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Can Artistic Practices Negotiate the Demands of Cultural Institutions, Public Space, and Civil Society?

Houcine Tlili, Writer, Tunis
2 May 2012

Street art in Tunisia has appeared more and more since the early days of the 'revolution'. But this phenomenon was already there long before events took place. Certain activists – artists working in graphic and visual communication – invaded public spaces to express their grievances. They no longer wanted to express themselves on the walls of private or official galleries but definitively off the walls. Galleries are, in the eyes of these young people, linked to the world of economics, to the world of outdated capitalist exploitation.


The classic fine arts do not constitute an exclusive genre in themselves. New artistic practices have appeared. Their references are varied and their modes of expression are often improvised. Certain artists form groups, others act individually and informally. Some are revolutionary and want to bring art to the people by any means possible, even by provocation. Others are conservative and want to maintain a link with 'grand' art. The two approaches come together to make the street a space for art.


Dream City


Dream City is the collective movement that initiated street art in Tunisia. The intention of Dream City is to invite artists to invest in traditional spaces of the Medina and to create performances with different visual and performing artists. They have attracted criticism for having tried to graft artificial activities onto traditional sites, which have been rocked by these untimely cultural actions. Meanwhile, the Groupe Ahel el Kahf cites Salvador Dalí as their spokesperson, and has produced an informal range of artistic interventions in the street.

Houcine Tlili

is an author based in Tunis, and holds a doctorate in art history, specifically ‘Contemporary painting in Arab countries.’ He teaches history of art at the École des Beaux Arts in Tunis and Enquiring Nabeul, which is attached to the National Institute of Patrimony in Tunis.

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