SuperVal is a participatory public art project, designed as a poetic path to practicing everyday hospitality in new ways. In 2016, two French art institutions, Centre national des arts plastiques (CNAP) and Cité de la céramique – Sèvres & Limoges, accepted an invitation from the Greater Paris regional authorities to take part in a project in the Val d’Argent district of Argenteuil, a suburb northwest of the capital. The goal of the unique partnership was to develop initiatives for residents and make the public a true stakeholder in cultural processes. The Agrafmobile association, led by Malte Martin and Lola Day, was entrusted with art direction.

The local community was called on to design poetic signposts in the form of ceramic birdhouses, a hundred of which were installed throughout the Val d’Argent neighbourhood. The welcoming birdhouses reflect the district’s kind, generous nature, in contrast with the image conveyed all too often by the media for many years. A multitude of children, adolescents and adults took part in the collaborative creative process at the Super Val workshop set up by the Argenteuil municipal authorities on Esplanade de l’Europe. During these group events, participants expressed their creativity and had fun modelling clay into thin ceramic tiles, which were then fired in a kiln and decorated using traditional techniques.

Community spaces

What strikes you while strolling through Val d’Argent is the number of trees. You’re told that the city is a concrete jungle, but trees are there to line your path on Place de la Commune and along the streets heading southward. Peering through the leaves, I saw the city’s stony buildings, making me wonder whether there were also residents in the trees. As a child, I dreamt of building treehouses in the branches and watching people and my residence from up high. A public housing residence is like thousands of treehouses in buildings, living spaces that together form a community. At nightfall, a light glows in each home. Each of the nearly identical windows are backlit, like blue or yellow nightlights. The idea may be to dot the trees of Val d’Argent with other types of living spaces: birdhouses, nests, treehouses, nightlights, shelters… Design and ceramics provide the form, while graphic design enables the participants to express themselves individually and as a group through a unique composition bearing their stroke. Each participant will able to take part in creating a birdhouse, treehouse or nightlight, contributing to an art project that will be spread across public spaces in Val d’Argent.

Every resident, association and public facility can come up with their own design for a living space, caring for and nurturing the city with these curious objects, which may be found hanging at a community centre, library, non-profit or shop, in a school courtyard or on your own balcony…

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