Since 2009, the Seine-Saint-Denis County Council has been backing “la Culture et l’Art au Collège (CAC)”. This project is based to a large extent on the presence in class for several weeks (40h) of an artist or scientist whose mission is to engage the students in a process of research and creation. 


Hélène Dubail et Sébastien Wit / Researchers in Comparative Literature 

Chargé de projet:
Mathieu Marion


The aim here was to think about artistic works by considering them as a place with no real borders, made up of combinations and constant circulation. Guided by a comparative literature researcher, the students studied the question of “chance” in the creative process. This involved highlighting the original, close and often little-known connections that circulate between books, films, shows and pictures of different styles and eras. By starting off with one work, using a method and multiplying the examples, this project took the students on an unusual journey to the place where literature, cinema, the plastic arts and music meet.


What goes into the making of a book, film or song? This project explored all the elements that make up a work of art and the students learned to isolate them. They practised on a work suggested by the contributor: “4’’33” by John Cage, and its “narrative”, “technical”, “aesthetic” components were dissected, recorded and interpreted. A new work of art, this time literary, was brought into the classroom: Paul Auster’s novel “The Music of Chance”. Once again, the students identified and classified its components. Once this task had been completed, the class compared the two classifications to see how the same elements evolve from one work to the next, and how networks of meanings and unsuspected analogies can emerge.

Using this as a basis, the group discussed the notion of chance from three angles – its connections with noise, doubt and disorder. These angles became the common thread for the next phase making it possible to expand the body of work. Books, pictures and poems were added, such as “Les dizains de Marcel Benamou” and “11752 mètres et des poussières” by Linda Sanchez and “La Mécanique du désordre” by Damien Villière. The students looked for and found influences and relationships; to do this, they constructed shared themes, spotted tendencies and picked out origins in common. They researched words that derived from or expressed the questions studied and this is how the 3 themes finally emerged. First and foremost, in works of art, what is the relationship between doubt and chance? Then, where is disorder in works of art? And in what forms? Lastly, why can the disorder in works of art be considered as a kind of noise?

Differences and Similarities
The students worked in pairs. Each pair chose a new work to add to the ongoing classification process – either a closely connected work or, on the contrary, very loosely connected. The students conducted their analysis and incorporated their findings into a table. All the tables were then collated. Using the categories in this overall table (analysis of the lexical filed, punctuation, genre, structure, tone), the aim was to outline the nature of chance in artistic creation.

On May 11th 2018, the students presented the results of their research as part of a seminar organised at the Paris Nanterre University entitled “Créations rapprochées : la bêtise et le hasard dans les arts” (Connections – foolishness and chance in the arts). During this encounter between middle school students and academics, the participating classes presented their findings: issues, methods used, observations and trends. After the presentation, the students and researchers held informal discussions.

F93 would particularly like to thank the LiPothétique Collective for its invaluable help with this project.


Outings (selection):
- Le 104
- Bibliothèque publique d'information du Centre Pompidou
- Université Paris Nanterre
- Le Bal

Participating Schools:
- Class 4ème, Collège Jean Jaurès, Villepinte
- Class 5ème, Collège René Descartes, Blanc-Mesnil