Alain Bron’s seventh life

Photography : Camille Noyon - Text : Elisabeth Grosdhomme
Alain Bron BAT

A few weeks prior to the inauguration of the fourth edition of L’Art en Chemin, an artistic endeavour of which he is both the inventor and the working hands, Alain Bron is busy with the last preparations. There are so many things to get done : putting up works of art in the midst of nature, along hiking trails which, this year, will go from Trumilly to Senlis. They will be paintings, sculptures, photographies, short stories printed on plastified media, sometimes theatre pieces or even concerts which the hikers will find on their path. So many reasons to get out, explore the surrounding nature, be amazed, talk to people upon chance encounters along the way.

This is anything but Alain Bron’s first try. For decades, he has kept inventing and re-inventing himself, carried forward by a founding experience which would be unimaginable nowadays, being so risky : at sixteen years old, awarded an « adventure grant » by a charitable foundation, he went alone on an expedition to the Sahara, in the southern part of Tunisia, with enough financial support to go off but not to fund the return trip. A unique experience of hunger and cold, but also of genuine hospitality, odd jobs in order to get from one place to another and finally back home.

As a result: a failed school year, but wisdom gained for an entire life – a lesson in trying, discovering enduring and coming back.

From there on, Alain Bron was successively a students’ union leader, a mathematician and an IT systems architect, before deciding in 1995 to start again from zero. Not on a whim but after getting acquainted with Vincent de Gaulejac, one of the major thinkers in the field of organisational sociology. Alain went back to university to learn about the discipline and started a new career as a consultant specialising in crisis management, especially caring for the after-crisis when, in the aftermath of social conflits which are often exhausting for all parties, you need to put everyone back to work. What followed were twenty years of going around the world from crisis to crisis, restoring confidence and rebuilding team dynamics in companies torn apart by dire tensions.

During all those travelling years, wherever the location and whenever the time, Alain Bron never let go of a habit he formed as a teenager : writing. He has always started his days at dawn with one or two hours of writing. Pieces of text which, little by little, agglomerate, grow, take place within larger narratives and become books. His first novel, « Concert pour Asmodée », was published in 1998 and reprinted four times since then. In a very different genre, « Comment sourire aux radars ? », a collection of humorous notes originally published on his blog, has sold more than 40.000 copies. In total, two essays, ten novels (and two literary prizes), a practical guide, numerous short stories and the ever unadulterated joy of speaking with readers during autograph sessions and book fairs.

From the pleasure of meetings around his works was born the idea of « L’Art en Chemin » or rather of its ancestor, the « Chemin des Cinq Sens », in Ardèche. A number of years ago, Alain Bron had bought a house in this area, by the side of a trail which had formerly linked the villages of Saint-Christol and Saint-Barthélemy. But while Saint-Christol was historically protestant, Saint-Barthélemy was catholic ; since the « Dragonnades », a dramatic episode of the religious wars in 1688, the two villages would hardly communicate with one another and the path was abandoned. Alain Bron had the wild idea of reopening that path, make it walkable again, put up artworks here and there for villagers from both sides to wander and grow ties again. The beginnings were difficult. After the third edition though, the bet was won : the trail reopened all the way, and local residents curious to come and experience the pleasure of speaking to each other again.

Since then Alain Bron has resettled to the Oise district and decided to transpose the experience there. The first year, in 2013, the proposed itinerary encompassed 2,7 kilometers from the fountain’s square in Rully to the priory in Bray ; a thousand visitors came, in groups of friends or family, to discover the art works and nature, and talk along the way. This year, for the fourth edition, with the help of thirty volunteers, the itinerary was extended to Raray, Trumilly, Balagny-sur-Aunette and Senlis with 25 authors, 20 visual artists, 16 primary-school classes and a few surprises : here a singer perched atop a tree, there choreography in a park, elsewhere a comedian reading out literary pieces from a car.

Oise is a different place from Ardèche. There are no sequels from religious wars here to hold villages apart. As a sociologist however, Alain Bron noticed one thing straight away : if nature has stayed more or less the same, its inhabitants have profoundly changed. Even if we live in the countryside, most of our jobs are no longer linked to agriculture or forestry ; we work in the city, in offices, shops or factories. Should such a trend continue, nature is at risk of soon being but a decor. We therefore need to be given new reasons of walking the paths and reinvent our connection with the territory hosting us.

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