September 15, 2018 - Parc Saint Léger - Genius Loci
September 15, 2018

Parc Saint Léger

Source Saint-Léger, 1961. Courtesy

Genius Loci
Parc Saint Léger 20th anniversary
September 15–December 9, 2018

Parc Saint Léger
Centre d'art contemporain
Avenue Conti
58320 Pougues-les-Eaux
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 2–6pm

T +33 3 86 90 96 60

Melanie Bonajo, Dector & Dupuy, Eric Hattan, Irma Name, Géraldine Longueville, Lei Saito, Julian Sartorius

Opening: September 15, 5–8pm 
Reservation required for the free shuttle from Paris to the venue at 


Does each place have its own spirit? How does that spirit define it? To celebrate the 20th anniversary of its opening in the former thermal park Pougues-les-Eaux, the art centre has chosen to interrogate the notion of genius loci. In ancient Rome the term literally meant a protective spirit, a guardian angel or natural divinity. Gradually it evolved to refer to the qualities involved in how a space is apprehended and defined. In this exhibition the Latin expression is taken as the starting point for an exploration of what, concretely and qualitatively, defines a place, and whether this allegory still contributes to the definition of its identity. The exhibition examines the relationship between the structure of an art centre, with its formal properties, and its meaning as an object related to other objects that resemble it. In other words, how is the production of an art centre influenced by its physical environment, and, in return, what is the impact of its activities on this context?

When we talk about genius loci, it’s usually to reference the distinctive or unique character that defines a place. Nevertheless, after considering the park and the buildings of this former thermal spring that have become home to an art centre, it becomes clear that this place is a palimpsest where we can glimpse the superimposed strata of time, interventions and individualities that have shaped its identity. The past, present and future sometimes clash but end up settling into a continuity and thus produce a space of memory and duration. For the most part, the artists invited to take part in the Genius loci exhibition were directly inspired by the art centre’s geographic, historical and architectural context. Eric Hattan and Lei Saito focused on the site’s formal structure. The former intervened directly in the building in order to reveal residual or phantom spaces. The latter took inspiration from the architecture of the grounds to propose new landscapes that are both poetic and edible, inviting visitors to experience her existential cuisine. With her contribution, Géraldine Longueville created her own gustatory experience, drawing on the art centre’s natural environment. Making use of a repertory of the site’s native plants, she offers visitors a libation and a soundtrack specific to this venue. While Dector & Dupuy’s work also arises from the garden surrounding the art centre, they extend its proposal beyond its walls. This duo’s practice is based on observing and drawing on the urban environment. On the occasion of France’s heritage open house festival and the exhibition’s opening, they conceived two guided tours that allow us to see downtown Nevers and the city of Pougues-les-Eaux in a whole new light.

While the pieces by Melanie Bonajo, Irma Name and Julian Sartorius are not based on the specific context of the Parc Saint Léger, each of them, in their own way, interrogates what a spirit of place could be, and its role in creation, identity and the apprehension of context. These artists enact the relationship between the body and its surroundings, and play with the boundaries to reveal virtual spaces and memories. Their work highlights the fact that the genius loci is not the revelation of something whose existence is timeless but rather linked to the production of events. The spirit of a place is thus a creative and poetic way of observing and comprehending our surroundings while emphasising movement in space and time.

Curator: Catherine Pavlovic

Related program

Guided tour of Nevers' historical center
September 15, 3pm
With Dector & Dupuy

Guided tour of Pougues-les-Eaux
September 16, 3:30pm
With Dector & Dupuy

Culinary performance
September 16, 5:30pm
With Lei Saito

Parc Saint Léger
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