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Description of the event’s development

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Anxious to pay tribute to earth as a key component of the Comines economic activity on which thousands of individuals have depended and still depend for a living, the Comines-Warneton Arts Centre launched the art/terre event in 1994.

For the second event, in 1996, the artists were selected on the basis of a project. As well as raising the artistic level of achievement, this selection process pointed the event in a direction clearly focused on contemporary monumental works.

A new dimension emerged in 1998 : raising awareness of contemporary art. As one event succeeded another it became clear to us that in addition to the competitive side of the competition, art/terre offered an incredible opportunity for artists from different backgrounds to meet, share experiences and compare notes. Helping the general public to gain a good understanding of the artists’ work is also conducive to bringing the visitors and artists into closer contact with each other. Earth may continue to be the main concern but it is no longer simply a material but the very essence of the competition. Earth as a material no longer has to be the centrepiece of the completed work.

2004 : the regulations now stated that the aim of the competition was to showcase original artistic works where earth is a key component : earth has to be the basis of the work and/or theme. Accordingly, the competition was opened up to new forms of expression : ceramic items and sculptures were now keeping company with land art, performances, sound and visual installations, etc.

2006  : for the first time in the competition’s history, the Arts Centre was called to account by the inhabitants of a district : the Belgians and French living in Clé d’Hollande district. This marked the beginning of a new endeavour in which the inhabitants of one district became closely involved with the competition organisers. art/terre was re-appropriated by the district’s inhabitants after a fashion : a press conference in a local person’s living room, visual arts workshops involving different generations in the district in late August/early December, art/terre photography exhibitions in garages and artists being sponsored by local people.

2008 : a new milestone was reached : for the first time since its inception, the competition was staged in a semi-urban area. The choice fell on Houthem village centre, where the artists took over abandoned homes, gardens, highways, schools and a school courtyard. The theme of the competition was exactly the same : earth. The new event’s uniqueness meant the requirement being laid down that the theme should be interpreted as broadly as possible : earth not only as a material but also as a symbolic motif : earth had to be considered from the broadest perspective. Faced with all these projects being developed on their doorsteps the local people were filled with a mixture of feelings : questions, indignation and a sense of wonder. They also had the opportunity to stretch their arms and legs because their sense of a need to act as good neighbours prompted them to offer to lend a helping hand. The village school pulled out all the stops, while all the students were involved in the project of the artist who elected to work there. 2008 was undoubtedly a turning point in the competition’s history and will go down in the annals as an event teeming with opportunities for exchanges and a huge variety of artistic endeavours.

The site for the artistic activities in 2010 was consistent with the approach adopted for the 2008 event and involved a social housing neighbourhood : the Geuten district in the centre of Comines. In the mould of Houthem, the site has a semi-urban character : within the district, built-up areas rub shoulders with unused land that has been mowed and earmarked for children’s games. The competition theme was exactly the same : earth, still in the broadest sense of the term : earth not only as a material but also as a symbolic motif.

2012 : 10th event… art/terre will come to a halt in Comines centre, around an old disused canal which no human endeavour has managed to excavate although the work got underway nearly 60 years ago … Its trajectory is now the sole witness of an economic foray aborted during the first half of the 20th century. Its location line was also the site of fierce battles during the First World War, when Comines was left completely devastated, and the Second World War. What remains of the canal now wends its way through a section of Comines. The sites being contemplated for the artistic endeavours are located at three very different parts : the fisherman’s canal, the wilderness area and an area developed into an urban park. The regulations have been drawn up in conjunction with the regulations for the Entre-Lacs competition of Villeneuve d’Ascq, with a view to making a joint selection of projects and organising the activities at a similar time and from a similar perspective …