Postcard from the International Center of Arts and Landscape at Vassivière Island
Walking across the long footbridge leading to Vassivière Island, one leaves something behind; one lightens.
This is a space for transition, a step towards poetry and sensitivity, towards a remarkable, preserved site, accessible day and night.
The possibility of detachment.
I leave the shore, intrigued.
The International Center of Art and Landscape (Centre international d’art et du paysage), is sitting on what used to be a wooded hill which turned into an island when the waters of a dam, built between 1949 and 1951 at a 2000 feet altitude in the Limousin region, covered part of the landscape.
Once in Vassivière, one is confronted to a new experience of horizontality, for the different layers of color stretch and extend the gaze: alternation of blue and green, clouds, forests and water.
Entering the art center is like losing, for a moment, one’s bearings, to incessantly wonder what makes art, what makes landscape, for the elements and the materials interact and complete each other so well: water, air, earth and granite, the local stone.
Like Roland Cognet’s Moulage (1994) which, under the appearance of two tree stumps placed in front of the art center, associates sequoia wood and cement into one single form.
You therefore need to be willing to play the game, a game of confusion, confused senses, surprise. The pieces that have first occupied the site, starting in 1983, during the first granite Symposium in Limousin, stand alongside productions initiated by the institution from 1988 to today. All in a vast forest of sculptures.
Some sixty works to be discovered while immersed in nature, where each encounter seems to be making perfect sense, altogether meaningful and physically highly stimulating. It is up to me to freely build my own landscapes and face the great moments of contemporary sculpture.
The building, which was inaugurated in 1991 and imagined by architects Aldo Rossi and Xavier Fabre, whose observation tower allows to gaze at some of the artwork from a distance, is surrounded by a multitude of itineraries throughout prairies, shaded woods and along riverbanks.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the International Center of Arts and Landscape presents, until November 6th, an exhibition entitled Forget architecture: 25 years of architecture at Vassivière. This is an opportunity to juxtapose historic pieces by the two architects with the creations of eight young French visual artists. And for a visitor like me, to mingle shapes, colors and textures, such as Adélaïde Fériot’s long suspended pieces of velvet.
Outside, where the moss creeps up and nestles in the nooks and crannies of the pieces left to the test of time, Vassivière questions memory. Lost, damaged, forgotten pieces: nature sometimes seems to reclaim its rights over what humans have created, decided. And subtly teases my curiosity regarding future artistic projects, those which will find, in turn, their place in this haven of tranquility.
The pieces are prizes. One needs to take the time, to know, for some, how to find them and to let them call you, and be unveiled. That is how I was conquered by the intermittent whistling of Dominique Petitgand’s sound installation Je siffle au bord du quai (2011-2015). Among the nearby murmur of the water and the rustling of the wind in the branches.
Finally, at sunset, when light contrasts are heightened, I realize it is my pace which determines the work of art and the landscape, constantly moving my gaze as the setting changes.
A powerful moment, a privilege.
The Centre International d’Art et du Paysage is open daily from 11am to 7pm in July and August, and from 2pm to 6pm the rest of the year (except Mondays, December 25th and January 1st).
The Vassivière Island is located 40 miles east of Limoges, in the town of Beaumont-du-Lac. The 65 art pieces of the sculpture park are accessible to the public on a permanent basis.