A Few Firsts This August

posted by Sara Laksimi

I wanted to write a brief personal record of my experience on the residency. It was my first residency and my first time collaborating with artists of other disciplines. I’d definitely do it again, elsewhere, if I got the chance. As firsts go, it was highly successful. And in fact there were a lot of firsts.

My writing experiences up until mid-August had been solo flights. ’Tis the nature of the art, the writer, to tear away at the little grey cells, to pound fists on tables, madly tap fingers at keypads, stomp, distract, and burst with the strain of capturing the idea that is sitting just on the outer periphery of the writer’s consciousness before it disappears forever…… Often we tell others it’s a lonely experience being a writer, this ain’t entirely true. We live with our characters, with the locations and notions that slip in and around us when we’re writing and when we’re thinking about our writing.

But this August I was lucky enough to share my writing in a very immediate and definitely not lonely way. Collaborating with two other artists was stimulating. As expressed in an early blog post (here), I had no idea how my words would get used. Theme One: Bamboo was a piece of visual and auditory art work that I had contributed to. A true first.

And it didn’t stop there. While other work continued and we each considered our next themes – the first call we would pass to the others – I got on with a couple of blog posts and cogitated on what we had set out to do, how I might accomplish that and what I could do if that initial notion was not possible this time round. When it became clear that an idea I’d had earlier in the year was not going to be viable, I decided to use an Everyday object that can so easily be taken for granted. I did my research: I uncovered curious facts and symbolism; got distracted looking at various images; followed information trails.

In the Square

One morning mid-residency I took myself off to the café bar in the square in Torreilles, ordered a coffee and sat with my laptop.

I was ready to squeeze my brain and, if not quite bleed onto the page à la Hemingway, was at least ready to write for as long as it took to create the story that wanted to be told. Three and half hours later, a beer and Croque Monsieur consumed mid-way, I had completed my first draft. After a bit more tweaking I headed back to headquarters and post-lunch shared my story with Lisa and Zu.

Grub à la Lisa

Because I was still so close to the piece, and because it was a type of story I’d not written before (unusually for me this one had a happy ending), I wasn’t entirely sure how it would be received. With fake bravado (or was it another beer while the others ate lunch?) I read it out loud.

The story got a thumbs up. I was grateful for having taken the opportunity to go someplace else and write (cafés are notoriously good locations for us writers to get down to the task of putting words on the page), that I had completed a full story (albeit a short, short story at just over 700 words) and that the initial reaction had been so positive.

I’d written the story with my intended audience in mind. Keeping the reader in mind is definitely not a first. After all, knowing someone else is going to read your words is what makes the act of writing fun and challenging, to be able to make sense of the sometimes paradoxical ideas running around in your head. But what was a first was knowing the readers, our invited guests for our project celebration, would be wide-ranging in age and, for some, in their ability to read English. All in, creating a story that would be read in sections as it hung from the object that the story was about was a significant first.

What has also been great about being involved in the residency and with artists of other disciplines is the opening up of how my words can be used and the fresh ways in which I can engage with an audience. Writers often wait months before getting feedback about their work, but in this context the responses were, more or less, immediate. Working as a team was a great motivator too and having a very tight deadline to work to was a brilliantly useful challenge. I’ve also enjoyed the new experience of engaging with a blog-following audience and keeping you abreast with the project and our activities in and around that. So I thank you for keeping up with us at L’Appel et La Réponse and hope you stick around as we continue the journey and, quite possibly, experience more firsts.

And finally Dear Reader, what firsts have you experienced recently? What new thing have you tried, or tried to do, or had thrust upon you? Feel free to leave a comment.

Until next time!

The Culmination of our Creative Collaboration

posted by Zu Fuchs

Given the weather for most of the preceding week, the day of Sunday 16th August began beautifully, just as we’d hoped. A bright sun rose undisturbed in a clear blue sky and, needless to say after the intensity of the previous week, the beach beckoned for us all. Lisa and I took the kids to our favourite bit of Torreilles Plage while Sara volunteered to stay behind to clean up the venue, write up and print off various notices, and start the process of dressing our set. When we got back, after a day getting that freshly sun-kissed look, we all set to adding the final touches. Sara had created Welcome notices in both French and English that included our newly-created logo. Finally, at 7:30pm, we were all ready and we opened the doors of our venue.

Version 2








We had posted information sheets about the project and us artists as well as a plan of where the art works were located – inside the main room we’d set up a screening area where the showreel of our first 3 themes (Theme One: Bamboo; Theme Two: The Sea; Theme Three: Isolation) was projected onto a rough concrete wall – with seating of course.

I was excited and curious: Really pleased we’d completed four works; amazed we’d managed getting the kids to create a complete animation; it was also the first time most of the guests would get to know about my creative side.

When I saw people sitting on the sofa or perched on a chair in our screening area, or viewing the fig tree installation or kids’ animation, and engaging with our work, I felt both unnerved (what the hell did they make of it) and thrilled (people were watching and reading this work we’d created).

