Bertille Bak et Charles-Henry Fertin

Cité 9

2017 - on going

The commission

The commissioning group decided to implement a project for their neighbourhood, the City 9, a former mining district, in which the Louvre-Lens Museum is located.

These residents are determined to play a transformative role for their neighbourhood. They are specifically interested in the way museum visitors perceive their neighbourhood and hope they might stop for a while rather than just driving through the Cité 9.

The arrival of the Louvre-Lens Museum in the neighbourhood was initially strongly criticized because of its geographical location and is still being criticized today with the arrival of the Louvre artwork reserves. The scepticism of certain cultural players points to the lack of cultural and tourist appeal of the city of Lens. However, it cannot be denied that the Museum has revitalised the area and these particular residents are regular visitors.

The artwork

The project consists of two parts and encompasses past history and present time in the same territory. A direct link or nod to the Galerie du Temps in the Louvre Lens, the only permanent exhibition space that reveals itself as a crossover of eras.

The first part of the project refers to the past and the former mining territory. Within the Louvre Lens museum, a terminal with a screen will invite visitors to venture beyond the museum grounds. This monitor will show a video where the residents draw on the floor of the museum towards the neighbouring streets the traces of buried and now revealed galleries. The routes will correspond to the old plans of the mining companies, the old galleries that lie 400 m below their feet.

After leaving the museum, the visitor will discover during his or her stroll through the area rectangular metal boxes on legs which may evoke childhood memories for some people: these are typical fairground vending machines also called "tirettes". If in the past, a coin would be slipped in to offer a surprise, here a two-euro coin will offer a small handmade replica of a typical house of the local mining districts.

The artists

Bertille Bak has been working for several years with different groups, exploring the idea of the collective, whether united by a territory, a situation or shared traditions. She makes videos that are fables based on knowledge, skills and hobbies linked to the communities. The aim of each project is to awaken the creative potential of each contributing person and to find new forms of expression and new ways of communication bypassing the usual ways of telling their story and giving an account of their situation.

Charles-Henry Fertin's sculptural practice is primarily conceived as a mode of intervention in situ by means of minimalist volumes, as pure as they are massive, which are set in motion by an often concealed motorization device. His projects bring together antithetical and ambiguous notions, such as imperceptible sound, motionless movement and stable imbalance.

Their shared artistic practice often takes the form of electromechanical installations, the consideration of space and time of the exhibition being at the core. The exhibition walls are incised, stamped, dug, probed or modified to reveal new, unsuspected spaces and to reconfigure the space. Their first machine, "Robe", was already linked to the mining heritage.