A second chance for objects, a second chance for people.
- (Association Emmaüs Magny-Cours, Fondateur Abbé Pierre)
Four years ago, Jean-Luc Dieny, a professor from the Nevers Burgundy École Supérieure des Arts Appliqués (graduate school of applied arts, ESAAB), proposed to the then-manager, Loïc Le Goff, that they organise a system to alter objects to produce new items with the help of the companions.
This led to several exhibitions being organised:
- “Cher design, Chair’s design” (cherished design, chair design) in 2014. The Nevers ESAAB’s 20 students from the applied arts skills upgrade classes (MANAA) worked with the Emmaus companions from Nevers Magny-Cours. The programme included a reflection process on design in recycling, a dialogue between industrial and artisanal designers, an unlikely but very fruitful meeting with the greatest ragpickers in France, some original scenography and an exhibition linking eight partners. The exhibition is still running; it was relocated to the Maison de la Culture de Nevers Agglomération (“Nevers House of Culture”, MCNA) and then the big national Emmaus Paris Salon which takes place in June at Porte de Versailles.
- “Vélo-cité” (bike city) in 2015. After the previous year’s experience with the chair project, 19 applied arts students returned to share the expertise they acquired from their experience with the Emmaus companions to build imaginative bikes. Once again, the outcome was astounding and the Magny-Cours community retains fond memories of the endeavour. Jean-Luc Dieny, professor at the Alain Colas school, was able to guide the students, and through the bike project they broadened their horizons to consider an ethical approach involving sharing.
- “Jardins – Cabinets de curiosité” (gardens – cabinets of curiosity) in 2016. Those involved in the project focused on the concept of cabinets of curiosity, rooms full of marvels filled with a range of eclectic and unusual objects akin to the bric-a-brac so dear to Emmaus communities, where people come on treasure hunts in the hope of finding a sought-after rarity.
- « Funambules des jardins » (garden tightrope walkers) beginning of 2017. For several months, 19 students worked with the Emmaus companions to create ‘metaphoric scarecrows’. As sustainable development is becoming a real need, words such as ‘recycling branch’, ‘reinvention’, ‘rehabilitation’, and ‘reparation’ all hark to the future and recall political commitment in the noble sense of the term, against the notion of programmed obsolescence.
Climate change is becoming sufficiently concerning for everyone to start thinking about their transport, consumption and life choices. It is thus essential to enable students at the beginning of their studies to understand that contemporary design does not have to involve adding a new object to the never-ending list of things that surround them.
These poetic, engaging and surprising objects are thus increasingly the fruit of the students’ very personal reflection and their unbridled creativity, which stem from their thoughts on ergonomics, the value of use or the renewal of conventional shapes, including notions addressed in their studies.
The production of these unusual objects has also revealed the infinite possibilities offered by the maelstrom of items that can be found through collection activities. This is a revelation because, as is the essence of making art out of something run-of-the-mill, one is making the ordinary sacred. Hijacking these ordinary objects shows that beauty is everywhere, including in objects which do not seem special, and that simply showcasing them can create what Kant put at the heart of the aesthetic experience: pure beauty. Like Marcel Duchamp, we believe that we can find beauty in a seemingly ordinary object if we take it away from simply its functional value. We are even disrupting the concept of a work of art.