Chris Dugrenier is one of this year’s AA2A artists in residence at Coventry University. Dugrenier is a French visual artist who explores performance, video art, site-specific art and live art projects. ‘I have a vision for works that are poetic, layered, experimental, works that take time, that take place in unusual settings and that are demanding of their audience.’ (Chris Dugrenier on her website).
Wealth’s Last Caprice, NEAT14, National Justice Museum, Chris Dugrenier, 2014 [photo credit: Julian Hughes] / Parallels, New Art Museum and Art Gallery, Chris Dugrenier, 2016 [photo credit: www.artrabbit.com]
I met Chris Dugrenier in a flash. We shook hands, introduced myself and along with my fellow Student Rep, Saffron, welcomed her to the University.
A week went by since the swift first impressions – Chris is more often in on Mondays – and she was now being allocated a studio space. However, due to ‘maintenance and other complicated reasons’ – as written by the artist in her blog post – this did not happen right away. In response to this delay, Chris wandered around with a plinth, carrying along all her materials, in a peripatetic exercise. While this was happening, I had been offered a new studio, which I used as the background/canvas for my performance ‘So… This Happened’ – documented in the album ‘New Studio’. We were both given the opportunity to tie down to a new area, we both embraced performance, but ended up with different results – I settled and Chris ‘peripateted’.
At some point, we got to have a conversation about how the experience was going so far and I even pointed out spaces where she could put up work and/or set up a proper studio. This is when we debated our views of what a studio can be and what purpose(s) it truly serves. After explaining how her work will be stemming from the French philosopher Michel Foucault’s ideas developed in the essay ‘Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias’, Chris came over to look at and analyse what I had done.
As an art student, you find no difficulty in getting used to the norm that confines you to have a ‘studio’, preferably white-walled. Having one of these is scary but not having one might arguably be even scarier. We sanctify these spaces, create bonds – like me when I, while depicting childhood, decide to erase the white walls and create a new, vibrant, children-pleasing room – they become a safe space. After our exchange of thoughts about the work and upon reflecting on the more than pertinent questions Chris raised, I wondered if I had taken my most ‘adult’ decision so far by conforming and getting attached to a space, nonetheless, performing an act which is deeply connected to the boundless personality of a child.
Chris is an associate artist for Stan’s Cafe Theatre and performer/devisor for 30Bird (Domestic Labour: A study in Love). Some of her past projects include ‘Élan Vital’ (2012) performed in Embrace Arts, Leicester, inserted in Hatch: Scratch, ‘Wealth’s Last Caprice’ (2014) showcased during the NEAT14 and ‘Parallels’ (2016), based in the Leicester Museum.
More recently, for her short residency in Coventry, Chris selected three spaces around the School of Art & Design and came up with two proposals, being given the permission to spend two days in each space. One of her experiments spread throughout the studios is documented in detail in her blog post ‘Breeze… Breathe…’.
Breeze… Breathe, Coventry University, Chris Dugrenier, 2018 [photo credit: Chris Dugrenier]