"At the outset", shared French architects Gillot + Givry, "we wanted to create architecture that, like traditional Japanese tea rooms, would not be marked out for a specific function: a Western chashitsu in which no tea ceremonies would be held, and in which there would be no feeling of occupying the space!" This would be the spatial equivalent of Lichtenberg's famous "knife with no blade and which has no handle". Such a project unquestionably stems from an aphorism. Which response can be given to this paradoxical desire? Once the few defining elements of this basic space are subtracted, what remains? An empty space — and that is the whole point. This emptiness is cleverly finished, so skilfully defined that it could bring about new imaginative universes and, through aspiration, give rise to rich artistic events.
The poetic vacuity of the German philosopher's spectral knife has inspired many creators, including the surrealists. The vacant space designed by Gillot + Givry is encapsulated in standard building wood and offers itself directly to present-day artists. Célia Gondol was the first guest to come inside. While the architects installed the object in the middle of the rural Gers department for the location's natural features (the sun's course, the play on light, etc.), the visual artist converted it into a vision machine. Transformed into a giant reel, the structure releases a slightly tinted ribbon, a thin film of colour that shrouds the surrounding recently ploughed land. The vertical openings of the capsule, far-away vestiges of the initial project, slit the landscape into moving kakemonos coloured by the artist's filtering strip, a sort of synthetic wash paint. The visual and architectonic approaches here are perfectly matched and work in unison — CO.LABOR.
Via this minimal installation, the beginning of a hopefully long and diverse series of collaborations, the Paris-based agency is striving to re-establish the strong link between artists and architects. On a smaller scale, they humbly aim to revive the fertile cross-disciplinary actions that are somewhat forgotten or often wasted at the very least.
Disenchanted with the current cultural policies that help to saturate exhibition spaces, Gillot + Givry have invented a new space: a mini-gallery in the countryside, a station that can be adjusted and multiplied infinitely, a vehicle of art that can be teleported to cities, wastelands, summits and perhaps the coast. These young experts are especially critical of the sterile juxtapositions that are the result of most of the recent crossings between art and architecture, and flout the conventional (corporatist, academic and sometimes even psychological) partitions in a bid to launch genuine cross-cutting dialogue and play with authentic collaborations.
Their capsule is therefore a joint laboratory, a pooled research workshop. Or better still, it asserts itself as the fruit of experimental work on the notion of mutual benefit — CO.LABOR.LAB.
How can contemporary architects invite artists to contribute upstream of their projects? What could the role of architect be in an artist's workshop? Which tools could be used together? Which specific features must be upheld and preserved in these joint ventures? There are so many questions, simple yet essential, that arise from this experimental construction.
Beyond its otherworldly look, the object seems to act as an effective bridge between the arts, a link between areas of expertise that are seemingly compatible, a fertile interface between contemporary specialists. Its future reincarnations will no doubt prove this further. Tony Côme
Gillot + Givry: CO.LABOR.LAB mobile art gallery
Architects: Gillot + Givry
Collaborators: Vincent Gillot, Eleonore Givry, architects; Celia Gondol, artist
Type: Pavilion (installation)
Function: exhibition space
Location: Barran, Gers, South West of France
Client: Private – France
Area: 4 square metres
Budget: 1,000 €