New Paintings
Older Paintings
Japonnaiserie
Videos
Biography
Contact

 

Frequently asked questions about the French "Squart" movement.

 

  1. What does "squart" mean?
  2. What is the squat movement exactly?
  3. Is it illegal?
  4. Where do you find squarts?
  5. How do you open a squat?
  6. What about evictions?
  7. What are the activities that you can find in these squats?
  8. How are they financed?
  9. Are they open to the public?
  10. Is the squart movement a fad or does it have a future?
  11. A short history of the French squat movement
  12. Is there a way as to avoid the illegality of squatting?
  13. Squarts in the USA?

 

What does "squart" mean?
The word "squart" is a combination of two words: "squat" and "art." It is used by artists
to differentiate "artistic" squats from "social" squats that usually house immigrant families and the homeless.

 

 

back

What is the squat movement exactly?
The necessity of having a work-space for artists (painters, dancers, actors, musicians etc.) is fundamental but the incredibly high prices for such accommodations make it inaccessible for the average artist. Therefore we "squartists" occupy empty buildings, ready to be torn down or sold and give them a second life by turning them into studios.

 

back

Is it illegal?
Since you are taking over someones private property, the answer is yes, it's illegal. And one must expect to be taken to court and eventually, to be evicted. The entire procedure can take several months, if not years, but during that time, plays get performed, paintings bloom, music flows through our ears and creativity is in the hands of poets...

 

back

Where do you find squarts?
In all major French cities you will find alternative places of creativity. The Collectif de la Grange aux Belles was one of the most mediatized squats in Paris during the years 1995 through 2000. Les Diables Bleus where I've painted from 2001 untill it's eviction in December 2004 was in Nice. Since November 2004, I'm in a squart called Le Pigeonnier wich is an entire building of studios and it has a gallery on its first floor. It is located in the Old part of Nice.In many european countries like Germany, Holland and Switzerland, squats have been legalized since the 1990s. Almost every city in France has a squart.

 

back

How do you open a squat?
Carefully! There are two approaches: The first is with a small group, discreetly entering without "braking and entering", laying low for at least 48 hours after changing the locks as to start investing/working in the new place, to feel at home and finally to come out of the closet. The second is with a large group of people as to open the squat with a major bang. Several times after our "coming out", we went to the police and told them what we did, who we were and not to mistake us with thugs. It had the advantage of puting us one step ahead of the owners when they went to the police to complain.

 

back

What about evictions?
Those dreaded evictions...unavoidable! This beautiful story always ends up with the eviction. It could be within 3 months or after five years; it usually depends on several situations. You must remember that it's not the building in itself that is important but the magic and energy that's been created inside. Alternative places of creation are a necessity in all cities! When one squart closes, another one opens etc.

 

back

What are the activities that you can find in these squats?
It depends of the size and the artistic afinity of the artists. At the Collectif de la Grange aux Belles you could find a gallery, a concert hall, a restaurant every sunday night, 4 floors of studios, a video mixing room, a library etc. At the Pigeonnier where I am now, you can find more or less the same activities. Two galleries on the first floor followed by 4 flights of studio space, in a building built in the 17th century and located 2mn away from the beach. Sweet.

 

back

How are they financed?
In most cases they are 100 % self financed and always with a lot of sweat and elbow grease. If the occupants had money, they would rent!

 

back

Are they open to the public?
Here again, it depends on the squart. Most are open for special occasions (art openings, concerts, performances etc.) but you can always drop by and remember, Europe is a multi-nation continent and most squarts welcome travelers. Many exchange programs with squarts in other countries have taken place.

 

back

Is the squart movement a fad or does it have a future?
Apperentaly the necessity is real and new squats seem to pop up as often as others close down. A new, younger generation of squartists have taken over the movement and it's no wonder, since squarts, wich are islands of poetry, invite visitors to share and participate in the research and experimentation of all forms of art. The first squarts in France started in the mid 1980s, so I would say that they are here to stay
.

 

back

A short history of the French squat movement
Squatting buildings goes back to the end of WWII when many cities where destroyed by the bombings, leaving many French citizens homeless. A law was then passed stipulating that it was ok to invest empty buildings to create shelter for the population. In the mid 1980's, the group Art Cloche was one of the major founders of the squart movement and many groups followed (like the Zen Copyright that dominated the Parisian squat movement during the 1990s.)

 

back

Is there a way as to avoid the illegality of squatting?
Yes, there are several possibilities. The first is to convince the owners to write up a temporary lease or to have them not press charges. The second is to have the goverment acknowledge the necessity of such places and to relocate the artists with a symbolic lease that they can afford (like in Switzerland, Holland or Germany). The third way is to create a "contract of confidence" with the owner before you open and actually squat the place. It's a deal that stipulates that you can occupy the locale, be responsible for it and return it to it"s owner when suited by both parties. It's a deal that is based on the honor of the squatters and the generosity of the owner. We see a great future in this last solution.

 

back
Squarts in the USA?
Seeing that one can defend ones private property with a gun, squatting is not highly recommended. A few squats have appeared in NYC but the "contract of confidence" seems to have a real future. I opened a gallery/squat in Harlem in the year 2000 with a contract of confidence established with the owner of a building that was waiting to be sold. It permited me to do several art shows with local artists. The contract of confidence idea was well received because the need of affordable studio space is a major problem in most US cities and it's allways our youngest citizens that pay the price.
back

 

New Paintings
Older Paintings
Japonnaiserie
Videos
Biography
Contact