Meet Alice Bidault, Dijon Fellow from ENSA

In August, Meadows School of the Arts hosted the Second Annual “From Dijon to Dallas” Exhibition, which featured the work of two fellows selected in a six-week exchange program. This year, the fellows were Andrew Davis (SMU MFA ’16) and Alice Bidault from Dijon. Dijon and Dallas are sister cities, and the program was established last year between the two schools, Meadows and the École Nationale Supérieure d’Art (ENSA). The exhibition opened at Liliana Bloch Gallery on August 23rd and closes on September 3rd. In October, both Andrew and Alice will launch a joint exhibition in Dijon.

Below is Alice’s interview about her work, and experience in Dallas and at SMU. It follows as the blog’s second one from last year’s Dijon fellow, Hugo Capron.

Andrew Davis, Dallas artist-in-residence at ENSA; Sofia Bastidas, 2016 Pollock Curatorial Fellow at SMU Meadows; and Alice Bidault

What originally made you want to become an artist?

Art found me! I had a scientific background, had the possibilities to go in an astrophysics university, but at the last moment I chose to go to fine art school because I wanted to break the rationality of a straight education and find something different, more free I guess at this moment of my life. I think also I heard a lot from my parents’ histories at the Pietro Sparta gallery when I was a child.

How would you describe your art or art practice?

My work stems from my research about History in dialogue with art, considering how artists relate to History and how they might act upon it. I attempt to define through my practice the concept of Contemporary Archaeology. Using several mediums, like sculpture, installations, videos and photographs, I try to show how an artist and his or her work can be the vector of a new insight on our scientific and epistemological foundations and traditions and where our thinking processes and knowledge could be influenced by and approached in other ways. In the manner of an archaeologist I am doing field work, translating by prospection and archiving of different kind of materials (objects, testimonies, historical archives, photographs etc.) and taking into consideration what is lacking as an important key to site comprehension. Such an approach broadens the scope for potential theories, germinates other possibilities, it frees and stimulates the imagination. The absence of physical evidence can, nevertheless, often still tell us that something was there : a fragment, a faint trace, an echo which points towards the whole. The use and elaboration of the imagination is for me a specific way to give a different aspect and point of view on present and past events. I am also interested in particular places which introduce and mix different temporalities or functions out of the present time, like botanical gardens, libraries, museums and also transitional places produced by super-modernity, such as parking garages, motels, malls, stations, airports… Heterotopia and non-places (in French,- “non-lieux”-) are typical places where we can question our history and its relation with institutions. These could themselves become future generators of speculation and fiction factors.


What or who has influenced your art the most?

Very early in my practise I was influenced by the italian artists of Arte Povera especially Mario Mertz and Guiseppe Penone who were the first artists I learnt about. Land Artists who I consider also to be the closest relatives of my artistic family. Robert Smithson with who I still keep an intense friendship through his earthworks, writings and entropic concepts.

These two artistic movements of the 60/70’s are still so pertinent for me because we are actually crossing the same kind of societal questions about our economic system and the way how it affects art, the art market and life everyday. We still need to find new creative solutions to build a parallel economy, not obviously in boycotting institutions, but by trying to change them from the inside. I am also thinking about some awesome architecture and design groups such as Superstudio and Archigram which attempted to reinvent the urban system in a futurist, yet plausible way through artistic fictions. Also, I read a great deal and always do a bunch of researches in philosophy, sociology and anthropology. This includes works of Michel Foucault and De Certeau about concepts’ genealogy, heterotopias, historicity and subjectivity ; Georges Didi-Huberman about collective memory and « shapes survival » through time and space ; Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari texts about this philosophy of deterritorialization, global interaction and rhizome concept you can apply to all thinking processes ; Marc Augé and is anthropology of supermodernity, and most recently Brian Holmes, Suely Rolnik, Saskia Sassen or Eduardo Viveiros de Castro.

I think you can grasp, I am a voracious reader!

Apart from my readings, Nature and Science were my first inspiration and are still relevant today. I used to take long walks in urban/suburban spaces,  as well as more « naturals » ones,  which are really part of my creation process. For several summers now, I have done archeological excavations (for the most part in prehistoric period) and have learned many scientific methods, very enriching for my artwork where I can distort them.

