sylvie lehmers

sylvie lehmers

I.SL001. 2020

all rights reserved © balak espace temporaire d'art contemporain



sylvie lehmers

installation : I.SL001

size : 450cm x 215cm

materials : Adhesive print on store window

Installation in-situ


text from Gender Outlaw : On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us

by Kate bornstein



collective show Balak #10

10 to 31 august 2020 in Charleville-Mézières

curator : Mehryl Levisse

text : Sasha Pevak


artists : Olaf Breuning, Daniel Buren, Claude Closky, Julie Faure Brac, Joséphine Kaeppelin, Sylvie Lehmers, Violaine Lochu, Françoise Pétrovitch, Katrin Ströbel, Corinne Troisi, William Wegman


Since nine years, Balak contemporary art space has turned many challenges into possibilities. Located in the Grand Est region in Charleville-Mézières, birthplace of Arthur Rimbaud, rich in programming dedicated to poetry, as well as the French capital of the art of puppetry, this structure was created in 2011 by the artist Mehryl Levisse, in order to fill the institutional void in contemporary art and to offer a regular program of exhibitions. The 10th edition, which takes place in the very specific context of post-containment, focuses on local commerce spaces that have been gradually disappearing from the urban landscape for decades already, following the expansion of large brands, the displacement of businesses on Internet and the centralization of the economy in large cities. In response to these phenomena, as well as to the scarcity of human contact, Balak, through a multitude of artistic gestures, seeks to re-enchant these places, now deserted, and to offer the inhabitants of Charleville-Mézières moments for themselves escape from everyday life and renew social ties.


Balak # 10 occupies the windows and signs of nineteen disused businesses in the streets of Charleville-Mézières, from Ronde Couture to rue du Moulin, passing by the Town Hall, Place de Mohon, Avenue Charles de Gaulle and Place Nevers, among others. With participation from both emerging and more established artists, it offers a wide variety of artistic expression forms and approaches. This ranges from graphic works, photographs and site-specific installations to textual interventions and scores; from poetic or humor-tinged proposals to more radical and political works. The works, which fit into the fabric of everyday life in the city and enter into a dialogue with the urban landscape, make up a route open and accessible to everyone.


Daniel Buren and Corinne Troisi answer the invitation by offering installations designed especially for Balak # 10. If the first is composed of the famous bands of white and green colors by Daniel Buren placed on glass, the second consists of a love poem which can only be read according to the reflections of the light; the two artists interact with the surrounding space in a poetic play with the transparencies and refractions of light. With the vast score cards of the performances that Violaine Lochu has displayed in the display cases, she evokes her works in which the voice also questions the relationship between humans and their environment. In Charades (2020) (5 showcases), produced for the exhibition, Claude Closky, using advertising slogans, invites viewers to resolve charades around the world of consumption; while the work Il necessary that happens something (2014) by Joséphine Kaeppelin, produced in a minimalist aesthetic, offers a sentence inciting to immediate action which, once decontextualized and placed in the urban space, can arouse varied readings. With politically engaged practices around identity, Sylvie Lehmers presents manifest posters I.SL001 (2020) and I.SL002 (2020), in which she questions the norms of society and the control of bodies that it imposes, while Katrin Ströbel, through poetry, sheds light on the systems of domination of bodies in their relation to urban space. In a pop aesthetic that blends with humor, the visually fascinating photographs of William Wegman and Olaf Breuning are produced, both of which feature “animal” scenarios, inspired by situations in human society and remaining free to interpretation by audiences. In a more whimsical vein, Françoise Pétrovitch demonstrates the female bodies under an intimate light in the lithographs Fille aux Hair-Drops (2012) and Sur un pied (2011) exhibited in the two showcases face to face, and Julie Faure-Brac in Qu 'do you want ? (guinea fowl) (2019) represents one of his dream "humanimals", the result of hybridization between human and animal. In the work of these two artists, imaginary beings appear as a result of metamorphosis, of the passage between our world and beyond.


Rich in a variety of artistic looks and approaches, Balak # 10 draws attention to and pays homage to the city's former retail spaces, while focusing on their role as places of desire, monetary exchange, communication and socialization in a city. The exhibition encourages reflection on the evolution of the urban landscape and public space, on the interactions between the city and its inhabitants, as well as on the dematerialization of human relationships and the automation of life that have recently occurred. accelerated all over the world.




Balak contemporary art space is named after an interjection from the Moroccan dialect Darija. We often hear street vendors shouting “balak” in the streets of the medinas; it means "push yourself away, I'm coming!", "create passage! ", Or" make way, I'll pass! ". Starting from this word and the spirit of nomadism it conveys, Mehryl Levisse imagined a structure with a contemporary art program without a fixed space; it reinvents itself with each new edition and can take completely different forms depending on the context, while remaining attached to the territory of the Grand Est and Charleville-Mézières. Thus, on several occasions balak has invested the cultural places of the city such as the Arthur Rimbaud Museum and the Maison des Ailleurs in 2017, the Slate House of  Rimogne in 2015, as well as more intimate spaces such as a private apartment. located on Place Ducale (2011). balak has collaborated with the Cabaret Vert festival (2016 and 2019) and has also deployed in the public space by offering a course of in-situ installations as part of the 6th Nuit Blanche in 2014, or by investing billboards across the city in 2018.

all rights reserved © sylvie lehmers 2020


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