Following Melissa Dubbin & Aaron S. Davidson, Edith Dekyndt, and Lucas Arruda, Hicham Berrada (born in Casablanca in 1986; lives in Paris) will be the fifth artist to participate, from September 2018 to June 2019, in the Pinault Collection’s residency program in Lens.
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Head of artistic programs — Le Fresnoy
<span class="alinea"></span>Hicham Berrada approaches his work intuitively, combining his knowledge of the sciences, especially biology and chemistry, with his wild imagination. Art historian Éric de Chassey, when visiting the artist’s solo exhibition at the Abbaye de Maubuisson (October 2017–June 2018), grew convinced that Berrada’s intention was to recreate a slice of paradise—and to take us there with him.
<span class="alinea"></span>In his films and installations, Berrada captures a primeval nature, such as it might have existed at the beginning of time. In <i>Présage</i> (2007–13), by manipulating matter, mixing it in a beaker with chemicals and other substances, he is seemingly able to summon otherworldly powers. In this performance, he sets up the parameters for a chain reaction to unfold, but allows the unpredictable, the uncontrollable, to play an important role in this encounter. Then he captures the chemical landscape he has created on film, the likes of which we have never seen or imagined before. Berrada the alchemist transforms existing forms, creates new and beautiful apparitions, and celebrates their emergence. A tiny particle becomes underwater smoke. In <i>Céleste</i> (2014), a blue cloud becomes an open window, an ephemeral painting. Berrada seeks out ways to provoke nature, to force it to break its habits: for instance, in <i>Bloom</i> (2012), he woke a field of heliotropes in the middle of the night, shining bright lights on them to force them to go through a sleepless night, from which they may never recover. Opening his eyes wide in the dark, he tries to see the invisible and endows dormant nature with a new energy. These metamorphoses take place before our eyes, as though we were watching the unfolding of a dream.
<span class="alinea"></span>More than mere formal artifices, his works transport us away from our daily surroundings, to a new world at once living and inert, where we can experience for the first time energies and vitalities emanating from matter. The artist often quotes Gaston Bachelard, especially his <i>Earth and Reveries of Will</i>, in which the philosopher discusses interiority and the hidden face of the earth, its metals and minerals. It is impossible to predict—but thrilling to imagine—what Berrada will unearth in Lens, in this former coal-mining territory, from this soil rich in minerals, hydrogen, methane, uranium, thorium, radium, mercury.