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The Mise en Art of Mountain Areas: Territorial Actors, Processes and Transformations

An Introduction
Sylvain Guyot
Traduction de Juliette Rogers
Cet article est une traduction de :
La mise en art des espaces montagnards : acteurs, processus et transformations territoriales

Notes de l’auteur

With thanks to Fabien Cerbelaud, cartographic engineer at the GEOLAB research centre (UMR 6042 CNRS), for the cartography.

Texte intégral

The mise en art of mountain areas: contexts and issues

1This special issue of the JAR/RGA focuses on actors and their intentionalities in order to explore the relationships between mise en art and mountain areas from the perspective of social and political geography.

2Mise en art (Guyot, 2015) is not merely the placement of an artistic project in a mountain setting. Literally “putting/making into art”, it is a spatial and temporal process that confers on artists, their works and their potential commissioners the power to intentionally interact with and transform territorial representations and dynamics. Mise en art is preferentially interested in art forms (sculpture, installation, performance, shows, land art etc.) that are situated, conceived and exhibited outdoors, specifically for their sites. Depending on the kind of artistic production, mise en art may be ephemeral, seasonal or permanent, provided that it leaves (material, immaterial, discursive or other) traces that can transform the particular mountain area into a desirable place. In this regard, permanent site-specific artistic projects are on par with certain seasonal environmental or land art festivals. Mise en art goes beyond the artialisation process, as defined by Roger (1997), to propose the transformation of mountain areas through a tripartite process of mediation / remediation / media coverage, focusing on relations between artists, those commissioning work, the public and residents.

3Although the connections between art and geography and those between art, nature, the environment and landscape have inspired considerable reflection among specialists in the social sciences, art history and aesthetics (see selected bibliography below), the study of mise en art as a factor of territorial transformation and legitimation opens new academic perspectives for geography and development. This special issue is intended to define and interpret the processes underlying mise en art in the mountains (in the Alps, and by extension the mountains of the world).

  • 1 The ADONA (Aesthetic dominations of nature: a political ecology of site-specific art in global peri (...)

4This issue contains seven research articles (see Table 1 and map, below) and two artistic proposals published in parallel in the section of the journal entitled “Mountains in Fiction” (see Table 2). The sites presented by the contributors to this special issue are part of – or will be joining – a developing database whose main sites can be seen in the following map and box.1

Map 1: The mise en art of mountains around the world, the sites being entered into the ADONA database and the locations of the sites discussed in this issue.

Map 1: The mise en art of mountains around the world, the sites being entered into the ADONA database and the locations of the sites discussed in this issue.

Some emblematic site-specific art projects
(source: Guyot, 2015)
The Alps, Pyrenees and Massif Central:
• VIAPAC in the Franco-Italian Alps:
http://www.viapac.eu/​
• Artistic gatherings in Chaillol, in the Champsaur:
http://www.cc-champsaur.fr/​Rencontres-artistiques-de-Chaillol/​32/​
• Vassivière in the mountains of the Limousin:
http://www.ciapiledevassiviere.com/​
• Hélicoop in the Vosges Mountains:
http://www.sentier-des-passeurs.fr/​
• The Lauzes trail in the mountains of the Ardèche:
http://www.surlesentierdeslauzes.fr/​
Mountains elsewhere in the world: the Americas & Africa:
• Djerassi in the mountains of California:
http://www.djerassi.org/​
• Eco-shrine in South Africa’s Amatola Mountains:
http://www.ecoshrine.co.za/​VIAPAC

5The interrelations of mise en art and mountains reveal the contemporary worldwide dynamic of aestheticising global peripheries (see photographs 1 and 2 below). We hypothesise that mise en art renews conceptions about and representations of mountain areas and is used by a variety of actors as a way to transform geographical areas (environmental NGOs, elected officials, the tourism sector, residents and others).

Photograph 1: On the site-specific Refuge d’art trail by Andy Goldsworthy, in the backcountry of Digne-les-Bains (France): Sentinel, Vallée du Vançon (Authon), 2000

Photograph 1: On the site-specific Refuge d’art trail by Andy Goldsworthy, in the backcountry of Digne-les-Bains (France): Sentinel, Vallée du Vançon (Authon), 2000

I can’t entirely explain why the cairn takes upon itself the role of the sentinel. It’s something that I just know. Perhaps it’s the way it sits with its quiet, compressed energy.” (Andy Goldsworthy)

Photograph by Sylvain Guyot, 2011.

