Critics’ Picks

Le Bateau (The Boat) (detail), 2001, silver print mounted on aluminum in six parts, each 39 3/8 x 39 3/8".

Le Bateau (The Boat) (detail), 2001, silver print mounted on aluminum in six parts, each 39 3/8 x 39 3/8".


Philippe Bazin

Galerie Anne Barrault
22, rue Saint Claude
November 3–December 22, 2007

Asked by the Dunkerque Museum of Fine Arts to respond to a painting of a bound slave by Louis XIV’s leading court painter, Hyacinthe Rigaud, French photographer Philippe Bazin launched an investigation into the construction of identity and visibility through a series of filmed interviews and photographs. Examining historical representations of Dunkerque’s population from the Comoros, an archipelago located between Madagascar and Tanzania, Bazin presents sharp close-up photographs of nineteenth-century “ethnic casts”—facial molds with exaggerated physiognomies made in the colonies in an attempt to propose a system of “racial classification.” On the opposite wall, Bazin’s Le Bateau, 2001, a six-panel color photograph of a container ship at dock in Porto, directly references the lines of work (the merchant navy and marine transport) that many in Dunkerque’s African community are involved in, while also recalling historical means of forced migration. Seven television monitors are installed around the small gallery, featuring interviews with members of the local community shot at an intimate distance and audible via headphones. In one of the videos, an older woman with a red and white scarf loosely draped around her face laughs as she remembers packing her suitcase and preparing to leave France in case the nationalist candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen were to win the 2002 French presidential election. Amused by her own anxiety, and visibly relieved by his ultimate defeat, she concludes with a sage attestation: “Some may think there is a difference in the skin, but inside everyone’s blood flows red.”