La Grande Motte
The leitmotif in this series is the French Mediterranean tourist resort of La Grande-Motte, a super artificial
coastal town that Sarah Van Marcke visited and examined several times in recent years. It is one of those rare
cities that were planned entirely from scratch and were designed around a well-defined concept by a single
architect. In this case, the French architect Jean Balladur was the key figure.
In the late 60’s, in a very short time, La Grande-Motte rose amid a Mediterranean saltwater marsh. The area had
to be completely drained and got coated with a concrete skin, artificial plants and (today) out-dated futuristic
ziggurats and pyramids had to swallow hundred of thousands of tourists during summer season. The half a
million alien trees planted there are exactly the same age as the buildings. Each year, the mosquito population is
skilfully suppressed during the peak season with crop duster planes. During off-season the town is empty, the
contrast is hallucinatory and fascinating. During nearly ten months, everything is being locked, the streets are
empty, the parking slots go up and the mosquitoes take over.
This series of photos and videos are observations, investigating the artificial urbanization of La Grande-Motte in
various ways. Sarah muses over the design of a city whose sole reason for existence is tourism. In filmed and
photographed actions, Sarah works with the seasonal occupation of the city or satirizes the artificial exoticism
of La Grande-Motte. The oppressed role nature gets to play in this whole urban project is scrutinized. At the
same time the works are odes to our collective memories of holidays at sea: the act of deflating an air mattress,
stuffed cars or plastic bottles with lukewarm soda. Sometimes interventions haven’t been necessary when a tree
embraces the architecture or when architecture pierces a tree. And maybe the artist found a chair that was half
buried by the wind and the sand by chance.
Thierry Vandenbussche, Stilll Gallery