7 November 2020, I arrive @ravisius_textor1 to attend the opening of the exhibition Ce que savent nos mains [What Our Hands Know], reflecting Yoan Sorin’s residency at the DnMade Espace of the École Supérieure d’Arts Appliqués de Bourgogne, at the suggestion of Franck Balland. The Wi-Fi connection is not the best, but there are lots of people and the artist is masked, wearing the sculptures made with the students during the ten-day residency. They are there too, so I can interpret their reactions ♥♥♥2
A few weeks earlier, by going into ‘Downloads: 2020_OFFICINA_CORNU_WEB-.pdf’, I’d discovered Ravisius Textor, a bookshop-gallery-studio in downtown Nevers. What first made me linger was to observe on page 2 the remarkable number of participants that the project currently has and once had (I would later discover the list continued on page 152). By advancing through pages 6 to 43, I learned the history of the venue, opened in 2017 and founded by the Tombolo Presses association,3 hosted and managed in association with students from the ÉSAAB. The venue comprises a bookshop specialising in graphic design, contemporary art and design, an exhibition and events space – some even spilling onto the street in front of the premises – and a risograph studio.
I flicked back to pages 28–29: Ravisius Textor, alias Jean Tixier de Ravisi, was a fourteenth-century humanist from Nevers, one of the first compilers and the inventor of the anthological form known as cornucopiae, or horn of plenty. RT did not steal its name: by scrolling through the two and half years of existence of the venue, I saw that it had hosted exhibitions by both established and young artists, ÉSAAB graduates and students, facilitating encounters, and offering access to its space as a ‘test gallery’, a place open to the world beyond the school. It is also a place of ‘in progress’ creation, providing workshops, summer schools, and research periods. Lectures, performances, concerts, and publication launches have also been held there…
The recent health restrictions did not discourage RT from organising exhibitions, such as the online version of the one dedicated to Jean Tixier de Ravisi, on the form of the compilation (presenting revisited and contemporary books in a series of videos created by students from DnMade Graphic Design). The summer school Never(s) Have I Ever was also adapted into the Pas le choix [No Choice] exhibition, a poster exhibition by Valentijn Goethals & Thomas Lootens, Corbin Mahieu, Ine Meganck & Chloé D’Hauwe, young graphic designers from the École Sint-Lucas in Ghent, whose visibility was only guaranteed for one person at a time.
From Ctrl + Tab to Ctrl + Tab, from tab to tab, between .pdf, @RT and url,4 I roamed the wealth of documentation on all of their activities, and was struck by the tenacity of the project. Everything is thoroughly thought out, from the interior design (designed and partly produced by David des Moutis, with the help of current and former students) to the communication (created by the graphic design studio Syndicat; Ninon Chaboud and Jimmy Cintero, independent graphic designers and former students of the school), to the involvement and networking of the participants.
From this visit, a very charged image emerged: that, in short, of multiple layers of activities and protagonists, interrelating among themselves, and of a strong investment in transmission and pedagogy. This was confirmed to me by Thierry Chancogne and Florence Aknin shortly prior to the presentation of the above-mentioned residency. Both are members de Tombolo Presses, co-founders of RT and teach at ÉSAAB and welcomed me over the phone. Like the magazine Tombolo, one of the cornerstones of Ravisius Textor, the primary ambition of the project is to serve as a pedagogical space, providing a forum to share knowledge and dynamics, by embracing a world beyond the school and also towards an international network, which is essential in a small city in the heart of an area off the cultural beaten track (which recently saw the closure of a neighbouring art centre, the Parc Saint Léger in Pougues-les-Eaux). The project, including numerous volunteers, is supported on the local and national levels: Tombolo Presses and RT enjoy the support of the DRAC Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and the Centre National des Arts Plastiques, co-publishing with art centres and contemporary art foundations, and establishing partnerships with schools of art and design. In the course of this rich discussion, Thierry and Florence insisted on the conception of the space and its activities as an editorial practice, an idea beyond stimulating when we consider the notions of books, editing, and publication as broader fields than their paper editions, thus entering the problematics of presentation, iteration, and visual identity. It is in this sense that Ravisius Textor affirms auteur graphic design as an artistic practice in its own right, insubordinate to any other artistic discipline.
They concluded our discussion of the physical space – of which I was given an exhaustive though remote tour – on the recent works coming out of the risograph studio, the bookshop, and the exhibition space, which confirmed my desire to encounter RT ‘IRL’ ASAP.
- After online teasers, the exhibition has finally opened offline, thanks to the activity of the Ravisius Textor bookshop.
- Tombolo Presses is an associative publishing house founded in 2013: www.presses.t-o-m-b-o-l-o.eu, connected to the pedagogical and critical online magazine Tombolo, publishing articles on graphic design and related fields since 2008: www.t-o-m-b-o-l-o.eu