Bernard Bazile

Katalog der 6. Berlin Biennale, 11. Juni 2010

Bernard Bazile practices art by avoiding art. Since leaving the Bustamente/Bazile duo in 1987, he has mainly worked independently of the art market and business. It’s OK to say No, the title of one of his series, reminds one of the subversive potential of refusing to achieve (1993). He seeks countermodels to the artistic artifact that Piero Manzoni took to an extreme in 1961 when he produced ninety pâté-size tins of “Artist’s Shit,” and had them sold at the then current price of gold. By opening one of the tins in 1989, Bazile declared the radicality gesture of the avant-gardes a failure that ultimately led to the production of ever new commodities and social differences (Boîte ouverte de Piero Manzoni). His later video installation Ein Maß für alle (2004) portrays owners of the Manzoni tins, hence an entire art system based on the fetishization of the work. Rather than produce material differences, Bazile works on existing visual codes and positions to break frames of discourse and facilitate new forms of exchange that circumvent the ultimately abortive complicity of artist, work, and viewer.

Since the early 1990s Bazile has filmed protest marches taking place in Paris. The result is an ongoing, potentially endless documentation of collective action in public space. For each exhibition the artist rearranges the materials, in response to the venue. The installation Les Manifs (2009) shows demonstrations in 2006 against the law introducing the First Employment Contract (CPE), designed to enable employees under twenty-six to be dismissed without warning or explanation in the first two years of employment. In the wake of nationwide protests by school children, students, and unions, the French government withdrew the law. Bazile’s camera moves close to the demonstrators, mainly at a slight angle to them from below. Engaged in publicly staging their interests, demands, and anger, political actors become the authors of an artistic work. Bazile shows the immediate manifestation of social realities in real time.

For the Berlin Biennale the artist developed a new installation. Supertitles, as in the opera or theater, enhance the force of the chants and stress the contemporary relevance of the images. Projection in a semi-open room breaks with frontal reception, allowing viewers to decide on their position vis-à-vis the events.

Half participant, half observer, the artist himself operates in an intermediate position, as his work utilizes the exhibition context to link up to the reality of the street, to objectify this reality, and to open it to ongoing examination. In this, Bazile is like the demonstrators producing reality to exert influence on institutions—and hence to remind them of their actual purpose.

Translation: Christopher Jenkin-Jones

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