Site Model

and constructions
in text and image

Programme 1: Spaces

Magic Realism and Environment in Text and Image


(Coordinators: Molly Chatalic, François Gavillon, Lucie Taïeb)


While it is true that “magic realism” is a much disputed term used to cover the thousand and one forms that this mode (is it a mode?) can take, it is equally true that the representation of the “environment” in contemporary literature and visual arts (is it only a case of representation?) also has multiple facets.

The aim of this research programme will therefore be to answer several questions, the first of which is whether “magic realism”, given current environmental expressions, needs to be redefined, whether the term itself remains valid, or whether it needs to be integrated with or replaced by new terminologies.

At the same time, the importance of the environmental issue in literature and in the visual arts deserves critical examination. This research programme will therefore also aim to explore new artistic expressions and, in the light of these expressions, to further the discussion on certain core issues. How should we understand environment in the Anthropocene era? How do literary poetics and the aesthetics of the visual arts today question the issues of the relationship between the human and the non-human, of animality, of environmental justice, of the sense of place and of home, of the local and the global? Rather than the environment, is it not more a case of environmentality? And is environmentality a crisis or a condition of life?

Does magical realism, in all of its constructs, shed light on the environmental condition, and does the latter lead to new experiences and expressions of being-in-the-world? It is through the study of the encounter between these two territorialities of thinking and being that our programme intends to answer this fundamental question. Its corpus will integrate all forms of literature (fiction, non-fiction, critique), images and moving images, in as many geographical and linguistic areas as possible.



Herbs: From One “Modernity” To Another

(Coordinator: Maria Fátima Rodríguez)


Our second subject of study, herbs, represents a logical continuity of the first and a component of thinking indissociable from the problems posed by several papers presented in the two previous symposia. Certain works on the historical use of perfumes or on plants, the use of which was prohibited, have given rise to dialectic relationships: forbidden/allowed, virtues/misdeeds, and so on. While herbs, like spices, redefine geographical spaces as much as they do culinary or therapeutic territories, when associated with the idea of trafficking, they trace another “modernity” and thereby new dialectics: licit/illicit and legal/illegal, following on from the traditional perception of forbidden/allowed. The leading lines of these new modes of perception anchored in our mentalities can be examined in a transversal way in the light of disciplines as diverse as history, medicine, botany, philosophy, law, literature and iconography.


Work organisation: Study days from October 2015 leading up to an international symposium planned for the start of the 2016-2017 academic year.

Possible speakers: Patrick Lesbre, anthropologist, an expert in pre-Cortesian Mexico; Luise Benat-Tachot, historian, an expert in the chronicles of the conquest and colonisation of America.

An exhibition will be devoted to this subject in parallel with the symposium.

Possible partners: Ocean University of China (OUC) in Qingdao; Qingdao Technological University Qingdao College (QDC).

Involved in this project: Iside Costantini, Molly Chatalic, Nicolas Diochon, Philippe Guillou, Nathalie Narváez, Yue Yue.



Representations and Discourse of the Sea and its Resources (IDMeR)

(Coordinators: C. Conan, K. Page-Jones)


The aim of this project is to examine the persistence of an imaginative world related to the sea in the maritime culture of the regions along the Celtic fringe and the Scandinavian countries, as well as the influences of this world and of maritime representations (aesthetic, literary, cultural, etc.) on the marine environment, social practices and consumer trends.

As Roland Barthes demonstrated in connection with sugar, a logic that goes beyond the purely economic or political may preside over the study of consumption patterns. A whole imaginative world related to taste, values, emotions and affects underlies the notion of a food substance. Moreover, in her book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, Jane Bennett considers both the impact of imagination on the act of consuming as well as the agency of the foods that become, or become once again, living matter in contact with an organism or an environment. Both the individual and the matter he/she consumes become active and efficient components in a system that Bennett calls “non-linear assemblage”.

This project, part of the vast field of the environmental humanities, will draw on tales, myths and legends, folklore and the arts to examine the structuring forces of this imaginative world, as well as the relationships between the latter and the way in which a whole people appropriates the sea, its coastline and its resources.

More specifically, we will look at the persistence of this imaginative world in the contemporary literature of the Celtic fringe (Brittany, Scotland and Ireland) and the Scandinavian countries (Iceland); a literature that today re-territorialises and questions the issue of territorial belonging or cultural identity specific to a land or a people.

This project will also question the possibility of a new artistic, territorial and political connivance, notably by studying the relationships between maritime arts and political/scientific discourse (Blue Growth, etc.) that raise public awareness of the marine environment and new ecosystem challenges. The multiplication of fairs and festivals supported by local authorities (the Étonnants Voyageurs international film and book festival, the Concarneau book fair, etc.), exhibitions combining aesthetics and science (Océanopolis, Nausicaa, etc.), literary prizes placing the maritime novel in the spotlight... These and more testify to this desire to recreate a form of solidarity between the narrative and the territory, to disseminate and introduce the general public to these maritime arts and literary texts anchored in both regions and traditions but also enriched by horizons and faraway lands through this imaginative world of the sea.

This reflection is one of the five major study fields of UBL+, “Oceans, land-sea interface and societies in transition”. To try to develop a working methodology along these lines, we have brought together a team of 15 researchers representing five laboratories of the University of Western Brittany to propose the creation of an Ocean Studies / Humanities and Social Sciences inter-dynamic study field within the framework of the Transverse Project - BQR - 2015 call for projects. The laboratories concerned are the following: HCTI (Legacies and Constructions in Texts and Images), AMURE (Centre for the Law and Economics of the Sea), CRBC (Centre for Breton and Celtic Research), CRPCC (Centre for Research in Psychology, Cognition and Communication) and LERCCo (Laboratory for the Evaluation of Chemical Risks to the Consumer). Contacts have also been made with the LEMAR (Marine Environmental Sciences Laboratory) and Geoarchitecture laboratories.

