François Daireaux‘s Blow Firozabad Bangles exhibition is the result of the artist’s many comings and goings between the glassmaking cities of Firozabad in India and Meisenthal in Moselle (France). Firozabad is a working-class city in the north of India whose main activity for several centuries has revolved around manufacturing glass and more specifically glass bracelets, or bangles, worn by Indian women. These bangles are manufactured daily by the millions in the hundreds of glassworks spread throughout the city. Virtually all of the city’s 600,000 residents work in the glass industry with infernal production rates and in conditions that are often extremely harsh.
For two years running, the artist visited the glassmaking city of Firozabad, taking pictures, filming and carrying out the inventory of an entire production which he then relocated by exporting it to the International Centre for Glass Art (CIAV) in Meisenthal. A collection of 404 toras – clusters of entwined bangles – was then blown in moulds kept intact by the CIAV after the successive closure of many Lorraine glassworks, leading to the Blow Bangles installation, featuring 404 glass ‘imprints’ mouth-blown by Meisenthal’s glassblowers. At the mudac the ‘imprints’ are all arranged on a stand around which visitors can walk before entering a dark room where the film Firozabad is screened.
The project touches on broad issues that are more topical than ever, i.e. the globalisation of mass production, working conditions to produce objects sold at low prices in the West, and the flow of goods and, through them, of cultures. By moving, transforming and recreating objects, François Daireaux fosters new exchanges with different modalities. He brings together distant cultures that share a glass manufacturing tradition and that are both facing local production crises, i.e. the closure of French factories due to relocation and the inhumane working conditions of mass glass manufacturing in India. The ‘imprints’ resulting from the fusion of their respective techniques invite the public to reflect on our globalised lifestyles, while the film brings us face-to-face with the stark reality of Firozabad.