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Take Off and Land Art

We’ve invented a new sport: extreme art appreciation. In this case, viewing Andy Goldsworthy Land Art in the remote hills of North Provence, by helicopter. A new concept of the term day-trip for the art-enthusiast staying in Provence or on the riviera.

Since 1995 Andy Goldsworthy, the British-born ‘land artist’, has been coming to the town of Dignes-les-Bains and working on outdoor sculptures and installations in the surrounding hills and valleys. Beginning in 2005, he started on a series called Les Refuges d’Art, which are a collection of works joined by a walking trail in the mountains that takes roughly 10 days to complete.

The central tenet of land art is that it is placed within a landscape, and uses the landscape and the materials within it to create the work of art—sometimes temporary, sometimes very permanent. It’s also, to my mind, one of the few totally accessible forms of modern art. What better project than this 10 day trek whereby when you arrive at the installations, exhausted, lost and mud-besplattered, you have such an intimate understanding of their location, materials and context?

Or you can break entirely with the spirit of the concept, and do it all by helicopter. Granted, this might cost you the more subtle nuances of feeling towards the rock and clay that are Goldsworthy’s main tools here, but firstly it allows those of us without two weeks to spare to see the works in a day out from Eze, and secondly it brings a new and different perspective as you approach the landscape from a new angle—directly from above.

Instead of the trouble of following a mountain path and not getting lost, here you have the difficulty of locating the sculptures in a rough sea of mountains, forests and farmhouses below you. Instead of the physical strain of climbing the mountain, you have the technical problem of landing your chopper in a wood. It’s not so much Land Art as Google Earth art.

Although this trip can be put together from the Riviera (provided you know the right heli pilot), I’m a bigger fan of the quieter charms of the village of Moustier-Ste-Marie at the mouth of the great Canyon du Verdon. Here we stay with our great friends Joël and Geneviève who run La Bouscatière, a perfect B&B with all the things you really need just right (rooms, food, welcome) and all of the things you don’t really need cut out (TV).

Jack has been walking, biking, running, flying, and yes, chopper-ing around France for as long as we can remember. He knows the country’s topography so well that he might find work as a Google Maps contributor, should trip planning not pan out. For the time being, you can reach him here.

 It brings a new and different perspective as you approach the landscape from a new angle—directly from above.

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