Photographs 2a and 2b: The Snake Eagle geoglyph, by Anni Snyman, Great Karoo, South Africa, between local mediation (tourism development and environmental education with local guide Ebrahim Adams) and international media coverage (captured on Google Earth)

Photographs 2a and 2b: The Snake Eagle geoglyph, by Anni Snyman, Great Karoo, South Africa, between local mediation (tourism development and environmental education with local guide Ebrahim Adams) and international media coverage (captured on Google Earth)

Photographs: 2a - Sylvain Guyot and Julien Dellier; 2b - Anni Snyman.

6This special issue aims to critically probe mise en art’s territorial, political, economic and social functions and outcomes in mountain areas.

7The articles in this thematic issue are devoted to fuelling the emergent mise en art process on the basis of a critical analysis of the artists’ initiatives, the economic, political or other rationales of those who might commission their work and the reception of the works by various audiences (tourists, residents etc.).

Intentionalities and impacts of mise en art on mountain regions and landscapes

8Reading the seven articles and two artistic proposals together reveals certain commonalities and allows a classification of the intentionalities underlying the mise en art of mountains (Tables 1 and 2).

Table 1: The interpretations of the research articles

Author(s)

Article

Intentionality in the mise en art of mountains

Impacts

Antille, B.

Sculpture parks (Valais, Switzerland)

Landscape artwashing

Artificialisation

Férérol, M.-E.

Horizons: “Arts-Nature” (Sancy, France)

Artistic conquest of the mountain landscape

Environmental integration and mediation

Guyot, S.

& Saumon, G.

Sculpting the Wild (Montana, United States)

Artistic conquest of the mountain landscape

Socio-environmental integration and mediation

Husson, J.-P.

The artialised Vosges (France)

Artistic conquest of the mountain landscape

Re-appropriation

Portal, C.

Artificial mountains (worldwide)

Production of artefacts

Architectural scene-setting

Sechi, G.

Arte Sella (Trentino, Italy)

Artistic conquest of the mountain landscape

Environmental integration and mediation

Xiang W. et al.

The Mount Tianmen show (Zhangjiajie, China)

Landscape artwashing

Architectural scene-setting

  • 2 Works are usually commissioned by non-profit organisations, tourist offices, cultural institutions (...)

9There are two main interpretive keys to understanding the intentionalities of those responsible for commissioning2 mise en art in mountain areas: landscape artwashing and the artistic conquest of the mountain landscape.

10The first process, landscape artwashing, uses a mountain landscape to exhibit and promote artistic works or performances for territorial marketing purposes. Such artistic productions are much closer to the logics of the art and sightseeing markets than they are site-specific creation processes that cannot be relocated or transposed elsewhere. The mountain landscape thus becomes a medium for exhibiting and setting the scene in order to foster particular economic rationales in a given area, rather than serving as inspiration for an aesthetic reflection on the mountain landscape. Benoît Antille’s article on the canton of Valais in Switzerland dissects and skilfully demonstrates these generally mediocre interconnections between the art market, localised artistic projects and neo-liberal territorial marketing. He shows how some works artificialise natural mountain settings without exploring the territory’s real issues. In another register that defies comparison but is equally fascinating, the offering by Wei Xiang et al. presents the use of a live performance against a mountain backdrop to promote a sort of faux-authentic show that is intended to reconcile Chinese tourists with their country’s ethno-cultural diversity. The mountain is both stage and scenery.

