MADLAB is an association formed as a think-tank focused on the protection of the Thau Lagoon area, its value and its sustainable development. It offers the opportunity to discuss, design and implement new projects and cultural events, particularly about the local traditional shellfish industry. Each year they hold a competition and invite artists to participate. The competition is open to all forms of art, using waste from the shellfish industry. The theme this year is the "Thau... in 50 years." the idea being to illustrate an optimistic or pessimistic vision of the coastal area, faced with the socio-economic and environmental challenges of the near future.
One of the prizes is a 3 week residency at the Madlab art studio by the lagoon.
For those not familiar with the geography, the Étang de Thau is the largest of a string of lagoons that stretch along the French coast from the Rhône River to the foothills of the Pyrenees and the border to Spain, the Thau being particularly famous for its oysters. I happen to live in Marseillan which borders the Thau and is often quoted as being "like St Tropez before Bardot." Maybe, but what does the future hold?
So where to begin? Key words such as Global Warming : Over Development : Population Explosion : Scarce Resources : Adaptability : Technological Advances all come to mind. With global warming you have rising sea levels and extreme heatwaves. Malaïgue is a natural phenomenon that has been observed in lagoons near the Mediterranean Sea for decades, most recently this year. A lack of wind combines with high water temperatures, resulting in a reduction in the amount of oxygen in the water. Once triggered, malaïgue can spread across huge stretches of water in days, killing fish and shellfish alike.
Étang de Thau - August 2018
As well as the obvious commercial consequences it was sad to see the many dead fish and eels floating in and around the harbour. For me a strong wake-up call about climate change and its effect. The previous malaïgue was in 2006 but research seems to suggest that there will be a higher incidence in future years.
Ignorning climate change and global warming and taking no action was the starting point for the artwork.
I was familiar with posters by the French artist Richard Roussel "Affiches patrimoniales pour les Aéroports de Paris." I like the bold graphic almost abstract style of his work and it thought it might be an effective way to put over a message.
Samples of Richard Roussel Posters
Below is the intial A2 poster design idea. The exhibition was originally planned for August and was to be held at the Richemer Cave, Marseillan Plage. Bearing in mind that the temperature then was in the region of 35 degrees, I hope some of the key word references mentioned above resonate when you look at the poster. I subsequently developed the work a bit further and decided on an A3 triptych.
Imaginary Poster - Étang de Thau in 50 years in the style of Richard Roussel
Marseillan, Sété, Meze, Bouziques Loupian and Balaruc are now one large conglomeration controlled by a central hiearchy. The typeface for the "Ville d'Etang de Thau" is based on text from the building of the Les Caves Richemer, Marseillan. You can just see some of it in the photo below. The large poster covering the rest of the text is for a brand new development of luxury apartments that will replace "Les Caves" sometime in the next few years when Richemer move to a new site. That should help with over population!
Les Caves Richemer Marseillan
The observant amongst you might also have spotted the flock of flamingos on the advertisment, which unlike those in my imaginary poster flying to pastures new in search of food, seem to have settled in the lagoon. The property developers don't usually give you the bad news!
Part of the brief was to utilise raw material from the Étang de Thau as part of the submission. This for me was the most difficult aspect of making the work. Decided that these posters would have been plastered onto walls and billboards everywhere, so searched out re-cycled wood and material from the port and oyster cultivation sector of Marseillan, the end result of which you can see below. Graffitti and other elements have been added to the original concept including reference to the barriers that had to built to hold back the sea. As you would expect in a time of major change there are conflicting interests and expectations!
Imaginary Posters 2068
The exhibition is on until the 4th November 2018 at Le Domaine Taboureich, Marseillan. I hope at some point to be able to add photographs of the work submitted by the other artists.
So there you have it, a vision for the "Thau in 50 years". A dead lagoon, sea barriers to block the sea, an airport to the moon, a new expanded town. An unlikely scenario, but without acceptance of the need for change and a strong environmental effort to improve the health of the ecosystem, who knows ...............................? The future is in our hands!