Designed as a kind of intermediary between a multimedia library and a theater, CAC Brétigny is not merely open to its surroundings. From the creation of on-site artworks that make it possible to take over and significantly alter a site, to involving amateur groups in producing and appreciating art, CAC Brétigny has always emphasized its singularity by paying special attention to the women and men who form the center and help it to grow, artists, craftsmen, students, pupils, researchers, inhabitants, technicians, and so many others…
Our current age is marked by a number of changes which art practices are rooted in, be it the reconfiguration of knowledge and territories, the sharing of technologies, the questioning of democratic institutions, the questioning of identities, or the profusion of images. These evolutions are inducing artists to constantly push themselves and their work further in the era we are living through and to come up with new possibilities for the times. They are taking over processes of making art with others, creating alternative systems of understanding and modes of production, and disseminating new forms of knowledge. It is a creative drive that is also found in university research, industrial development, and amateur practices. And one that resonates with the growing multicultural diversity of territories as well.
Responding to these changes, CAC Brétigny has focused on supporting and helping to sustain these artistic and cultural practices, and offering them a range of spaces in which they can develop and thrive. CAC Brétigny has been fashioning a structure and a program of events and exhibitions that make both artists and audiences true end users. The program of art events, structured by Céline Poulin, includes all the activities of the art center, from communications to production to outreach. The CAC Brétigny finds itself functioning as a collective space, where each guest, each partner and each member of the team is actively participating in the construction and identity of the project. For example, in 2019-2020, Laura Burucoa's residency was largely conceived by Camille Martin and Etienne de France's residency follows a proposal by Elena Lespes Muñoz. Thus, the graphic designers Coline Sunier & Charles Mazé came up with an identity for CAC Brétigny that is an ever-evolving joint construction with the center. It is a project that embodies CAC Brétigny, which is diverse and open, like any space that wants to remain vibrant and alive and continue to be relevant.
The last movement of a three-year cycle (2021-2022), Aesthetics of use, uses of aesthetics: popular continues our reflections on the uses of art and points up a portmanteau that has to be unpacked, a controversial ideological vehicle if ever there was one. This season will be marked by three highlights: Sara Sadik’s solo show “Hlel Academy;” “The Real Show,” a group show co-curated with Agnès Violeau; and, a double exhibition curated by the CAC Brétigny team, simultaneously a solo show of Camille Bernard and a pedagogical research space, Ǝcole.
What does the adjective “popular” mean today, particularly when it’s applied to a museum or art space? In French it establishes certain classist prejudices: populaire is the opposite of cultivated and bourgeois. On the one hand, it’s viewed with amusement, disgust, pity, and sometimes fascination, and on the other, this definition of “popular” legitimizes a kind of populism as opposed to the bogeyman of elitism and in-groupness. But this hackneyed word can also refer to éducation populaire (literally people’s education, education of the masses, a historically rooted movement that links education and social emancipation) whose heritage we strongly support and whose theories play an increasingly important role at CAC Brétigny, infusing our thinking and action, especially with ELGER and the Ǝcole. Connecting contemporary art and popular education is a program in its own right, but for us, it’s above all a structure resulting from working methods.
*The political and media use of this term leads to linking popular and populism, its use as an ideological weapon, its misuse as a populist justification. But the popularity of certain gestures, songs, and other cultural acts on social networks makes it possible for communities to cohere, and move past the need for a legitimization conferred by institutions or ruling classes before proposing alternative representations. As the field of cultural studies has clearly demonstrated, a shared medium can be a vector of change or nonconformist ideas. The emergence of mass alternative cultures on YouTube and podcasts powerfully attests to this tendency in the face of a classist vision of culture. Is it possible today, when amateurism is finally able to make its voice heard and social media are also becoming an oppositional pole outside the circles of symbolic domination, to ignore the possibility of a myriad of multi-identity, transclass and intergenerational connections?
*Today’s artistic production also underlines the existence of a world of communities—of video games, music, sports, and self-promotion (the followers system, the capillary action of commentary, anonymity and pseudonymous profiles, the exchange of likes, etc.). Some people argue that this popularity is a corollary of the uniformization and flattening of relationships and the accentuation of class relations, as the “unpopular”—disconnected from the network—become doubly marginalized by their difficulty in accessing jobs, housing, transportation, and so on. But, paradoxically, isn’t a new counterculture finding its place amid this mass popularity and the communities it creates—Youtubers, gamers, series and sports fans, musical communities, etc.?
