Welcome to our blog, documenting our time on a residency at the beautiful Chateau de Sacy, in the small village of Sacy-le-Petit, just north of Paris. We are staying in the chateau in May and July, preparing work for an exhibition in September 2016.
This is our final post about our residency at the beautiful Chateau de Sacy in France, which culminated with an exhibition at the Chateau for the month of September.
Back at the beginning of September, we installed the films in the barn of the Chateau, setting up a projector and sound system that was quite frankly fit for Wembley. With the dwarfs in place around the gardens and the clues and beautiful catalogue to hand, we were ready to open the gates for the private view.
There was a great turn out. The champagne bar went down well, though that could have been the dashing French bar man rather than the Le Clerc ‘buy one get one free’ champers. This did at least draw people up to the barn to view the films, where they seemed to linger for quite a while. We were really chuffed with how the films looked in the barn, it is an incredible setting, and the sound was phenomenal. The buzzing bees were particularly disturbing.
The dwarf trail had people wandering all over the garden, and we ended up having drinks on the terrace in front of the Chateau. A lovely afternoon.
Hermine translated the dwarf poetry to French so the local primary school children could do the dwarf trail, though we are not sure if they may have been too young to have their Disney dreams dismantled.
Looking back at the residency, we can see that this was a completely different way of working for us, producing work in a very short but intense period of time. However, there was room to experiment with new ways of working. We originally began doing the kind of stuff we are familiar with (interventionist, working with people) and ended up doing something out of our usual remit in making a film. Being at the Chateau was like being in a different world and gave us space to look back at our own lives and see them anew. And the result we think is one of the best pieces of work we have ever done.
When we went back to the Chateau at the beginning of October to deinstall, Hermine told us that the local Monsieur Mayor had thought she had a very bad wasp nest in the barn. No, she had told him, it’s just artists.
You can view the films on our website www.henrybragg.com
Apply for the residency yourself, applications currently open www.chateaudesacy.com We can’t recommend it highly enough.
Our last day. Sad face. Today we had a crack at the edits, looking through all the footage and trying to work out our ins and outs, quite literally. By mid afternoon, we had gotten tired of looking at hours of tunnels (and half an hour of Debbie’s lap. This was actually brilliant, with the soundtrack of us getting more and more lost in Paris and saying unspeakable things to the satnav. A piece of art in itself). We took a break and went to show our dwarfs some attention. Poor things have been hidden in the garage since we bought them at the brocante back in May. It was time to get the little babies out.
First we had to work out which was which, thank you google, and then we assigned their character traits to contemporary living:
Happy: On prozac
Grumpy: Worried about brexit
Doc: Brainy but can’t afford university fees
Sneezy: Has lots of allergies
Bashful: Low self-esteem
Sleepy: Working 2 jobs to make ends meet
We have hidden the dwarFs around the garden and have written rhyming couplet clues to help you find them. Since we are sharing the Chateau with a renowned poet, Hugo, we are keeping this under our hats for now. Hermine seems surprisingly supportive of this venture and is even letting them stay in the garden in the run up to the show. She was a bit worried that Justine also has a garden trail of works, though hers is a little more academic than ours it has to be said. Should be a good combo.
As our residency draws to a close, we have been looking back at our stay. Some of our more harrowing moments have included: getting to grips with driving in Paris, hanging off a motorway bridge, being surrounded by swarms of bees in sub-standard bee-keeping outfits, taking expensive camera equipment to really dodgy Parisian suburbs and giving a talk in French to a French audience. Oh and learning how to deal with moody French folk. It certainly has been a challenge but we have come away with the footage that we hoped for and think we can produce a bit of work of which we can be proud.
We are really looking forward to coming back in September and bringing our family and friends with us to see this beautiful place and show them the fruits of our labour. Sunday 4th September, 4pm. You are all cordially invited.
Keep in touch via our website www.henrybragg.com
There is one piece of footage that we are really struggling to find audio to match. So we left the dead cat out in the front garden for most of the morning to see what we could capture. Hermine spotted it from a distance and thinking it was animal, stalked it slowly. We have captured her yelps quite nicely. She was worried she had ruined our audio, but with an hour and half of birds tweeting we think we’ve got enough.
We thought we would wag off this afternoon and see the Tour de Fance on the last leg of its journey into Paris. It was starting at Chantilly, just up the road. We managed to find a quiet spot about 10km from the start. While waiting, the publicity caravan came passed. It was very creative (cars turned into giant chickens, dogs and cakes) and they hurled all sorts of things at us (saucisson, bread, super glue, spotty hats, yellow scarves and bottles of water – you don’t want one of those landing on your head). The peloton came passed VERY close, and the crowd went mental. Over in 2 minutes in flat, then we headed home.
We took a slight detour on the way back when we spotted some horses romping around a paddock. We recorded some audio of their neighing, whinnying and kicking out at each other. Then they came towards us, looking rather irate and really frisky. We noticed that the fence wasn’t very tall and legged it rather briskly back to the car.
Returning to the Chateau, Hugo and Hermine were having a drink al fresco and invited us to join them. They were polishing of the remainder of the rocket fuel from the night before. Are they mad? Conversation was lively. Hermine was recounting tales of romance amongst woofers. And let slip her ‘rules about dinner.’ Number 1: it is forbidden to talk about the food and how it was made (too boring). Number 2: It is forbidden to talk about the plots of films (as this always sounds shit). This is useful information as we are having dinner with them tomorrow for our last night, when Hermine is making Chard from the garden baked with a bechamel sauce (we won’t ask how she made the bechamel sauce. Or talk about Citizen Kane).
