mounir fatmi
Goodman Gallery, Cape Town

Suspect Language, 2012

Suspect Language

Goodman Gallery Cape Town

22 september- 27 october 2012


Suspect Language is an exhibition that gathers a body of recent works by mounir fatmi.

From the entrance, the audience is confronted to the movie projection Sleep Al Naim.

In this video, a virtual image modelized in 3D of the famous English writer of Indian origin, Salman Rushdie is asleep.

Because of his most well known novel the Satanic Verses, censored in all the Arab countries, Salman Rushdie was victim of a fatwa enounced by the Iranian President Khomeini.

Inspired by Andy Warhol’s experimental movie Sleep, the artist chooses the English writer as his main character, to make him sleep, to put him in this state between life and death. This is this in-between state that the artist expresses in this exhibition titled Suspect Language. He takes the censorship as point of departure of a creation, raising a doubt on the Quran’s suraths in the piece In the absence of evidence to the contrary and writing his manifesto on jumping poles like in Obstacles, Coma, Warning.

Mounir Fatmi questions the text and its visual own poetry highlighting a paradox between its beauty and its violence, its meaning and its shape. Using the coaxial antenna cable in the pieces Kissing Circles, he interprets the solution to the Descartes Theorem, being inspired by the poem of Frederick Soddy. How we can come from a mathematics problem to a language, like a poem.

There is another tribute in this exhibition, to the artist Brion Gysin, who lived in Morocco and a key person of the beat generation, and has been widely inspired by the Arabic calligraphy in his whole work. The piece Calligraphy of Fire, shows once again the beauty of calligraphy associating the shape to the shape of fire. It relates to a text that burns, that could be censored, it also could refer to a symbolic sense of purification.

The serie of photographs The Game, is an excerpt from the movie L’Enfant Sauvage by Truffaut. It shows the learning to a wild child the language by the game and the food. Not only it is this a reference to early anthropological ideas about otherness and the way the “savage” mind understands words and graphic representations, it is also a metaphor for France's interest in the “other” during the Imperial era. The doctor's incessant note-taking represents attempts to control and the implicit violence suggests the violence of imposed authorities. Again language plays a crucial role in trying to unify doctor and subject, or colonisers and colonised.

To finish the exhibition, the viewer faces the video Modern Times, here circular calligraphies are suspended, reminiscent of a system of cogs or a gear mechanism. The title of the piece Modern Times is inspired by Charlie Chaplin's celebrated 1936 film, in which Chaplin plays a lowly worker on a factory production line. The modernity of the factory's machines are visually characterised by a series of whirring cogs. The curves and arabesques of the calligraphy eclipse the meaning of the words, as if the message were disappearing into the engine of the machine. The words are reanimated in a purely visual way as circular abstract forms, reflecting the circular motion of the animation.



Since 2005, mounir fatmi has developed a project called « Sleep”, as a reference coming straight from Andy Warhol’s pop and minimalist experimental movie where the relentless image of the poet John Giorno, asleep, was shown for six hours. 32 years later, mounir fatmi is trying to reactivate this apparatus. The figure of the sleeper played by Salman Rushdie should change the way it should be seen. Instead of the “obsolete” sleep of John Giorno ahead of Warhol’s lens, the literary and polemic context would make the sleeping of the British writer necessary and paradoxical. Mounir fatmi’s “Sleep” will suggest the ambivalence of this quiescent, restful, and at the same time disquieted, physical abandonment. Considering the threats hanging on his life for many years, a deep sleep brings Salman Rushdie into a state of vulnerability. But in the same time, when he gives himself this moment of unconsciousness, he expresses his strength and his confidence. It’s a wholesome sleep. Since 2005, the artist has tried without success to come in contact with Salman Rushdie. In view of the difficulty for reaching the writer, considering the secret that he is shrouding in, mounir fatmi has finally chosen to work with images in 3D digital Technology for creating this video performance.

Modern Times, A History of the Machine, version 02

Speed and motion both play an important role in “Modern Times”. As early Arab astronomers observed the movement of stars and planets, mounir fatmi observes the shape of today's world and the, often erratic, motion of global contemporary society. The dizzying effect of the installation also draws on the legacy of Marcel Duchamp and his “Rotoreliefs”. Duchamp's spinning circular optical illusions were amongst the first manifestations of kinetic art, produced in the context of a modern industrial society. Almost a century later “Modern Times” continues this exploration of movement in the modern world, with the added complexity of a global dimension and the dialogue between East and West.


In the absence of evidence to the contrary 02 +03

Mounir Fatmi follows his researches on light that he started with Ghosting and Mehr Licht.

In the absence of evidence to the contrary are two installation made out of verses from the Quran and fluorescent tubes. Displayed randomly in the space, the light attract the viewer from one verse to another building a new meaning. The text draws a new space where the viewer rebuilt his own text, his own knowledge.

The light plays an ambiguous rôle between the dazzle of the text or of the viewer.


