As part of the cultural season Liberté! Bordeaux 2019, the CAPC has invited the Scottish artist Ruth Ewan to exhibit in its iconic nave. It Rains, It Rains borrows its title from the folk tune ‘Il pleut, il pleut, bergère’ written by the French revolutionary poet, actor and politician Fabre d’Églantine, who is said to have calmly recited the lyrics of his song before his execution in 1794.
Ewan’s exhibition comprises the installation Back to the Fields, first shown in 2015 and entirely revisited for the purposes of the CAPC, as well as a series of objects based on the French Republican calendar.
The Republican calendar was adopted by the Convention in 1793, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, to replace the Gregorian calendar. Embodying and translating the Republican ideals directly into the life of every citizen, it was in use for twelve years. It completed the dismantling of the Ancien Régime by reorganising time itself.
According to the idea that with the advent of the Revolution, ‘time opens a new book to history’, the weeks and months of the year were restructured by a parliamentary commission comprising artists, poets, scientists and horticulturists, among whom D’Églantine and the mathematician Gilbert Romme. The days of the week and the seasons were renamed in order to evoke nature and agricultural life, and the names of the months each referred to one aspect of French climate (f.i. brumaire, from the French word for mist) or an important moment in peasant life (f.i. vendémiaire, referring to the grape harvest). In lieu of the names of saints of the traditional calendar, each day was furthermore named after an agricultural product, a plant, an animal or a tool.
Consisting of the 360 objects representing the Republican year – including trees, plants, bones, minerals and tools – the installation Back to the Fields reactivates the rural calendar as a three-dimensional, life-size work. Expanding on this large-scale, living installation, Ewan has conceived a series of objects corresponding to the so-called sans-culottides (so named after the sans-culottes). These five holidays (six in leap years) were added to the last month of the Republican calendar so that it would match the 365 days of the solar year. Each celebrated a different quality: Virtue, Talent, Labour, Convictions, Honours, Revolution. To represent them, the artist has produced six new works that emphasise their cyclical nature while connecting them to wider political issues.
Curated by Alice Motard
assisted by Alice Cavender and Émeline Vincent
Ruth Ewan (b. 1980 in Aberdeen, Scotland, lives and works in Glasgow) studied at the Edinburgh College of Art. Her work focuses on social movements and politics, specifically in their relation to time. She is represented by Rob Tufnell Gallery in Cologne and London.
Back to the Fields was shown at Camden Arts Centre in London in 2015 and at the São Paulo Biennial in 2016.
In collaboration with Jardin Botanique de Bordeaux; Centre de production végétale mutualisé, Direction des espaces verts, Direction générale haute qualité de vie de Bordeaux Métropole.
With loans from Amorim France; Château Haut-Bailly; Collections de biologie animale de l’Université de Bordeaux; Guillaume Devoyon; Écomusée de la vigne et du vin, Gradignan; Écomusée de Marquèze, Parc naturel régional des Landes de Gascogne; Frac Champagne-Ardenne; Pierre Grangé-Praderas; Jean-Louis Hillairet; MisSa Blue; Musée André Voulgre, Musée des arts et traditions populaires du Périgord; Musée d’Aquitaine, ville de Bordeaux; Musée Basque et de l’histoire de Bayonne; UF Sciences de la Terre et de l’Environnement, Université de Bordeaux; Unité de recherche PACEA (De la Préhistoire à l’Actuel : Culture, Environnement et Anthropologie), Université de Bordeaux, CNRS and Ministère de la Culture; Valcadis.
With the support of Creative Scotland and Fluxus Art Projects.
Image : Vue de l’installation Back to the Fields dans l’exposition de Ruth Ewan It Rains, It Rains
au CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux (20 juin au 22 sept. 2019).
Photo : Arthur Péquin