Nestled in the French Pyrenees at 750m altitude, 10km from the Spanish border and surrounded by snowcapped peaks, waterfalls and forests, is the picturesque thermal town of aulus-les-bains. In the town, housed in a beautifully renovated 19th century hotel, is camp – the first of a new breed of arts residency. In 2018, camp will run a short series of five-day arts, music, writing and arts-activist sessions. These are no ordinary courses – they are intense, artistic catalysts run by internationally acclaimed practitioners; creative flashpoints designed to change the lives of everyone involved. The courses combine work in our well equipped facilities with projects carried out in the mountains.
A: CAMP houses advanced facilities to students, who are both residential and non-residential. What do these include?
C: Our students are all residential – CAMP is too remote to visit on a non-residential basis. So people studying live here for a while, five days usually, it’s a really great environment to live and hang out as well as work. In terms of facilities, we have a gallery and performance space, rehearsal spaces, digital editing suites, a Pro Tools recording studio, cinema, arts library, dark room and classrooms with multichannel listening environments, high tech learning AV and tons of other equipment, instruments and studio gear.
A: Could you expand upon your recent courses, and what they offer in terms of talent development and new practices?
C: Our first batch of courses start in April 2018. In terms of new practices, that’s what our sessions are about. The idea is that, within the frame of a masterclass, participants will actively make work, collaborate, be inspired, do things. The people leading the sessions have changed art forms, and continue to do so – Anne Bean, Laure Prouvost, Gavin Bryars, Chris Watson, Christina Kubisch, Eli Keszler – they’re unique, focused artists who pursue their own individual aesthetics and philosophies and, crucially, they’re able to transmit that to other people. CAMP is the ideal environment to develop new ways of working – you could basically start a pretty successful cult here, the isolation, the overwhelming nature – it’s perfect for mind-forming.
A: How do you think the location of CAMP affects the development of practices?
C: It has a huge effect, both on the way session leaders carry out masterclasses, and on the way people react and work here. For some of our masterclasses the link is obvious – Chris Watson specialises in environmental recording, and the surrounding natural habitats are perfect for his work; Christina Kubisch’s work explores hidden sonic ecosystems, so the link to the location is crucial. Sometimes the link is less literal, more oblique, but it’s always there. For example, Eli Keszler has a stunning track record reacting to environments and creating site-specific work – check out his Manhattan Bridge installation – but it’s reactive and organic, the effect of the location is unknown before the event. The same is true of Anne Bean’s session. In the most basic, traditional sense, the location is inspiring – we’re surrounded by snowcapped peaks, glacial lakes, cascading waterfalls. It’s all wonderfully accessible, too – ten minutes’ walk from the front door and you feel like you’re the only person alive; an hour and you’re summiting 2km peaks; two hours and you’re gazing up close at the rock wall of the France/Spain border chain, complete with vultures, eagles, bears and lammergeiers…
A: How important is space in the mind of the artist?
C: I think there are a lot of different types of space, and they’re all important to artists and musicians. Space in a physical sense, as in the relationship between instances of things, or the time between sounds; space in an environmental sense, the sense of space in our surroundings; space in a lifestyle sense – the space to think, to work. I think that’s something that traditional artist residencies provide, and we want to try to provide a sense of that at CAMP, despite the short duration of sessions.
A: In what way do the courses “generate revolutions” and support artists who are emerging within the industry?
C: We’ve been running the Bomb Shop record label for almost a decade, and we started Fuse Art Space in 2014. We’re deeply embedded in the UK experimental music and arts scenes, we’ve been funded, unfunded, DIY; we’ve slowly built a platform which launches emerging artists, and a network to help them get their work out. After every CAMP session, our relationship with participants continues – we provide release and publication opportunities, and exhibition/performance opportunities both at Fuse Art Space and across our network of European partner organisations. When we talk about “generating revolutions”, we’re sort of setting the bar for what we expect from CAMP’s sessions – we want to foster activism, we want people to actively take what our masterclass leaders put to them, and use it to move forward, change things. We’re also committed to making sure emerging artists, students and people on low/no income can afford to come to CAMP – there’s a ton of information on our website about different funding options.
A: You have a number of well-known practitioners teaching, including Laure Prouvost and Eli Keszler. What do you think they will offer students in terms of forward-thinking, multi-disciplinary practices reflective of the 21st century?
C: Every session is different, every session leader brings something different and amazing to CAMP. Laure is a true radical – constantly surprising in her practice, full of dissident energy – her seamless blending of reality and fiction is so artful; Eli is a real creative force, constantly absorbing his surroundings and reacting – his session will be an incisive exercise in artistic awakeness. In terms of examining modern composition for small and large ensembles, for stage, film and opera, Gavin Bryars is an unmatched talent – he has relentlessly worked beyond the boundaries of established artforms for decades. Anne Bean’s commitment to original, revolutionary live art is well documented (though, as she says, “the flight is the thing, not the pinned butterflies.”)
Elsewhere in our programme, Christina Kubisch is pioneering methods of listening, recording and composing which were unimaginable two decades ago – building rhythmic and tonal matter from urban electromagneticism and sub/supersonics; Apartment House lead a small group through the conceptual maze of indeterminate music and untraditional scoring; ambient pioneer and Eno-collaborator Laraaji pilots his trademark cosmic deep listening sessions; and Chris Watson will illuminate the sonic environment around us. I suppose the uniting thread between all of our sessions is the forward focus – we take a specific field of practice, find the most pioneering practitioner to lead a masterclass, and then assemble all the support tools required to make sure participants have the very best opportunities in the longer term. These sessions should be catalytic events.
A: What are your plans for 2018?
C: We have a full schedule of masterclasses planned between April and October – we haven’t announced the full programme yet, there are a few things still to come, but most of it is on our website (campfr.com). After October, we have to close for winter – we’re a kilometre above sea level so the snow settles in early and stays until late March. We’re currently literally snowed in – the door won’t open. Luckily we have a large amount of wine, cheese and potatoes. It’s incredibly beautiful, and as soon as we figure the logistics out we’ll definitely programme some snow-based sessions. We’re also planning some different types of events in between masterclasses – symposiums, art-activism workshops, film and music festivals, short breaks for refugee families, an environmental conference – more info on all of that will appear on our website soon.
For more information: www.campfr.com
1. Sarah Faraday.