The Charterhouse of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, a setting dedicated to authors from all over the world

The Charterhouse of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, a setting dedicated to authors from all over the world

Beautiful worn white walls, cloisters overlooking cells where authors have replaced the monks: the Charterhouse of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, former papal palace and jewel of the monasteries of the south of France, celebrates its half-century of artistic residencies.

Passing through the monumental portal of this vast complex of buildings dating back four centuries, then strolling through its silent corridors and its gardens, the visitor has the feeling of entering a parallel universe, far from the crowds that are nevertheless very close and encumber the streets of Avignon, on the other side of the Rhône, during this festival period.

However, it is indeed theatre, dance or even the circus that is also in question here, on the Gard side of the river, since the founding in 1973 of the "International Center for Research, Creation and Animation (Circa )", designed to accommodate artists like a "French-style Villa Medici".

The American choreographer Merce Cunningham, the French composer Pierre Boulez, the director Patrice Chéreau or the writer Pascal Quignard have "played the game" of the residence in the past, notes Marianne Clévy, at the head of the Chartreuse for a little more than two years.

Since 2014, the activity has refocused on the work of writing the different forms of performing art, leaving music or cinema to others.

Between 120 and 150 authors, whose work "requires time for research, experimentation and creation", are welcomed there throughout the year for residencies ranging from 15 days to two months.

Confirmed or emerging artists, coming from France, Belgium, Switzerland or more distant countries, in particular from Africa or the Near East, they are housed in the former cells of the Carthusian monks, numbered from A to Z and now equipped with all modern conveniences.

"For them, it's an opportunity to work outside the noise of the world, but also to create ephemeral communities around the table d'hôtes that they share every evening", explains Marianne Clévy.

creative freedom

"The objective of the residences is not that it necessarily leads to a play. Here, I feel free to create", confides in a shaded courtyard away from the large cloister the Haitian poet and playwright Jean d'Amérique, who at 28 has already made several stays in Villeneuve.

If there is no obligation of result, it nevertheless happens that shows emerge at the end of this preparatory work and the exchange with peers or with visitors, who can attend every Thursday evening. to readings of works in progress.

Some texts then integrate the "Rencontres d'été", a festival which traditionally takes place in July and hosts, in addition to its own productions and those of foreign partners, pieces from the "in" and "off" of the Festival d'Avignon.

This is the case of the show "La Boîte de Pandore", created by two young authors, Marion Coulomb and Pépita Car, who developed during a residency the definitive framework of their story, where whispered confidences, furious guitar riffs and breathtaking acrobatic numbers.

The Franco-Italian "dancer, choreographer and masseur" Massimo Fusco, 37, presented "Corps Sonores", an "installation" where spectators can enjoy a massage, if they wish, while listening to the headphones of the experimental music and sound recordings recorded during massage sessions in medico-social centres. During a residence in the spring, he refined a "version intended for children", he explains.

“Here, you can leave your cell door open, and in this case create porosity with the others, test things to see if they resonate. Or the door remains closed, and you remain more in isolation. You have a choice, and going back and forth between the two options is easy," he said.

Until September 17, the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Center de Rencontres is also an opportunity to discover black and white photos taken in the early 1950s by filmmaker Alain Cavalier, when the former monastery, deconsecrated at the Revolution, was home to dozens of poor families and was a more or less disreputable neighborhood within Villeneuve-lès-Avignon itself.

The Editorial Board (with AFP)

Image credit: Creative Commons / Wikimedia

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