Itinerary - Université de Lille
Since 1995 the Department of Law, affiliated to Lille 2 University, has occupied premises in a refurbished former industrial building in the heart of the working-class district of Moulins. The student population mixes very little with the local population of the district. Moreover, the Jardin Botanique (Botanical Gardens) which is near this part of the town, though separated from it by a main road, is visited very little because there are no specific signs that mention its existence. The Dean of the Faculty wishes to integrate his establishment fully into the social fabric and enable the different population groups to meet. Selective events of a socio-cultural nature have already been set up with this in view. In order to bring his project to a successful conclusion and effect a real change in attitudes, in collaboration with the Foyer de jeunes travailleurs (Hostel for Young Working People) and the Atelier populaire d'urbanisme (People's Town-planning Workshop), he had the idea of bringing in an artist to rebrand and upgrade the urban and social fabric. A campaign to increase awareness of contemporary art, both in schools and through the Médiathèque (media centre) or the Maison du quartier (local community centre), goes hand in hand with this project, which can bring the population together, focused on the same perspective.
To restructure and enhance the urban fabric, Mullican has marked out a certain number of areas to be rebranded. Granite plaques (50 x 50 cm) signpost the route from the university to the Jardin Botanique. On their horizontal plane there are multiple signage elements: universal ones, ones borrowed from the artist's vocabulary, or again those thought up by the local residents themselves. Located high up or on the ground, but always at significant places, five works – neons or sculptures – reinforce that first visual code. While those passing through the town relate fleetingly to their environment, Mullican chooses sites that are all imbued with a historical dimension connected with the life of the district in order to stimulate a different perceptual relationship with temporality. Finally, in the Jardin Botanique, a series of bas-reliefs punctuates a route leading to the lycée Baggio, a school occupying the premises of the former Diderot Institute, where a final work marks the itinerary. Bearing a different visual codification, it highlights the symbolism relative to the encyclopaedic dimension of the knowledge the famous philosopher could lay claim to, so laying rational cosmogony open to the artist's subjectivity. Mullican creates a sign language conveying different spatio-temporal registers that can sensitise the population to the meaning of the relations between signifier and signified inherent in any communication system, and do so individually and collectively.
The mediator suggested involving Matt Mullican. Right from his first works when he was still a student (California Institute of the Arts, 1971-1974), Mullican has been attached to the theme of the city as a means of questioning perceptual frameworks as structured by our relationship to a real or pretend public environment. A long period proved necessary to work out a vocabulary of pictograms and colours which he features on different supports (banners, posters, granite, glass, marble…); since the early 1980s that vocabulary has characterised his creative work. Thus four identical circles juxtaposed in a square refer to the elements, two highly stylised figures facing one another are identified as an angel and a demon… He associates red with subjectivity, green with the elements, blue with the unstructured world, yellow with the structured world, black and white with language. Then little by little Mullican would map his cosmology by creating complex installations where different symbolic spaces confront one another within a temporality that transcends history. In the late 1980s a new stage can be observed in his creative work: the integration of the synthetic image into space layouts. The City Project is therefore conceived as a huge spatial complex mingling the real, the imaginary and the virtual; viewers are invited to follow the itinerary mapped out in order to apprehend his perceptions and explore the elusive frontiers between the individual and the universal, subjectivity and objectivity, the everyday and the timeless.