The Well/Le Puits

Åsa Stjerna

From a well that dried up many years ago in the middle of the garden of Hôtel de Marles, flows a gentle, forever changing sound loop intoning the names of the people who have lived and worked at 11 rue Payenne over the centuries. The Well/Brunnen mentions the woodcarver Destoux, the bricklayer Lamarre, and the silk spinner Mansard, whom the artist has dug out of the ancient documents in the Archives Nationales. But it also includes people working at the Swedish Institute in Paris today.

Åsa Stjerna has asked actors to recite the names of the tenants and workers of the place. The material has been compiled into a vital archive comprising hundreds of names of people, occupations, dates and the name of the place itself. In The Well/Brunnen, these names float past, distinguishable or as fragmented, burbling gestures, only to resurface later – but never in the same form.

The dry well is adjacent to an underground passage. Together, these spaces serve as resonance chambers for the audio material with its simmering layers of names spanning from the 16th century to today, linking past and present, without any linear chronology. The place is reactivated and becomes a passage that connects different eras.

The Well/Brunnen is a site-specific work commissioned by the Public Art Agency Sweden for the Swedish Institute in Paris.

Åsa Stjerna is a Swedish artist who uses sound and listening in her explorations of places, spheres and phenomena relating to public space. Her site-specific, unassuming, audio designs activate the underlying – and not always perceptible – historic, social and political structures of a place.