Coline Houssais & Pierre France

Curator & Scholar, France

Pierre France and Coline Houssais have at least two things in common: the year 1987 (when they were born) and being left-handed. Before digging cardboard boxes together they spent a jolly big part of their youth buried in the music section of France's local public librairies. When they eventually joined forces, they started exchanging musical gems and homemade sound pieces over the internet and have not stopped since then. Both trained in political science and MENA studies, they professionally focus on music from the Arab world and the issue of cultural archives in North Africa and the Middle East, Pierre as a PhD student (IFPO / Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) and Coline as founder of l'Agence Ustaza and lecturer at Sciences Po.

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Learn more about Coline Houssais:

Casseta / #K-7a

While in residence at the Camargo Foundation, Pierre France and Coline Houssais have worked on « Casseta », a multimedia project mixing the mapping of the Kabyle music audiotape industry in Paris and Marseille in the 1970s, the role of audiotapes as a media and the past, present and future of family archive support.

Everything started with a mysterious cardboard box containing a personal audio tape collection we “inherited” by chance at a car boot sale. Audio tape is indeed an object that can be sold, discarded, erased, which takes up space at the time of dematerialized music, and the quality of which deteriorates over time as the tape starts yawning. It is a neglected object filling entire boxes that can be found by chance at a local car boot sale. Yet the audio tape is also the medium of a migrant collective memory that is underrepresented in French popular culture and whose history is about to disappear: what stands as the main archive body of this sub-history is made of domestic and private documents that are sometimes discarded without coming first into official recognition. While the potentialities of the box are endless, we picked up a selected number of these threads and follow them: Kabyle immigration in France in the 20th century; archive and memory stocking and transmission from the analog to the digital age; our respective families’ obsession with hoarding. This box is also the starting point for new archives, those that we have created ironically through our recorded exchanges about the box, a steadily increasing material that we feed through letters, voice messages and emails, entangling real and virtual realms. In fifty years, will someone find entire lives recorded on hard disks in car boot sales? What kind of sounds our archives will be made of? Playlists, messages on answering machines and messaging apps, voice memos? These audiotapes are thus temporarily becoming part of our own archives, leading us to ask ourselves what we must keep and leave aside, whereas one always expects these questions to be the preserve of the children of immigration.

The movement restrictions brought on by the co-vid 19 pandemic prevented them from conducting the field research in Marseille and Paris that was one of the purposes of the residency as well as from meeting with cultural centres and artistic venues to explore potential production opportunities. However, Coline and Pierre used this time to sample the contents of the box as well as to further their reflection on their positioning in regard to the themes and objects of the project. This open discussion greatly benefited from the various conversations they had with fellow residents. They also explored alternative ways to conduct the project by dividing it into sub-projects of various formats to ensure that each chosen angle is given due credit and space to be properly addressed. Each member of this duet is to pursue other parallel projects after this residency, Casseta may thus evolve in new formats and various unexpected outputs accordingly. With travel limitations fostering a new round of remote work between them, they have tried to figure out new ways for the pursuit of this project in post-covid, taking stock of hectic work conditions and practical do's and don't's ahead. The project timeline as well as its scope have significantly evolved in this regard, yet without excluding another radical homecoming perspective: a (self-administered?) joint residency anew. Indeed, it turns out that days before the containment, while wandering for the first time into the streets of Cassis they stumbled into a mysterious plastic box full of burned CDs collection, left in a small street of Cassis. Syldavian electro music from the late 90s and Bordurian migrants' music from Skodj? Va bene, here they come.

As containment led to an extension of the initial length of Coline and Pierre’s residency from 8 to 11 weeks, both used this extra time to work on separate yet related project: Coline added the final touch to her book entitled Musiques du monde arabe - une anthologie en 100 artistes (to be published on June 28 2020 by Le Mot et le Reste) while Pierre wrote several articles related to his Ph.D thesis for academic journals (Confluences Méditerranée, Ethnologie Française, Critique Internationale), and a lenghty feature on music streaming in the Middle-East to be published online (Orient XXI).

Pierre France and Coline Houssais were in residence at the Camargo Foundation in 2020, as part of the Core Program.

Les Carnets de Camargo

To cope with lockdown due to the covid-19 situation in France, we have encouraged our current residents to share their experiences, and so the collaborative project, Les Carnets de Camargo, was born. Visual, written, and spoken testimonies invite us into the residents' lockdown, on the banks of the Mediterranean, hovering between dreams and reality, between illusions and disillusion. As Les Carnets de Camargo also aims at being a bond for our community, through reflection and exchange, these creations will eventually be the testimony of this unprecedented moment.

See Coline Houssais' contributions here.
See Pierre France's contributions here