La Grande-Motte, 2016

The leitmotif in this series is the French Mediterranean tourist resort of La Grande-Motte, a super artificial coastal city. It is one of those rare cities that were planned entirely from scratch and were designed around a well-defined concept by a single architect, Jean Balladur.

In the late 60’s, in a very short time, La Grande-Motte rose amid a Mediterranean saltwater marsh. The area had to be completely drained and got coated with a concrete skin, non-native plant species and (today) out-dated futuristic ziggurats and pyramids had to swallow hundred of thousands of tourists during summer season. The half a million alien trees planted there are exactly the same age as the buildings. Each year, the mosquito population is skilfully suppressed during the peak season with crop duster planes. During off-season the town is empty, the contrast is hallucinatory and fascinating. During nearly ten months, everything is being locked, the streets are empty, the parking slots go up and the mosquitoes take over.

This series of photos and videos are observations, investigating the artificial urbanization of La Grande-Motte in various ways. Sarah muses over the design of a city whose sole reason for existence is tourism. In filmed and photographed actions, Sarah works with the seasonal occupation of the city or satirizes the artificial exoticism of La Grande-Motte. The oppressed role nature gets to play in this whole urban project is scrutinized. At the same time the works are odes to our collective memories of holidays at sea: the act of deflating an air mattress, stuffed cars or plastic bottles with lukewarm soda.


Thierry Vandenbussche, Stilll Gallery