We are just back from a wonderful trip to Marseilles for the annual Book fair organised by Atelier Vis-a-Vis. We had a great time exploring the city for two days before the fair ( fortunately therefore arriving just before the Eurostar and SNCF strike kicked in ). The journey from Lewes to the South of France by train was good - the views out of the train window - fantastic, the only real way to travel.
Marseilles is a great city - cosmopolitan, busy, vital, with a great attitude to supporting the arts. They support Atelier Vis-a-Vis with panache and imagination ( of course they do - they are French ) - when a printing works closed down - the presses and premises were given to them to make use of; in return the artists do a lot work with school children making books which are then published/presented in an exciting way. This leads to educational funding. They will also soon be able to make use of the working presses to set up an international centre for printing skills from which the city will benefit. Everyone is happy ( the artists, particularly Danielle and Manuel, work incredibly hard!)
The citizens are not a particularly arty lot by our standards but they responded to all the work with great enthusiasm and empathy, and my appalling French was not a barrier to real communication.
On the first evening we were all taken out for a meal in a ca'baret cafe ( where France's most important Story teller was giving a reading in the theatre.) 'All' means about fifty international book artists, including two Russians living in Berlin, Swiss, German, a couple from US, and about six from England - 'The English desk' was a particular feature of the fair this year - sitting at 3 long tables with a librarian from paris and other Bibliophiles.
A great effort was made to bring interested buyers round the fair in a delightfully semi-formal and civilised fashion with much time and consideration given to discussion and real looking at what was on show.
Atelier Vis-a-Vis collection bought one of our books and I was videoed talking about my work for their archive.
Our only complaint - a mistral the day after our arrival brought the temperature down to a highly unusual 2 degrees ( it felt worse somehow although the sun was bright and a there had to be a quick trip to Monoprix for woolly leggings and socks - so much for our mediterranean hot break).
It wasn't so surprising to be equally cold in Lausanne ( another wonderful train journey through the mountains and along Lake Leman from Geneva). Here we visited our friend Stephane Freitz from 'Art and Fiction' ( see on early blog for link to site ) and had a wonderful quirky tour of Lausanne. Unfortunately the exhibition 'Bestial' with work by Christine Sofolosha was closed on Mondays AND Tuesdays so we missed it, but the Institut de L'Art Brut was all that I had hoped it would be with a fantastic special exhibiton of textiles including work by wonderful Michael Nedjar.
It was great seeing HQ Art and Fiction and what they do - publishing books about other artists as well as their own work; we liked the way both French and Swiss artists seemed to be able to group themselves together for mutual support and the atmosphere of debate and excitement about writing, visual art and ideas.
A wonderful traditional Swiss Fondue in a lively cafe in the evening confirmed the feeling that lively and intelligent cafe society is alive and wonderful. In our conversations however we did finally conclude that the grass is always greener...... it was interesting to hear Stephane's impression of England, which didn't always accord with our own.
Many thanks to Stephane for his wonderful tour, especially the bookshop with the gallery and erotic cabinet of curiosities which we might have otherwise missed.