AtWork Paris Chapter 20


AtWork Paris Chapter 20

Paris, France
February 12-16th, 2022


Palais de Tokyo


What comes first?


Simon Njami

“To dream big is not unreasonable”

Charlyze Anguiley and Cécile Chevallard, editorial statement from AtWork catalogue

AtWork Paris Chapter 20 has been implemented by Moleskine Foundation in partnership with Palais de Tokyo.  It was part of the Detour Paris project by Moleskine Company, which is an itinerant exhibition of Moleskine Foundation Collection.   The workshop took place where the future learning center HAMO of Palais de Tokyo will be opened in 2023, which hopefully laid fruitful ground for future possible collaborations.

The workshop was the second leg of “What comes first?” 2022 Tour and the first ever AtWork event in France.

Simon Njami comments on the topic:
There has been an ongoing debate between Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus on choices and responsibility. When asked what his choice between his mother and his country would be, Camus replied without any hesitation, my mother.

Of course, Sartre, who placed the idea and the cause above everything, disagreed. We are faced on daily basis, with critical choices that force us to take a stand or an action. The way we decide what comes first is never as fixed as for Sartre and Camus. There are times where we would make different choices and chose different priorities, depending on the situation. But the reality is that it is a question we shall never be able to answer at our full satisfaction. It is like trying to answer the impossible question: what came first, between the egg and the hen. Aristotle tried to venture a solution: “the domain of becoming is opposed to that of the essence, because what is posterior in the generational order is, by nature, anterior and what comes first by nature is last in the generational order.”

In the meantime, the Coronavirus has arisen and changed priorities, forcing some of us to live in an emergency that darkened our vision of the future and obscured any routine-free reflection. It is urgent for all of us to regain this ability to think outside of exceptional contingencies.

But we are all free to disagree.

The workshop

The workshop took place at Palais de Tokyo from February 12th to February 16th 2022 and was conducted by AtWork advisor Simon Njami. Under his leadership, 22 young creative minds from Paris and suburbs got together to debate, critique and exchange to find out what comes first for them.

For a week, the young photographers, filmmakers, students, graphic designers, dancers, art therapy workers, actresses, activists met to enjoy an opportunity to share and exchange in the biggest cultural center in Europe. The diversity of the participants’ backgrounds allowed for a rich conversation, which quickly became very intimate and personal. What started as individual thinking quickly transformed into mutual exchange and a collective thought process to dissect the critical questions brought forward.

The creative outcomes of these reflections were spilled out on a notebook by each participant which became their answer to the question posed.

“One thing is sure, this AtWork workshop turned us upside down forever. Twenty five wandering souls, one completely different from the other, but ultimately very similar, met thanks to the algorythms or to the Universe, depending on one’s beliefs… In 5 days this experience transcended us, pushed us, at times tortured us to finally transform us for the better, towards something better that is bigger than us.”

Charlyze Anguiley and Cécile Chevallard, editorial statement from AtWork catalogue

The leader

Simon Njami is an independent curator, lecturer, art critic, and writer. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of “Revue Noire.” Previously, Njami was the artistic director of the Bamako Photography Biennial 2000-2010 and co-curator of the first African pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. He has curated a number of contemporary art and photography exhibitions, including Africa Remix (2004-2007) and the first African art fair in Johannesburg in 2008. In 2014, The Divine Comedy exhibition, created and curated by him, started a world tour at the MMK (Museum für Moderne Kunst) in Frankfurt, moving on to the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah and the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. He is the director of the Pan African Master Classes in Photography, a project created in partnership with the Goethe Institute; artistic director of the Donwahi Foundation (Abidjan, Ivory Coast); advisor to the Sindika Dokolo Collection (Luanda, Angola); secretary of the special jury of the World Press Photography Awards; artistic director of the first edition of Off Biennale (Cairo, 2015) and the 2016 and 2018 Dak’Art.


The Experience

The participants started by sharing their traumas, which immediately set a very intimate tone to the discussion. As the days progressed the reflection passed from personal to philosophical to collective, and back to personal.  What came first changed every day, as the participants interrogated the question, listened to each other and evolved their thinking process.  There was a lot of debate, there was a lot of dancing to release the tension, a lot of exorcising and healing.  They had a chance to present their project, get feedback, critiques, refine their ideas daily.

Since the workshop took place at the end of the Detour Collection exhibition the participants had a chance to see some of the best examples of the notebook creations “live” and get inspired directly from the exhibition.

To extend the discussion to the general public we held a public conversation on February 15th at Palais de Tokyo.  After the introduction by Palais de Tokyo’s Director of mediation and publics, Tanguy Pelletier, the participants had a chance to publicly pose their questions to Moleskine Foundation’s CEO Adama Sanneh, Program Director Elena Korzhenevich and Simon Njami.  This dynamic conversation fully represented the critical spirit of AtWork and its unconventional approach.

“Today, the desire to exist and to achieve has been consolidated. The margin is a revolution, that of change.”

Océanie Kinhouande, Chloé Viala, Neguine Noudja, curatorial statement of AtWork catalogue

The exhibition

The 22 creations from AtWork Paris entered the bigger Detour Collection exhibition at Palais de Tokyo with the special vernissage on February 17th and was on display until February 20th.

It was a great moment for the participants to share their workshop experience and the ideas behind their notebooks with their friends, family and Palais de Tokyo visitors who came to celebrate their creative journey.

The catalogue, created by the participants in 24hours, features the works and their meanings.

Participants list

  • Anaïs Vodouhé
    Astrid Staes
    Cecile Chevallard
    Charlyze Anguiley
    Chloé Bertini
    Chloé Viala
    Fiona Beraud
    Grace Banana
    Kathrin Schweizer
    Kawthar Boulalouah
    Léa Peller

  • Malicka Ladeley
    Mani Parree
    Mary Zoubert-Ousseni
    Mégane Martinel
    Nafi Sarah Kane
    Néguine Noudja Tchouta Mondor
    Nilda Denkey
    Nora Hurault
    Océane Kinhouandé
    Robyn Correa-Payet
    Sekou-Younesse Doucouré


  • Partners: Palais de Tokyo
    With the support of: Moleskine
    Project manager:  Amira Parrée
    Project coordinators Palais de Tokyo:  Agathe Bertrand, Geoffroy Velter
    Project coordinator Moleskine: Amira Parree
    Photo and video shooting: Lancelot Bernheim, Alexis Dubois, Thomas Caplan, Nelson Gbaguidi
    Observer: Jade Nijman