It’s in a very prestigious location that took place the first Parisian edition of the Creative Mornings series organized by Aleksandra Mandic Killy.
I must be honest, I had never heard of this event/concept. I was simply checking the Paris City Hall website for events to see during my stay here and saw the announcement for the “Paris Creative Mornings”, and it said “open to all but registration required”. I liked the openness of it so I did register and I did go at 8.30am, as did a huge “creative” crowd.
The event was opened by Deputy Mayor of Paris Mr Christophe Girard, supporter of this very first Parisian edition, “we’re a bit behind though” he says rightly as Paris comes after about 20 cities that are having these monthly creative breakfasts, some like New York where it first started in 2009. “I’m here to welcome you at your City Hall” says Mr Girard “whether you’re Parisian or not, this is your space.” I did feel welcome, and isn’t culture there to get rid of all these frontiers anyway.
There are of course still way too many borders in culture and unfortunately, these are not just about geography. The speaker of this first creative morning, Marion Hislen, is one great example of these innovative people who work beyond these frontiers. Marion Hislen is the founder of the cultural organization Fetart, initiator of the festival Circulation(s) aiming to showcase emerging talent from across Europe in the heart of Paris. The festival took place for a month until 25 March 2012.
Marion Hislen was asked by the organizers to tell a personal story so she started from the very beginning: her childhood and youth in an artistic family of architects, musicians, theatre costume makers… She was herself sent to dance school at an early age. “My mother said ‘my daughter will be a dancer'” says Hislen. Then at 18, she started to work as an “employee”, the very first one in that creative family. “‘I’m going to the office’ were words never pronounced before me in our family.”
Arriving at 30, Hislen decides to leave it all and work in the cultural field. She studies Art Sociology, Bourdieu theory, then starts with organizing a Chinese contemporary exhibition in Paris. The collector she was working with had a wonderful photography collection. Following this experience, a few financial troubles come her way and she gets back to the private sector for a little while, but always with photography somewhere in her mind and close to her heart. “If I want to do this, I told myself, I need to work at it” explains Hislen, “so I created a foundation to support young photographers.” That’s when she founds the association Fetart. The first exhibition is organized in 2005, and until 2012 they’ve organized 43 exhibitions of photography.
“In France there’s not that much opportunity for photographers outside the press” says Hislen, “galleries prefer to work with professional artists who can produce more, they also won’t always take the risk to exhibit emerging artists. As for the fairs are linked to the galleries.” So concretely, Fetart organizes open calls at the European level to gather as much work as possible and through a jury, select the photographers. The very first step is selecting 8 photographs out of the 350 images usually presented, then they work on the formats, “many photographers want big formats but we also like to work with smaller formats” she says. Then the focus is on the paper (glossy, mat…), the framing and finally asking the artists to talk about their work, “which isn’t always easy. Sometimes you don’t have a lot to say but you need to be able to tell the story of your photo series” says Hislen, which is also why Fetart thinks it is part of their work to support artists in presenting themselves. And one major role as a foundation is to get audiences: professionals and the general public. “Relationships can be built but sometimes it takes really long, say two years, to get work following up the expo” she adds.
Next to the exhibitions, Fetart also organizes feedback sessions, the “Lectures de portfolios”: the photographers present their portfolio to professionals and can receive a wide variety of feedback. “There is no good photography” says Hislen, “we can all have completely different views on an image.”
As for the business model of Fetart, they have 50 euros in cash and work with many volunteers and partner organizations. “Everything is free for the photographer. We’re all in the exchange, we don’t have a space. So we don’t really earn money and exhibitions are hosted by partners” explains Hislen. For one of the exhibitions they’ve even completely rehabilitated a space with their own means and help from friends. This way of working also allows a warmer and more friendlier experience according to Hislen, including for the visitor: “When you enter one of our exhibitions, you can feel home and in a warm atmosphere, unlike in many galleries. That is because we build the whole space ourselves. We ask friends to help out, all on a voluntary basis. It creates links! Our festival also creates links you would normally never be able to have in Paris, like having a beer with the curator photography of the Musee du Jeu de Paume.”
So far they have seen very good results with photographers receiving important prizes. In 60% of the cases an exhibition at Fetart gives active contacts to the photographer. Showcasing works is therefore really important. But in order to gain credibility as a foundation, they needed an annual event and therefore become a bit more institutionalized. This is how the Festival Circulation(s) has started. For the first edition, they have looked during one year for a place to host the festival and the Mairie de Paris has supported the foundation which hosted the 2012 edition of the festival at the Parc de Bagatelle in Paris.
A very inspiring talk that was followed by an informal gathering around coffee. Whether you like “networking” or just listening, you will definitely gain something from spending a short hour every month learning about what other people are doing. It is also refreshing that the event is cross-sectorial and you can hear about a photography project, then maybe future sessions will present designers, advertisers, developers, sculptors, or artistans to speak about how they work in the very wide and rich creative sector. I personally wouldn’t have known about the festival Circulation(s) and Fetart if I hadn’t come to this Creative Mornings session.
Looking on the web for more information about other Creative Mornings, I found out one was about to start in Utrecht with a first session on 30 March 2012. I think all cities need such events as it is always helpful to hear from other professionals, especially from a personal point of view. It is encouraging to see that many people around the world are trying to make things happen, all with their own means. And as Cory Doctorow says (he signed this in my edition of Makers): “Get excited + Make things!”