The works of Jean Daniel Pollet and Marguerite Duras for their films, as Louidgi Beltrame, Raphael Siboni & Fabien Giraud ans Uriel Orlow; Pierre Huygues and Laure Provost for their installations; Katinka Bock, Simon Boudevin, Guillaume Leblon and others European sculptors of the same generation who I think are very pertinent nowadays (my  artists’ Cinder block Generation) ; Eric Tabuchi, Josef Koudelka and Nicolas Moulin for their photographs, Etienne Boulanger and Till Roeskens for their performances ; François Gall for his/her paintings ; Marcel Broodthaers and Sammy Engramer for their sense of humor, among others.

Of course, everydays encounters are, and one of the best ways for me to grow ideas.

Tell us about your upcoming exhibition at the Liliana Bloch Gallery in Dallas.

First of all, you should go check it out and read the statement written by our curator Sofia Bastidas, which is a good start ! My work in this exhibition is about Native american people in Texas. When I arrived to Dallas, I noticed that American people have a different way of considering History. I saw every day in my bus trips, construction projects, a growing, looking like a battlefield crushing the street, tabula rasa of the past. A crushing of history stratum after stratum, in order to build isomorphic design housing/hotel/mall complexes.

How developers view land as a speculative field of quick profit is a very capitalist and colonialist attitude, disconnected from global reality and tangible approach natural resources. I wanted to create a parallel between the territory’s oldest and forgotten history (which still very young in comparison to Europe) of Natives, and contemporary architecture, in order to explore how one might build a culture and a city, to attempt linking them within one object, the exhibition space.

Andy Davis, who I’m exhibiting with has pieces worked really well with mine, so we chose to mix both in the space, and spent a lot of time installing the pieces together, we tried many combinations, removing and shifting works until we arrived at this transitory state.

We have a second show together in France, so the study of Drawing Ground a study will move, change and live again.

What have you gained so far from your experience in Dallas?

I learned how a city can be thirty years late about ecology!

Dallas has been very stimulating, I had so many ideas and developed new modes of seeing, I wish I could stay longer…I will come back!

Additionally, I have met many amazing people here, students, artists, gallerists, and curators. Many critical people that exist in contradiction to their environment with I had good talks and conversations.

I have met Sofia with whom I have so many common interests. She started a project along with other Dallas people, a reading-thinking group called the society of something, of which I took part of.

I don’t believe in chance; we will keep working together.

What are some of the biggest differences you’ve noticed about the art world in Dijon vs. Dallas?

Dallas is so much bigger!

Comparison is hard between these two different scales.

I think the Art District is a perfect example of the instrumentalization of the arts. So many sky rises where art is totally mixed with trade, banks and art collections. You are not able to see any kind of difference between the two, and I think this is worrying. Also a lot of art collections are private.  And suddenly the mall is an art collection too? Is it becoming entertainment?

Open question.

Besides, I went to great alternative places like CentralTrak, Beefhaus and The Power Station which are full of beautiful initiatives. I can say that in Dijon Chiffoniers or Vortex can be an equivalent. But we definitely need to support more of them!

What have been some interesting research materials you’ve found at the Hamon Arts Library?

So many! I spent my first two weeks and hours in the collection considering Native American Art, Caddoan culture and story-tellings, tradition and architectural structures going through differents times and tribes. I remained longer on some pottery patterns and their meanings. I spent also some time in Fondren Library where I found plenty of interesting publications in the anthropology section. These materials were the basis of my research. I love archives.

The librarians were so helpful and amazing too.

Oh, and I found Georgia Erger! The curatorial fellow of the Hamon gallery!

What piece of advice would you give to early career artists in the Dallas community?

Travel and see what’s happening outside of the United States.

Remember, sometimes, the Land you’re coming from (I’m not saying identity).

Take some time and distance to look away from our “more-and-more” accelerated life.

Don’t be afraid to be critical.

Be critical.

You are the new historians. We are making history today.

Do residencies and take part in informal education.


When your body moves, you think quicker.

Thank you to Alice Bidault, Dijon Fellow, for participating in this interview!

Images: Courtesy of Alice Bidault

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