The performance follows the fascinating history of the city and the surrounding region through its establishment, its industrial ages, leading to its current incarnation as a centre for digital technologies and education.
Alex revisited the project in 2020 to create a digital recreation of the original performance.
The Red Cordon
In 1008, a terrible famine brought the Plague. According to the local tradition, the Virgin Mary held a cordon around the city which, miraculously, has since protected its people from the disease. Since then, every year at that time, the Valenciennois used to walk around the 14 kilometres (9 miles) road round the town, in what is called the tour of the Holy Cordon.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valenciennes
The cordon is referenced several times throughout the work as a red circle. While the cord relic disappeared in 1793, it is illustrated as a red cord. Each time the city faces hardship, such as destruction in World War 1, extensive bombing during World War 2, or the demise of the coal mining industry, the city manages to rebuild and reinvent itself. The red cordon is arguably still working over 1,000 years later.
Each square of the video mapping was lined up to project onto boxes that were moved into position by Alex to create an evolving stage that reflects the themes and structures of the video. It reflects the building and destruction of the city. The finale of the performance has the boxes arranged into a solid wall. It represents both the strength of the city’s resilience, and the physical form of Serre Numérique.
The choreography of placing the boxes had to be rehearsed many times. They needed to be put into the right position just before each video element started playing. For the final performance there were no cues, so Alex had to memorise the entire 15-minute performance.
Every visual element refers to specific events or associations of Valenciennes. They are arranged approximately in a historical order.
Photos from the original performance
The music for the performance was created and recorded by Alex May. It incorporates sounds recorded in Valenciennes.
- Talk: Digital Arts Practice in the time of the Pandemic – July 20, 2020Alex May will preview new work in response to the pandemic lock down, exploring the opportunities and drawbacks of dissemination of digital arts online.