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What are the genealogies of performance art in North Africa and the Middle East?

Farah Khelil
28 May 2015

Mixed Media I (2009) is a list of 50 pages of technical descriptions of contemporary art pieces. The list, made up of automatic extractions of data about techniques used in contemporary art practices, is a multi-format, translatable database. In 2010, Mixed Media II (2010–2014) became a generative piece. Thanks to programming skills, I realized a dynamic display of the contents of the list through the occurrence of the words in the text. Each time this dynamic diagram was exposed the data was different. In 2012, the data was made up of articles about the popular uprising in Tunisia (from December 2011 to January 2012). This data produced a speculative map of news in my country, emerging in motion. Eventually in 2014, Mixed Media II showed electronic legends taken from a dictionary.


In my work I use several mediums. I think every idea has its medium. That's why I'm trying different languages such as computing, video, photography and painting. I think it's possible to break down barriers between technology and the arts. Learning different languages opens the range of possibilities and gives some freedom or power. Misusing the language is an act of freedom.


I wonder about the limits of representation and language. When an image is missing, the language replaces it and this induces an imaginary both collective and individual. I interrogate the relationship that may arise between the visible or readable data, between words and things. To hide the image, to suggest it or to tell it, is a way for me to emphasize its paradox.


The series View point, listening point (2012–2014) underscores the paradox between the visible and readable but also the synesthetic nature of our senses. In my work I always lead the sensation to the meaning of the artwork. A Blind Book (2009–2011), printed in Braille without relief, is readable neither by the sighted nor by the blind. This book-object is the visible manifestation of a readable language. This is the diagram of a text that needs to be decoded.


Art as an attempted representation of reality is not a simple matter of mimesis. In my work I try to confront reality and language through hybrid devices. These devices show diagrams as dynamic representations of reality and not as a static event. My work is performative, like a dynamic trace of my experience of reality. The viewers of my work are often surprised by the formats and at the same time they are attracted by the interactivity. It does not refer to their image or identity but to their everyday life. The commonalities are in the languages and techniques and that is what unites and separates people.

Farah Khelil

(1980) graduated with a masters from the Tunis Institute of Fine Arts and holds a PhD in Art and Science of Art (Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne). Since 2009 her practice has lead with the work of art, its framework, and what rounds and indexes it. She focuses on technical legends, and what constitutes the mediation of art as document and archive, which may be designated as metadata. She lives and works between Paris and Tunis.

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