‘Quotation in my works are like robbers by the roadside who make an armed attack and relieve an idler of his convictions.’ (Benjamin from One-Way Street: 460)

At the end of 2012, bewitched by Artaud and beguiled by Benjamin’s descriptions of Marseille, Decentrederspace set out along a singular path, to rethink what cultural or artistic production could be within an expanded Europe. As parts of the European Union periphery, overburdened by the core, entered a fifth year of economic crisis, a number of international artists were invited to contribute to decentrederspace’s mini-residency programme – De/tours – part of a wider yearlong exploration of Marseille-Provence as European Capital of Culture 2013. The interventions made by the invited artists included performances, situations and artistic research practices, which interrogated the implicit assumptions that underpin the production, creation and reception of such large-scale cultural festivals. The making, siting and reception of this work was made particularly pertinent because this Cultural Capital promised so much, as it faced southwards to a Europe beyond its closed off borders[1]. Making work that responded to certain embedded ideas of what constituted European Culture and Capital – the artists offered parallel reinterpretations of ‘radical practice’ from an outside, marginal perspective; this contemporary artistic practice informed by recycled material, writing and ideas taken from the last Century that had some cultural relationship to Marseille, or the wider Region. For example in combining Walter Benjamin’s hashish laden perambulatory writings with Antonin Artaud’s autobiographic visions and Tadeusz Kantor’s poor objects, to create a novel form of emballage[2].


[1] “The Marseille-Provence 2013 project focused on the region’s connection to other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Its main theme was “Sharing the South” – an invitation to examine North-South relationships from a new point of view by focusing on what these countries have in common.” This optimistic ambition to open up towards the South, a Mediterranean outside of the European Union,  ran as a thread through the official programme. There was something deeply ironic then, in having the programme’s cover print a map of Europe upside down,  hopefully reconfiguring our understanding of space and conflict, when the city of Marseille is so notoriously divided between the North and South, but with a reverse polarity (where South Marseille equals wealthy, North poverty and conflict).

[2]Taking the idea of the emballage and The Reality of a Lower Order from Kantor’s work “…which continuously demands that I examine and express issues through base materials, the basest possible, materials that are poor, deprived of dignity and prestige, defenceless and often downright contemptible.” (Kantor – quoted in Jan Klossowiscz)


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