A sanctuary, prison and cultural center: The Fontevraud Abbey as video art

First a religious space, then a Napoleonic jail, and now the hub of culture: Turning the monastery into modern art

Published April 7, 2011 3:08PM (EDT)

Art. History.
Art. History.

If you are ever in France, check out the Fontevraud Abbey, a gigantic monastery created in 1100 by a preacher trying to create a new world order. In this sanctuary, women were appointed leaders of the order, a pretty contemporary view considering the times.

During the French Revolution the order was dissolved, and by 1804, was turned into a prison. Then, in 1975, it became a cultural center. Go figure.

I guess the real question is, how do you get young people interested in a building that is older than the entire country of America? The abbey has asked young artists to "reappropriate" the building for a contemporary audience. I think Francis Cutter & Vincent Nguyen from the video "Welcome to the Fontevraud" have done a pretty amazing job.

I love how this video has that techno "Run Lola Run" quality to it that can almost make you forget how many bodies are buried in the building.

By Drew Grant

Drew Grant is a staff writer for Salon. Follow her on Twitter at @videodrew.

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