INGRID BROCHARD ON MUMO

BECAUSE ART HAS THE POWER TO INSPIRE NEW DREAMS IN CHILDREN AROUND THE WORLD, INGRID BROCHARD MADE IT HER MISSION TO INTRODUCE THEM TO THE WORLD OF CONTEMPORARY ART BY CREATING A TRAVELING MUSEUM. SINCE 2011, WITH FUNDING FROM ART À L’ENFANCE, MUMO THE MOBILE MUSEUM HAS EXHIBITED ARTWORKS
DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY FOR CHILDREN BY INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED ARTISTS LIKE JAMES TURRELL, GHADA AMER, DANIEL BUREN, YONG PING HUANG, AND PIERRE HUYGUE. A UNIQUE INITIATIVE THAT HAS INSPIRED “LES AVENTURES DE MUMO, LE MUSÉE MOBILE,” A DOCUMENTARY DIRECTED BY GILLES COUDERT AND SELECTED FOR THE 18TH ARTECINEMA FESTIVAL FOR DOCUMENTARY FILMS ON CONTEMPORARY ART – A BIG SCREEN TESTIMONY TO THE EXCITEMENT GENERATED BY THIS CRAZY LITTLE PROJECT.

How did you get the idea for musée mobile?

The idea for mumo kind of grew instinctually out of a childhood memory: an art book illustrated with works by rembrandt and botticelli. The pictures left a deep impression on me, even though i didn’t know what they were at the time. My family wasn’t the type to go to museums regularly. We did a lot of other things, like traveling, but art wasn’t a central part of our lives. Which explains why i now want to share my love of art with children. Museums are an acquired taste. Different psychological and social barriers can start to inhibit this taste at a very young age, and i don’t think that should be the case. In my own life, i only had the chance to discover art because i went to a gallery opening and met gérard schlosser. He taught me everything about the world of the senses: opera, beckett, art shows. It was meeting him that made me want to go to museums
And discover a world other than my own – which at the time was retail, since i was selling cosmetics under a brand name i created when i was 19. But there was no personal satisfaction in retail for me, and i felt like i was missing something. So that’s why i wanted to give more kids a chance to discover contemporary art as early as primary school, because that’s when kids learn to read and write. I think we also need to learn to feel a sense of wonder, to connect with our emotions and imagination, to reflect and think about things. And art has the power to make everything come to life and to completely transform the world.

At first glance the idea must have seemed a little crazy and almost impossible: a mobile museum set up inside a freight trailer and attached to a semi-truck, which would magically transform into a gallery where kids could dive into the worlds conjured up in works by major artists. and yet, it all came together fairly easily…

I just focused more on actually doing it than thinking about it. Sometimes we have these projects that are more like dreams than anything else. So we just go wherever the inspiration takes us, like we’re on a mission. My project is still evolving over time. Only now that it’s up and running have we really started to analyze and reflect on what actual impact it’s having on kids. At first, we had no idea what the mumo might look like or do. It was also a little easier for me to put the project together because i had already created a contemporary art magazine called “be contemporary”, which gave carte blanche to the artists featured each quarter. Most of these artists will eventually take part in mumo, too. At the same time, i was producing tv shows about contemporary art for direct 8. But still if i mentioned james turrell for mumo, everyone would tell me: “no way! You’ll never get him! He doesn’t have time with all his shows!” So i left a bunch of messages, and one day i got a call: “hello, this is james turrell.” He thought it was a great idea. And seeing a project that’s supported by some really enthusiastic people makes it a lot easier to take part in it yourself. Same thing happened when i contacted american architect adam kalkin: he was motivated, available, and we set to work right away! Of course it seemed a little utopian at first… we didn’t know how we might fit his works inside a freight trailer, which started to look like a ufo that we were somehow hoping to tow around here and there in france and on other continents.

How do children from backgrounds that are relatively alienated from the art world respond to these contemporary artworks created just for them?

