Going back to my roots

The Languedoc, collaboration and building an exhibition. Aude Hérail Jäger LG tells us what she’s been doing over the past several months.

L.A.C. building April 2023

Lieu d’Art Contemporain (L.A.C.) in Hameau du Lac, near Sigean in the South of France became a magnet for contemporary art from its beginning in the early 1990’s. Imagine a tranquil village in the midst of vineyards in the Languedoc light; in the far distance picture the Pyrénnées mountains and close-by seawater lagoons in the south and the Corbières Massif in the north. Feel the warmth of the sun and the invigorating gusts of the ‘Cers’ wind. Hameau-du-Lac is situated at the crossroads of civilizations: inhabited since ancient times by the Elisyces, the Romans, on the border with the Kingdom of Spain later on. The heroic Cathares built castles perched on promontories to resist the King’s crusades against them in the 12th to 14th centuries. Everywhere in Occitanie, Roman archaeology is present. Magnificent abbeys dated from 7th century are aplenty. It is a wild, breath-taking, enigmatic and incorruptible landscape.

I was born and grew up there. Both sides of my family come from the region. The light, the smells, the history are in my DNA, they are mine.

There, the Dutch painter Piet Moget and his daughter Layla Moget, L.A.C. Director modified a vast disused wine cellar into a 2000 m2 art space over two levels that has been ever since hosting international contemporary artists (Marlene Dumas, William Copley, Robert Morris, Berlinde de Bruyckere, Sol Lewitt, Athina Ioannou, Jean-Michel Basquiat, …) as well as showing their extensive Art Collection (Geer van Velde, Corrie DeBoer, Wolfgang Laib, Donald Judd, Louise Bourgeois, Piet Moget, …). Some old wine vats have even been transformed into intimate exhibition spaces.

L.A.C.’s building is practically identical to my old family home, from the architecture to the stones, shutters and portals. My father was a winegrower and his winery was partly underground under our house. La cave was lit by high window wells and had several dark vaults secured by iron gates. There were strong smells changing with the various winemaking processes over the year. Throughout my childhood, I was regularly sent down to fetch Papa, searching for him in a maze of gutters and channels dug in the ground, hoses and pipes, walls of wine bottles and all sizes of wood, metal or cement vats.

From my first step into L.A.C. I was hooked. It felt like a kind of home for both my personal history and for my artist Self in the here-and-now. What also still appeals to me is L.A.C.’s autonomous artistic vision that the Moget family protects by running their space as non-commercial – regardless of outside pressures.

Layla Moget and I grew up with parents who had an independent spirit and vision, and enough conviction to face the challenges that freedom and pioneering can bring. Her Dutch parents brought to the region exposure to a wide-ranging understanding and appreciation of contemporary art. My parents were among the first to convert their vineyards to organic standards and produce organic fruits and wine.

In 1997 I approached Piet Moget and Layla Moget with a proposal to show nine British artists. I curated for a surface of ca. 2000m2 investing both floors, with the desire to stretch the entire space up-and-down, play with the vertical and horizontal planes and create a vibrating flow through the walls and ceiling. The exhibition was titled ‘O Pas Là, Surprising Spaces’ and showed sculpture/installation (Phyllida Barlow, Eric Bainbridge, David Johnson, Terry Smith, Roxane Permar), film (Jayne Parker), painting (Joan Key) and drawing (Aude Hérail Jäger, Judith Frost). Christopher Kool-Want wrote an extensive catalogue text. ‘O Pas Là, Surprising Spaces’ was supported in the UK by The Henry Moore Foundation and The British Council.

I have since then followed the journey of L.A.C. and continue to admire the visual acumen of Piet and Layla, later Layla on her own. The L.A.C. is still a brilliant art space and my heart is elated when I step in. The Covid lockdowns rules imposed travel bans here and abroad but often at mismatching times. And for the first time in my life, I could not go back to my home ground for two full years. My very first visit at L.A.C. after the pandemic was in September 2022 when I felt the usual sigh of homecoming. This was followed by an irrepressible desire to stage an outburst of creativity in the form of an overall installation of artworks all through the 650 m2 floor space. I suggested to Layla Moget to submit a new proposal.

Mark Brusse exhibition 2023 L.A.C.
Mark Brusse exhibition 2023 L.A.C.

The scale of L.A.C. takes my breath away even though exhibitions currently take place ‘only’ over the 650 m2 ground floor. The upper rooms now show selections of the Moget Art Collection that Layla curates with flair. I first envisaged hanging the artwork from the ceiling throughout the exhibition space, simulating the vibrancy of old Naples streets where washing hangs from windows and across pavements like celebrating flag banners. I invited Tisna Westerhof to share this project as a direct chain reaction of the previous years. In January 2023 Layla sent her approval for the exhibition THE OPEN DOOR.

