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Fossile Futur

by Lola Fontanié

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Interview with Grégoire Pérotin and Simon Dubedat (Fossile Futur), and Antoine Beaucourt (In extenso) by Lola Fontanié

December 2022

Lola Fontanié: Can you present Fossile Future to us? How long has the association existed, and how did it originate? 

Simon Dubedat: The association was founded about three years ago. The house we are currently in— located in Meymac, in the Corrèze department of France— has been at our disposal for less than two years, and a few of us have been living here year round for a year and a half. 

Grégoire Pérotin: We met at the school of fine arts in Toulouse (isdaT — institut supérieur des arts et du design de Toulouse), as far as the core of the association is concerned. Now that we are here, there is an environment and a social landscape that tends to diversify, offering new encounters. Initially, we were students and graduates of the art school of Toulouse with a common desire to be together, to have studio spaces, to welcome the public, to organise events, to do a little bit of everything as a means of finding a dynamic and stimulating moral force.

SD: When we left school, renting both a house and a studio space seemed impossible, and we liked the idea of conducting all our activities in the same place. Creating a hybrid space comes from the desire to be a space open to the public, and to have a house that regularly welcomes people. The event part seemed obvious to us to attract and present the place and the collective. It also allows us to offer a space of expression to friends and people whose work we like. As the house is big enough to host all of our desires, everything happens in the same space. We were eleven that founded the association and are still the same eleven, although there are many people who gravitate around us. There are some who now live in town to be close to the collective, for example.

Antoine Beaucourt: How did you find the house? 

SD: By word of mouth. Someone who knew the owner, who lets us live here free of charge. It is a rather particular contract called a “commodat” or a “loan for use”. What pleased him was the idea that the house would be inhabited by a cultural project. 

LF: In the time between creating the association and moving in, had you been looking for a space to live in?

SD: Yes exactly. The goal was always about finding a place to settle.

AB: Was coming to Meymac specifically or to the area a criteria as well? 

GP: We first agreed on criteria, for example, not being too far from a train station, whilst neither being in the centre of a city — we didn’t want that. And it's true that this was a bit of an opportunity, since there are other cultural spaces around us, a network that intersects.

SD: The area was interesting to us because there are many collectives and associations on the Plateau de Millevaches (area in the Limousin area of France). We searched for a long time here. We already had connections with some associations that hosted us when we were in the region. I’m thinking, for example, of Amicale Mille Feux (an association in Lacelle, Corrèze, France), whom we are close to. Later, we spent weeks visiting other collectives to see how they functioned, to find inspiration from models of collectives.  

LF: Are all of these collectives connected? How do you communicate with each other?

SD: We all know each other, and there are some friendships that are stronger than others depending on the collective. There is not necessarily an official network in place through which we all communicate collectively, but it will happen. We are currently discussing having a Discord group with several collectives, including Amicale Mille Feux and Oasis in Uzerche… that’s currently in the works.

LF: I was able to discover Kerminy, a place in Brittany, somewhat similar to yours, founded by artists: both a living space and a residency, with festivals; a place that seeks autonomy in various ways. I was also able to understand the workload that that can imply, because everything is constantly moving and evolving. Fossile Futur is a complex place: a living space and a place of production, activity, exhibitions and celebration. How do you function economically? 

SD: As we have few expenses since we don't pay rent, we have established a rent per person and per month of about 25€ which is used to pay insurance and property tax. The association generates funds with events, a donation based bar and canteen, and there are common funds for the collective expenses, like the food. It's all donation based. It works quite well and balances itself out. We manage to pay the expenses, at least for the moment.

LF: Have you assigned yourself roles, such as those who manage the administration, and others who manage communication? Or do these roles rotate? 

SD: We do what we call mandates. That is, we designate a person or a group of people who are responsible for Instagram messages for example, until our the following meeting, which takes place every two weeks. As for managing social media or the development of the programme, there are commissions: groups of 3 to 5 people who will work independently, who will put their own methodology in place and who will come and report once every two weeks in the general meeting. For the treasury and administration, we rotate over periods of three months, and try to train each other in doing so. For the moment we haven't used this system a lot since, in reality, the tasks are completed by everybody. We are still testing systems to see what works.

AB: Everyone goes through all the roles?

SD: Yes, in theory. 

