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Céline Poulin

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Each season is envisioned as a movement that is articulated in several time signatures (overture, theme, focus, and finale) around a central theme that runs throughout all of the projects, lending them energy and direction. The initial 2016-2017 season, called “Chants de distorsion”, encompassed one year and four movements. Our second cycle, “Alterism”, lasted two years and included eight movements. Our third cycle, “Esthetics of Use, Uses of Esthetics”, lasted three years. Our current cycle is called “These instituting bodies”.

You can find the archives for each season under the headings Exhibitions, Residencies, and the Schedule.


A keynote speaker delivers the speech that sounds the central theme or themes of an event. The keynote address or speech articulates the main and most important ideas. The season opens then at the art center with a keynote show, one that is emblematic of the themes and issues that will be featured during the year.


In a musical piece, the theme announces the motif that will appear over and over throughout the whole. Elaborated in partnership with research organizations and educational institutions on the local, national, and international level, this research exhibition makes it possible to explore a subject by inviting artists, curators, pupils, students, researchers, and art lovers young and old to take part and make their contribution, thanks to artists’ residencies, conferences, Q&As, workshops, satellite shows, and events—all forms of exploration in action.


From the solo to the sextant of artists, the third movement focuses on a precise point, lingers over one part, one element of the motif. This heightened attention in the work of one or more artists yields a vista, a clearer view.


The final movement concludes with a chorus, transfiguring the art center’s space and affecting the daily life of people throughout the region. Set up at CAC and several other sites in the town, department, and region, the finale catches the eye of users and participants in parallel areas generated by the featured artists.

2019—2022 Season: Aesthetics of use, uses of aesthetics

2021—2022 Season: Aesthetics of use, uses of aesthetics: popular

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;[1] 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.[2]

*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.[3] 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.[4] Sadik’s work process could be called co-creation[5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

2022—2023 Season: These instituting bodies

For the 2022-23 season, CAC Brétigny will pursue its experiments into uses of its space through different exhibitions that each establish a particular relationship with users ̶ artists, curators or local residents. The individual and collective bodies invited will bring with them their rules, their ways of seeing things, their need for freedom and their constraints, entering into what we call the Institution, and modulating its borders and bounds. From professionalisation of amateurs to attempts at shared governance, passing via different methods of collaboration and pedagogy, “These instituting bodies” (Ces corps instituants) will inscribe the stories of their combats and intimate or public desires at the art centre in particular.

Céline Poulin


[1] 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”.

[2] 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.

[3] https://theartmomentum.com/sarasadik/

[4] See the excellent text by Félix Boggio Éwanjé-Épée and Stella Magliani-Belkacem about the work of this artist in the Revue.

[5] 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.

[6] 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

[7] See the text by Camille Martin here.

Exhibitions and events 2021—2022:

2020—2021 Season: Esthetics of use, uses of esthetics: second movement, mutations

During the first movement, championing artifice involved several things, but most importantly rejecting the so-called naturalness of certain principles that are utterly cultural nonetheless. Our new season continues with the questioning and analysis we began last year. That questioning focused on the constant mutations of our identities, which overwhelm attempts by society to restrict them. The normalization currently underway is linked to the rejection of other forms of rationality. Compartmentalize, limit, simplify, unify – a whole set of procedures is necessary to advance reason such as it has become radicalized since the late 19th century. They conceal other noological tools that are indispensable to living with oneself and with others, like uncertainty, multiplicity, and the suspension of judgment in favor of consideration. “You don’t listen”, say the future Joker, Arthur Fleck, and the self-described sales representative Charlie Meadows say at one point. The former is speaking to the social worker who is supposed to be caring for him, the latter to his neighbor in the next room at the hotel, the scriptwriter Barton Fink. Indeed, both are sorely lacking here in willingness to lend an ear to the individuals they are interacting with. The psocial worker is caught up in abject paralyzing administrative problems despite herself, and Fink, banally occupied by the twists and turns of his creative work while claiming to be focused on the multitude he calls “the people.” And yet we are all monsters, mutant beings who need to be listened to while existing within a captivating world. Like all of us, the real and imaginary characters who will be filling up the art center’s program live with their inescapable metamorphoses, draining off the languages making them up and their invented rituals in order to successfully inhabit the folly of the world. New habits perhaps will be embraced together. We shall chant then the importance of collaborative ways of working, with an Ǝcole (school) whose flipped around E points us towards a possible reversal of values, and we shall raise our voices, with rebounds, echoes, and above all polyphony.

Exhibitions and events 2020—2021:

2019—2020 Season: Esthetics of Use, Uses of Esthetics, first movement, artifice

Having been a stumbling block for two years, Alterism has become a methodology that we use in each of our projects, always working at the limits between disciplines, fields, registers, cultures, and subjectivities.

