Overshoot Day Carnaval


Spark & gasoline

July 1518

Despite her husband’s entreaty, Madame Toffea can’t help but dance. For six days and nights, her limbs convulse and move in all directions, she taps the floor of her bloody feet, her arms swing and writhing at the edge of the joint rupture, her face deformed by pain. 

Its burden spreads, 50 and 500 unfortunate join her in her convulsions, plus a narrow street of Strasbourg escapes the show of macabre dancing mania. For over a month, they squirm like white maggots on carrion, it is said that he dies a fortnight every day, heart attack or dehydration.

To contain the epidemic, the nobility worried requires the opinion of specialists, they reject the astrological or supernatural causes, announcing that the disease is due to blood too hot, the treatment is all found: “We must cure the bad by the bad. If they want to dance, well they dance! “. On the cathedral square, under the benevolent eye of the lord, the authorities build a platform and hire twelve professional musicians to pace night and day, the footsteps of convulsants, they have “the vague look; face turned to the sky; their arms and legs animated by spasmodic and tired movements; their shirts, skirts and stockings, soaked with sweat, glued to their emaciated bodies, “John Waller wrote years later. To attract by the sound of the bagpipes, viols and tambourines, it’s soon the whole city which is gathered around the “partygoers”, understanding well to profit from this free show. Thus exhibited, the virus is spread exponentially. At the end of July we change our strategy, the stands are dismantled and the musicians debauched, but the dancers will continue for several more weeks until a ceremony in honor of Saint-Guy delivers them.

The project is an update of this event.

The Strasbourg dancing epidemic of 1518 is not an isolated case, more than twenty comparable episodes are listed between the 13th and 17th centuries. We do not know the precise causes of these events that resist the medical explanation. It could be epidemic chorea or consumption of rye ergot containing lysergic acid (LSD).

Beyond the tragicomic atmosphere that emerges, it’s the metaphorical potential of the behaviour of specialists that interests me.

Transposed to modern and contemporary times, the event questions the emptiness of our speeches and actions in the face of the enormity of the crises we are going through. The impotence of these macabre dances that are these nests of specialists, economy, technology, politics.

In the Middle Ages, the omnipresence of death in its most terrifying forms, the Hundred Years’ War, the plague, allowed the development of a rich macabre iconography which finds its paroxysm in dance macabre. This iconography nourishes a reassuring imagination by the morality it conveys, it underlines the vanity of social distinctions and the equality of the rich and the poor in the face of death.


What prompted the project?

This project is a provocation. After a year in an architecture firm, I could not bear the idea of finishing the rest of my life in front of a computer to draw lines on AutoCad.
I think this project is also a reaction to the recently witnessed very violent social movements. The desire to canalize and formalize a sense of violence. It’s a project of catharsis.
The triggering element was the screening of Alejandro Jodorwsky’s movie “The Holy Mountain” (1973).

You have to see it at least one in your life. It’s a piece of raw poetry, violent and beautiful.

What role does narrative hold within? How important of a design tool is it?

An architectural project is a story. Most of the time the story takes second place, it can be implicit. Here architecture takes second place, It’s only one character among others.
In a project designed to be built, the design is a speculative activity, we have to imagine people living in the building, people build it, transform it. Maybe the challenge of a successful architecture is the levels of realism of these characters. Going out to meet people, discuss with them, involve them, is perhaps a good way to make a story in adequacy with the world.

How and to what extent did the work of other creative effect the project as a whole, from concept to design to representation?

The choice of references is above all for me the choice of belonging to an aesthetic community, it also allows to put the project in a historical reality.
The project is inspired in the first place by the dances of death of the Middle Ages, also paintings by Brughel the Elder and Brughel the Young and of course Jérôm Boch “The Garden of Earthly Delights”
Few present graphic artists influenced me a lot: José Jajaja, Iconostasis of Isms of Aleksandar Todorovic , Cristina Daura, BrokenFingaz Collective etc.

What is your take on colour? What informed the choice of a monochromatic vs. yellow and red colour palette?

I like colors, i also like white architecture. The choice of colors is perhaps the most difficult in architecture, we are very little trained to that.
The choice of red and yellow was intuitive, I think it’s the most aggressive color combination for eyes. It’s a very used combination in publicity.
As afterwards justification I told myself that red and yellow could symbolize blood and gold, but it’s mostly a graphic choice.

How were the drawings developed? Were these based on sketches or were these simply intuitive?

The designs are always thought of in relation to each other. For each drawing I first make a series of sketches very fast then I wait a few days. Then I make the final version.
It’s a semi intuitive process.

What role does time play within the project and the possibility of events as the burning?

This is a very difficult question, I will try to answer it very succinctly :
Burning is a form of unproductive spending; it’s the opposite of consumption or investment.
The fire has always allowed to make society around him, it is a way to create common.
I was very much influenced by a French author George Bataille (1897-1962). For him we live individually in scarcity, but collectively always in abundance. The real political question is then that of the use of surpluses. Burning them makes it possible to avoid that some people appropriate them, it’s a way to limit the growth of the inequalities, to limit also the growth of a destructive system.
This ephemeral thing that is fire has paradoxically a historical force.
Such considerations inscribe the project in a political time, a long time wiche is that of architecture.
Regarding fire it might be interesting to show some pictures that inspired me:

ZAD Nôtre Dâme des Landes, France
ZAD Nôtre Dâme des Landes, France
1st May 2017 in Paris
1st May 2017 in Paris
The biggest Fire of St. John at Alesund (photo by Slinningsbalet 6)
The biggest Fire of St. John at Alesund (photo by Slinningsbalet 6)

Are you interested in exploring the 'architecture' of these practices further?

This project lacks architecture, and it’s a frustration. But I think that I have been very far in the fiction, in the “non-architectural” drawing. Will allow me to actually expand my practice.

What would you say is the architects most important tool?

His eyes and hands but before that his heart and his tripples.
I believe that the question of tools is fundamental, today the job changes a lot by the transformation of tools. The tools are in themselves political and if we want to give a meaning to our practice of architecture we must seize this question. A book marked me a lot during my studies, « Tools for conviviality » (1973) of Ivan Illich.