Throughout their residency at CAC Brétigny, Charles Mazé & Coline Sunier were in charge of the art center’s graphic identity, which was conceived and designed as a space for long-term research. The ABCC of CACB is an alphabet made up of letters and signs collected in Brétigny and the department of Essonne, or selected with the art center, its program and guest artists in mind. This corpus has taken shape as a typography they call LARA, certain signs of which are activated in succession on various communication supports, which are viewed as publication and dissemination spaces for research in art. By associating multiple voices within the same typography whose glyphs continue to grow in number, with writings that are by turns vernacular, institutional, personal, and public, the ABCC of CACB is an attempt to publish the geographic, political and artistic context in which CAC Brétigny is found.
LARA and BALI
Each caracter is accompanied by a caption including: a) the Unicode number, b) the name, c) the transcription of the source from which the sign is extracted, d) the type of message, e) its author, f) its technical data, g) its location, and h) the date when the source was created.
Running parallel to LARA but in the opposite direction, BALI is a sans serif and sans contrast font. Initially meant for textual transcription in the captions of LARA signs, BALI is used on all of CAC Brétigny’s communication supports. LARA and BALI can be seen as two extremes of the typographical transcription of a message. The former reproduces as faithfully as possible the visual aspect of the original sign while the latter stresses meaning thanks to the neutrality of its forms.
LARA and BALI are the names of the RER rapid transit trains linking Paris to Brétigny, and Brétigny to Paris.
LARA has been activated on each communication supports, which are considered publication and dissemination points for the collection. The entire LARA collection is visible online on CAC Brétigny's website.
To reflect CAC Brétigny day-to-day reality and its different activities around its exhibitions and residencies, a set of signs is added to LARA and regularly updated according to the art center’s needs. The initials C, T, m, and m for the business cards of the staff members, a basket of fruit 🍲 announcing the dinner for a show opening, a hand in the act of writing ✍ for the center’s postcards, a sun with a big bright beaming smile 🌞 for the center’s summer closing, a reader in a hat 📖 for the book launches…
CAC ❤ Brétigny 🚬
Besides the signs connected with the center’s projects and scattered on the various communication supports, popular forms of expression are also recorded in LARA. Such messages are little studied because they are deemed vulgar, even violent, yet they have been written out by the region’s inhabitants and evince in a lively, frank and sometimes cathartic way a particular geographic and political context.
CAC Brétigny brings together a multimedia library and a theater within one building; more to the point, the center is located near an area that is important for schools (the Lycée Polyvalent Jean-Pierre Timbaud and the Collège Paul Eluard) and extracurricular activities (a music school, the Léo Lagrange pool, the Auguste Delaune stadium). Thus, the areas around the center abound in all kinds of writing and graffiti done by the region’s young people (91, Athis-Mons, Brétigny, Étampes, Fleury-Mérogis, etc.). Such graffiti sometimes make their way inside the CAC precincts, for example on the outside of the Annexe by Atelier van Lieshout, or in the visitors’ book that was in use during previous administrations. Not far from the theater entrance, a cherished space for the high-schoolers which they’ve nicknamed “Bedoland” displays hundreds of inscriptions—family and first names that are occasionally accompanied by qualifiers or insults, telephone numbers or area codes, the names of countries or cities, hashtags, YouTube addresses, etc.—and drawings and doodles—smileys 😛 😛, skulls with crossbones ☠ ☠, phalluses, raised middle fingers 🖕 🖕 🖕 🖕, thumbs-up like in Facebook likes 👍 👍 👍, or the famous cool S S S Ƨ Ƨ.