These issues will be addressed by the group exhibition The Real Show, co-curated with Agnès Violeau, and acutely posed in Sara Sadik’s show. “Social media enable self-representation. People choose and decide how they will present themselves and tell their stories,” Sadik says. In fact, “Hlel Academy” is situated at the crossroads of a number of meanings of the term in question, mixing the ideas mentioned above with work methods linked to popular education. Sadik’s work process could be called co-creation in that she makes art with people who are not supposed to be artists, and therefore uses methods such as conversation, sharing art-making and taking into account the status of everyone involved. For several years now the CAC Brétigny has brought in artists who work in this fashion because it’s a way to stray from the beaten artistic paths and offers unexpected perspectives for art. “Form in art is distinguished by the fact that it develops new forms in delineating new contents,” Walter Benjamin wrote, emphasizing the importance of working methods and production tools in the definition of an artwork. This is exactly the case with Sadik, who subverts the usual employment of tools, for instance using GTA copyleft functions to create narrative clips. Instead of looking down at the references she masters, Sadik potentiates them. Her use of reality-show codes is not so far from their existing TV usage, but she plays very close, loving attention to her characters that is the complete opposite of sensational showbiz logic. As Félix Boggio Éwanjé-Épée and Stella Magliani-Belkacem so well put it, Sadik “raises an objection to the state of unworthiness to which the media and political apparatus seeks to reduce the inhabitants of the ghettos and projects, and the illegitimacy with which their imagery is branded.” Her work stands in opposition to the cynicism that “totally abandons any attachment to the truth and the beauty it contains.” Marina Garcès would have put it in another way: Sadik cares about her characters. This precision and emotional attachment also characterize the exhibition and residence of Safouane Ben Slama, curated by Camille Martin, the residence of Étienne de France, curated by Elena Lespes Muñoz, and that of Fanny Lallart that Elena and I curated.
Of course, this brings us to the question of the appropriation of vernacular cultural forms by museums and other art institutions, even as they exclude the most underprivileged classes from the decision-making process. Personally, although I’m not a product of the bourgeoisie—my mother’s parents were skilled workers while my father’s were a nanny and a municipal employee (first a slaughterhouse worker and then a streetsweeper), I benefitted from my parents’ steps up the social ladder. Both became teachers, and then one became an organizer of cultural events with the Ligue de l'Enseignement (Educational league), because the École Normale used to pay college students from the so-called working classes so that they could afford to study. There has always been a lack of diversity in cultural organizations, especially in class terms. So we have to interrogate these institutions and the way they function. But should that be made into an aesthetic program? When institutional critique itself becomes institutionalized, that often reinforces the autonomy of art by putting it back in the hands of its own management teams, interrogating its own norms. Thus it seems to become absorbed in self-questioning, whereas the intention of institutional critique is to strengthen the link with social and economic issues. I tend to think that what’s required instead is to come up with an exhibition and program that structures everyday life, rethinking the organization of labor, spaces, resources, and authority. The sharing of authority also and especially comes from the sharing of the legitimacy of voices, for instance, the Transmissions project conceived by Elena Lespes Muñoz with the Internet radio station *Duuu.
Co-creation, collaborative and relational modalities and the dynamics of popular education are a partial response to these issues. But can they actually bring about concrete change in institutional structures? From this angle, can an art space or museum be as open to one and all as a multimedia library or a café, both welcoming and respectful of cultural rights, while turning a deaf ear to the siren song of populism and playing its proper role as a lab for artistic experiments? All of us here believe this is possible, and experience that every day. The Laura Burucoa show at the Phare, a product of discussions with people on the building’s plaza out front and subsequently worked on in our Edutainer, is a great example of an ephemeral, unstable community that, we hope, will virally expand through time and for a long time.
 Some sections of this text preceded by an asterisk are excerpted from the work notes written by Agnès Violeau and myself in preparation for “The Real Show”.
 The exhibitions, events, and residencies at CAC Brétigny this year arose from multiple conversations, especially among the art center staff members, Milène Denécheau, Domitille Guillet, Ariane Guyon, Louise Ledour, Elena Lespes Muñoz, Camille Martin and me; and with the artists who worked with us, including Sara Sadik, of course, whose magisterial work opens this season, and Fanny Lallart, Laura Burucoa, Étienne de France and Marie Preston; and with the artists taking part in ELGER, Juliette Beau Denès, Morgane Brien-Hamdane, Pauline Lecerf, Vinciane Mandrin, Zoé Philibert; and the Ǝcole research group—and our neighbors at the Théâtre Brétigny.
 See the excellent text by Félix Boggio Éwanjé-Épée and Stella Magliani-Belkacem about the work of this artist in the press file of “Hlel Academy”.
 Regarding the link between popular education and co-creation, see Marie Preston, Inventer l'école, penser la co-création, edited by Céline Poulin & Marie Preston, éditions Tombolo Presses and CAC Brétigny, to be published in September 2021.
 Walter Benjamin (1999), The Arcades Project, trans. Rolf Tiedemann. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 474. I recently stumbled once again on this citation in Émeline Jaret’s Carnet de Recherche, 2021: https://maisondesarts.malakoff.fr/fileadmin/user_upload/JARET_Emeline_carnet_de_recherche_deux__mai_2021__mdam.pdf
 See the text by Camille Martin here.
Archive of the previous seasons available in the History's page.