I have found articulating work in the written language for the exhibition outline challenging. I thank the friends who kindly read and reread my text and suggested little adjustments until the proposal was clear and flowing.

Working with Tisna had already started during Covid. Stuck home during lockdowns we established regular zoom meetings to talk about our artwork. We noticed soon how much ‘home’ was fundamental to our art: Tisna reinvents traditional handicrafts such as embroidery and sewing while I use vintage bedlinen and interior architecture such as staircases and floors. Our conversation moved to domesticity and the meaning of ‘home’. Being stuck in the home was very unsafe for some women, children suffered in their mental, emotional and academic development. Class mattered during the pandemic.

We talked of 400 years of women in China being prisoners in their homes through the mutilations of their feet. Or the Nushu women in the high mountains who were so isolated that they invented a secret language embedded in their embroideries to communicate with one another. Or the prisoners of war camps who took up embroidery to stay sane. Or the millions of women who are not allowed to leave their houses without being covered or/and accompanied.

We understood that we wanted to affirm the value of what happens creatively in the house but also to assert the freedom to leave or enter the house at one’s own will. In parallel, while all this was unfolding, I discovered and re-read several times ‘Le Parfum des Fleurs La Nuit’, Stock 2021, by the French Moroccan writer Leïla Slimani about creativity, art, displacement, a book that invited for the exhibition name the phrase ‘The Open Door’.

“[..] Virginia Woolf, more than anyone, truly understood the degree to which the condition of women forced them to live in a constant tension between the inside and the outside. [..] The question of women is a question of space. It is impossible to understand the domination women are subjected to without studying its geography, without evaluating the constraints imposed upon their bodies by clothing, by places, by other eyes. Rereading Virginia Woolf’s diary, I remembered that she had once imagined a sequel to A Room of One’s Own. The provisional title was … The Open Door. [..]” Leïla Slimani ‘The Scent of Flowers at Night‘, Hodder & Stoughton 2023.

Aude with Layla L.A.C. Residency April 23

The first exhibition title was to be ‘THE OPEN DOOR – Airing The Wash’ following my original impulse to hang most of the artwork from the ceiling (also referencing the narrative and scenes on the building roof in Ettore Scola’s film ‘A Special Day’). The subtitle signalled the need to look and change obsolete models of gender roles and get rid of their sour smells. The more Tisna and I shared our ideas and looked at each other’s artwork, the more layers the project acquired, finalising the title of the exhibition as THE OPEN DOOR.

Tisna outside with Languedoc light and Cers wind Residency L.A.C. April 23

The workload since September 2022 has been heavy. Tisna’s parallel practice of socially engaged work introduced in THE OPEN DOOR exhibition an international exchange project we led with local communities in both countries. I organised and run workshops in France while Tisna did so in the UK – resulting in the production of two quilts that will be shown in the L.A.C. exhibition among our own artwork in spring 2024 and at hARTslane Art Project Space in London in autumn 2024. Tisna wrote and was successful in obtaining an Arts Council of England Project Grant for THE OPEN DOOR project. L.A.C. will publish a substantial catalogue with four texts from French and British authors and academics.

Brexit considerably complicated things with new and expensive Customs rules on both sides and it has taken eight months to sort out the transport of our work between London and the South of France. I am learning how to balance moments of anxiety at THE OPEN DOOR ‘s high stakes with moments of elation for each successful step forward. I am relying on the practices of Yoga, Tai-chi and Qigong or running to even-out adrenaline-fuelled outbursts of energy and demoralising frustrating tasks.

The concepts of ‘home’ and displacement are a constantly shifting issue for me as a French person living and working in the UK for most of my adult life. The themes of childhood, family, belonging, womanhood and memory run throughout the exhibition and it is with some trepidation that I am presenting THE OPEN DOOR to the community of my own childhood, near where I grew up but flew away from as a young adult. I don’t have close family there any longer or access to my old family home but I am invited to enter and inhabit L.A.C. for a couple of months and keep the door open.

All are warmly invited to come and visit THE OPEN DOOR. Layla Moget, Tisna Westerhof and myself would love to welcome you at L.A.C. and later on at hARTslane.


Aude Hérail Jäger LG, 6 Dec 2023



Aude Hérail Jäger and Tisna Westerhof
06/04/24 – 02/06/24
Private View 06/04/24
Lieu d’Art Contemporain – 1 rue de la Berre, Hameau du Lac, 11130 Sigean, France

Aude Hérail Jäger and Tisna Westerhof
10/09/24 – 24/09/24 tbc
hARTSlane – 17 Harts Lane, New Cross Gate, London SE14 5UP, UK

Sea lagoons near L.A.C. April 23