Obstacles, Coma, Warning 01 (If you are an enemy, …)

Jumping poles, from horse jumping obstacles, are recurring signs in mounir fatmi's formal vocabulary, appropriated and integrated as plastic material. Several versions of Obstacles have been shown, in a variety of contextual configurations, like a sort of polymorphous sculpture. Whether straight in their stands, on the ground, precariously balanced or broken, the jumping poles play on the tension between construction and deconstruction, opening up interlacing points of view. They can be approached from an abundance of angles: aesthetic, perceptive and physical, conceptual, existential and socio-political.

More on:

Obstacles, Coma, Important Notice 01 (If God didn’t want us to see him, …)

Obstacles, Coma, Dosage 01 (my tongue is a haemorrhage, …)

Kissing Circles + Circles (03) + Intersection

The sculptures in coaxial antenna cables Kissing Circles are an interpretation of the geometric circle in a virtual poetry. Fascinated by the shape of the circle and the Descartes theorem on tangent circles, mounir fatmi created this body of work through an interpertration by Frederick Soddy of those circles in his poem « The Kissing precise ». For mounir fatmi, the circular shape goes from geometry to the spiritual and function as an illusion of displacement in space and time. It is about turning around and get lost in a kinetic illusion. The Kissing precise Frederick Soddy, British radio-chemist, Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1921 In Nature, June 20, 1936

Calligraphy of Fire, Tribute to Brion Gysin

It an installation as a tribute to the piece Calligraffiti of Fire by Brion Gysin, who has worked on calligraphy and lived in Morocco. His work was inspired by the Arabic calligraphy. Gysin influences in the wok of Fatmi are in the deconstruction of language and in text criticism. The installation shows once again the beauty of calligraphy associating the shape to the shape of flames or fire.



Photo that shows an arabic calligraphy painted on a circular saw blade that comes into in a art history book. It is a picture that highlights the paradox between the beauty of the text and its violence.

The Game serie of excerpts from the video the Beautiful language, a movie made from L’Enfant Sauvage, by François Truffaut. That represents the learning of the language by the game and the food.