11The second process, artistic conquest of the mountain landscape, uses artistic creation and production to transform the representations, rationales and territorial dynamics of mountain areas struggling with rural abandonment and a poor image. Thus, the mise en art takes place close to the mountains and is guided by strong landscape and ecological integration rationales. The articles by Giovanni Sechi, Marie-Eve Férérol, and Sylvain Guyot and Gabrielle Saumon are comparable in this regard, concerning artistic proposals tasked with reconciling mountain areas with their images, histories and population(s) in the service of effective tourism development. The article by M.E. Férérol presents the specific case of Horizons: “Arts-Nature” in Auvergne (France). The author shows that contemporary art should be taken into account in local economic and tourism development. By promoting the natural and immaterial heritage of the massif of Sancy, this land art festival has over the past 10 years become a factor in raising the area’s attractiveness and competitiveness, as well as a powerful tool to change its image. The article also highlights the need to associate the population with this kind of event to ensure its future. The case study of Arte Sella in Italy, explored by G. Sechi, also illustrates how site-specific art has been able to assert itself as a genuine territorial resource, although its appropriation by residents appears to be neither immediate nor guaranteed, thus requiring good coordination among the various actors involved. In the United States, in the state of Montana, it is precisely such a collaboration among residents with very different backgrounds (artists, tradesmen, gentrifiers, workers) that made the Sculpting the Wild project a success, although it remains fragile given the current American political orientation favouring the resumption of mining. Site-specific art is also used for environmental and social mediation, as demonstrated by the detailed descriptions of the many examples of works in these three articles. Jean-Pierre Husson’s reflections in his article on the Vosges concern an earlier phase of the process. He argues that massifs like the Vosges (France) would benefit from such initiatives, as long as a broader interpretation of the artialisation process is chosen.

12One more article is not directly related to these processes: Claire Portal’s contribution paves the way to thinking of mountains as artefacts, where the artificial mountain is itself the outcome of mise en art, which defines the mountain-object as an artistic and architectural production in its own right.

13The supplementary artistic proposals (in the “Mountains in Fiction” section) will foster a better understanding of artists’ intentionalities, which are sometimes limited by issues and strategies imposed by those commissioning the work (in the various articles in a body of work, for example), be they elected officials or economic actors. They will help readers to better understand certain artistic endeavours that are underway deep in the mountain areas.

Table 2: The interpretations of the artistic proposals

Artistic proposal

Artists or commissioner

Mountain area

Intentionality

Cerro Gallinero

Carlos de Gredos

Sierra de Gredos (Spain)

Poetic osmosis between art and mountain landscape

Harmonic Trail

Albert Mayr

Rittner Horn (Sarntal Alps, Italy)

Harmonic practice of mountains

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Bibliographie

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Besse J.-M. (ed.), 2010-a.– « La géographie comme référence en histoire des sciences, esthétique et philosophie ». Espace Géographique, Numéro spécial, 2010-3.

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Notes

1 The ADONA (Aesthetic dominations of nature: a political ecology of site-specific art in global peripheries) research programme will be funded by the IUF (Institut Universitaire de France) from October 2017 through September 2022.

2 Works are usually commissioned by non-profit organisations, tourist offices, cultural institutions or governmental administrations of various levels.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Map 1: The mise en art of mountains around the world, the sites being entered into the ADONA database and the locations of the sites discussed in this issue.
URL http://rga.revues.org/docannexe/image/3659/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,2M
Titre Photograph 1: On the site-specific Refuge d’art trail by Andy Goldsworthy, in the backcountry of Digne-les-Bains (France): Sentinel, Vallée du Vançon (Authon), 2000
Légende “I can’t entirely explain why the cairn takes upon itself the role of the sentinel. It’s something that I just know. Perhaps it’s the way it sits with its quiet, compressed energy.” (Andy Goldsworthy)
Crédits Photograph by Sylvain Guyot, 2011.
URL http://rga.revues.org/docannexe/image/3659/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,9M
Titre Photographs 2a and 2b: The Snake Eagle geoglyph, by Anni Snyman, Great Karoo, South Africa, between local mediation (tourism development and environmental education with local guide Ebrahim Adams) and international media coverage (captured on Google Earth)
URL http://rga.revues.org/docannexe/image/3659/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 4,4M
Crédits Photographs: 2a - Sylvain Guyot and Julien Dellier; 2b - Anni Snyman.
URL http://rga.revues.org/docannexe/image/3659/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 826k
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Référence électronique

Sylvain Guyot, « The Mise en Art of Mountain Areas: Territorial Actors, Processes and Transformations », Journal of Alpine Research | Revue de géographie alpine [En ligne], 105-2 | 2017, mis en ligne le 20 juin 2017, consulté le 18 novembre 2017. URL : http://rga.revues.org/3659

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Auteur

Sylvain Guyot

Professor of Geography, Université Bordeaux-Montaigne, UMR 5319 CNRS Passages, sylvain.guyot@cnrs.fr

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La Revue de Géographie Alpine est mise à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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