Atelier / TRANS305

Artist: Stefan Shankland
Location: Ivry-sur-Seine, Paris, France
Year of completion: 2012

Researcher: Giusy Checola

In 2007, when Stefan Shankland initiated the project TRANS305 at the Ivry-sur-Seine commune in a banlieue (suburb) of Paris, the former president Nicolas Sarkozy launched an extensive urban plan called Le Grand Paris (The Greater Paris) in order to include the banlieue in the Paris area and remake its image as a global metropolis of the 21st century. In addition to architectural projects, the plan included revised infrastructure, public transportation plans, and the development of economic centers that would transform the suburb socially and spatially,and redefine its governance. This plan created tension between the central state, local, and regional authorities.

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In response Shankland convinced the elected members of Ivry-sur-Seine (which is called red banlieue because it was a historical garrison of the French Communist Party) to consider these large-scale urban changes as an opportunity to create innovative artistic and social plans that would merge in the new city. Since the banlieue is part of the Paris region but is managed by autonomous authorities, Shankland conceived HQAC, Haute Qualité Artistique et Culturelle (High Artistic and Cultural Quality), as a prototype that he managed to integrate in the contracts of the urban plan’s developers.

In 2010 Shankland began the project by creating Atelier / TRANS305, which, according to its manifesto, is “an ideal workspace integrated in reality as sculpture.” It is a monumental, mobile structure that hosts debates, exhibitions, research programs, workshops, artist residencies, and screenings of films. Inspired by the architecture and aesthetics of the surrounding buildings the Atelier suits its surroundings, while simultaneously embodying the transparency and the permeability of the process of decision-making because the Atelier is a construction yard.

The Atelier was a versatile and adaptable project. It was dismantled, and then re-installed in the neighborhood in 2012 in a different form and with different programming. According to Shankland, in the first phase it was “an island in the middle of a building site.” In its second installation the Atelier was strictly related to the city’s inhabitants, since it was sited near what would soon be the most important public space of the city, next to a huge social housing development consisting of 2,000 flats.

The city’s transformation became both resource and stage for unusual artistic interventions: artists worked with demolition companies on the installation of site-specific works among the modern ruins; students of the schools and universities debated the execution of new spaces and institutions; the researchers of CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, a national agency for research) investigated the environmental and social impact of TRANS305.

TRANS305 can be considered a model of artistic “territorialization” that overturns the schema and interrupts the continuity of “making territory” as a form of control and gentrification, often composed by three main chronological steps: the intellectual/symbolic denomination of a district, the material occupation, and the structural “catalogation” (procedures). By starting with the creation of the HQAC and then creating the Atelier, Shankland interrupted the "territorialization" process and created an artistic community model with its own procedures injected in the pre-existing system.

The subversion of terms emerges by way of the political and social function of the Atelier's terrace, a communal space that allows participants and inhabitants to have a complete view of the surrounding, shifting urban environment. Shankland transformed the panoramic vision, which is the panoptical tool par excellence, in a display that generates new urban and social visions.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency