- Published on Friday, 08 June 2012 06:00
- Category: Letters From Tunisia
The “Enchanted Forest” appears both fragile and permanent, multiple and unique. These qualities could describe Rita Alaoui’s marble installation at Printemps Des Arts Fair Tunis 2012 and also the event itself. Alaoui’s tenuous trees, along with the many artists and galleries taking part, hope to provoke, engage and test new boundaries of expression.
Tunis hosts its tenth annual contemporary arts fair at three sites, exhibiting more than 500 works across multiple media and forms. In addition to independent artists, galleries from Sidi Bou Said, La Marsa and La Soukra have presented pieces.
At the spare and sunlit Palais Abdelya in La Marsa, women were heavily represented as artists and rendered as subjects. Fair organizers may have had equity in mind when choosing participants, but the predominance of gender as subject likely reflects the contentious and critical debate in Tunisian politics and culture. There is more than one revolution at stake here.
A boxing ring greets visitors as they enter the main courtyard of the Palais. Dangling above the red and white platform (colors of the flag), four punching bags await their blows. Each bag is plastered with the identical image of a woman claiming an identity. “I am a Christian,” a Jew, a Muslim, a Tunisian. Are they different? Unlaced gloves litter the ring. They challenge us to land the first punch, to inflict the act that hits us all.
Inside the rooms of the Palais, the warped photographic images by Patricia Triki show a Tunis idealized through purposeful deformation. As shot through the elevated perspective of a bus window ---and with a window’s distortion -- the city appears in a kind of Technicolor. Its streets are eerily absent of people.
Mouna Karray’s photos from the port city of Sfax chronicle loss. Here are traces, or “murmurs,” of what had once existed before environmental calamity. Her blown up and blown out black and white images mark the sight of a blighted port which was polluted and abandoned during the life of a phosphate treatment plant. Like Triki, photographer Kasray is also represented by El Marsa gallery.
A white, near life-size sculpture of a burnoose could be a ghost. The artist leaves a clue and a question. The burnoose covers everything, and in doing so offers peace to the one who wears it, a protection. But, as a means of disappearing, can it also efface? “Can a culture disappear” under its own shield?
In an adjacent hall, the photographed face of a protester disappears. In Wassim Ghozlani’s “Liberté au bout de la nuit” a man stands at various points in Tunis. His face erased. Is he nameless, or is he a saint? He may witness and make history as hero and everyman.
The objects of revolution, an automatic weapon and a camera, come encrusted in an unknown substance. In Sawssen Ben Hadj Hassine’s “Oubliettes” they become artifacts to be remembered -- or forgotten. The artist may have had something else entirely in mind. But, in the exchange between the viewer and the works on display, recent Tunisian history can either inform or intrude. Overall, the well-curated and spacious Palais exhibit impresses.
Printemps Des Arts Fair Tunis runs from June 1 through June 10 and includes music, animation, other performances and lectures. The Fair also aims to highlight emerging and young talent through its “Art to Come” competition.By Haleh Hatami, Aslan Media Contributor
Website for art fair http://www.marsa-arts.com/