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: http://www.mounirfatmi.com/2installation/betweenthelines.html
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.