One thing that comes to mind: the look on their faces and the wonder they show when the truckpulls up like a magical caravan. It’s a huge event for the kids, since they’re stunned to see a truck morph into something other than a vehicle that transports goods and merchandise. It’s also amazing to see the joy and emotion on their faces as they traipse through a space designed specifically for them and that creates a whole world of emotions for them. For example, when we were showing james turrell’s work, i remember one girl who stepped out of the mumo, back into the 40°c heat, and exclaimed: “thanks for the breath of fresh air! It took me outside cameroon!” Seeing kids think and feel and talk about new things: it’s powerful. Mumo is a world full of new ways of thinking that goes out and meets kids in france and around the world. And we know it directors, and kids. It’s touching. Our entire experience and some of the reactions we received were also featured in a film directed by gilles coudert called “les aventures de mumo, le musée mobile,” which was selected for the 18th artecinema festival of documentary films on contemporary art in naples. The film shows everything unique about mumo. And charles berling’s voice really makes the viewer want to learn more about our story and hear what everyone involved and what all the kids have thought about it.

What have your encounters with the artists been like?

They have all been very excited to reach out to new audiences and interact with kids. They have really identified with the kids because they still remember when they were first inspired by a particular artwork or piece of music. They were all eager to take part in the mumo project because they wanted a chance to share their enthusiasm and pass something on to younger generations. And as soon as an artist understands the heart and soul of our project, we give them complete freedom to do as they please. Though the work does have to remain more or less accessible, since we’re interacting with kids. Then there are a few technical constraints, like designing works that are durable enough to withstand all the shaking around that goes along with traveling in a freight trailer.

It was also fairly easy for you to find sponsors…

I presented the project to a few potential sponsors, notably the bolloré group since i was working there as a producer for direct 8. I presented it to vincent bolloré himself, since he’s known as someone who likes projects that are a little crazy! We managed to tie our sponsors into a strong narrative. When they see how committed the artists and architects are, that helps motivate them, too. So it may have seemed a bit utopian at first, but it’s going strong now!

In just three years you have put together a rather extensive network of partners: institutions, associations, art centers, and other organizations all across france…

It’s really important to meet with everyone you can when traveling from region to region. We rely heavily on associations, art centers, schools, and educational directors to organize everything before and after our visits. They generally have the resources to stimulate discussion and organize learning sessions. And they are usually very enthusiastic to work with us because they often don’t have the educational tools they need to teach kids about art. Over 56% of the kids we see at mumo have never been to a museum. Most of the time educators can only show photocopies of artworks. At mumo, kids have a chance to discover real artworks. And the kids have even told us how much they like contemporary art because it uses materials they already know from their daily lives, like neon and scotch tape…

How do you decide where to set up the mumo?

We started out by working with unesco and atd quart-monde. At that time we generally sent mumo to rural areas and disadvantaged suburbs. Lately mumo has started getting more and more requests, so we’re trying to meet them all. We draw up our travel itineraries and we try to reach as many places as possible where cultural initiatives are hard to come by. During our second year of operation we conducted a study to inventory all the art centers, museums, galleries, and art-related institutions in france. We noticed an area stretching diagonally across france where art is almost nonexistent. So the mumo focuses mostly on this area, but we do still work to meet and reach kids living in disadvantaged neighborhoods in all urban, suburban, and rural areas. Occasionally we are contacted by art centers, as well. By building a wide and inclusive network, we’ve had the opportunity to take part in a lot of different projects, like special initiatives for deaf and hearing-impaired children. And through a new project called culture santé, children in the hospital will now have a chance to go to mumo and experience the world of contemporary art.

Mumo is widely recognized for its efforts. you’re in demand…

We get requests from schools in france and on other continents, so the adventure will continue! I think it’s extremely important to dream up new ideas and follow through on them. And it’s very satisfying, a lot more than when i was working in retail.

Now that you’re three years into the project, is one mumo enough?

If we can find a sponsor willing to help build another mumo, we’ll do it right away!

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