Since 2014, the Skills Academy has looked to bring together the transmission of skills with the exploration of techniques, blending practical applications with prospective work. For this first edition, entitled “Xylomania! Exploring Wood Skills”, a programme spanning nine months was organised for the twenty-one participants, who were selected across all age groups: ten craftspeople, six designers and five engineers made up the Academy’s first cohort, having applied in order to enrich their skills and hone their practices within an environment that encourages dialogue and emulation. During this singular moment in their careers, they explored the multiple dimensions of a material which forms part of their everyday practice, under the guidance of top specialists.
An essential part of our everyday lives, wood has given rise to traditional métiers and techniques that are today confronted with major shifts in the contemporary world. How can ancestral skills that have developed since the dawn of humanity be passed on and updated for today’s needs? What prospects does scientific research hold for the future of wood? What technical developments are being made in this area? By asking such questions, the Skills Academy looks to embrace the multifarious dimensions of this universal material, explore its technical qualities, and examine it in the context of singular artistic practices, highly innovative usages and pressing ecological concerns.
Over the course of the year, the Academy participants share and enrich their knowledge through a series of conferences (open to the public, reservation required) and masterclasses with experts in the field. Different approaches are adopted in order to glean the broadest possible understanding of the material in question: its history and its symbolism, the tools that allow craftspeople to work it, transform it, sublimate it and push its limits, as well as its possible future uses, its sustainable development and the innovations that surround it. Academy participants also participate in a series of masterclasses with experts that take place in various different contexts – studio visits, exhibitions, small businesses – before putting their practices into relation with those of their peers in a workshop.
As with each edition of the Academy, an encyclopedic volume dedicated to the chosen material was published in conjunction with Actes Sud.