Le Grand BanKet is a participatory project in Brussels initiated by Françoise Schein to create an installation of ten tables in public space and a public feast. As a climax to the participatory project based on meeting of people, and the free expression of making art without the aim of making art, the banquet feast was designed as a work of art, orchestrated by the collective Okup. One hundred and twenty participants from different generations and backgrounds, including residents and groups from the Sainte-Catherine area, created ten ceramic tables to host the Grand BanKet festival in the Place Sainte-Catherine, Brussels from 12.30pm on 26 June 2016. The work was commissioned for the tenth anniversary of the Centrale art centre, Brussels.
In October 2015, dozens of workshops were facilitated by Françoise Schein and two philosophers Simon Brunfaut and Volkmar Muhleis who reflected with the participants as they painted ‘ their’ four plate ceramic tiles with images of fish, vegetables, mussels and cakes that sometimes turned into surreal creations. All these plates form a composition of over ten tables, with both disparate and unified images made by the participants, gathered around the central intestine designed by Françoise Schein to suggest various interpretations of eating together. The Grand BanKet, as a metaphor of urban digestion, allowed local residents of all ages and cultures to meet, to talk, to paint, draw, listen and think as they participated in the creative and convivial activity.
Françoise Schein is a Belgian architect and urban planner, who has been developing projects all over the world, including France, Palestine and Brazil, where participants are central to the creative activity, with the intention to regain a sense of community and collaboration. The increasingly common contemporary art practice of mediating with the public, questions the status of the artist as author, limiting their individual role as initiator and facilitator, and moving towards the status of artist as designer who collaborates on their artistic ideas with diverse public audiences. Le Grand BanKet is a project that emphasizes the dialectic of a pragmatic conception of art as a process involving shared relationships and the operation of social and political values, as opposed to the idea of art celebrating the expression of an individual ego.
Perhaps derived from Françoise Schein‘s Master of Urban Design and Architecture thesis at Columbia University in 1979 to produce “a basic south Bronx cook book” for Le Grand BanKet the starting point was the food and sharing food. In an era that has lost the joys of collective activity in favour of the consumption of fast food, and solitary computer and social networking, the concept of the ancient banquet as creating important social ties acquires a symbolic dimension. It allows us to relearn the essential value of a sense of being part of a community that has been forgotten in favour of individual consumerism. The concept of Le Grand BanKet is a natural extension of the artist’s work, which, for over thirty years, has focused on the creation of art concerned with fundamental human rights, and the issue of cultural and geographical borders.
Françoise Schein was born in Brussels where she studied architecture at La Cambre. and a Masters Degree in ‘Urban Design & Architecture’ in New York. She currently lives between France, Belgium and Brazil. She has been Professor at the l’Ecole Supérieure d’Arts et Médias de Caen since 2004. Her artistic work focuses on the theme of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through mapping cities, and participatory works installed in public space, including – Brussels, Paris, Lisbon, New York, Berlin, Rio, São Paulo, Stockholm, les Mureaux (France), and Ramallah.
Le Grand BanKet – until September 26, 2016 at the Place Sainte-Catherine 44, 1000 Bruxelles and later as a permanent sustainable installation in the Quai du commerce.
Le Grand BanKet was a production of the CENTRALE, with the support of the Deputy Mayor of Culture of the City of Brussels.