Invited in 2010 to bring her brand of research to the area bounded by Ivry-sur-Seine, Almarcegui focused on the city’s underground reality. The current show at Crédac features a selection of the artist’s projects related to a new publication entitled Ivry souterrain (Underground Ivry).
The city of Ivry-sur-Seine is currently undergoing enormous change and a profound redefining of its territory, where major development projects are about to break ground. These sites are already redrawing the map and revamping land use, notably to the east and the vast, formerly industrial zone of Ivry-port (now known as Ivry Confluences), and to the west along the former N305 route (now RD5). For centuries, with its many quarries and warehouses, Ivry helped to build and feed the Paris metropolis. The disappearance of once-thriving industries has left behind wasteland and economically depressed zones. Today’s change is taking shape around several key points, including the economy, diversification of services, housing, and education and recreation zones. These mutations are fashioning a new urban landscape.
Based on a synthesis of current data on the state of the city’s underground areas, the book Ivry souterrain examines the different periods and below-ground levels of human activity, networks and infrastructures. Old quarries and labyrinthine basements, sacred thermal springs, metro tunnels, buried lakes, networks of water, energy and telecommunications present a genuine portrait of the city through what lies beneath it.
In several of its manifestations, Almarcegui’s work resembles a straightforward inventory of data related to a given site. It is an inventory that is both “horizontal” (territories that she reveals through maps and slideshows accompanied by visitors’ guides), and “vertical” (the geological nature of a particular area, construction materials or materials coming from a destruction of some kind, which she presents in the form of lists or installations). Each work or show is an objective reproduction of the long-term experience of a place and a synthesis of a large amount of information. This reproduction may assume a monumental aspect (the Rubble Mountains, shown notably at Secession, Vienna in 2010 and currently on view at MUSAC in León, Spain), or it may be slight and minimalist, such as slideshows, guides, lists of the weights of materials—so many typologies springing from research or education sources enabling the viewer-reader to make a mental representation of the spaces in question.
The artist also offers in-the-field experience with visitors to her shows, inviting them to join her on guided discoveries of the places and construction sites that are the subject of her research. Through a physical understanding of a place, these visits help the people there to reappropriate the issues at stake.