LF: What communication systems do you use with each other?

SD: Hanging in the entrance of the house, there are painted hand towels that explain four things: self-governance, how our organisation works, and two others showing the protocols to be implemented during our meetings. They are tools that we use amongst us for our functioning, that we also display at the entrance for visitors to see. We use non-violent forms of communication: do not interrupt one another, raise your hand, make a speaking order, during the meetings in any case. We also use physical tools and objects. For example, we have playing cards that allow us to assign roles such as who takes notes, the person who follows the order of the day, the timekeeper, etc. We’ve come to realise that we don’t really need them anymore. Another tool is a polling scale that allows us to poll the opinion on an issue and to debate until we find a consensus. I'm mentioning these tools rather quickly, but they are available and the idea is to circulate them. We have PDFs and photos on hand that we can share with others. I am currently trying to develop a kind of board game with fun interaction, yet without interfering with the meeting, to make the relationships more fluid, whilst avoiding power play. 

LF: Since the beginning of this project, have you learned anything about how to build together? Have you had any disillusionments or, on the contrary, any epiphanies?

SD : The disillusions have all come from the outside for the moment. From the inside, it's going pretty well. We have learned a lot because it remains a laboratory in which we continue to experiment with our own collective organisation.

GP: We are experimenting on all levels, whether it is on the social, the political, on how we discuss together and then on our ways of working in this house that is a living space, on our way of welcoming people...

AB: Yes, it's experimental.

SD: Yes, since what we do here is something that we don't typically learn, we have a lot of things to discover, even if there are more and more resources. 

LF: While looking at your programme, I have the feeling that you offer a range of events: workshops, concerts, storytelling, cooking classes, etc. How do you organise and imagine your programming? 

GP: We have a sheet of paper where we write down ideas. We also all have our own networks and so then there are some ideas that overlap, sometimes friends propose things as well. The proposals emerge quite simply. There is also a rotating committee that is in charge of the programme. 

SD: The idea was to do different things, not only cultural, but also political, and even festive. To mix a bit of everything. We have trouble paying the artists. We always cover pocket expenses, that's the minimum, and when the artists are present we put out a collection jar with the possibility of paying them a little extra money. The same goes for workshops, or if not, then they are offered at a donation based price. The expenses are already a big burden for us and we can't do much more.

LF: Is this money generated by the events themselves? 

SD: Yes, during some events we made profits that allowed us not to invest more money in the project, although we could not pay the people we invited for events. For the moment, all the profits are swallowed up by the renovations. The idea is that once the renovations are finished, we want to be able to pay the people we invite and keep the rest to pay the expenses so that the association can finance itself. 

LF: Sometimes structures take a stance to not accept public grants and funding. Is this part of your discussions? 

SD: We would prefer to not function with public funding as a way of maintaining our independence and our own programming, even if we have previously received subsidies from the DRAC (Direction régional des affaires culturelles, or the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs) which helped us a lot. Our economy is too fragile to support the amount of work that needs to be done to prevent this house from falling into ruin, so we have been and are still looking for substantial contributions. The subsidies we are interested in are those that will help us to carry out the renovation. Once that is done, the goal is to function in complete autonomy.

LF: What was the desire that motivated you to create this project? Is it a reaction to the art world or to the world in a broader sense?

GP : It's both. And then when you come out of art school, you realise that a place like Fossile Futur is comfortable where one can feel surrounded, be able to take time without having to work immediately, be with different people, learn from others… It is a stopping-off place. 

SD: There are some people in the collective who are still interested in the art world, 

and there are also some who came here in opposition to that, to do something else. 

LF: Has Fossile Futur and the place changed the way you work?

SD: Not much. I personally was studying design and was making collective communication tools, precisely to prepare for the moment when we were going to live in the house. The place itself has modified my practice in the sense that it is like a laboratory in which I continue to live experiences and react to them. However, I'm now doing a lot more DIY, building furniture and designing the space!

GP: Since I'm still in art school, I haven't really worked here yet. I think I'll give myself more freedom being here. There is no more framework when you leave school, you have to produce by yourself, be attentive, know what you want... And it's true that here we are constantly nourishing each other. 

AB : It serves to create a framework, and like school, it requires methods. I have the feeling that when we finally leave art school, we wonder what we even did there, and if it even made any sense in the first place…