One famous pedestrian underpass in Brétigny runs under the train station, linking the eastern and western parts of the city. Like any covered area that is accessible but unguarded, drawings, graffiti, political posters and stickers proliferate between each cleaning. Other RER stations in the region have the same type of underpasses, like Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, where a “Warning” spelled out on a broad sign bolted to the wall is addressed “to those whose greatest pleasure is to regularly spray-paint graffiti on the station underpass…”
With the first three letters of the Latin alphabet ABC, it’s already possible to write CACB, that is the start of CAC Brétigny. For the JUMP show announcing the reopening of CAC Brétigny, the first time the typography was activated it was a collection of capital letters, AAAAAA, BBBBBB, and CCCCCC, which could be seen on the center’s walls inside and out and along the path to the RER C express train stop. On this initial territory, one may run into a number of letters, including the A of a sign on a shop that does alterations; a B on the signage of CAC Brétigny, designed in 2003 by Vier5—graphic designers in residence when Pierre Bal-Blanc was serving as director—and a B from the center’s first logo, done in 2000 by Antoine Groborne when Xavier Franceschi was director; and a trio of CCCs by the graffiti writer COSMOS, whose name is on all the walls around CAC Brétigny.
We would like to extend our warm thanks to Patrick Le Jeanne and the Historical and Archeological Association of Brétigny-sur-Orge for having put together and given us access to the archives of the city bulletin, and to Franck Waille, who alerted us to the existence of and gave us access to the original Delsarte drawings and designs.
For “Vocales,” these typographic signs and iconographic symbols signify orality, i.e., the speech, dialog, or conversation that was collected. This new collection includes elements of punctuation borrowed from the Latin alphabet—elements indicating reported speech such as quotation marks—as well as iconographic symbols that depict speech 🗨, thought 💭, or discussion 🗪 with speech bubbles. Emptied of their original textual content for the occasion, these speech bubbles in some cases retain indications of intonation, exclamation, or interrogation, and have been integrated into the typography as emoticons.
All of these signs come from local publications and local official bulletins like the monthly municipal bulletin for Brétigny-sur-Orge, which was originally called Brétigny Notre Ville (1977-1983) then Brétigny Aujourd’hui (1984-2002), and finally Parole (“The magazine that talks about Brétigny to the Brétignolais,” 2003-2014), a title that was given a plural in the end, Paroles (2015–). These publications—with names suggesting an ideal form of speech going from local elected officials to the inhabitants—abound in all kinds of speech bubbles and punctuation marks. In use since 2003, the current logo of the city of Brétigny , moreover, takes the form of a word in quotation marks and has been reappropriated by the city itself in 2006 with the logo “Brétigny 2010 Parlons-en.
Other signs, finally, come from the magazine Essonne, which has been published by the Departmental Council since 1999, including the talkative borrowed 🗨 from the titling on the magazine’s cover, and the logo 🗨 of the app VOX 91 (“I think therefore I say”) recently developed by the Department of Essonne.
In some of her works, the American artist Liz Magic Laser has used and modified drawings from the French singer and teacher François Delsarte (1811-1871). After losing his singing voice, Delsarte conceived an “expressive system,” a method for learning and gesturing for dancers, mainly published and posthumously transmitted by his students in the United States. Preserved in Louisiana, original and unpublished drawings by Delsarte were studied by the French researcher Franck Waille. A diagram entitled Écriture du Geste from 1839 presents a succession of variations of facial expressions 👿😈😦☹😏😊😲😞😕😧😯😨😳🙄😟😐😑😒🙂😬😠😡👹🙁😖. This set of 25 faces—produced by a systematic combination of eyebrows, pairs of eyes, nose and mouth—can be considered as an early version of emoticons used in today's electronic communications 👿😈😦☹😏😊😲😞😕😧😯😨😳🙄😟😐😑😒🙂😬😠😡👹🙁😖.
Each show at CAC Brétigny is a chance to add signs to LARA and complete its Unicode characters. Introduced in 1991, standard Unicode is the official worldwide system for coding typography, assigning to each character a name and an identifying number. Including initially two smileys [☺️ U+263A, ☹ U+2639] in 1993, the latest Unicode update in 2016 brings the number of different facial expressions to over 80.
