explicit bessie smith


Drawing, lithography / engraving, new media, poetry...

explicit bessie smith

Past: June 19 → July 24, 2021

johann sebastian bach wears wig in blackface looks a lot like
george washington
two fingers of his left hand are missing
bessie smith
joseph smith and barabbas smith are played by one man preferably
buster keaton
angel and bach are played by one man preferably django reinhardt

Bessie Smith, an important voice of American blues music; Angus MacLise, a
poet passionate about occultism and a percussionist, but also Jean-Sébastien
Bach; Henry James; Iseult or Shaxsper — many are the protagonists, inspired by
friends, by historical or fictional characters, populating Piero Heliczer’s plays.
Born in 1937, deceased in 1993, having lived, as a nomad, between Paris,
Amsterdam and New York before settling in Normandy, Heliczer was a poet, an
editor and a filmmaker. A figure of the margins, he was a successor to the writers
of the Beat Generation as much as he remains associated with the history of
American counterculture. Among his diverse work — films, poems, editions — he
wrote a few rare plays. These are gathered in three collections published in 1971,
each made distinct by the colour of its cover, blue, green or yellow. Through a nonlinear
narration and wordings sometimes elliptical, or even impenetrable, these
plays bear witness of Heliczer’s interests in fashion, religion, Shakespearean
dramaturgy, music, while using a language specific to the poetic experiments
of the sixties’. Representative of his work as a whole, they reiterate its motives,
figures and obsessions. It is therefore common for a same character or situation
to appear throughout his films, his poems or his plays.

explicit bessie smith brings together artists and authors around the work and
trajectory of Heliczer. Like the gallery of characters coming to life when reading
the works of the unclassifiable poet, this singular coterie of artists and authors
responds with propositions echoing the plays published in 1971.
The Piero Heliczer documentary collection, started in 2011 by Sophie Vinet,
brings together publications, reviews, collages, posters, flyers, postcards
and photographs revolving around the poet, filmmaker and publisher…This
documentation was the object of a first retrospective exhibition at Les Bains-
Douches in 2015, with a catalogue published for the occasion: piero heliczer
l’underground   pr aux-du-perche.
In 2018, artist Sébastien Rémy began a research residency at Les Bains-Douches
in order to revisit this documentation. His residency was the object of an exhibition
in 2019, a scenario for a silent play, also supplemented by a catalogue published
by Les Bains-Douches. Since 2015, these moments have been envisioned as
steps punctuating and accounting for a constantly evolving research work. This
ensemble, initiated and led by Sophie Vinet, brings together various partners
enabling the multiplication of points of view on a work as complex as it is protean
 — the latter seeming to find its extension in the multiplicity of exhibition formats
and experimented collaborations.

Sébastien Rémy & Sophie Vinet
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151, avenue de Courteille

61000 Alençon


Opening hours

Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday, 2 PM – 6:30 PM
Other times by appointment

The artists

  • Laura Gozlan
  • Sébastien Rémy
  • Hendrik Hegray
  • Marcel Devillers
  • Gaëlle Obiegly
  • Benjamin Thorel
  • Marion Vasseur Raluy & Rafael Moreno