Since 10 years the Brussels based arts collective Various Artists is working on Boucalais, a 100km walk from Boulogne-sur-Mer to Calais in the North of France. From 2011 on they invite other artists to join along the walking trail, sharing the experience of the mobile creative studio ‘Boucalais’. The Being Boucalais project is an experiential four day walking tour for three persons.
Being Boucalais gathers artists, curators, or writers for a four day performance on the road from Boulogne-sur-Mer to Calais.
Boucalais is a walking trail from Boulogne-sur-Mer to Calais which Various Artists travels several times a year for almost ten years now.
Boucalais started in 2005 as a fixed walking trail, and grew over the years to a format, a state of mind. The walking format challenges the artist’s production mechanisms, and makes room for another interpretation of what constitutes artistic work. At times, the work is no more than a distinctive mark or a trace on the trail. The Various Artists are thus continuously led to adapt their idea of creation and constantly develop different work methods.
The creations are poetic expressions on the road, as it were, and which – given the mobile context – are necessarily on a small scale or ‘light’.
In this sense Boucalais can be seen as a real-time performance, a performed creative process out of which work emerges that is shown either en route or at predefined locations along the trail: interventions on the roadside and routines in hotel rooms are subtle installations and markings executed by Various Artists, but without an audience consciously looking on. These are but small interventions in the landscape, fragments of songs by a singer-songwriter, anonymous witnesses who return every day for this temporary artist-walker.
At the same time the Boucalais project also pays homage to the artist-collector who, in the course of his journey, assembles a collection of objects and observations, which will – sometimes literally – be dragged back to their studio as so many installations and ‘objets trouvés’.
With Being Boucalais the focus of the walk experience shifts from an individual to an observation exercise where three participants immerse themselves in a particular environment where fiction and reality are mixed in real time.
The initial goal of this interactive series was to present the walking art project Boucalais to this group as a mobile creation studio. After a few trips Various Artists realised that tapping into the creative DNA of the participants, multiplying several accidental occurrences, and accumulating these actions trigger elaborate story lines.
The scripting of the banal and the ritualisation of the holiday stroller’s routine creates a puzzling set of situations for the participants. Manipulating and repeating some of the occurrences make the participants doubt the veracity of their daily experience along the walk.
The initial vagueness of the set of instructions, and the use of non-art practices (like objets trouvés, faux art, local craftwork and its appropriation) introduce the partakers to a collective and interactive experience. Connecting and communicating with locals is encouraged, as outsiders can introduce new elements into the process.
Halfway the trip, in Hotel Bellevue in Wissant, every guest is asked to create a ‘roomwork’ in his/her hotel room: a temporary, non-intrusive installation/performance that should be documented.
The walks are guided by Paulo Sudo, who is the spokesperson, and mediator for Various Artists. He plays with obviousness, clichés and heavy-handed jokes by parodying tourists, and exaggerating certain aspects inherent to our vacationist society.
Since 2013 Being Boucalais got another dimension by adding thematics to the walks. Four versions have been realised so far with the themes 'RGB', 'Stalker', 'Les Mariées', and 'Backstage'. In this setting the performative aspect becomes more important. From a group observing their surroundings, the focus shifts to the performers becoming the centre of attention.
The results of Being Boucalais range from performances on the road, storytelling, collections of found objects, to documentation (a crucial element of the Being Boucalais project).