Showreel Installation









Obviously I hoped people would find something in the work. Clearly I’m biased, but even if a person didn’t like the pieces, there was no mistaking these were well-thought-out, well-crafted pieces of art work. I was proud that we’d succeeded in the time we’d given ourselves and with the various challenges we’d faced during the week.

More people arrived and everyone seemed to take a genuine interest. Some were kind enough to write comments in our Comments Book. Here are a few:

Bravo! Très joli travail, que l’on regarde avec très grand plaisir!!! Merci!
(Bravo! Very nice work, that we watched with much pleasure!!! Thank you!)

Very happy to discover your work and improve my English by the same way! Merci beaucoup!

Beaucoup de travail très agréable a regarder. Merci beaucoup pour cette initiative.
(A lot of very agreeable work to look at. Thank you for this initiative.)

Merci beaucoup les filles pour ce voyage original. Bonne Continuation
(Thank you very much girls for this original journey. Good continuation)

I loved being host on our night when I got to welcome both French and English neighbours, deepening relationships and getting to know some new people. The conversations flowed even more than the wine and our art was viewed  with plenty of appreciative noises made and heard.

Later into the evening the three of us, and one very local neighbour, sat in our usual spot – beside the olive tree with it’s coloured lights and with wine on the table – and nattered away until 4am.

Olive Tree








The pressures of the previous week gone, replaced by relief and possibly a bit of euphoria at having pulled it off. We’d enjoyed working together. I’d loved being able to compose pieces in response to the works produced by Sara and Lisa and it had been great to share the final output with others. Our experiment in creative collaboration had worked. Our pop-up installation a true celebration of our successes.

So, what’s next? Definitely we’re looking to repeat the residency next year, maybe in a different venue. Also, we’ll be looking to find new venues for our current pop-up installation in Torreilles again, as well as in London and India. We’ll also be continuing the call and response work throughout the year. This one goes global.

So stay connected. We’ll have more updates for you. But for now, and until then, That’s All Folks!

And if you know of anyone who’d be interested in hosting an installation (to help promote their business for example), or would like to commission something similar from us, get in touch.

Thanks for your interest.

Residency Roundup

Apologies for the wait between this post and the previous one. The intensity of finalising work and putting together a pop-up exhibition to celebrate the project was much more time consuming than anticipated.

Suffice to say, all works were completed and the show a great success, with the audience comprising of French and British local residents, all very interested and excited to find out more about what we had been up to and our working methods.

We completed three short films encapsulating a single call and response from each of the artists, these being:

Theme One: Bamboo
Theme Two: The Sea
Theme Three: Isolation

Theme Four: The Fig Tree, was an evocative installation in and around a beautiful fig tree at the end of the garden where the residency was taking place.

Theme Two: The Sea was initiated by Zu, creating a haunting soundscape which encapsulated her love of wide open spaces and her previous experience of working on the sea.

Theme Three: Isolation was initiated by myself. As ever, I worked spontaneously with the camera, finding ways to evoke the notion of isolation, what it is or can be, and invited Sara to perform for me as part of the piece.

Theme Four: The Fig Tree was developed out of a desire for Sara to reimagine something from the Everyday. She provided us with a beautiful short story to respond to, the result being an installation comprising of lino print (my contribution), soundscape, and written story.

The Fig Tree installtion 1
I so enjoyed having the opportunity to work in print and created an abstract image which can be read as many things relating to the story; landscape (or mapping), sustenance and memory. We have decided to use this image as our logo.

In addition to all of the above, and possibly the most challenging piece of work, was the children’s animation. Back when we hatched the plan to come together for the residency, it was important for us to involve them in the creative process. The end product, The Kids at the Beach, was a colourful and fun response by the children about some of the things they get up to on a day at the beach, which they wrote, shot and produced themselves (with a little bit of support from us). 

Dear Readers please note – fireworks were also included (for or those of you who have been following this blog, the inclusion of fireworks in the animation will come as reminder of our first day together).

Science … innit

posted by Sara Laksimi

Flicking through Twitter today I came across a short report posted on artnet news (https://news.artnet.com) about a new scientific study by researchers at New York University. The key quote, for me, is this: “finding scientific evidence supporting our intrinsic fascination with art […] supports the notion that art has the power to connect people and […] cultures.” As is reported, the study is just a start at investigating why and how humans appreciate art and, perhaps more importantly, how that translates into improved communication and understanding between individuals and (potentially and actually divisive) groups of people.

Fortunately, we of the Appel et Reponse team are enjoying being both in total agreement and in curious dispute with one another – but always with the shared aim of creating intriguing art that reimagines the Everyday. And in case you’re wondering, “curious dispute” for me means the delight in discovering Lisa’s and Zu’s perspectives as we share our separate and unifying creative endeavours.

