FORFAIT_WITHDRAW
Sarah Netter, Mouna Bakouli and Johan Christ-Bertrand
by SISSI [Élise Poitevin & Anne Vimeux]

Published in May 2020

(Made in Local – Saison #5 ACROSS #24)

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On the occasion of the 5th season of ACROSS, thankyouforcoming has commissioned texts from art critics and exhibition curators in residence on the French Riviera.
Of a relatively brief format, these texts comply with a common narrative arc: namely placing the artists and initiatives encountered by the residents during their stay at the heart of the writing process.
We hope you enjoy discovering these distinctive perspectives, which will in the long run constitute an original overview of contemporary creation in the Alpes Maritimes department!

Residency of SISSI



“FORFAIT_WITHDRAW – Sarah Netter, Mouna Bakouli
and Johan Christ-Bertrand”

           In the spring of 2019, inspired by the Instagram account @sadtopographies <1>, we began defining the outlines of a reflection on our status as young curators of an independent art space: Poverty Island, Loser Lane, Depressed Lake, ROAD TO MISERY…
Simultaneously suffering from pressure, exhaustion and insecurity, Bartleby’s line, “I would prefer not to” <2>, comes to mind. Idleness, doing nothing, working from one’s bed, would represent a better lifestyle, an alternative path, perhaps even a gentle and joyful rebellion as productivity and competition prevail. In January 2020, during the ACROSS#24 residence of thankyouforcoming in Nice, we met Villa Arson students and graduates Sarah Netter, Mouna Bakouli and Johan Christ-Bertrand. In their works, we see this intuition come to life and take on various forms.

           In her works, Sarah Netter plays with the reuse of salvaged materials: stuffing, chicken wire, toilet papier mâché, plaster, rust, fake leather… Working like a sculptor, she favours ceramics, wax, which can be crafted endlessly. By casting and recasting the objects created, she produces forms which she covers in kitsch fabrics gleaned on markets and in second-hand stores, mimicking luxury and opulence. Janus (2020) depicts a two-headed creature that rises almost 3 metres high, watching us wrapped in an old houndstooth scarf. Like in a Riddikulus <3> spell, in which the wizard transforms his deepest fear into a joke, Sarah Netter turns the Roman god of beginning and end into a carnivalesque being. Also with transformation in mind, she operates pirate translations from Spanish into French of political speeches “in search of linguistic, theoretical and activist, not Euro-centric tools” <4>. Her “low-cost” sculptures and her officious writing allow for a dissection of textual and visual trans-spaces <5> rendering the reading and access to comprehension possible for everyone.



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           In Mouna Bakouli’s work, the opposite journey takes place. Although the drawings and paintings are produced on poor materials and illustrate a taste for the upcycling, the second-hand — both the object already used as well as the second-rate thing, the low, the dirty, the dingy —, forms are stripped. Bodies are exposed beyond the flesh, the organs, to the bones, weakened by “the anxiety of the professional world” <6>. This anatomical outlook reveals lifeless beings, dry fluids coursing through them, “garbage bag[s] hanging from their heads” <7>. Once beyond the initial stage of macabre decomposition, the artist creates works whose musical hues play off-beat, a patchwork of disparate fragments, “a sauté of brains” <8>.
Improvisation, polyrhythm, syncopation: the distinctive energetic musical lexicon of jazz lends itself conveniently to describing Mouna Bakouli’s work. Through rhythm, tempo, laughter and mockery, she brings dislocated puppets, dried peas and intertwined intestines back to life.



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           Nevertheless, the bodies, on the brink of decay and worn by productive injunctions, demand rest, yearning to withdraw from the world. Johan Christ-Bertrand for his part draws from the worlds of anime, video games and fantasy, combined with traditional symbols and the numerous references that instil his digitally-influenced paintings. He depicts a personal approach to gaming, whose interpretation does not lie in the game itself but rather in playing, based on the intimate experience of the gamer <9>. The evocatively entitled piece Hikiko / Memento Mori, (2019) suggests the hushed intimacy of a bedroom whose misty window displays the calligraphed word “hikikomori” <10>, which describes a psychosocial state in which one lives confined, ostracized by society. On an age-worn wood table, a Transformer <11>, a game of dice and the map of a landscape shot day for night are displayed. A new world flourishes in this state of isolation, comprised of games and fiction, of role-playing and chance, whose storyline is already scripted, inherent to the tragedy of a software predetermination.

           In arcade games, dominated by feelings of dizziness and loss of control, the aim is not so much to win as to avoid losing for as long as possible. Echoing a generation haunted by the imperatives of social ambition, those three artists persist unrelentingly in believing in the possibilities of collective lives and subsistence.


                                   SISSI [Élise Poitevin & Anne Vimeux], May 2020 (translated by Aisling Halleman)



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1_ The Instagram thread of Damien Rudd’s account @sadtopographies displays Google map screenshots of unfortunately named locations. Hence he reinjects emotion in satellite pictures of global geography.
2_ MELVILLE Herman, Bartleby, 1853.
3_ ROWLING J.K, The Prisoner of Azkaban, 1999. A charm that produces a ridiculous and hilarious form. Taught by Lupin in his class on “Defence Against the Dark Arts”, this spell is very efficient against Boggarts.
4_ Sarah Netter, in her dissertation entitled PREFERENCES LINGUISTIQUES/A PERREAR, devotes a section to pirate translations. Among her favourite authors, she evokes Sayak Valencia, Paul B. Preciado.
5_ Ibid.
6_ Quote by Mouna Bakouli about her work in a text published on the occasion of her graduation in 2018. From the website: https://villa-arson.xyz/diplomes2018/mouna-bakouli (accessed in March 2020).
7_ ARTAUD Antonin, “To Have Done With the Judgement of God – The Pursuit of Fecality”, Complete Works, vol. 13, Paris, Gallimard, 1974.
8_ A translation of Mouna Bakouli’s work entitled Sauté de cervelle, 2018.
9_ TRICLOT Mathieu, Philosophie des jeux vidéos, Edition La Découverte, 2017.
10_ In Japan, hikikomori (引き籠もり), lit. “pulling inward, being confined”, i.e., “acute social withdrawal”) are reclusive adolescents or adults who withdraw from society and seek extreme degrees of isolation and confinement. Hikikomori refers to both the phenomenon in general and the recluses themselves. Hikikomori have been described as loners or “modern-day hermits” (source: Wikipedia)
11_ The Transformer is made of parts from a Ford Mustang, in reference to ‘fordite’, a gemstone actually produced by the accumulation of layers of car paint.

Captions:

1.
Sarah Netter, Janus, 2020
Exhibition view, fabric, wax, oil cloth
Photo: Silina Syan

2.
Sarah Netter, Janus, 2020
Fabric, wax, oil, cloth (detail)
Photo: Silina Syan

3.
Mouna Bakouli, Le squelette enlevant sa capuche en chair, 2018
Auto refinish painting on canvas
Photo: Mouna Bakouli

4.
Mouna Bakouli, L’homme à la chevelure d’oreilles, 2017
Pencil on paper
Photo: Mouna Bakouli

5.
Johan Christ-Bertrand, Hikiko / Memento Mori, 2019
Oil on canvas
Photo: Johan Christ-Bertrand

6.
Johan Christ-Bertrand, Hikiko / Memento Mori, 2019
Oil on canvas (detail)
Photo: Johan Christ-Bertrand