Béatrice Balcou. To Maintain the Silence

Curatorial : Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre

From June 18 2022 to September 11 2022

About —

Beatrice Balcou’s first solo exhibition in Québec brings together works that are associated with each of her main series: Cérémonies sans titre [Untitled Ceremonies], her Placebo works, and Pièces assistantes [Assistant Pieces]. The Musée d’art de Joliette invited Balcou to select a piece from its collection in order to create a new ceremony and an accompanying placebo sculpture. The exhibition also provided the impetus to further develop the element of sound in her work; since the pandemic forced us all to rethink our daily movements, it also affected Balcou’s way of working. Presented for the first time, this audio piece will be followed by a series that will involve the MAJ’s participation.

Each of the ceremonies Balcou has performed since 2014 involves the creation of a placebo: a wooden replica that copies, as closely as possible, the characteristics of another artist’s work. The placebo allows her to prepare for a ceremony that consists of exposing the original work after having practiced the various movements that are associated with unwrapping and manipulating the object. This silent performance allows Balcou to paradoxically erase herself by directing the audience’s attention toward the “ritual of exhibition.” Although she is still essential to the process, she becomes secondary to the work of another as it emerges from the darkness of the vault to make a brief appearance before being stored away once more.

Balcou’s ceremonies partly stem from her fascination with the Japanese tea ceremony, whose movements incorporate slowness, attention, and concentration—qualities she has identified in the patient and meticulous work of technicians, restorers, or conservators who are responsible for the preservation of art works. Combined with these careful and respectful technical manipulations are Balcou’s more personal gestures that outline the work’s details and direct the viewer’s gaze. These ceremonies are never documented, except in the minds of the people who witness them. The wooden placebo sculpture is presented in a room adjacent to where the ceremony took place, and serves as a kind of memory of the event. The audio work composed of sounds from the ceremony, among other elements, plays a similar role while offering other modes of consideration that help deepen our appreciation of a work of art.

Pièces assistantes, presented in the gallery that is devoted to the MAJ’s permanent collection, were created by Balcou to complement works not currently on display. Contrary to the placebos, these sculptures are not replicas, but respond to a need expressed by their creators. They seek to support—both physically and conceptually—another artist’s process. Presented on their own, autonomously, they help us reflect on the invisible work of artist’s assistants and other collaborators whose labour often goes unrecognized. By willingly occupying a background position in her practice, Béatrice Balcou creates works that offer encounters with institutions, artists, and the public, and whose objective is to promote a quality of attention that goes against today’s speed- and spectacle-obsessed reality. This aspect is what makes her work so remarkable.

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Biography —

Béatrice Balcou was born in 1976, in Tréguier, France. She lives and works in Brussels.

In performances, sculptures and installations Béatrice Balcou creates situations offering innovative exhibition rituals that challenge our way of looking at and perceiving objects—especially works of art. Homing in on attentiveness to the materiality of the artwork and the behaviour of the viewer, she investigates the perceived value of art and the role assigned to it by our contemporary lifestyles.

Various international institutions including M Museum, Leuven; La Ferme du Buisson CAC, Noisiel; Art Hostel Kumagusuku, Kyoto; Exile Gallery, Berlin; L’Iselp, Brussels; Casino Luxembourg CAF, Luxembourg; Le Quartier CAC, Quimper; and the FRAC Franche-Comté, Besançon have organised solo or duo exhibitions featuring her work.

Furthermore, her work has been exhibited at Jeu de Paume, Paris; Société, Brussels; FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Reims; Fondation CAB, Brussels; Salle Principale, Paris; Villa Kujoyama, Kyoto; Kunstverein Langenhagen; FRAC Bretagne, Rennes; La Galerie CAC, Noisy-le-Sec; WIELS, Brussels; FRAC Franche-Comté, Besançon; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Palais de Tokyo, Paris.

Béatrice Balcou’s work has been collected by many including Cera–M Museum, Leuven; Fondation CAB, Brussels; CIRVA, Marseille; FRAC Franche-Comté, Besançon; FRAC Île-de-France, Paris; Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris; FRAC Corse, Corsica as well as various private collections.

The artist thanks Wallonie-Bruxelles International, the Consulat général de France à Québec and the Museum of Ixelles in Brussels for their support.


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Images in the banner:

Béatrice Balcou, To Maintain the Silence. Views from the exhibition, Musée d’art de Joliette, 2022. Photo: Ysabelle Latendresse