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Exploring art, light and sound in Lille

Over the summer we put a call out for Leeds artists who were interested in joining an international project led by an arts organisation in our partner city of Lille called “Les Rencontres Audiovisuelles”. They selected Leeds artist Paul Miller to participate and this is his account of the residency.

There were many reasons to be excited about the residency in Lille. I had never been to the city and I always look forward to learning and working in new environments. There was also the prospect of collaborating with people from different cultures and different practices.

It was a hectic week, with lots of people to meet and lost of thinking and working to do, all blessed with unseasonably warm and sunny weather.

I joined up with two Italian illustrators – handily both called Francesca – to form a collaborative team with three of the French artists from Rencontres Audiovisuelles, and we made our way to “Fat Madeleine”, a disused church near the centre of Lille. What a breathtaking building! As we set foot inside the imposing structure and explored the space, I think we were almost overwhelmed by the scale and the possibilities of what could be done creatively. The vast heights and flowing form offered great scope, but almost too many options!

It’s never straight forward collaborating with so many people, especially with such a brisk schedule, but everyone was so open minded and enthusiastic that the process, though challenging, was hugely enjoyable and productive.

So we picked our battles and set to work sketching out ideas and worked our way towards a cohesive end product. For me personally, having done quite a lot of projection-mapping projects, it was fascinating to see how these experts – much more experienced than myself – worked and created. Along with the illustrators, I was learning a lot and being inspired to think in different ways.

At the end of the week, after some rough projection tests an planning we left to carry on working towards the final pieces – an unusual process for me working remotely in this way, trying to co-ordinate a piece of work with 5 other people, plus a sound designer.

When we went back to Lille for the event there was the surprise of seeing what the second group of artists had created as well as our final pieces. The whole church was alive with sound and light! The event was a success and we got great feedback; there are plans to show all the work again in 2020.

I hope to be back in the city next year for the projection mapping festival and to continue relationships with the Rencontres Audiovisuelles team.

A film showing the work created by the international team can be viewed here

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