French artist Aline Brugel on Australia’s First Paste Up Exhibition with Corps in Situ in City

One of the many awesome (and historic) things happening as part of Melbourne Fringe at the moment is Australia’s first ever paste up project. What in the heck is a paste-up project? Well, Wikipedia defines it as ‘a method of creating or laying out publication pages that predates the use of the now-standard computerised page design desktop publishing programs.’

And of course what a unique paste-up project it is. Corps in Situ in City, devised by French artist Aline Brugel features life-sized portraits of people squeezed into spaces around the streets of – funnily enough – Footscray. It makes for a unique idea of not only portraiture, but also exploring the notion of positioning in the displaying of art.

Aline was kind enough to answer some questions about the project for us at the AU Review.

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Can you give some detail on how the idea for this project came about?

My background and studies in Design and Dance is at the origin of my interest in the interaction between body, object and space. These experiments of the body placed in a city context are the result of a search around the body material I started in 2007. At the time, I was particularly concentrating on exploring the sensations of the body confinements: the confinement in our own body in parallel with the confinement of the body in a public space such as the city. A ratio of private / public, hidden / revealed.

Following my meeting with the dance collective “C’est par où la danse?” (Where is the Dance?), the project took a more representative form of our desires to speak of the body in space. The bodies aren’t forced anymore to exist in these small spaces, they go voluntarily.

The attitude, the look changed, and so did its purpose.

This project was formerly shown in France. Can you tell us how similar or different the reaction has been to the project here compared to France?

I could see the same enthusiasm coming from the participants, wherever they were from. Even more so here, as I am coming from the other side of the world. I also have the feeling they have maybe less opportunities in Melbourne to be part of an art project. But I am really pleased to see how MetroWest does an amazing work to involve citizens in art projects here in Footscray. 

When it comes to the reactions on the street, I have received really good feedback in France and Australia. Owners or neighbours got used to see the photographs and expressed their disappointment when some images were being replaced. But then, they would “get to know” the new people featuring in the photographs and start to get attached to those new images. 

The biggest difference between France and Australia, actually came from me. Because of the different architecture here in Melbourne, finding locations proved to be a very different process. 

As Corps In Situ In City is part of the BluScray program, which is focusing on the colour Blue, I decided to only select blue walls. This was an extremely interesting departure point as I wondered through the streets of Footscray and discovered new locations while following this “blue trail”.

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There’s was high amount of participants in this project. Why did you want such a large amount of faces to take part?

In Footscray, 106 participants were photographed. Corps In Situ In City introduces an intimacy between the people and their city. If I could, I would love to have even more people participate, as each photo represents a unique response, introducing an intimacy into places where it’s not usually called upon. 

In Footscray there are 15 different locations where you can see pictures pasted-up and at each location, images are on rotation. I want to keep surprising passers by and make them come back to the locations to discover new photographs, and at the same time, new locals.

What type of reactions did you observe when you asked people to pose with others in such closed spaces? Did anyone feel an invasion of their personal space?

This is what surprises me all the time, and is probably one of my favourite parts of the project. When people arrive separately but they need to be in a larger box, I ask them to pose together. No one ever disagreed. I think that the task is so uncommon, and challenging for their own body that they just do it, without overthinking it. 

Let’s take the example of the tram. If there are not many people on the tram and someone comes too close to you, you will feel this invasion of your own space. But if the tram is full, everyone shares their own personal space in a different way, because there is no other choice. Here they have the choice, and it is what makes it so beautiful, especially for me who is witnessing this meeting.

One of my best memory of strangers meeting in one small box was in Pont L’Abbé, in France. One man was already in the box, and the second man just rolled into the box and put his head on the other’s man knee. He looked at him, and said:” by the way nice to meet you!”. We all laughed so much! It was beautiful to see how they trusted each other, and also trusted myself for making this happen.

Here in Footscray, a entire family came to be photographed and the mum said, “it’s the first time since a long time that I am this close to my son!”. She was really touched, and I could see the joy in her eyes. 

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What do you hope is the main message people will take with them when seeing your work?

I just hope to give the opportunity to people to ask themselves their own questions, and see their city in a different way. Corps In Situ In City is a project for everyone. It brings together people from different backgrounds and cultures. It makes art accessible to everybody!

The photos will ask questions to each passer by. Where are you going? How do you inhabit this city? Look around you along the way!

Simple in appearance, the project opens doors to many topics, investigating community life and the self. 

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Corps in Situ in City by Aline Brugel is part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival and Victoria University’s BluScray program, 26 August – 30 October. You can see it right now on the streets of Footscray. More information is found here

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