Le P.H.U.N., La Vengeance des Semis

Review in Issue 15-3 | Autumn 2003

Le P.H.U.N. are a large collective of French artists who specialise in environmental work spread over three or four days. For this project, they turned Albert Square – a city centre location in front of Manchester Town Hall – into a large French peasant farm holding. I'd seen photos of this show and had an idea of what to expect but nothing could prepare for the sensation of turning a corner and seeing a familiar open space transformed into something else completely

Sheds were dotted around: vegetable plots and greenhouses covered the cobbles of the square; pens with sheep, a cow and some chickens were visible. Braziers were producing clouds of smoke which thickened up the atmosphere and you could see figures in blue denim at work with wheelbarrows and rakes. The whole area is dotted with installations which betray a sly humour and give clues to the artistic intentions of the piece: although there are plots of earth, rows of peppers are just stuck in there arranged according to colour rather than the desire to reproduce accurately how a pepper is grown; radishes are plonked down on top of the foliage so they look like bunches of flowers; entering a hothouse you see salami-shaped growths of grass hanging from hooks and other benign experiments on plants. The understatement is almost British!

The performance is low-key but vital to the piece. New details are constantly added. The company works 24 hours a day with two teams of performers working eight-hour shifts. If you go back at midnight they are still at it. The languorous tone is at complete odds with the busy city: businessmen who have just got out of a taxi suddenly become immersed in this extraordinary location as they make their way to the town hall. There's no explanation as to why this farm has suddenly appeared, it just has. The completeness of the execution soon makes you forget such questions. La Vengeance des Semis is total theatre at its most total!

Presenting Artists

Albert Square

Date Seen
  1. Jul 2003

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-3
p. 29