The CAC Brétigny is a cultural establishment of Cœur d´Essonne Agglomeration. Labeled as a Contemporary Art Center of National Interest, it benefits from the support of the Ministère de la Culture—DRAC Île-de-France, Région Île-de-France and Conseil départemental de l’Essonne, and with the complicity of the Brétigny-sur-Orge's municipality. CAC Brétigny is a member of TRAM and d.c.a.
Céline Poulin has served as the director of CAC Brétigny since June 2016. Her vision for the art center, like her earlier programs and exhibitions, evinces her focus on reception as well as collaboration, information and communications arrangements. In this regard, she has mounted, for example, the group shows “Vocales” and “Desk Set,” as well as the first solo shows in France of Liz Magic Laser and Núria Güell. She started her work in freelance curating back in 2004 while serving institutionally as offsite curator for Parc Saint Léger (Pougues-les-Eaux) from 2010 to 2015; and as a public outreach department officer at Le Crédac (Ivry-sur-Seine) from 2007 to 2010.
Céline Poulin has also curated a number of programs of exhibitions and events, including notably “Les Incessants” at La Villa du Parc in Annemasse in 2016; “A SPACE IS A SPACE IS A SPACE” at DAZ in Berlin in 2015 in partnership with BDAP of the Institut français; “Traucum” at Parc Saint Léger in 2014; “Brigadoon” at La Tôlerie in 2013; and “Les belles images” at La Box in 2009-2010. From 2015 to 2018 she codirected with Marie Preston (with the assistance of Stéphanie Airaud) the seminar “Héritage et modalités des pratiques de co-création,” produced by Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, CAC Brétigny, and MAC VAL, in partnership with La Villa Vassilieff. This work was an extension of Micro-Séminaire, which was published in 2013 and theorized curatorial practices occurring outside of the usual designated spaces. That gave rise to Co-Création, which was jointly published by Empire and CAC Brétigny. Ms. Poulin is a cofounder and member of the curatorial collective Bureau/, which is behind a dozen exhibitions. She is also a member of IKT and C-E-A.
Head of production
After a bachelor's degree in art history at Paris Nanterre University and her mediation experiences at the Rencontres d'Arles and at la maison rouge (Paris), Camille Martin is admitted to the curatorial formation of Rennes 2 University where she studied to become production manager and exhibition curator before joining CAC Bretigny's team. In 2019, with Cathy Crochemar, they created the collective commizariat which thinks of festive and popular frames of monstration for the young contemporary creation.
Elena Lespes Muñoz
Head of communication and public outreach
In parallel of her formation in Art History (University of Paris I and University of São Paulo), Elena Lespes Muñoz trained as project coordinator in contemporary art at the Kadist Foundation. She worked for the association Artesur, Aline Vidal Gallery and as freelance curator (Le bruit des choses qui tombent, FRAC-PACA, 2017; Video SUR, Palais de Tokyo, 2018; leçon de la pierre, Ìcaro Lira, Salle Principale, 2019).
Technical and public outreach manager
Holder of a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a Master's degree in Works Management and Exhibition Mounting, Milène Denécheau trained as a stage manager at Frac Bretagne and Galerie Danysz. At the same time, she is developing her practice of mediation within the art-expression association specialized in the creation and dissemination of contemporary art.
Reception, mediation and information officer
Public outreach and communication assistant
Mathilde Moreau (civic service)
Curator and production assistant
Communication, press and editorial coordination
After studying literature, Anne-Charlotte Michaut moved on to research in history of contemporary art (École du Louvre and Université Paris I). Today she is developing an art critic activity, notably for L’Œil and Manifesto XXI.
Technical management and advice
Julien Jassaud is an artist and programmer. After the ESTP, he studied at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris and the Advanced Institute of Art Media and Sciences (IAMAS) in Japan. As a programmer and technician, he collaborated with many artists such as Christophe Lemaitre for CNEAI and Confort moderne, Aurélien Mole for Passerelle Centre d'art contemporain, Marlies Pöschl for CAC Brétigny, Fayçale Baghriche for MAGCP, and Mercedes Azpilicueta for CentroCentro in Madrid, Museion in Bolzano (Italy) and CAC Brétigny.
Installation work and construction
- Director: Sophie Mugnier
- Administrator: Cyril Waravka
- Assistant Administrator: Céline Semence
- Administrative Assistant and Accountant: Isabelle Dinouard
- Assistant Accountant: Nadine Monfermé
- Guard: Emmanuel Préau
- Maintenance Technician: Rachid Boubekeur
Former members of the team who participated in the project since 2016: Valentine Brémaud (internship), Cathy Crochemar, Céline Gatel (civic service), Mathieu Gillot, Domitille Guilé (civic service), Ariane Guyon (internship), Thibault Lambert, Raheleh Nasiran (internship), Manon Prigent, Valentina Ulisse (internship), Juliette Valenti (internship) et Suheyla Yasar (internship).