In the carefree days before the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown period began, I was out and about cycling through the suburbs to the north of ...

Traversée: picking up good vibrations at Blanquefort tram/train station

In the carefree days before the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown period began, I was out and about cycling through the suburbs to the north of Bordeaux and made an unplanned stop to have a good look at “Traversée”, an interactive public art piece that can be found at the combined tram and railway station in Blanquefort.  

The work, which was officially unveiled in September 2017, was created by the young Paris-based artists Cécile Beau and Nicolas Montgermont as part of the contemporary art programme rolled out to accompany the development of Bordeaux Métropole’s tram network. It was conducted by the Métropole within the framework of public commissions led by France’s Culture and Communication ministry and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region’s artistic creation and cultural affairs department.

"Traversée" in all its glory.
What is it all about then? Well, the information panel states that it was inspired by the movies and the sight of an “Indian” (presumably a native American?) pressing his ear to the rail of a railway line to hear when a train was about to arrive. The work therefore consists of a single curved, raised rail that stretches for 15 metres alongside the tram line, and that connects up with the tram line proper towards the end of the platform. The idea is that anybody can touch or cup their ear to the installation and magically feel the vibrations of a tram as it is either arriving or departing.   

Or, to put it more poetically, official literature claims that Traversée is “a silent sound experience that transforms the time spent waiting into a sensory experience”. Cross-checking back to the information panel on site, the piece is also defined as “a vibrating instrument which varies and evolves, creating a physical link with the tram that is each day renewed”.

Lots of happy silhouettes enjoying the hands-on experience.
So I spent a little time there to try and make the most of the, a-hem, silent sound sensory experience and have to say that… hmmm… nothing much happened at all really. My experiment involved two separate trams arriving and departing, and much as I did my best to milk the physical link with the tram with a little help from Traversée, the whole thing was distinctly short on perceptible vibrations.

Traces of Traversée's previous life.
Now, as trams are few and far between on weekend mornings in Blanquefort, I have to admit I soon gave up and promised myself I would come back another time and do whatever it takes to experience the interactive exhibit to the full (and to get some better photos), but then the lockdown came along, leaving me with this unfinished project on my hands. But I promise I will be back, pressing my ear, cheek, head, shoulders, knees, toes and various other parts of my body to the structure until I start picking up those good vibrations. In the meantime, given the general situation, I don’t think anybody is touching it much at all these days. 

To be continued!  

> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Traversée, gare de Blanquefort
> Ce dossier est également disponible en français !
> A full website dedicated to the artwork is available here and features a host of interesting plans, diagrams and pictures of work in progress on the artwork itself and its installation:
> Do also check out the websites of artists Cécile Beau and Nicolas Montgermont. Montgermont’s website features this Soundcloud clip of the arrival of a tram. His experience was clearly more successful than mine… 

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