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Érik Orsenna's Editorial

Member of the Académie Française

I can hear you saying: impressionists! Impressionists again and again! Couldn’t the Normans find something a bit different to celebrate? And, to be honest, I wasn’t far from agreeing with you. Until the festival’s team started to show me their ideas. Until I saw waves of proposals coming in, one after the other. That’s when I realised how lazy my curiosity had become.

Not only was the 19th century bottomless, a trunk full of treasures which had not and would never be completely catalogued. You might know this saying, which I particularly like: You never know what the past has in store for you. You just have to change the angle and other worlds emerge from a major work which we thought we knew everything about. You just need to get off the beaten track to see unknown artists or masters described as “minor” emerge and we realise, with amazement, how they actively contributed to the revolution.

But the past is not the monopoly of invention. No matter what some might think – supporters of “things were better before” – art did not suddenly stop in July 1914. You will be given proof of its continuity, a continuity in its fervour, in countless exhibitions. Today’s creation is setting about it to its heart’s content. To use another of my favourite expressions, my money is on you being flabbergasted: “I didn’t know that our modernity was capable of so much freedom and so many colours.”

And long live this Normandy which I’m discovering year by year, with its unbelievable, dynamic diversity! For this festival is above all a celebration of our territories. All our territories, and not just Rouen, Caen or Le Havre. One of the worst enemies of our Republic is that awful expression “it’s not for me”. Unfortunately, it is something I often hear when I travel around to open libraries. Reading “isn’t for me”. Painting “isn’t for me”. We must use all our strength to stifle this idea. Do you know a better personal or public notion for living than this? Let’s broaden the field of possibilities. I remember those marvels called magic lanterns. I approached my gaze and a universe appeared. And, each time, I wondered: is this another universe or a new possibility for ours? We are going to turn next springtime into a festival of the possible!