness, and a positive kind of nonchalance to my drawings. That never would have happened without Marcel. Our meeting has unleashed a real transformative power." And therein lies the value of this magnificent project: it is not about what you can expect, it is about what you can imagine. It is about the elasticity of ideas and borders, and about the transformative potential of art. "The work that La 'S' does, transforms its residents, their self-confidence, the way they interact with other people. But it also changes the way we look at them." FranDisco is an exercise in possibilities, which ignores borders altogether and asks nothing of its residents except what they want to be in their wildest dreams. It is an imaginary city with both wonderfully weird and weirdly wonderful resonances to reality.
UN ÉTÉ À FRANDISCO
23/6 > 6/8, Peinture Fraîche, fremok.org