HCTI participants:

Mathilde Caer / Catherine Conan / François Gavillon / Camille Manfredi / Kimberley Page-Jones.




Sense of Belonging and the Americas

(Coordinator: M.-C. Michaud)


This programme proposal for the new contract falls within Study Field 1 “Spaces”, and could be constructed around the directions indicated by the following terms: contacts, encounters, exchanges, travel, transfers, identities, etc.


Work organisation: Study days; Conferences / Public lectures; Exhibitions; Shows.

Possible partners: Ocean University of China (OUC) in Qingdao; Qingdao Technological University Qingdao College (QDC); University of Cádiz (UCA); Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB, CEFID-GEXEL); Brest Town Hall; Brest Twinning Committee; Brest Métropole; Cadix Town Hall; Regional Government of Andalusia; Association Historia Actual (AHA).


Project leaders: Maria José Fernández Vicente (Legacies and Constructions in Texts and Images – EA 4249, HCTI) and Iván López Cabello (Legacies and Constructions in Texts and Images – EA 4249, HCTI).

“The Sense of Belonging in the Americas”

M.-C. Michaud (group coordinator), M. Chatalic, M. J. Fernandez, M. Guennec, I. L. Cabello, M.-F. Rodriguez, M. Saki; associated: M. Butel.


The sense of belonging to a group, to a space or to a structure can help build and affirm not only individuals but also nations. In this respect, it meets the concept of a leading line, the general theme chosen by the HCTI host research team for the 2017-2021 five-year project. The ‘Americas’ group suggests integrating Study Field 1, “Spaces”, developing the theme of “The Sense of Belonging in the Americas”.

This group, which collaborates in the activities of the Institut des Amériques research consortium, aims to provide expertise on the whole of the American continent (hence its name ‘Americas’ in the plural).


During the five years of the project, the group’s programme will broach the subject from different perspectives, drawing in particular on written and iconographic documents. The group’s multidisciplinary approach will make it possible to highlight various notions related to that of space on the American continent:

1) Spaces and the mobility or sedentariness of populations.

2) Geographical boundaries: nationalism, regionalism and communitarianism.

3) Identity boundaries: representation of territories and the Other.

4) Ties, encounters and exchanges or rejections within these spaces or between spaces.


The study of migration, a fundamental phenomenon in the American context, and the construction of individual, community and national identities, will constitute a major part of this programme given their very specific dimension within the context of the New World. Moreover, they are in keeping with the unifying theme of the previous five-year contract, namely “The Americas, Old and New” (implying “Worlds”).

The work of the experts will be organised around conferences (one or two per semester), study days (one per semester), and two symposia (in 2018 and 2021).



Arts: Research and Creation / Creation and Research

(Coordinators: Isabelle Le Corff and Jean-Manuel Warnet)


This project further continues a partnership between:


The following research laboratories of the University of Western Brittany: EA 4249 “Legacies and Constructions in Texts and Images” (HCTI - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Brest, Lorient), and EA 2219 (Geoarchitecture - Brest, Lorient).

Courses at the University of Western Brittany (UBO) and the University of Southern Brittany (UBS): Master 2 in Performing Arts; Master in Urban Planning (Geoarchitecture - Brest); Master in Planning (UBS); Master in Cultural Heritage (UBS); Bachelor in Art Studies (UBO).

University of Winchester (UK): Bachelor of Street Arts.

Le Fourneau (national centre for street arts - Brest).

The Interreg ZEPA II European programme.

The Ecole Européenne Supérieure d’Art de Bretagne (EESAB) higher arts school - Brest.


The aim is to propose a research programme to accompany the creation and development of the Bachelor in Art Studies course in Brest following an initial meeting (“Brain Storm”) on the creative thesis held in June 2016.


It will be a case of going beyond the questioning of the work in the dimension of how it is received, which, for better or for worse, is the majority discourse of research in the arts (especially in France where the split is strong between art schools and universities, between theory and practice). Rather, it will first concern the movement of creation, which constitutes research in and of itself.


The association of the two concepts leads us to redefine what we put under each designation and to question the aims of research and creation, as well as the links and dissensions between the two.  We can question how the creative process nourishes research and, on the contrary, probe the place of research in the creative process. How can this research be defined? How can we grasp its movement, its transformations? What traces does it leave?


Does the association between creation and research not give rise to a new way of doing research? How does artistic research also constitute research?


Research may precede a creative act, but it may also be present at all stages of the process. How is it formalised, recorded? These traces disappear behind the “finished product” represented by “the creation”. Is there a desire to erase the traces of experimentation on the part of the artist in order to retain only the finished work? And does the sanctification of the work of art as a finished object, admired and subject to teleological commentary, not lead to an oversight of the artisanal, technical and collective dimensions of the creative process and the place of chance, encounters, strategies, and the economic and political contexts?


The link between research and creation also invites researchers to question teaching: what is available to the creator in terms of teaching(s)? Which school or schools can be deemed to be the model(s)? How does the researcher position him or herself with respect to what is considered a school?


These questions are neither new nor complete. We suggest examining them with measured steps, by first proposing a seminar consisting of three study days in collaboration with regional partners (TyFilms Mellionnec, EESAB Brest, etc.), followed by an international symposium in 2018-2019.