Art in the countryside…with a taste of science

Between 13 July and 15 August, the second edition of the Art en Campagne exhibition took place in the countryside of the Pays de Gex and across the French-Swiss border. Works from around twenty artists were exhibited at various locations in the municipalities of Ornex (F), Versonnex (F) and Collex-Bossy (CH). The exhibition was not dedicated to science but, on closer inspection… 

(Photo by Frederik Beeftink)
Did you have a chance to stroll around the village of Versonnex in August? If so, you might have come across a quite bizarre object, a sort of black and blue egg hanging from a tree, with what could easily be taken for a ballroom chandelier on top of it. Beside the egg, a board read: “Objet trouvé dans les entrailles du sous-sol: un boson d’un certain M. Higgs”, and then “Il semble qu’il circule dans les cercles intimes du CERN, mais toute trace de lui manque pour l’instant”.

The “boson” was an artwork by Frederick Beeftink, one of the artists who participated in the second edition of the Art en Campagne exhibition, organised by the two French municipalities of Ornex and Versonnex and the Swiss village of Collex-Bossy. The event was co-organised by Jean-Michel Tieffenbach, a member of the municipal council of Versonnex, and Michel Mercier, mayor of Ornex.

“We were inspired by what the Land Art artistic movement was doing in California in the 1960s. We then added the idea of a treasure hunt along the paths of our cross-border region”, says Tieffenbach. “One of the rules we set for the exhibition was that the artists had to use only natural or biodegradable materials, and above all that the works should not have a commercial value – a simple way of avoiding thefts”. In the Art en Campagne exhibition, Nature is seen as a blank page, to be filled with wood, stones, earth, sand and rocks, and, of course, with one of the rarest natural elements: inspiration.

So, what has the Higgs boson got to do with all this? “The artist’s intention was to underline in a humourous way that the exhibit was located near CERN’s installations at Versonnex: a piece of humour spiced with a touch of mystery, and at the same time an aesthetic achievement… an egg, which promises to reveal something we don’t yet know”, continues Tieffenbach.

“Getting people from across the borders to meet was of course one of the aims of the exhibition: the LHC is a ring that can be viewed as a circle uniting the whole Pays de Gex and the neighbouring area of Switzerland. Mais nous vivons aussi dans la région de Rousseau, Voltaire, et Mme de Staël. Alors dans ce sens Art en Campagne participe modestement à cet esprit de vivre ensemble dans un cercle de lumière”, Tieffenbach concludes.

Further information about the Land Art movement can be found on this Wikipedia page.

by Roberto Cantoni