Combining art, architecture and environmental awareness, artists Luca Antognoli and Gabriel Pontoizeau create works in situ which invite the viewer to reflect on the world around us. The poetry of their latest creation ‘Rausa’, composed entirely from reeds, unfolds in the main courtyard of the Musée Saint-Remi in Reims, serving as a reminder of when the area was green space to counter its unrelenting urbanisation. A temporary installation on display until 13th October 2022.
Both trained architects, Luca Antognoli and Gabriel Pontoizeau created Atelier Faber in Paris back in 2019 to focus on the relationship between art, architecture and the environment. “In Latin, ‘faber’ means to make or manufacture, and it has an artisanal element which fits in well with our approach,” underlines Gabriel Pontoizeau. Following in the footsteps of Land Art artists and a new generation of architects who draw their inspiration from nature including Japanese Junya Ishigami, the young duo are strong advocates of a poetic approach to space, in connection with the environment. “The desire to push the boundaries further prompted us to enter installation competitions to explore architecture through the prism of art and to give substance to environmental issues,” they explain.
Rausa, a work which questions our relationship with the world
Winners of the competition organised by Reims museums on the development of the city and its relationship with its natural surroundings, the two artists thus designed and produced ‘Rausa’, a landscape installation composed entirely of bundles of reeds which is situated in the main courtyard of the Musée Saint-Remi. “While studying the history of the city and the museum archives, we were taken aback by the extreme urbanisation of the land here. Very few traces remain of the swamps around the river Vesle – wetlands and marshlands which are vital for preventing flooding. So we wanted to pay tribute to reeds, plants which are emblematic of wetlands and traditionally used for making thatched roofs, to embody these lost landscapes and to raise awareness in the face of continued destruction of the environment by human activity.”
This highly symbolic installation comes in the shape of a circular pavilion, which is 12 metres in diameter and opens out onto the sky. The bundles of reeds are piled one on top of the other to form a large external wall of cut stems – in stark contrast to a soft and delicate interior, made of lightweight flowers from the reeds and brought to life by the course of the sun and the breath of the wind.
The contrast between the minerality of the former abbey and the plant-like aspect of the work makes you sense the elements of the Earth as an invisible flow of energy in a very tangible way. The viewer is called upon to participate in the work insofar that they enter its space and can approach it from different angles, with the possibility to look, reflect, listen to the rustling of the leaves, smell and touch the flowers. A multisensory experience which invites us to reconnect with the environment.
It isn’t the first time that Luca Antognoli and Gabriel Pontoizeau have used art as a way of raising people’s awareness about environmental issues. In 2020 during the International Garden Festival in the Amiens Hortillonnages, they were already warning people about the dangers of soil artificialisation and the loss of agricultural land with ‘Roques’, a cubic pavilion built solely from planks of wood used by farmers to reinforce riverbanks. This metaphorical space of 20 m2 (exactly the same surface area of land artificialised every second in France), allowing people to feel the full impact of the issue during their visit. In another installation, ‘La voûte de Rolion’ (Festival of makeshift shelters on the Santiago pilgrimage – 2019), they were committed to reusing environmentally-friendly materials and to promoting an osmosis between people and the countryside.
Against productivist logic, the two artists call for a return to simplicity by consciously choosing to use geo-based natural materials.
At a time when preserving the environment appears crucial for future generations, Luca Antognoli and Gabriel Pontoizeau’s installations stand as a protective bulwark for fragile environments and introduce us to the idea of what we owe our planet. Ceasing to believe that man is the undisputed master of the elements and trying to understand the life which is essential, even though it is invisible around us, is a step towards a future – not necessarily a better one, but one that is liveable at least.