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Bertille Bak – Faire le mur

Collective Gallery, 
Edinburgh – January 18-March 2 2014

When it was announced that French artist Bertille Bak's home town of Barlin, city No.5 in the Pas-de-Calais in northern France, was to be renovated as part of a programme of urban regeneration, the authorities promised much for the former mining parish. This included vastly increased rents for a tight-knit community who were effectively being priced out of living in what is now described on Barlin's Wikipedia page as being 'a modern and dynamic place that offers its residents numerous amenities...'

Bak's response was 'Faire le mur', her 2008 film which in part charts the residents of Barlin's resistance to the proposed changes, yet does it in a way that goes beyond documentary to create a magical-realist meta-narrative that blurs the boundaries of fact and fiction. Rather than the poverty porn of Channel 4's latest underclass-baiting obscenity, 'Benefits Street', Bak has looked at her own community and transformed their protest into something heroic.

“There's a real sense of playfulness about what Bertille does,” says Collective director Kate Gray, who has brought an updated version of 'Faire le mur; (it translates as 'To the wall'), to Edinburgh as part of Factish Field, a year-long collaboration with moving image based arts organisation LUX that looks at the relationship between artists' film-based work and anthropology.

This manifests itself in a series of self-organised meetings which, as the community move from house to house with a series of tapestries based on paintings by Poussin, Goya and Girodet, become theatrical pageants of revolutionary intent, with all the romance that implies.

“There's a real tension there between what you might expect a documentary to be in terms of not trying to influence what goes on,” says Gray. “Bertille is trying to find a way to change and alter that community while working with them.” 

The List, January 2014


ends

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