Arts visuels Marc Scozzai

Voie 15 is a typical Rotondes project because it’s unexpected and different from what you see in other cultural centres.”
© Eric Engel

We can always count on the Visual Arts department to surprise our visitors. However, we really weren’t expecting to see a locomotive and a railway track crossing the Galerie and appearing in the courtyard. The man behind all that, Marc Scozzai, tells us more about Voie 15, on display until 23 August.

Marc, it seems like you owe us an explanation about how you came up with Voie 15!

Every summer, we try to alternate between the Triennale Jeune Création, a pure contemporary art project that takes place once every three years, installations like The moon is full but it is not the moon (last year), and more fun projects like 18 – Nouvelle approche du minigolf (in 2018). This year, it was time for the more playful variety, which could appeal to everyone. We also wanted the summer exhibition to fit into the European Design Festival, as two of the award ceremonies were taking place at Rotondes. 

There was this great experience we did in 2019 for The Open End festival, a weekend event about design. We installed a white partition and provided Posca pens. The people on site – mostly graphic designers, illustrators, and designers – quickly started scribbling away and by the end of the festival the wall looked great! We imagined that this type of participatory format would work just as well with a family audience and those joining us for Congés Annulés. That’s why we’ve organised Voie 15 in three phases and why it will stay in place longer than our previous summer exhibitions.

We just needed to decide which medium to use… 

Rotondes’ history and the station right next door quickly gave us an idea. We said to ourselves: as the CFL has recently added platforms in the station, let’s build the 8th one inside our Galerie! We made it all white so that it could easily be used for our purposes.

For the locomotive, I visited the CFL workshop used by the association in charge of safeguarding railway heritage on behalf of the Service national des Sites et Monuments. I went there with Marko Krsnik, the architect who designed our locomotive and is responsible for its construction. We spent three hours there, talking with some incredible volunteers, some of which used to work for CFL. They showed us everything in detail and shared the technical plans with us. We got everything we needed to build our wooden locomotive, so it came as close to the real thing as possible. It is almost life-size, just 20% smaller than the original. 

The irony is that while one of the CFL’s biggest concerns is all the graffiti done on their trains and railway equipment, we’ve built a locomotive specifically for people to draw on!

The installation has three phases. The first one took place during the European Design Festival. The second opens 24 June till 16 July, and the third will take place at the same time as Congés Annulés. Is that a strategic choice? 

The first phase lasted only a few days but the public – graphic artists and designers coming for the festival as well as families with children – immediately got very excited. The platform and the rails did not remain immaculately white for very long!

The second phase corresponds to the last three weeks of class before the summer holidays, which allows us to offer an interesting programme for school groups. As Voie 15 is an installation and not an exhibition, it doesn’t take long to visit, so we’re also organising participatory activities and workshops, including with graffiti artists. 

As the third phase takes place during the Congés Annulés festival – and that we know those visitors don’t always instinctively go into the Galerie to see our summer exhibition – we decided to kind of extend the platform into the Courtyard.

In which way would you say this is a typical Rotondes project? 

I’d say it’s characteristic in many ways. First because our history is part of the equation – we are bringing a train back into a building that was once used as a railway workshop. It is also a very Rotondes project’ because it’s unexpected and different from the installations and exhibitions you see in other cultural centres. And yes, it’s also typical because it’s participatory. Even when we create something aimed at a family audience, we make sure that everyone can enjoy it – and I think that will be the case here too.

The project also has a connection with our urban arts programme…

Sure, but not exclusively. At Rotondes we really like to mix genres and a project like this one makes it possible to introduce many different forms of expression.

Right now [the interview was conducted 11 April, editor’s note] we are still working on the details of the programme, but we plan to have artists come in for live mural painting demonstrations. There is talk of doing something directly on the platform, but it might be complicated to work on such a large scale. When Mik Muhlen joins us during the Moolt ons een, he spends an afternoon on a fresco of 3×4 metres.

For Congés Annulés we would like to create a special event, like a drawn concert or maybe a dance performance where every movement leaves a trace… We don’t want to only stick with graffiti but want to open the installation to other forms of expression. 

As the platform is entirely white, we are also considering mapping. We’ve been talking with an illustrator who has never done this type of animation before. It fits with our role of giving visibility and creative opportunities to emerging artists and allowing established artists to try out new artforms.