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Jeu de Paume : Bertille Bak : Abus de souffle


The Jeu de Paume dedicates an exhibition from February 13 to May 12, 2024 to Bertille Bak, nominated for the 2023 Marcel Duchamp Award.

Nourished by the careful observation of contemporary society and by the desire to divert the usual representations of marginalized or invisible communities, the work of Bertille Bak (born in 1983 in Arras) depicts populations, rituals or situations which it subverts with the complicity of the protagonists themselves.

This exhibition brings together works created by Bertille Bak over the last ten years. The artist questions globalization, its cartography, the relationships of dependence and inequality induced; it thus aims to take into account the proliferation of connections between countries and, paradoxically, the resulting obstruction of borders. The title “Breath Embezzlement” is borrowed from the video that she specially produced for the exhibition and which links the pieces presented together: this work highlights a globalized world with spectacularly asymmetrical relationships, emphasizing the fierce embrace of near and far in an intense geographical fog.


Without a prior scenario, Bertille Bak immerses herself in the lifestyle of a group – the crew of a cruise ship in Saint-Nazaire, shoeshine boys in La Paz, young Indian, Indonesian or Thai miners, asylum seekers residing in Pau, artisans in the medina of Tetouan. She evolves through contact with them, observes their rites, their gestures and their objects, before instilling new rules and artifices of all kinds. Bertille Bak therefore designs collective rituals with these communities which produce an emancipatory self-image, freed from the clichés conveyed both by miserabilist documentaries and by basic activist discourse.

Far from trivializing their precarious living conditions, Bertille Bak shows these realities that are most often distorted by the collective imagination, and gives those primarily concerned the means to tell their distorted reality through indirect paths.

Together, they shape fictional stories, stories that shake up the established order and the feeling of inevitability, then she offers them performance and theater.

Bertille Bak places the question of work at the center of her projects. she leans on know-how and pre-industrial means of production as so many militant acts enhanced with a note of fantasy and humor. Action takes precedence over aesthetics. The images are doctored using tinkered, low-tech special effects inspired by arcade games or primitive cinema techniques: accelerated montages, cardboard sets, desynchronized sound effects. A light tone emerges, in counterpoint to the depth of the subjects covered. Bertille Bak does not seek to create an illusion of verisimilitude, but to reveal behind the scenes the construction of images and to warn the public, in a way that is both tender and zany, that art is only a simulacrum – just like life, perhaps.


Curator: Marta Ponsa

Bertille Bak : Abus de souffle
February 13 – May 12, 2024
Jeu de Paume
1, place de la Concorde
Jardin des Tuileries
75001 Paris

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