Speaking for myself, the notion of the lone writer, sitting in a lofty garret, squeezing her brain and, as Hemingway put it, bleeding onto the page has been given a new twist. The input and output of my co-creators is inspiring and exciting, uplifting and gob-smackingly gorgeous. I’m probably overly biased, but when I was invited to join this venture I had no idea how my words would be used. The finished product of our first theme (Theme One: Bamboo) is a real thrill for me. The majority of my previous works have been published online in standard format. Now is not the time for me to divulge how my words have been used in Theme One: Bamboo, but suffice to say it’s a significant departure for me. I feel my practice as a creative writer has been elevated – already beyond my expectations. Here’s hoping our audience will be at least half as impressed.

For those of you who like a visual in with reading a blog post, I shall leave you with this image of the olive tree with lights strung across its branches. At the end of our creative days we sit by it and, over a glass of wine or pastis, we discuss what else we want to try, how else we can improve or develop what we’ve already done. An entirely refreshing and enlivening way to be creating art – that thing which “has the power to connect people”. Wishing you a good evening, wherever you are……


Theme one: Bamboo

IMG_2448Bamboo – the first time I visited the South of France, staying on a farm down a long winding country lane, I was struck by the abundance of this plant. The continuous Mistral rippling through its leaves was mesmerising, both visually and aurally. It was a surprise to see so much of it, and the landscape reminded me of many Caribbean islands I had hitched around in my 20’s.

Its no surprise then, that bamboo has been chosen as the first generic theme for each of us to respond to in some way.

Having spent some time ‘on location’, although still a work in progress, our first piece is near completion. Having now read Sara’s words, I am in the process of my final reedit this morning, and Zu has presented a great concept for the soundtrack to complete the work.

From Beach-bums to Sound-recordists

posted by Sara Laksimi

Yesterday afternoon was spent lounging on the beach and soaking up sun, sea and ambience. In the evening Zu and Lisa went exploring for a while and came back to share their findings to act as a unifying prompt for us all.

This morning, after regulation French croissants and freshly-brewed coffee, Lisa gave Zu and me a run through the digital voice recorder.

Once we’re all able to use the recorder we will go out to investigate and be inspired by more of the local scenery with particular emphasis on the look, feel and sound of wild bamboo. Impressions and stories in sound, visuals and words to follow…..

Touch down in Torreilles

Zu and her family gave a wonderful warm welcome, meeting us London arrivals at Perpignan airport and driving us in her go-anywhere people van to our venue. En route from the airport Lisa got a call giving her some totally fabulous news (I’ll leave her to report on that as and when the time is right). So back at the venue there was much to celebrate over a delicious and slightly boozy lunch.  A few hours later, when the pull of the seaside could no longer be ignored, we were at the beach. The sea matched our equally bubbly mood. Down the coast, and through the Vaseline-effect sea mist, we could see the Pyrenees. From where we were, and as someone explained, the outline of the mountains flowed up from the sea as though a crocodile was at the water’s edge with its chin in the water. Later still, as the light softly faded behind us, we ate fresh seafood suppers and continued to discuss, amongst many things, our various ideas and expectations for the project. And then, a spark and a bang! Fireworks. Launched off the beach some 50 or 60 metres away from us and exploding above our heads in all the expected but nontheless never-boring colours, fizzes and glittering showers that seemed to be celebrating our collaboration with us.

Further preparations, and a request…

posted by Sara Laksimi

With only five days until we’re all together, final preparations are under way: Over in Torreilles, Zu is preparing our venue – our base for the two weeks – into a haven of comfort, fun and creativity. A few days ago Zu reported that she’d done some exterior painting work. She also mentioned that a decent dollop of wine had been involved. But fret not folks, I believe the bulk of painting got done before the inclusion of the wine. Meanwhile, in separate parts of London, Lisa and I have already started packing. Items of potential interest (depending on your interests of course) include:

  • video and still cameras – Lisa
  • handmade paper – me
  • factor 15 sun lotion – me
  • factor 8 sun lotion – Lisa
  • printing ink – Lisa
  • sunglasses – Lisa & possibly me
  • writing materials – me
  • laptops – Lisa & me
  • a collection of creative muses (some of which might pop out of a gift-wrapped bottle of gin) – Lisa & me

On a more serious note, I am also keen to further develop my potential lines of questioning and exploration. For example:

  • What is it I really want to know from and about the locals?
  • What do I hope to experience from being in the environment, a new one to me?
  • How do I want to dialogue with the community in Torreilles and the lives of the householders, the farmers, the shopkeepers?
  • If I could ask each person I met only one question to elicit crucial information or insight what would that one question be?

Suggestions Please: So here’s a question for you, dear reader: if you met a writer interested in retelling your stories to a wider audience, what question would you expect the writer to ask? Suggestions in the comments below. No prizes for the best ones (bar, perhaps, a glass of French wine), but you’ll definitely get a mention.

Not long now…

Busy adding visuals to our blog with Sara and getting excited about the residency in a couple of weeks.

This afternoon, in a semi-gutted pub on Golborne Road in North Kensington and as part of the Shubbak festival (11-26 July), we got to see the installation Another Day Lost by Syrian-born artist Issam Kourbaj. We had the great serendipitous opportunity of meeting him and talking about his work. He was also interested to hear about L’Appel et la Reponse and may well drop by on his way back from Spain next month.