Expositions personnelles I Solo shows (selection)
Ceysson & Bénétière 2019Wilde Gallery 2019CDAN Museum 2018
Göteborgs Konsthall 2018Art Front Gallery 2017Officine dell'Immagine 2017
Galerie De Multiples 2017Analix Forever Gallery 2017Jane Lombard Gallery 2017
Galerie Delacroix 2017Goodman Gallery 2017Lawrie Shabibi 2017
Analix Forever Gallery 2017Maisons des Arts du Grütli 2017ADN Platform 2016
Keitelman Gallery 2016Labanque 2016MMP+ 2016
MAMCO 2015MIAMIBUS 2015Analix Forever 2015
CCC Tours 2014ADN Galeria 2014ADN Platform 2014
Analix Forever 2014Yvon Lambert 2014Museum Kunst Palast 2013
Keitelman Gallery 2013Paradise Row 2013Institut Français de Casablanca 2013
Galerie Fatma Jellal 2013Analix Forever 2013Goodman Gallery 2012
Shoshana Wayne Gallery 2012 Lombard-Fried Projects 2012Galerie Conrads 2011
Fondazione Collegio San Carlo 2011Galerie Hussenot 2011AKBank Sanat 2011
Galerie Hussenot 2010Galerie Conrads 2009FRAC Alsace 2009
Galerie Delacroix IFM 2008Creux de l'enfer 2008Galerie Ferdinand van Dieten 2007
Musée national Pablo Picasso 2007Shoshana Wayne Gallery 2007La maison rouge 2007
Lombard Freid projects 2007Bank galerie 2006CAC d'Istres 2005
Espace des arts Colomiers 2004 CAC Le Parvis 2004Migros museum 2003
Biennales & Triennales I Biennials, Triennials (selection)
13eme Biennale de Dakar 20187th Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 20181er Biennale de Rabat 2018
57th Venice Biennale 20177eme Biennale d'Architecture de Shenzhen 201711eme Biennale de Bamako 2017
15eme Biennale d'art contemporain Alios! 2017Biennale Poznan 2016Setouchi Triennale 2016
10èmes Rencontres de Bamako 20155th Thessaloniki Biennale 201516th Media art Biennale Wro 2015
1st Trio Biennale, Rio de Janeiro 20152nd Bodrum Biennial 2015Fotofest Biennial 2014
5th Auckland Triennial 201310th Dakar Biennial 2012 White House Biennial 2013
Manif d'Art 6 20123rd Thessaloniki Biennial 201111th Lyon Biennial 2011
54th Venice Biennial 2011XIIth Cairo Biennial 20101st Mediterranean Biennial of Haifa 2010
Port Izmir 2, international triennial of contemporary art 20108th Dakar Biennial 2010Biennale Cuvée 2010
Xth Lyon Biennial 2009Art Tel Aviv 20098èmes Rencontres de Bamako 2009
1st Brussels Biennial 2008Pontevedra Biennial 200824th Biennial Memorial of Nadezda Petrovic 2007
1st Luanda Triennial 2007 52th Venice Biennial 20078th Sharjah Biennial 2007
2nd Seville Biennial 2006 Gwangju biennial 2004 7th Dakar Biennial 2006
4th Dakar Biennial 20007th Biennal Art Media 1999
Expositions collectives I Group shows (selection)
Maison Populaire 2019Bedford Gallery 2019 Evliyagil Museum 2019
Jane Lombard 2019James Cohan 2019Mathaf 2018
MACAAL 2018Fondation Boghossian 2018Sammlung Philara 2018
Nasher Museum of Art 2018Ellen Noël Art Museum 2018Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea 2018
MOCAK 2018Bozar Center for fine arts 2018Philharmonie de Paris 2018
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery 2018Goodman Gallery 2018Institut Français de Saint Louis 2018
Pensacola Museum of Art 2018 Von der Heydt-Kunsthalle 2018Gifu Museum 2017
Huntsville Museum of Art 2017Bandjoun Station 2017Institut des Cultures d’Islam 2017
Bellevue Arts Museum 2017Mudac 2017Primo Marella Gallery 2017
Goodman Gallery 2017MACAAL 2017Museum De Wieger 2017
Conrads Gallery 2017Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière 2017Keitelman Gallery 2017
Musée du Pays de Hanau 2017Château de Servières 2017CEAA 2017
Fondazione Fotografia Modena 2017H&R Block Artspace 2017Bedford Gallery 2016
Beijing Today Art Museum 2016Hôtel des Arts 2016Museum of Old and New Art 2016
Labanque 2016Les Photaumnales 2016Al Maaden 2016
Kunsthalle Faust 2016Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg 2016Archives Nationales 2016
Bardo National Museum 2016Arles 2016Musée d'Art Moderne de Troyes 2016
Rotor 2016Goodman Gallery 2016Musée Bartholdi 2016
Institut d’Art Contemporain 2016Santander Art Gallery 2016Brandts & Viborg Kunsthal 2016
Fondazione VIDEOINSIGHT 2015A Tale of a Tub 2015Contemporary Istanbul 2015
ADMAF 2015Goodman Gallery 2015Keitelman Gallery 2015
Galeria Municipal do Porto 2015Fabra i Coats 2015AMOCA 2015
Monastère Royal de Brou 2015CAC La Traverse 2015FRAC Franche-Comté 2015
ZKM 2015The National Library 2015Station 2015
La FabriC - Fondation Salomon 2015Van Abbemuseum 2015The Brooklyn Museum 2015
MMP+ 2015Sharjah Museum 2015Kamel Lazaar Foundation 2015
Sextant & + 2015Gwangju Museum of Art 2014QAGOMA 2014
N.B.K. 2014CAyT Centro de Arte y Technologia 2014Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery 2014
Station 2014Institut du Monde Arabe 2014Art Gallery of Western Australia 2014
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art 2014Palais de Tokyo 2014L'art dans les chapelles 2013
MAD Museum 2013Marseille - Provence 2013V&A Museum 2013
30 ans des FRAC 2013MAC Marseille 2013MAXXI 2013
Museu de Arte Moderna de Salvador de Bahia 2012Institut du Monde Arabe 2012Edge of Arabia 2012
Apexart 2012B.P.S. 22 2012Dorsky Gallery 2012
International Center of Graphic Arts 2012Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art 2011Fondation Blachère 2011
Brooklyn Museum 2011Dublin Contemporary 2011Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts 2011
Museum on the Seam 2011Tri Postal Lille 2011Meeting Point 6 2011
The New School 2010Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil 2010Fondazione Fotografia Modena 2010
Aargauer Kunsthaus 2010KAdE 2010Kunst Museum Bochum 2010
Moscow museum of modern art 2010Art Gallery of Ontario 2010Fondation Gulbenkian 2009
Centro de Arte de Santa Monica 2009Beirut Art Center 2009Salina Art Center 2009
Kunstverein Medienturm Ilz 2008Te Papa museum 2008Studio Museum Harlem 2008
Haus der Kunst 2008Centre Pompidou 2008CAAM 2008
Centro de Arte de Santa Monica 2008Johannesburg Art Gallery 2007CAC Le Parvis 2006
CAPC musée d'art contemporain 2006Bank Galerie 2006Les Abattoirs 2006
Moderna museet 2006Mori art museum 2006Wereldmuseum 2005
Centre Pompidou 2005The Stenersen Museum 2005Saw gallery 2005
Konstmuseum 2005Hayward Gallery 2005Museum Kunst Palast 2004
Tri Postal Lille 20042nd international contemporary art meeting 2003Espacio C 2002
O.N.A. Foundation 1999CAC Castres 1999Musée des beaux-arts de Dôle 1999
Musée des arts décoratifs 1999  
interventions publiques I public space projects (selection)
metavilla 2015Collateral Project to the 12th Havana Biennial 2015Prison Qara Meknès 2015
Art Paris 2015Analix Forever 2014Sculpture Beach Art Dubai 2012
Le Printemps de Septembre 2012Narracje 4 2012Ivry 2010
FIAC Tuileries 2010 Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt 2004