Marchienne-au-Pont (in short Marchienne) was a commune on its own before it became part of Charleroi during the merge-of-communes-policy in 1977. Directly connected with the rest of the country by road, water and rail, it hosted some the most spectacular industries of the Charleroi region. Due to cheap living possibilities it was a hotspot for migration when the city needed working power. With the turning down of work, ethnic and social prejudices started to dominate the urban life; those who were not able to move away are confronted with tristesse. The everyday madness and absurdity was subjectively documented by journalist and filmmaker Richard Olivier in Marchienne de vie in 1994.
In this crisis context, where to focus hopes and future perspectives? The most appropriate initiatives often emerge from citizens’ engagement, in direct action. Marchienne developed in the last decades a very dynamic associative community, and numerous structures have emerged, with social purpose (help service Espace Citoyen), cultural purpose (underground temple Rockerill), or more generally a mix of both (MAI’tallurgie biannual festival). Together with institutions financed by the city, the federal state or Europe, these structures have seemingly set up a new economy, fully subsidized. In Wallonia, Charleroi is euphemistically called the “capital city of social affairs” (Capitale sociale de la Wallonie). Can this “social capital” create actual profit for Marchienne?
Starting from these observations and questions, we invited sixteen artistic positions to Marchienne to conduct research and develop a site-specific project. Thanks to the City of Charleroi, HOTEL CHARLEROI had the chance to inaugurate the apartments of Fonderie Thiébaut, a former industrial building that was recently renovated just next to Route de Mons, the main street leading from Charleroi to Marchienne. This residency lasted from Juli to September 2013, and was followed by the exhibition CAPITAL SOCIAL.