Florent Héridel is the new programming manager of the MAIF Social Club. He succeeds Chloé Tournier. Meeting with a culture madman.
What were you doing before coming here?
I was the cultural attaché of the French Institute in Hungary, and overall I had many functions within the framework of cultural cooperation abroad for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I worked in the United States, in Madagascar, I worked and at the French Institute in Paris, and I was there in Budapest as a cultural attaché. The link that was made between the MAIF Social club, which I knew, and the French institute in Hungary was all this work around how to make contemporary creation speak of debates of ideas. In Hungary it was naturally more questions of the rule of law, questions of diversity, of inclusion, a little bit of questions of sustainable development, but we tried to have programming that was rather political on the question of living -together. And here, this approach is somewhat the same; when we talk about travel, obviously we have a superb exhibition with the eyes of a dozen contemporary artists, but in fact what we are also talking about is how to rethink our travels at the dawn of the climate crisis, how to consume better, we are really on questions of sustainable development and questions of diversity.
The MAIF Social club is a place that redesigns itself each time to the point that it becomes unrecognizable. I wanted to know if it was something you wanted to perpetuate?
Of course, I subscribe to the continuity of my predecessor Chloé Tournier. She also worked in the field of cultural cooperation. I will continue to thematize the programming. There will be two subjects per year, very immersive scenographies.
Why insist on these immersive scenographies?
Because it is a place that works a lot on the issues of mediation. Our desire is therefore to be in contact with the public, with all audiences: schools, the public who are very interested in contemporary art, those who know nothing about it… It is also a field of creation which is ultimately quite unknown, which can sometimes be scary. These immersive scenographies allow everyone to feel welcome, everyone to return very regularly to the place to find out what is going on there.
This playful relationship to creation makes it possible to arouse happiness in visitors, whatever the discourse we are having, and whatever the works we are showing.
For me, it is absolutely essential to keep this approach. With young audiences it is obvious. For example, entering take the tangent, children say “Oh! We’re on a plane! “. It’s a tool to go further, we get them to look at the work of the Ortas. We are going to talk to them about migrations with Godinho… These very immersive scenographies make the public want to come back.
How do you manage to move on to the next exhibition with a place that is always in motion?
We are starting to think about our programming a year in advance. First, we are looking for the theme, the one that will allow us to embody these questions of values of sustainable development and living together dear to the MAIF Social Club.
So the scenography follows the theme?
Yes, first comes the theme, then the choice of a curator for the exhibition and then the scenographer.
Something rare, in your company a commissioner and a scenographer are always associated.
Quite and indeed it is not so regular. In a more traditional way, the institutions work with scenographers who are somewhat accustomed to the place. The particularity of the MAIF Social Club is to be hybrid. Very quickly, the first question that is put to the curator, even before the start of work on the list of works, is to know who will be the scenographer and towards what scenography we want to go.
The MAIF is supposed to be a place of life, a place of welcome. We can really spend the whole day there without having any prior cultural code.
Absolutely, the MAIF Social Club is a place open to all and totally inclusive. I would even say that what interests us is to be the most inclusive place possible. Visiting the exhibition is optional. It’s our job to make the public feel as welcome as possible in the most caring place possible.
Precisely, you pay very fine attention to the accompaniment.
As soon as you enter, relationship managers are there to welcome you. They will carry out a light investigation by asking you if you know the place and the reason for your coming. This allows you to orient yourself as well as possible, without you ever feeling obliged to do anything. The space includes a concept store with eco-responsible products, a café where you can eat and drink, a coworking space with wifi accessible to everyone, an exhibition space, a workshop… and all of this is free. . The person is free to roam wherever they want.
Now that we have understood the identity of the MAIF social Club, let’s talk about the future. What will be the big exhibition of the fall?
From September 2022, and until July 2023, we will talk about forests. The title of this highlight is “Le chant des forêt”. There will be a program related to the exhibition. Why forests? Because on the one hand, it is a theme that is very broad, that can be approached in a poetic, scientific, political, social way… The forest song will be a tribute to this beautiful ecosystem that feeds itself, to these roots that allow trees to talk to each other and communicate about the arrival of a predator, to exchange nutrients, that sort of thing. The principle of the canopy is an ecosystem in itself, the way light allows trees to grow in different ways. But beyond this ecosystem and biological aspect, there is the symbolic part of the forest, that of the tales: Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf, the witch… In the continuity of this figure of the witch, we ask the question of the forest as a hiding place. Reclusive people, the wood of all resistance fighters. The forest is a place where we hide when we are an excluded person from society, for example the homeless and prostitutes. Then of course, we will highlight deforestation in order to talk about the indigenous peoples who are fighting to save their culture, since their culture is part of the forest. In mirror, we will try to aggregate tools allowing us to limit our impact on deforestation through our consumption.
This is an exhibition that takes its subject by the roots!
Yes ! It will be poetic, political and biological (laughs)!
This subject calls for a hellish scenography. We have already seen trees planted at the MAIF Social Club, I imagine that you will take us elsewhere.
Make a forest in the place it has already been done and moreover it is a little too obvious. So we want to create a museum space that would have been abandoned and that nature is in the process of reclaiming. The scenographer is Benjamin Gabrié, he is known to have worked on The Sound of Wolves by Étienne Saglio at the Théâtre du Rond-Point; he had made it a mixture of forest and theatrical place.
The MAIF Social Club is also a venue for shows. What will be your line and what are your desires in terms of live performance?
My vision of live performance is to be as multidisciplinary as possible: dance, theater for young audiences, puppetry, and even… ombromania. In general, it is a question of crossing, within the framework of the exhibition, with the live performance. I want to program a live show that talks about politics, that talks about diversity, that will appeal to both children’s audiences and young audiences, since we’re also trying to target plays for high school students, something that we didn’t have until -the.
And at the level of the artists, is there a will in your live performance programming, to make people discover, to be in the emergence or on the contrary to have big names?
There will be big names and there will be emergence. For example, there will be Xavier Le Roy, who in terms of the underground, is an artist who is recognized internationally but not by the general public. He is one of the great creators of non-dance.
Does that mean that you placed an order with Xavier Le Roy?
I knew and admired the work of Xavier Le Roy, I had discovered him in Budapest. I met him and I spoke to him about the theme. We decided to show a work that has been shot a lot and that can fit into the theme. In his case, the theme spoke to him and he had an adequate piece.
In the subsidized environment and even more so when it comes to contemporary dance, the shows are performed 2 or 3 times… Being able to run the works is essential.
It seems coherent to me to change our consumption habits, it would seem just as coherent to me to modify our cultural consumption habits. It is not because a work dates from twelve years ago that it cannot be shown. On the contrary, even. There are a lot of things that are extremely interesting, but that we no longer show under the title “yes, but it was already shown in Avignon in 2014”. It’s absurd because if we want to reach, at some point, a wider audience, if precisely we want to stop having a show that is seen by the same two thousand people all the time, we have to rethink things .
You also want to show other forms.
Yes, we also have to offer a space for new creation with other disciplines so that we can reach other audiences. And for me that is essential, precisely, so that we get out of this dynamic “We need the show that was presented in Avignon last year”. But it’s also interesting to offer things that have already existed and that we’ve heard about and that it’s ultimately rare to see. In the shows that we are going to offer, there are some that I saw a little while ago and that have not been replayed since. We must avoid “fast-fashion”, but also “fast-culture”! And it’s up to the programmer to take on this responsibility because the artists themselves are ready to take out of their repertoire works that they created ten years ago.
Visual: ©Jean-Louis Carli / MAIF