The revival of the sacred at the School of Decorative Arts



In the former Bernardine sacristy, a woven wicker boat floats on plates of salt. A chestnut tree felled by a storm stands, repaired, buttressed with tenons and mortises, in front of five large stained glass windows in dried seaweed offering superb gleams of grey, brown and soft green. Rémi Coignec, a young graduate of the School of Decorative Arts, immersed himself in the traditions of the seaweed workers and marine carpenters of his native Brittany, in the ancestral myths of death and birth, to create these works which reconcile with accuracy manual work, natural elements and religious rituals.

He is one of the first students to have followed the chair “Young creation and the sacred” created in 2019 at the National School of Decorative Arts (Ensad). A curriculum that today bears witness to a book and two exhibitions in Paris and Pantin, bringing together some thirty student works, all nicely titled “Bureau of Sacred Investigation” (1).

A subject long banned from art schools

When the AG2R La Mondiale Foundation for artistic vitality suggested that the school explore this theme, we thought the idea was excellent. Because these questions related to the sacred seemed to interest our young students a lot », says one of the members of the teaching team. The difficulty, it’s that we felt incompetent on the subject”, he admits. Banished from art schools, for the sake of secularism, religious questions had in fact ended up becoming taboo there. “We looked at what other schools in Europe offered, we did not find any interesting program”, continues this professor.

→ VIDEO. What is the sacred?

Hence the choice of Ensad to organize a very open chair, based both on the projects of students passionate about shamanism, the religions of the book, as well as certain marginal rituals, with associated external speakers: artists , filmmakers, architects, Father David Sendrez, theologian at the Bernardins, or the essayist Céline Du Chéné, author of the book Witches, A Women’s Story… Some led workshops or a study trip, others took part on March 13, 2020 in a meeting day with 150 participants. Ten scholarships were also financed by AG2R La Mondiale to finance end-of-studies projects around the sacred, which generated a wealth of applications.

At the Grandes Serres de Pantin, around thirty young artists from Ensad are exhibiting the fruits of this original chair, unfortunately now interrupted. The environmental crisis comes back as a leitmotif. As if the sacred were allied in this young generation to a new attention paid to nature, to working the land, to the way of life of the aboriginal peoples or to conjuring ceremonies carrying collective action.

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