Mario Merz Prize

Edition 3


Bertille Bak

Bertille Bak (Arras, France, 1983) lives and works in Paris

Bertille Bak pursues a sociological and political, if not ethnological, perspective – as many have remarked. Her works of art are the expression of an operating process and formalisation. The process is based on the artist’s modus operandi as she engages with and shares the life of communities living on the edge of the dominant culture in order to encourage a non-revolutionary or non-violent reaction, which Bak defines “alternative revolt” against the intolerable decisions that make life harsher for the members of these communities. Formalisation, on the other hand, is the expression of this approach and of the feeling of empathy that the artist experiences for her travelling companions and that takes the form more of a fairytale than of a documentary.

Bak expresses an art of relationships aimed both at communities whose members are more or less aware of their identities, and at minorities often forgotten and neglected. During her numerous visits and long stays within the respective communities, Bak builds interpersonal relationships to raise awareness of the social utility of people and groups. Through the sharing of everyday life, of the study of the territory, the analysis of the social relationships, the culture, the traditions and of the economic organization, Bak takes on the role of a social provocateur putting herself forward as a critical conscience to raise political awareness among her interlocutors. The result is collective portraits with an unconventional twist, often based on the research of individual mythologies, in a determined attempt to preserve the traces of memory. It is not by chance that Bak worked at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris as a student of Christian Boltanski.