Bertille Bak
»Urban Chronicle«, 2011
Video, colour, sound, 19:15 min.
Courtesy of Bertille Bak

Bertille Bak, »Urban Chronicle«, 2011, Videostill, Courtesy of Bertille Bak

Bertille Bak, »Urban Chronicle 2«, 2010-2011, map showing the location of satellite dishes taken from Google Maps in the New York boroughs of Manhattan,Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx

Bertille Bak

February 09 – April 28, 2013

Invited by Thomas Thiel.

»Urban Chronicle« (2011)

Bertille Bak’s (*1983) works often come about in collaboration with individuals or with communities. The French artist’s videos, but also her drawings, objects and installations are particularly concerned with minorities and with their reality in society. As a rule, she spends several months with the respective groups, in the course of which she involves them in her films. She is not so much interested in observing or documenting the reality of their lives specifically, but initiates group-dynamic communicative processes and social changes through the collaborative way she creates art. In her current work, »Transport à dos d’homme« (Being carried on a Man’s Back, 2012), the artist reflects the everyday life and the community of the Sinti and Roma (travellers) on the edge of Paris. For her »Safeguard Emergency Light System« (2010), she worked with the inhabitants of a condemned block of flats in Thailand to translate a revolutionary-utopian song into a score composed of light signals.

The video work being presented here, »Urban Chronicles«, came about in 2010, when the artist spent quite a long time in New York. She was fascinated by the city’s cosmopolitan make-up and used Google Maps to plot the areas with a strong concentration of satellite dishes and thus established the locations of particular ethnic communities. After doing this research, she approached a Polish community, with whose help she produced »Urban Chronicle«. The film is based on this community’s stories and depicts a humorous and poetic portrait of East European immigrants in New York. At the centre of it all are their traditions and their everyday life, but also personal wishes and the community’s geographical distribution in the city. That includes, for example, national parades on Fifth Avenue, frog contests and other elements of folklore. These public activities do not just embody the culture they left behind but also foster a sense of community and identity. »Urban Chronicles« stages its scenes, but also displays grotesque elements, and leaves behind a sense of an ambivalence that is apparently closer to reality than what a simple documentation the situation would produce.

Text: Thomas Thiel

Bertille Bak (*1983) lives and works in Paris. The artist’s most recent solo exhibitions were shown in 2012 at Museum of Modern Art (Paris), NETTIE HORN (London), Contemporary Art Centre (Chelles) and Palais de Tokyo (Paris). In 2012, she took part in the group exhibitions at Palazzo Grassi (Venedig), CREDAC (Ivry sur Seine), and was presented in the Triennale Paris and Montevideo Biennale (Uruguay).