Xippas is happy to participate to Paris+ by Art Basel with a solo show by Bertille Bak
Paris+ by Art Basel
Grand Palais Ephémère, Paris
We are happy to present for Paris+ by Art Basel Mineur Mineur (2022) by Bertille Bak, an engaging and deeply empathic solo project. Encompassing two aspects of Bertille Bak’s practice – film-making and sculptural component -, this audacious five-part video installation is dedicated to the theme of child labor. Deep and spectacular like a tableau-vivant, Mineur Mineur guides us into the fathoms of mines to bring the stories of illegally working there children from the darkness to the light.
Bertille Bak (born in 1983 in Arras, France) is a major female French artist famous for her anthropologically oriented dedication to observing ‘invisible’ societies in order to tell their often tragically charged stories. She does so with a lot of tenderness, evacuating her discourse beyond the stigma of judgment or of pure militancy. Instead, she chooses to “deal with”, creating with the people she meets whilst working on a project, a wholesome vision of their hidden worlds. Rather than denounce realities, she makes them felt. Although her artworks address such dark subjects as social injustice and poverty, they are usually filled with humor and derision: when hardships are too strong, one way of dealing with them is by self-distancing through laughter.
Usually, Bertille Bak delves into communities and spends with them several months, gaining their trust, which allows her to investigate their everyday life from within. She observes their rituals and routines, gestures and objects, which she would later use in her films and installation. For that matter, she also invites the protagonists of her investigations to ‘play’ in her films like one can play a game. Translating their stories into visual metaphors, she transforms their lives into a Shakespearean-like theatrical stage and gives them a chance to speak and to be seen.
After her projects on gypsies Transports à dos d’hommes (2012), inhabitants menaced with eviction in Bangkok Emergency Light System (2010) or shoeblacks in Bolivia La Brigada (2018), she now approaches the question of child labor, a persistent evil in our time. More precisely, she draws attention to the children working in mines (‘minor miners’) in five countries – India (coal), Indonesia (tin), Thailand (gold), Bolivia (silver) and Madagascar (sapphires). Docile and ‘cheap’, the children are able to squeeze through narrow spaces, which makes them ‘perfect’ for work in mines, one of the worst forms of labor.
At first sight, Mineur, Mineur is dipped into a subversive lightness. Operating the elements of jubilant vocabulary, it fills the story with references borrowed from the register of early childhood: underground labyrinth, rainbows passing through walls, water slides, a stage… The imagination transforms work into a game. But, in the end, the children are propelled back under the ground, towards their status of chronically invisible beings, losing the carefree splendor of childhood once more. For the first time in her practice, she was constrained to orchestrate her project remotely due to the Covid travel restrictions. She collaborated with on-the-spot educational associations (L’Ecole des saphirs in Madagascar, Coalfield Children Classes in India and Association la Musol in Bolivia), with local acquaintances and directly with the children and their families via numerous Zoom sessions and phone calls.
Bertille Bak’s main aspiration is to imagine a collective action on the margins of ordinary protest. “There is no promise of change, but what is gained is a modest and bouncy initiation into insubordination”, she explains, “As groups are often condemned to invisibility, it also helps to highlight their situation, even if only at the centre of four white exhibition walls”.
The project Mineur Mineur was concieved during the artist residency at Pinault Collection in Lens, France between 2019 and 2020. It was produced with support of the Artists Foundation, French Institute, Art center La Criée (Rennes, France) where it was exhibited in January 2022 and of Merz Foundation (Torino, Italy) where it was shown in the personal exhibition Mineur Mineur, curated by Caroline Bourgeois, in February 2022, following the attribution to Bertille Bak of Mario Merz Prize in 2019.
The CAPC Bordeaux will present the work Le Berceau du Chaos (2022) in a collective exhibition Barbe à papa in November 2022. In May 2023, the Louvre Lens will dedicate to Bertille Bak a major personal exhibition.