Pierre-Alain Gourion is the founder of Bubble Art, a Lyon-based multi-cultural association that has launched “U-Man” a radio and video programme on humanitarian action that intends to become a sounding board.
Humanitarian Alternatives – Pierre-Alain Gourion, please describe to us this new one-off thing called Bubble Art. How did this multi-faceted project come about?
Pierre-Alain Gourion – Bubble Art is the association I created when I was still a lawyer. After a thirty-five-year career and with a strong interest in culture, I thought that creating an independent legal structure to publish, write, shoot pictures, make sound recordings would make good sense. I first used it mainly to present art exhibits and organise Argentinian tango events, and later we set ourselves up in an old boiler making factory that we converted into a loft and a playhouse to launch live shows and on-camera radio programmes.
A. H. – How did your background as a lawyer prepare you for the Bubble Art experience?
P.-A. G. – It was while presenting our humanitarian U-Man programme that it dawned on me that my own professional experience could really give it substance. By substance, I mean an international dimension, an outreach to others. I had acted as legal counsel for the Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples (MRAP) and for ten years, I had represented the victims of racial incidents and I had battled against the deportation of foreign nationals. But this did not turn me into a legal activist. I believe that a lawyer cannot be an activist. He must stay one step back from the issues he’s involved with. If he becomes an activist, he’s then wrapped up in a cause. You know, when you’ve done a job for thirty-five years, you get to know all the ins and outs, and my work thrilled me to the point that I was ready to carry it on to my last breath. Looking back, I reminisced over old movie sets – I had been assistant film director before studying law – and I also wanted to write. But writing takes time. So, I quit my job to go back to the work that I had loved.
A. H. – Your U-Man programme is about humanitarian action. Why did do you find this interesting?
P.-A. G. – By a stroke of luck, the background of a friend of mine, Benjamin Courlet, a 30-year-old humanitarian and former business student, caught my attention. I wanted to interview him as part of Bubble’s cultural program “Living Culture”. So, with Triangle Génération Humanitaire and Handicap International where he had worked, we did a programme. One thing led to another, and we moved ahead. And it was while doing this show, that I realised that there was a void to fill. When you talk about humanitarianism or environmental protection, you touch a soft spot. What can we do together? How can we help one another? This has now become a trend in France for sure, but also in the EU and abroad, and I am really amazed when I work with young people of how concerned they are about the future of their planet!
A. H. – Your U-Man programme is available in podcast and video format, but also in written form since a transcript is available on your blog on Médiapart. What’s to be found there?
P.-A. G. – U-Man is in fact available as radio, video and written programmes. The idea is to get people to discuss and get involved. We’ve also come up with another series, “Founders of Humanitarianism”, in which we recently interviewed Xavier Emmanuelli, the co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, but we also plan to interview humanitarian technicians. We also want to organise round table discussions with short videos on humanitarian or environmental topics, such as the “Time to Be”, where we interview an eyewitness speaking directly to viewers. We want to create videos that address people’s concerns and that can be passed on to city officials and later, I hope, to other francophone countries. We will also ultimately try to approach non-French, and non-French-speaking NGOs.
A. H. – You have mentioned the link between humanitarianism and the environment, and this will precisely be the theme of Focus in our July issue. How do you see these two interacting?
P.-A. G. – We are at a historical turning point when these two concepts are intersecting. The history of humanitarianism goes back to the origins of the laws of war, back to the nineteenth century when the Red Cross was founded, and when it was later developed by the French doctors in the years 1970-1980 with the creation of NGOs like Médecins Sans Frontières, Médecins du Monde, etc. The Brits also developed their own idea of humanitarianism, but differently from the French in that theirs maintains a stronger interaction with the State. Then there are the growing technical considerations of humanitarian operations. And today we see all the excitement around the environment, the questions raised on managing growth, on the meaning of progress. We’ve reached a time when these two themes are coming together and merging into one.
To know more about U-Man: https://www.bubble-art-prod.com/uman
Translated from the French by Alan Johnson