Une bouteille au canal - École élémentaire Rachel Carson

Abraham Poincheval
24.05.27 → 24.06.04

La Bouteille, a work by Abraham Poincheval commissioned by Plaine Commune and produced by cneai = in association with Ilotopie, is 580 centimetres long and 190 centimetres in diameter. This summer, from July 25 to August 3, 2024, it becomes a real vessel as it will be floated and inhabited by the artist on the Saint-Denis Canal for the first time, at the time of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. In the run-up to this event, the cneai = proposes an exploration of contemporary art through the work of Abraham Poincheval to those who live closest to the canal. At the invitation of Plaine Commune, cneai = is taking over Rachel Carson elementary school, inviting CP and CE1/CE2 pupils and their parents to re-appropriate the intriguing object that is La Bouteille.


An introductory session to contemporary art is offered to each class. Students discover the role of an art center and the existence of artist residencies. Contemporary art is then presented as a step away from the works with which they are already familiar, and as an extension of history, as an action in the present. This raises a number of questions: What is art? Who invented art? Discovering Abraham Poincheval’s work can begin as an exploration that raises questions about the conditions of life and existence of both the work and the artist. To gain a better understanding of this way of making art, CP pupils are invited to learn about performance art through self-staging, by reappropriating elements of Abraham Poincheval’s work, while CE1/ CE2 pupils question notions of travel and immobility by expressing themselves through mail art.

Autofiction and storytelling - CP classes

Pupils take on the role of a floating object, imagining themselves traveling in a floating object of their choice. They draw the floating object in which they would like to sail, as Abraham Poincheval did in his bottle. Students draw a floating object on a sheet of paper, the object in which they would like to sail to discover the world. They glue their photo to complete a self-staging, based on the performance model. They are asked to cut out objects from newspapers or magazines that they would like to take with them on their voyage. Their drawn floating object, in which they project themselves as they sail, is glued to a collective fresco on the canal.

Postal art and correspondence - CE1/CE2 class

Pupils prepare a letter based on the model of a bottle thrown into the sea containing a message. They write a letter expressing their desire to travel. The letter is seen as a means of escape that, despite our immobility, enables us to project ourselves into another land. Students prepare a letter based on the model of postal art. They invent an address, create their own stamp, write a letter and decorate the envelope. Works of postal art from the cneai = FMRA collection are shown to them for inspiration. In their letters, students write short essays about where they’d like to go if they were sailing on La Bouteille.

Meeting and feedback

The final session is devoted to a meeting with artist Abraham Poincheval at the school. Poincheval presents his work and research, characterized by adventure, challenge and exploration. This time of exchange allows students, teachers and parents to share their curiosity with him. The first-graders then explain to the artist their approach and performance plans (floating object, equipment and time required for their performance-challenge), while the second-graders hand over their letters to the artist for him to read when he’s bottled up. `

Teaching objectives

  • Articulate the concrete and the abstract through autofiction;
  • Introduce students to contemporary art and performance through self-staging;
  • Encourage the development of students’ oral and written expression skills;
  • Encourage creativity, analysis and autonomy;
  • Foster the development of self-confidence through artistic practice;
  • Develop awareness of the environment;
  • Include local residents (teachers, students and parents) in artistic and cultural programming;
  • Contribute to the cultural and artistic development of the region.

    Partner school

    Rachel Carson elementary school, Saint-Denis (93)
    2 classes of CP 23 pupils
    1 CE1/CE2 class 15 pupils
    3 teachers