Today at CAC we are blazing a new trail that we intend to follow for each of the upcoming projects, at the intersection of various reflections on the issues that art is currently dealing with and the uses to which an art center can be put precisely where it is located. Over the next few years, we shall be thinking about the esthetics of use and the uses of esthetics. While many are raising the question of art centers’ societal responsibilities and their role in the city, it seems important to us to study the connections between the forms and uses they produce and vice versa. CAC Brétigny is joining with artists, researchers, curators, and art lovers to grapple with these questions. Tools and technological advances, but also culture in the broad sense of the term, are at the heart of thinking about our practices and art’s place in customs, at work, or in daily life. The first movement of Esthétiques de l’usage, usages de l’esthétique (Esthetics of Use, Uses of Esthetics) will tackle the notion of artifice.

Artifice is often contrasted with nature, whereas it is an integral part of reality, “To sing about the world is to sing about its artifice… to give up artifice is to leave existence behind and die,” Clément Rosset writes. And indeed, so-called natural laws are going to be used to legitimize ideological principles, summoned to naturalize singularities that are nevertheless cultural or lend support to power relationships and reject Otherness and difference. Championing artifice would thus consist of considering all the aspects of reality, which may seem bizarre, even irrational, rather than circumscribing it in a concept that is limited and often moralistic. Again, according to Clément Rosset, “We can distinguish three main ways of practicing artifice for an artist according to whether they want to be artificial because of disgust at a nature that is considered disappointing (naturalist practice); because of nostalgia for an absent nature (quasi-artificialist practice); or because of pleasure in the absence of nature (artificialist practice)… Through the different practices of artifice, generally it is reality that appears to be denied, tolerated, or embraced.”

We will therefore focus particularly on artistic practices that celebrate or reflect the artificiality of the world. We posit that the use of art (to decorate a space, create clothing, point up a social situation, experiment with materials, produce new narratives, etc.) will make it possible to shed light on this part of artifice that is inseparable from reality. In “Vie et mort des super-héros” (Life and Death of Superheroes), which deals with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, Laurent de Sutter wrote that “the history of Western thought is indeed the history of being inasmuch as the latter can be presented as poor, i.e., being is what remains when the accessories that conceal or extend it are removed: being is nudity. What Stark’s poseur attitude reveals is that the above is a mistake. If there is being, it only exists in the accessories equipping, supplementing and augmenting it, and without which it is nothing.” No being without accessories, no use without esthetics, no identity without a costume

Exhibitions 2019—2020

2017—2019 Season: Alterism

When Roland Barthes wrote “Martians” for Mythologies, he was dumbfounded by the way his era imagined life on Mars. Earthlings appropriated the planet by projecting their own customs and beliefs on it. Basing Martian life on the myth of the identical other, the double, they rejected any questioning of their usual logic via the intrusion of a true alterity.

Identity and otherness, the two notions are inseparable, and the helpless confusion of one seems to correspond to the radicalization of the other. Indeed, encountering otherness means above all questioning one’s own identity and thus the appearance of the other in oneself. This is the reason why, as Barthes puts it, otherness is the concept that is the most antithetical to “common sense”. It involves interrogating prerequisites and facile thinking, making a genuine construction of knowledge possible.

Like a guiding light, Barthes’s analysis shows us the way to make alterism our way of thinking, following two principles. Knowledge is on the side of the other and alterity is above all in oneself.

Existence cannot be resolved by withdrawing into oneself and finding deep inside an identity that is “already there” and which knowledge simply brings out; rather it takes the Other, looming up unexpectedly. Knowledge of otherness as something that brings about the collapse of the illusory identity in which the subject is confined, and at the same time knowledge of the identity that that otherness presupposes. Such knowledge is knowledge of the world.

Thus, in contrast with “common sense”, alterism favors misunderstanding and the multiplicity of interpretations. It is not that there is no reality or even truth, which for certain people is the same thing (“All that is real is rational” Hegel states), but because fantasy and fiction are actively involved in and components of the real. The object is just as real as feeling, emotions sparked by the object, or even the perception of the object itself.

Hence the importance of emotions.

Hence the importance of feelings and emotional representations in the construction of knowledge, whether historical or no.

To be the driving force of one’s own history, one’s own narrative, becomes fundamental here. So it is a matter of locating objectivity on the side of the object (Goffman) and expressing the emotional representations of both the object and the person engaged in the search. And thus give voice to the document, the object as lyrical subject.

The 2017—2019 seasons of CAC Brétigny are going to develop all of these aspects of alterism with our program of exhibitions, special events, workshops, and research seminars.

Exhibitions 2018—2019
Exhibitions 2017—2018

2016—2017 Season: Les Chants de distorsion

The expression “reality distortion field” (champ de distorsion de réalité) was often used to refer to the charismatic power of the Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, who always managed, they say, to win over even the most unwilling of his colleagues. A magnetic field apparently distorts the perception of anyone approaching it, always towards the source of the field. If the featured artworks do indeed provoke this modification of reality, they have this particularity in common. Their songs (chants, homophone of champs, “fields”, in French) are constructed in the very connection that links them to whoever is listening, to the other.

Expositions 2016-2017