1- Nés (born)
March 24th - May 20th 2000
Philippe Bazin, a photographer was awarded NIEPCE Prize in 1999,
in September 1998 he was entertained the whole month in Maubeuge.
In continuity with his work carried out for some fifteen years, he took the photographs of the faces of new born babies in Sambre Avenois maternity ward.
This new series "born" emphasizes the instant when a human being comes to life, when a new life springs up in the first social relationship assumed by medical men.
Philippe Bazin's work keeps on challenging us about our relations with institutions, difference, tolerance, others.
…"It is the only series in Philippe Bazin's work in which at every picture taken is exhibited. For some time in september 1998, in Maubeuge, 37 new lives were acknowledged and picked up : "this was".
The matern staff of the maternity ward were parties to it and the parents agreed about it.
But facing the photographer, each of these thirty seven faces appearing in its singleness makes up a series in which no family reference as well as social or sexual one is possible. The strength here is this proof of the irrepressible will to live asserted individually but shown 37 times."...
From Philippe Bazin's catalogue, "nés"
Idem + Arts - Editions Méréal
2- Une heure (one hour)
August 28 - October 4, 2003
In the summer 2002, Philippe Bazin was invited to Scotland in the Highlands as a guest artist in residence by William Grant & sons Distillers. The exhibition in Galerie Anne Barrault proposes to show the various aspects of the work achieved at that time.
The company, nestled in the heart of a valley, has business relations all over the world. However, its workers are the inhabitants of a small village. Wishing to go on with his questioning on the workers’faces he had started some time before, Philippe Bazin video filmed eight employees of the firm, an hour static shot. Each of them stares at the camera, without moving or speaking. The films are silent. The faces are filmed in close-up.Those people performed a true feat , keeping their dignity and their reserve for the whole hour.
These people belong to a physical ,politico-historic , even literary background . That is why these eight video films are shown along with the photographs of landscapes of wild northwest Scotland (Western Landscapes), but also of landscapes of battles which are component of the Scottish national feeling (Battle Landscapes), while for an hour, the video projection of a seascape of Skye takes place. A sound track can be listened to on headphones, the reading by Philippe Bazin of all the lines of Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play, recalling a historical character who became a king,, some miles from the firm.
So we have a real microcosm displayed in this work “ ONE HOUR ”, a microcosm of which the firm eight workers are the figureheads, the anonymous, silent supernumeraries, at the same time the examples of a strong relationship with the wild countryside,but also belonging to a deep politico-historic and economic genealogy , not without literary forgeries.
Dumb faces facing the power of the firm, the heir of nineteenth century capitalism, facing the History of Scotland and the literature which alters it . There we have Philippe Bazin’s world which from the very beginning has been his artistic project :his relationship with institutions (political, economic, historical aspects), with the faces of those(human and universal aspects) who are immersed in them. The landscape in the same way as the human face is viewed , not in its romantic aspect, but in its political one, which is something new in this artistic project.
3- Détenus (prisoners)
October 29th - December 23rd 2005
For twenty years I have taken photographs of people's faces in an institutional background. I use the force of various institutions to give back everyone its most extreme uniqueness through each photograph. Each face is shown and claims its being here in the world, a face made of flesh, with eyes we cannot ignore. My photographs try to avoid all kind of psychologism or emotionalism, and do not attempt to reveal some so called interiority which would only be the projection of my own feelings . My work is not of a social kind either but tries to isolate and focus on the very person.
Beyond appearances, it forms some sort of collective memory sometimes born from the fringes of our society, and restores faces to those cut off from the ordinary, visible world. I am mostly concerned with the relationship which we must constantly keep with every human face.
In this context and with these intentions I carried out the project Détenus 1996, an abortive plan since it could not be achieved but which I take up again in 2005 as revealing the only face of itself prison cannot show, the face of locked up persons.
None of these five persons is a frightening monster, each of them has viewed and understood my intentions, and has accepted them. It demands courage and sincerity to show one's face, at the risk of being recognized and branded as an ancient prisoner, an act which concerns all of us. For the five of them it is a matter of claiming they are human beings, in spite of the conditions of imprisonment which fundamentally often deny them this quality . The exhibition of these photographs is meant to acknowledge all this.
Time has flown since 1996, the necessary time perhaps for these faces to become anonymous. The time for me to reconsider this project in the light of what I have done since. So the exhibition in Galerie Anne Barrault in autumn 2005 intends to confront these faces with various static videos shot in cities the names of which call up to mind prisons : Fresnes, Loos, Clairvaux, etc... The large colour photograph of a landscape in Scotland will show the horizon, that of a problematic figure such as seen in some films (Truffaut's "400 Coups, Loach's "Sweet Sixteen), a figure of liberation as well as of a dead end.
This paradox shown in the exhibition introduces, once more in my work, a definite relationship between the face and the landscape, the reconstruction of a political space inscribed between these two figures.
Philippe Bazin 1996/2005
4- Noir silence (dark silence)
November 3 - December 22, 2007
In 2003, the Dunkirk Museum of Fine Arts asked me to respond to a piece of work of its collection of ancient paintings, the portrait of a young black slave by Hyacinthe Rigaud. A magnificent painting and a terrible subject : this teenager wears a big metal necklace tied to a chain.
I decided to meet natives of the Comoros, many of them living in the town, although they are ignored in the streets, the shops, and are confined in council housing estates in the suburbs. A fascinating contact with people bursting with energy. For two hours, they told me their lives and their relationship with the surrounding world. Born in large islands in the Indian Ocean, they are sailors who have often worked for the National Navy, the merchant navy, and in main French harbours. Their tales are also made of an everyday experience exposed to usual hostile discrimination.They are slices of life which I have chosen to relate in thirty short video interviews. Each of them has stood in front of a white screen and told what happened to him. These stories constantly remind you of their condition, that of "invisible Men" (Ralph Ellison). Sometimes it is more a question of grasping day-to-day life with the unability of speaking the facts.
Travel is the core of this exhibition, travel in the conscienciousness of what one is, travel through the words others are allowed to speak, travel through time thanks to the photographs of ethnic casts, made in the nineteenth century, which take us back to our past, travel through the seas on a container ship which has become today's iillustration of secret and unspeakable transport.
So travel through the dark and silence.