For the last part of the 2016-2017's programme,“Le Final”, a collection of punctuation marks has been directly constituted within the places where the events are taking place.
In a text Valentine Schlegel wrote for a movie's scenario which aimed to present her work, she draws a list of various actions, without any hierarchy: “I pound the clay / I pose the plaster / I dig into the wall / I dig into the earth/ I nail down leather / I cut wood / I row / I throw a clay pot / I make jams / I sculpt wood / I row / I put on my clodhoppers / I twist a rope barefoot . the beach / I plant something / I cut back the trees / I peel something / I pick up everything (on the beach) / I embroider.”
In conjunction with the “This Woman Could Sleep in Water” show, the collection of character-signs LARA has grown to include elements from Valentine Schelgel’s varied output. The set of character-signs describe, as Valentine Schlegel does in the excerpt quoted above, the different activities she might engage in over the course of a day, e.g. sleeping, with a self-portrait as a sleeping figure 😴, or a dozing cat 🐈; eating, with a series of cutlery and kitchen utensils 🍴🍴🍴🍴🏺🍽; collecting, with a series of knives 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪, which she had an amazing number of; working, with some of the chimneys 🔥 and vases 🏺🏺🏺🏺🏺 she created; picking, with a slip-coated earthenware piece by Andrée Vilar depicting a hand holding a flower 💐; giving, with multiple objects like siren-shaped whistles 🧜, greeting cards 👩, and embroidered ships ⛵, which she produced for her friends and family.
CAC Brétigny ℳ M
For “Double Memory” a collection of capital M’s in block letters and handwritten capital ℳ’s has been gathered, all found in documents dating back to World War I and brought together in the Galateau Collection in Brétigny-sur-Orge. Printed history (newspapers, posters, tracts…) and history written by hand on site as it were (correspondence, diaries, notebooks…) intermingle here, conjuring up possible memories, where all the occurrences of one and the same letter do not mean the same thing.
🏞 CAC 🧜 Brétigny 🌌
For “Desk Set,” the ABCC of CACB has grown to include the drawings of the bibliographer and “internet visionary” Paul Otlet (1868-1944). In Brussels in the 1920s Otlet created his Mundaneum, which aimed to integrate all of the world’s knowledge in a Répertoire bibliographique universel, or Universal Bibliographic Repertory, which is characterized today as a “paper Google.” He designed numerous plates exposing his theories, notably the Encyclopedia Universalis Mundaneum, from which we have borrowed 24 emojis [📽️👩🏞⌚🔮🏢🚪⌨️🌌④👩📕🗣️🚪☎️🗄️💀🧜📰🖼️📄🌐⌨️🧠] referring to certain key words from the introductory text to the exhibition. This group forms a partial rebus that resonates with the themes tackled in the American film Desk Set (1957) and the practices of the four artists featured in the show, such as the transmission of knowledge and the connections between man and machine.
Coline Sunier & Charles Mazé
Coline Sunier & Charles Mazé are Swiss and French graphic and type designers, they have been living and working in Brussels since 2009. They were fellows at the French Academy in Rome—Villa Medici in 2014–2015, and are now graphic designers in residency at CAC Brétigny, in the southern suburbs of Paris. Charles is part of the teaching staff of Atelier National de Recherche Typographique (ANRT) in Nancy. Together with François Aubart, Jérôme Dupeyrat and Camille Pageard, they cofounded the publishing structure <o> future <o> in 2009.
- JUMP — Coline Sunier & Charles Mazé, L’ABCC du CACB (gif)
- Vocales — Coline Sunier & Charles Mazé, L’ABCC du CACB (gif)
- Discours primal — Coline Sunier & Charles Mazé, L’ABCC du CACB (gif)
- Valentine Schlegel — Coline Sunier & Charles Mazé, L’ABCC du CACB (gif)
- Desk Set — Coline Sunier & Charles Mazé, L’ABCC du CACB (gif)