This evening we watched the difficult piece of footage again with every single bloody bit of audio we have recorded. And then we had a revelation. Julie actually cried, though that might have been because we are so tired / drunk / hungover. It doesn’t fit with the other films, so the goalposts have moved a bit. Which is a shame as we have designed the catalogue now and it goes to the printers tomorrow morning! But we think we might just have stumbled across something quite amazing. Fingers crossed it still looks as good in the morning.
Hermine had a bit of a mental breakdown in the run up to the presentation this afternoon. The stress of the big occasion was getting to her. We managed to get the place ready for 3.30pm and then sat patiently waiting for the guests to arrive (secretly praying no-one would come). The church bells struck 4, but no one was here yet. Ah well, lets call the whole thing off.
By 4.05pm, five people had arrived. Hermine was visibly relieved and hurried everybody up the stairs to the barn and started introducing us. Thanking her for the introduction (which of course was all dutch to us) we began. We ploughed through our opening gambit, to five very confused old French people’s faces, and then began the first film. A few more people arrived and snuck in the back. Then more, then more. By the time we were up to the bit about Blooming Britain and showing images of people’s council estate front gardens, the place was a full house. More chairs had to be fetched!
Hermine stopped us and suggested we start at the beginning again for the benefit of the latecomers. What!?! You must be joking. She must have seen the look on our faces, so she relented a bit and asked if we could talk a bit more about some of the garden images. Well, we can, we said. But not in French obviously. Have you seen Julie’s cheat sheet? So then began a back and forth translation as we talked about a few of the gardeners. And herein lay the problem. She got a bit confused, poor love, and started talking to us in French and the audience in English. Utter mayhem. We gave up on that idea and returned to our plan of one sentence followed by 50 images. There were a few questions at the end, which we muddled our way through. Then applause! Hurrah! Bring us a Picon Club. Fast.
Time for more cocktails and an interview with a 17 year old journalist who was super adorable, even down to his braces and his cute mum and dad in tow. There were a language difficulties there too, so will be interesting to see how that one looks in print.
Then onto the French artist Justine’s presentation. She has a lovely voice and the images are great, but we have absolutely no idea what she was talking about. There was a heated debate at the end of her talk, they seemed to be giving her a right old grilling, who knows about what, but she stood her ground like a proper champ.
More drinks, followed by dinner. Didier came round again with ratatouille and a variety of moonshine in ever increasingly interesting bottles. We ended on homemade Calvados from 1955, which made him immediately start singing. He started regaling tales about seducing married women with champagne and then he got his guns out. We all had a go chasing birds and each other around the garden with twin barrel rifles. Now that’s what we call a party!
Hugo said we had done them proud today. We hope it wasn’t just the moonshine talking. Conversation turned to how artists need to be prepared to put themselves up for failure. Well, we certainly did that today. But we think we got away with it. Just. Now put em up and give us all your money!
Firstly apologies for no blog yesterday. We basically spent all day sweeping up the barn (think mammoth spider webs and tonnes of pigeon shit). There has been a woofers revolt. They couldn’t handle Hermine any more and have done a runner. And we are taking up the slack. In Hermine’s words, “I hope I do not order you around too much but three wwoofers have gone in just one day and it’s odd not to have anyone to boss around.”
We were getting the barn ready for the presentation. Today we had a rehearsal with Justine, the French artist also on residency here, and Hermine and her husband Hugo who arrived from Paris yesterday. We bravely began our little talk, in what we believed was a gallant attempt at French. However, the faces before us were aghast. From Hermine, “But stop, I can’t understand a word you are saying. It’s non-sensical!” From Hugo, “This is absolutely pointless!” Crestfallen, we asked for a few pronunciation tips and continued. We ended up trying to mime out the words to get our message across. One person would be speaking whilst the other was acting it out. (Think bird: flappy hands, bee: buzz buzz, motorway: brum brum). We made it through to the end, to no round of applause unfortunately. Hugo seemed to love the work though, and was loudly shouting out praise about the various images, which made the whole ordeal worthwhile.
We stayed behind in the barn after the rehearsal and tried projecting some of our footage on the big screen. It really helped nail down what bits we are going to use and we are beginning to get excited about how it’s going to look. It was really validating, and confirmation that the films could work – that hanging off the motorway and driving endlessly round the Boulevard Peripherique might actually have been worthwhile.
After the rehearsal, Didier came over with bambi (who he had shot himself) and they got a massive bonfire going for the ritual pre-event BBQ. Didier’s grandson Mathieu was with him, playing with the fire and throwing anything he could find into it. Basically a miniature Didier. After scoffing down the venison (well not Julie obviously, but Debbie thought it was very nice), Hermine served the dessert, which she said was absolutely disgusting. (A shop bought number supplied by Hermine’s neighbour). Hugo exclaimed, “Well if Hermine says its disgusting, its probably bloody delicious. Its got some fruit in it and it’s not actually stale.” Slopping it onto the plates, Hermine insisted, “It will be alright if we have it with LOTS of wine.” There was lots of wine, and sangria, and Picon, a local liqueur Hermine wants to make cocktails with at the presentation tomorrow. It went down too well and we are being sent back to LeClerc tomorrow morning to buy more for the big day. We might just need it.